starbury by Isaac Akanmu


from pounding the rock to rock bottom. my first image of a broken man? stephon marbury spooning petroleum jelly into his sobbing mouth. no camera tricks…he really swallowed a finger’s worth of vaseline like a coney island corndog…or like cheeseburgers. then he said “ahhh” as if he had something to prove. “i have that same vaseline,” i thought, and maybe that same pain. “more grease to your elbow” – they prayed for me often. how did they know i was ashy? maybe they heard it in my voice. webmd says rock bottom is a special condition – by definition, a sore throat with only flawed wives’ tales for remedies. tripadvisor says rock bottom is a destination, lowly rated and far from coney island. the weather app shows a cyclone there, and google maps highlights a ferris wheel. one yelper calls this ferris wheel an oscillation of everything you’ve ever thought was true. he heard it crash once or twice while the operator and the backup operator munched on hot dogs. but even middle-school-me couldn’t laugh at marbury. his sneakers were still in my closet, eroded by years of running…cutting…jumping…years of pivots, reverse pivots, hesitations…way too many crossovers and double crossovers…stories of seventeens, sprints, suicides…and shots…lots of shots. those fifteen-dollar shoes have been through the fire like marbury. and eating vaseline was certainly not the fire. it was a mere match dropped upon a dignity slowly fragmented to pebbles – a flame to a prepared kindle kit…

Isaac Akanmu is a Nigerian American from Staten Island, NY. His poetry chapbook, not belonging anywhere, is available with Bottlecap Press (2022). Isaac’s poetry also appears in Posit Journal, Olney Magazine, Rejection Letters, and more. He lives in Charlotte, NC. Find Isaac at and on social media (@insteadofisaac). 


Art (modified) Cheuk-man Kong CC2.0 ALT a red silhouette of Stephon Marbury against a green backdrop


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