Nike Made a Commercial

Mingpei Li  

                       I watched on repeat. What I mean to say is,

an ad caught my attention as it flashed by, and wouldn’t let go,

and I had only more thirst for it. Hats off, I guess.

French narration graveled over frames of the team

that won the World Cup, young men who outran the outskirts of cities —

                       I heard its declarative copy, recognized

its syntax swelling with lyric hopes, that instinct

to herald tucked beneath each studied

pause. The copywriter a quick study, a swifter sell.

Yes, and an old story; archetypes, after all, are easier

for metrics to perform against. But which of us who’d

felt a certain weight could resist the story that goes,

          what I am was made, what I have done was done, when

the days, dragging with adult worry, slyly pulled

on my thin ankles, taunted me to pull a fast one.

                                                                    Isn’t that why,

Kylian, I saw in Bondy a third-floor walk-up transposed

from Queens, why, Sam, I found in Menival a one-bedroom

rattled by trains with gray carpet fighting jaundice, why, Ousmane,

I sat myself down decades ago in the half of the living room

that was mine

in La Madeleine and wrote something. The August heatwave

a tyrant whose throne I prayed the A/C would usurp but only once

delivered. Lunch left on “keep warm” by Dad and Mom, the sheen of new

immigrant sweat on their foreheads, out to haggle a living with

iced tea samples in his van and 60 words per minute on her resume.

                                  Isn’t that how I could be certain there must have been

a kindling summer whose emptiness brooked no delay, singed you as it did me —

          where you were forged: yes, and my obsession

with those lavishly paid-for 30 seconds, and this poem too.


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