1042: Ode to Badminton

20240116 SD

1042: Ode to Badminton


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

If it were up to me, everything I love would have a poem in praise of it. I mean everything: homemade chocolate cookies, park benches, sinuous roads beside city rivers — even to that clear plastic cap on a newly purchased deodorant stick, that this morning I only figured out the best way to remove. Turn the dial.

When poets undertake the mantle of poeting, they inherit a set of unwritten yet embedded job descriptions: over and over again, they must show how one thing is like another, find new ways to describe the moon; write an epithalamion, a wedding poem celebrating the coming together of a couple; pen a sonnet that seeks to rival Shakespeare; and delightedly, they must pay tribute to ideas and objects that their eyes and hearts settle on, especially the momentously underappreciated — the more unnoticed, the greater our delight, like Pablo Neruda elevating his socks.

Odes shape a poet’s attention into a formality of praise. The tone is one of celebratory reflection. I’m given to such poems because even during moments of struggle, they raise my spirits. I take stock of the world as poets guide me through the history and inner reaches of objects in our lives. I dwell in the ecstatic as each poem models an absorptive dive into the world of things. As a result, I see the good, rather than the bad. This has become, eventually, my natural response to life, all thanks to odes.

Today’s lyrical poem enlarges my perception of games, how often what lies beneath coordinated play is a series of inferred meaning and elegant relations that increase my connection and love of the world.

Ode to Badminton
by Prageeta Sharma

                                                			                               for Lisa

Today my sixth sense tells me to play Badminton: a game of yielding,
of volleying a shuttlecock back and forth. A game named after a chair,
named after the Duke of Beaufort’s country seat. 
This game imitates tennis but our birdie
is much more exquisite, the obligations of a ball are somehow graceless 
when compared to a piece of rubber with a crown of fine feathers.
This sport where the signature is the flight 
of a bird. A backhand is as necessary as the yield it purports. 
We know intuitively that the meaning of the game is that it is not the sideline of tennis,
not an observer resisting participance
but rather for the mischievous or creative sorts that need duplicity
to determine a sound trajection. Also it is a pretty thing to go up in the 
sky as sweet as stellar, bespangled with small stars. As well as yourself if
you are hit in the head with the racket. 
Alas the birdie itself is never a painful hit, like its replacement,
the tennis ball; the birdie 
is a Florence Nightingale, if you will—only do not get her in the eye.
It will soar to the light base of the racket, above the long thin handle, 
I hit it firmly as it continues to engage me. I stand in the backcourt 
between the service line and the base line, as in some country
chair that was, perhaps, soothing under a nighttime of clear stars.

“Ode to Badminton” by Prageeta Sharma from THE OPENING QUESTION, © 2004 Prageeta Sharma. Used by permission of Fence Books.