So you think you can write?

Professional athletes reveal surprising, hidden poetry talents.

by Reyhaneh Fathieh

from USA Weekend
These jocks take the sports phrase "poetry in motion" to the next level. On the job, they're paid to get physical. But in their private time, all three -- Fernando Perez of the Tampa Bay Rays, Etan Thomas of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Rashard Mendenhall of the Pittsburgh Steelers -- get sensitive with some serious poetry:

Etan Thomas
Who he is: A center for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Thomas' book, More Than an Athlete, is a collection of poetry, and he blogs for The Huffington Post.

His thoughts on poetry: "I grew up around it. My mother would play Amiri Baraka and Gill Scott-Heron albums. I listen to a lot of contemporary poets, like Nikki Giovanni and Maya Angelou. I also love Shakespeare. I write a lot of political poems. Sometimes, I'm at the free-throw line and there's a player from the other team next to me, and he goes, 'I saw this piece you did, and it was really good.' I'm like, 'Thanks, man!' "
Night Fall Sun Rise by Etan Thomas

I never imagined it could happen in my lifetime
As my mind turns back the hands of crimes to a time when
we were rattled in chains
Captured in segregation's pain
But we've climbed our way up the mountainside and
claimed our prize
Our eyes refused to lose focus

Drawing back the shades of history that have eclipsed our
past we've now brightened our future

Now able to ring a bell that once refused to toll for thee
Red white and blue plastered
But we've mastered our own destinies

Reaching heights of dreams deeply rooted in the minds of
kings that withered the storms from sea to shining sea
Nonviolently we're respected by any means
Swimming in endless possibilities
Our arrows of opportunities can hit any targets within the
reach of our mind frame
While the country is filled with elation
It's way past time for a change

Hugs and cheers
Warm embraces from total strangers
Smiles on faces
Cries and tears

Barack Obama's inauguration is a dream come true
He is the anticipated rain of a village suffering through an
eight-year drought

Poorly tended to roots of a creed that promised freedom
justice and equality for all has become as dry as the
Sahara's sand

The dying crops of morality sound judgment and
respectability have dried like sun-shriveled raisins
throughout the land

Yes we can replenish the fruits of our depleted garden
We're starving for honesty and truth
A new kind of leadership

They tried to extinguish the fire of our passion
Smother our flames with a system that refused to burn for
But our dreams would still glow in the dark
Hope for the future has been sparked by an unfamiliar call
Politics as usual no longer holds us hostage
No more running from a bear into the arms of a wolf
Or caught in nets of false promises

This is the dawn of a new day
America's strength could become as solid as a rock
Newfound honor dignity and national pride
Thank God for Barack

-- Excerpted from "Jan 20: True Stories, Real People, One Day (Barack Obama Inauguration)," WEBook Publishing

Rashard Mendenhall
Who he is: Mendenhall is a star running back for the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. He has written more than 100 poems, songs and raps, and he plans to compose a book of poetry.
His thoughts on poetry: "I'd always win poetry and drawing contests in school. I write about everything. Religion and God. Social and political issues. Relationship stuff. I have a girl hurt me and I write about it. I'm not good enough to quit my day job, but I'm willing to share my poems with anybody who takes it the right way. There's a stigma about being an athlete. If you try to do something else, then people will ask, 'Why?' It's like you can't be more than one thing."

A Prayer by Rashard Mendenhall

My life is placed back in perspective
As I sit and witness Gods glory
There's something beautiful about
The brief pieces of clouds
That fall out of the sky
And land on the ground
A reminder of our father
Who paints our world
The same color as the heavens
There's something unique about
The way a fire dances
To the tune of a slight breeze
It flirts with those who watch
And leaves an aroma
That will never be lost
Trees prepare for this time of year
My soul is in awe
As I paused to stop and stare
I feel reborn, replenished
And ready to move ahead
But this time it's different
It's not about me
But for him

Fernando Perez
Who he is: An outfielder who helped lead his Tampa Bay Rays to the 2008 World Series. Perez got a degree in American studies from Columbia University. He also has blogged for The New York Times.
His thoughts on poetry: "If writing is an energy, poetry is a concentrate. We can add water and arrive at any sort of writing that we like. Poetry is impressionistic. I'm writing everywhere, and I'm losing pads of paper in my baseball pants. I've been playing pro baseball for as many years as I've been writing poems. These are two things I need to do, as evidenced by the fact that I continue to show up."

Excerpt from sand parade by Fernando Perez

Cut dry
Paper soul, theoretical
Of frameworks, forged and
duly penetrable
By linguistics, communicable;
fingered with phrases, inflection.
-- Evoked less oft with uncertainty
than clean,
Like a dollar amount.