So, this guy I know named Marquez Price has released a book of poetry and it’s selling well on Amazon. My Train Is On Schedule is deeply introspective, so if you’ve seen any one of The Expendables movies, don’t buy this book.
Marquez is the son of Delano Price, a legendary figure in Tucson sports. Delano (pronounced Duh-lay-no, not Dell-uh-no) was half of the greatest guard tandem in Tucson prep sports history. He and his running mate, the iconic Hoegie Simmons, led Tucson High to the big-school state championship in 1969.
I first came across Hoegie Simmons when I was playing basketball for Cochise College. We came up to Tucson for a one-day doubleheader at the University of Arizona. We played (and beat) the UA JVs in the first game and were set to play Navajo Junior College (now Northland Pioneer) in the second game. But they got snowed in, so the tournament director set up a game for us with the top city league team.
We were flying high at the time with a record of 6-1. We were shooting around before the game when our opponents walked onto the McKale floor. I turned to my teammate, Tommy Williams (who would later play for Fred Snowden at the UA), and said, “Look at this, dude. We’re playin’ Fred’s Liquor Store.”
Leading them onto the court with an unmistakable swagger was a short, stocky guy with one of the longest arms-to-torso ratios I’ve ever seen. I remember thinking, “That guy looks like he killed his own parents.”
It was Hoegie Simmons, who (with all due respect to future NBA All-Stars Sean Elliott and Fat Lever) is the greatest high-school basketball player in Tucson history.
Hoegie torched us that day for 67 points (out of his team’s 84) and this was before the three-pointer existed. Four of my teammates fouled out trying to guard him. Late in the game, he did a spin move to the baseline and I used the angle to cut him off. He went high into the air and then, just to show me that he could, he did a 360-degree spin before shooting the ball. As it went in, he said, “Good D, Man.” I thought to myself, “God just talked to me!”
For years after I came up to the UA, I played in pickup games at Bear Down with Hoegie and Delano. I have great respect for Delano, but I absolutely worship Hoegie. If you were on his team, you were on the court all day long.
And so I have known Marquez, on and off, since he was born and sat on his dad’s lap when Delano was coaching the Sunnyside High boys’ team. Marquez grew to become a baller, as well. He played collegiately at Mesa Community before finishing up at the UA, where he majored in…Philosophy.
And yet, somehow, he has never worked at a coffee shop.
I had to write a poem in high school once. It went:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
I like peanut butter,
Can you swim?
The teacher was this hippie dude who taught at a ghetto school because he “wanted to help people.” He thought I was all avant-garde and stuff. I got an “A”. And the crazy thing is that I don’t like peanut butter. I’ve tasted it exactly once in my life and didn’t care for it. I didn’t give it a second chance.
It’s weird. I’ve always loved song lyrics. I mean who doesn’t absolutely adore “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day; when it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May”? Or even “These damn food stamps won’t buy diapers; and it’s no movie, there’s no Mekhi Phifer…”
But poetry has always left me flat. I sort of appreciate the darkness of “The Raven,” but stuff like “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” made me want to invent a time machine so I could go back in time and kick T.S. Eliot’s ass for being so damned whiny.
Anyway, I was looking through Marquez’s book and I came across a poem called “Patterns.” It reads:
The birds and bees talk with my nephew will go like this.
Your grandfather abandoning your father was not your fault.
Your father abandoning you was not your fault.
The generational pattern is your responsibility to break.
That’s way too deep for me. Even after having earned a living as a writer all these decades, if I had to write a poem today, it would probably have the word “Nantucket” in it.
He’s got another book of poetry coming out next month, plus a novel and a third book of poetry scheduled for publication in 2022.
He says that he has faced the same problems and challenges that have plagued writers ever since God wrote the Bible. “The process (of writing poetry) is painstaking because every word is handled like the birth of a child. You read the material repeatedly—from your own perspective and then the perspective of the reader. That’s a rabbit hole in itself.”
I’m going to send this to Marquez. Maybe he can sneak it in his next book.
For a time I was a poet in motion,
To the game, I gave my devotion.
I used to be as smooth as a lotion,
But then I got old.