John Updike’s “Ex-Basketball Player,” a poem of five stanzas each containing six lines and written in blank verse, describes the life of Flick Webb, once a high-school basketball star but now, his glorious past several years behind him, a gas-station attendant whose life appears to have reached a dead end. The first stanza begins with brief geographical detail of Flick’s hometown, a town never named in the poem but presumably somewhere fairly small and rural (possibly like Updike’s own hometown of Shillington, Pennsylvania). The reader learns that Flick spends his days helping out “Berth,” who runs a garage located on the west-facing corner of Colonel McComsky Plaza.
The second stanza is a snapshot of Flick at Berth’s Garage, standing “tall among the idiot pumps.” The “bubble-head style” of gas pump, old-fashioned even at the time the poem was written in 1954, features a glass globe on top: In earlier decades of the twentieth century, gasoline was often sold at stations that might sell more than one brand, the brand identified by the globe. One of the pumps at Berth’s dispenses Esso brand gasoline, and the narrator of the poem sees it and the other pumps as athletes, the hoses “rubber elbows hanging loose and low” like a basketball player. Another squat pump, with no head, is “more of a football type.”
In stanzas 3 and 4, the narrator’s camera lens widens, and the reader begins to learn more about Flick’s...
(The entire section is 518 words.)