Saturday, May 16, 2015

Poetry about Baseball & Golf: Playlist for May 15, 2015

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Baseball 

By  Gail Mazur    

for John Limon
 

 

The game of baseball is not a metaphor  

 

and I know it’s not really life.  

 

The chalky green diamond, the lovely  

 

dusty brown lanes I see from airplanes  

 

multiplying around the cities  

 

are only neat playing fields.  

 

Their structure is not the frame  

 

of history carved out of forest,  

 

that is not what I see on my ascent.

 

 

And down in the stadium,

 

the veteran catcher guiding the young  

 

pitcher through the innings, the line  

 

of concentration between them,  

 

that delicate filament is not  

 

like the way you are helping me,  

 

only it reminds me when I strain  

 

for analogies, the way a rookie strains  

 

for perfection, and the veteran,  

 

in his wisdom, seems to promise it,  

 

it glows from his upheld glove,

 

 

and the man in front of me

 

in the grandstand, drinking banana  

 

daiquiris from a thermos,

 

continuing through a whole dinner

 

to the aromatic cigar even as our team

 

is shut out, nearly hitless, he is

 

not like the farmer that Auden speaks  

 

of in Breughel’s Icarus,

 

or the four inevitable woman-hating  

 

drunkards, yelling, hugging

 

each other and moving up and down  

 

continuously for more beer

 

 

and the young wife trying to understand  

 

what a full count could be

 

to please her husband happy in  

 

his old dreams, or the little boy

 

in the Yankees cap already nodding  

 

off to sleep against his father,

 

program and popcorn memories  

 

sliding into the future,

 

and the old woman from Lincoln, Maine,  

 

screaming at the Yankee slugger  

 

with wounded knees to break his leg

 

 

this is not a microcosm,  

 

not even a slice of life

 

 

and the terrible slumps,

 

when the greatest hitter mysteriously  

 

goes hitless for weeks, or

 

the pitcher’s stuff is all junk

 

who threw like a magician all last month,  

 

or the days when our guys look

 

like Sennett cops, slipping, bumping  

 

each other, then suddenly, the play

 

that wasn’t humanly possible, the Kid  

 

we know isn’t ready for the big leagues,  

 

leaps into the air to catch a ball

 

that should have gone downtown,  

 

and coming off the field is hugged  

 

and bottom-slapped by the sudden  

 

sorcerers, the winning team

 

 

the question of what makes a man  

 

slump when his form, his eye,

 

his power aren’t to blame, this isn’t  

 

like the bad luck that hounds us,  

 

and his frustration in the games  

 

not like our deep rage

 

for disappointing ourselves

 

 

the ball park is an artifact,

 

manicured, safe, “scene in an Easter egg”,  

 

and the order of the ball game,  

 

the firm structure with the mystery  

 

of accidents always contained,  

 

not the wild field we wander in,  

 

where I’m trying to recite the rules,  

 

to repeat the statistics of the game,

 

and the wind keeps carrying my words away
 
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Love in Bath by G.F. Handel, arr. Thomas Beecham
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

A Ballad of Baseball Burdens
 

By  Franklin Pierce Adams  

 

 

The burden of hard hitting. Slug away

 

      Like Honus Wagner or like Tyrus Cobb.

 

Else fandom shouteth: “Who said you could play?

 

      Back to the jasper league, you minor slob!”

 

      Swat, hit, connect, line out, get on the job.

 

Else you shall feel the brunt of fandom’s ire

 

      Biff, bang it, clout it, hit it on the knob—

 

This is the end of every fan’s desire.

 

 

The burden of good pitching. Curved or straight.

 

      Or in or out, or haply up or down,

 

To puzzle him that standeth by the plate,

 

      To lessen, so to speak, his bat-renoun:

 

      Like Christy Mathewson or Miner Brown,

 

So pitch that every man can but admire

 

      And offer you the freedom of the town—

 

This is the end of every fan’s desire.

 

 

The burden of loud cheering. O the sounds!

 

      The tumult and the shouting from the throats

 

Of forty thousand at the Polo Grounds

 

      Sitting, ay, standing sans their hats and coats.

 

      A mighty cheer that possibly denotes

 

That Cub or Pirate fat is in the fire;

 

      Or, as H. James would say, We’ve got their goats—

 

This is the end of every fan’s desire.

 

 

The burden of a pennant. O the hope,

 

      The tenuous hope, the hope that’s half a fear,

 

The lengthy season and the boundless dope,

 

      And the bromidic; “Wait until next year.”

 

      O dread disgrace of trailing in the rear,

 

O Piece of Bunting, flying high and higher

 

      That next October it shall flutter here:

 

This is the end of every fan’s desire.

 

 

ENVOY

 

 

Ah, Fans, let not the Quarry but the Chase

 

      Be that to which most fondly we aspire!

 

For us not Stake, but Game; not Goal, but Race—

 

      THIS is the end of every fan’s desire.
 
 
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Springtime & Desire by Josef Foerster (video not available)
 
 
 
 

 

 

The Lay for the Troubled Golfer
 

By  Edgar Albert Guest 

 

 

His eye was wild and his face was taut with anger and hate and rage,

 

And the things he muttered were much too strong for the ink of the printed page.

 

I found him there when the dusk came down, in his golf clothes still was he,

 

And his clubs were strewn around his feet as he told his grief to me:

 

“I’d an easy five for a seventy-nine—in sight of the golden goal—

 

An easy five and I took an eight—an eight on the eighteenth hole!

 

 

“I’ve dreamed my dreams of the ‘seventy men,’ and I’ve worked year after year,

 

I have vowed I would stand with the chosen few ere the end of my golf career;

 

I’ve cherished the thought of a seventy score, and the days have come and gone

 

And I’ve never been close to the golden goal my heart was set upon.

 

But today I stood on the eighteenth tee and counted that score of mine,

 

And my pulses raced with the thrill of joy—I’d a five for seventy-nine!

 

 

“I can kick the ball from the eighteenth tee and get this hole in five,

 

Bit I took the wood and I tried to cross that ditch with a mighty drive—”

 

Let us end the quotes, it is best for all to imagine his language rich,

 

But he topped that ball, as we often do, and the pill stopped in the ditch.

 

His third was short and his fourth was bad and his fifth was off the line,

 

And he took an eight on the eighteenth hole with a five for a seventy-nine.

 

 

I gathered his clubs and I took his arm and alone in the locker room

 

I left him sitting upon the bench, a picture of grief and gloom;

 

And the last man came and took his shower and hurried upon his way,

 

But still he sat with his head bowed down like one with a mind astray,

 

And he counted his score card o’er and o’er and muttered this doleful whine:

 

“I took an eight on the eighteenth hole, with a five for a seventy-nine!”
 
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: O fortuna by Carl Orff
 
 

 

 

Bad People

By  Mark Halliday  

 

 

 

The guys who drank quarts of Busch last night

 

here by the backstop of this baseball diamond

 

had names given them by their mothers and fathers—

 

“Jack” and “Kenny” let us say.

 

 

 

Jack might be

 

a skinny guy in a black fake-leather jacket,

 

he’s twenty-five, his gray pants are too loose on his hips,

 

his jaws always have these little black extra hairs,

 

his mother won’t talk to him on the phone,

 

she lives on french fries and ketchup,

 

he hasn’t been able to send her any cash

 

in the last two years, ever since he lost

 

his job unloading produce trucks at Pathmark;

 

Jack’s father disappeared when he was ten.

 

“No big deal,” Jack says, “he was a bastard anyway,

 

he used to flatten beer cans on the top of my head.”

 

Kenny offers a laugh-noise. He’s heard all that before.

 

Kenny is forty-eight, a flabby man with reddened skin,

 

he is employed at the Italian Market selling fish

 

just four hours a day but his shirts hold the smell;

 

his female companion Deena left him a note last month:

 

“You owe me $12 chocolate $31 wine $55 cable TV plus

 

donuts—I have had it—taking lamp and mirror

 

they are mine.” Kenny hasn’t seen her since.

 

He hangs with Jack because Jack talks loud

 

as if the world of cops and people with full-time jobs

 

could be kept at bay by talking, talking loud . . .

 

 

 

(I’m talking gently and imaginatively here

 

as if the world of bums and jerks could be kept far off—)

 

 

 

Jack and Kenny. (Or two other guys dark to me with wounds

 

oozing in Philadelphia ways less ready to narrate.)

 

Last night at midnight they got cheesesteaks at Casseloni’s

 

and bought four quarts at the Fireside Tavern

 

and wandered into this park. After one quart of Busch

 

Jack said he was Lenny Dykstra

 

and found a stick for his bat. “Pitch to me asshole” he said

 

so Kenny went to the mound and pitched his bottle

 

for want of anything better and Jack swung in the dark and missed;

 

Kenny’s bottle smashed on home plate and Jack heard in the sound

 

the absurdity of all his desiring since seventh grade,

 

absurdity of a skinny guy who blew everything since seventh

 

when he hit home runs and chased Joan Rundle around the gym

 

so Jack took his own empty bottle and smashed it down

 

amid the brown shards of Kenny’s bottle.

 

Then they leaned on the backstop to drink the other two quarts

 

and they both grew glum and silent

 

and when they smashed these bottles it was like

 

what else would they do? Next morning

 

 

 

Nick and I come to the park with a rubber ball

 

and a miniature bat. Nick is not quite three

 

but he knows the names of all the Phillies starters

 

and he knows the area around home plate is not supposed to be

 

covered with jagged pieces of brown glass. Like a good dad

 

I warn him not to touch it and we decide to establish

 

a new home plate closer to the mound (there’s no trash can

 

handy). “Who put that glass there?” Nick wants to know

 

and to make a long story short I say “Bad People.”

 

Nick says “Bad? How come?”
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Beer Belly Blues by John Deley
 
 

 

 

ROMANCING BASEBALL 

Elizabeth J. Coleman  

 

I’ve never really understood the lure

  of sports, except perhaps haphazardly.

  Last night, above Shea stadium, the sky,

 with a three-quarter moon lighting it, turned

 the ink blue black of Van Gogh’s cafe scene,

 over the diamond on the green expanse,

  me ensconced between my husband and son,

 the men I love, baseball their true romance.  When it came time

 to stand for Take Me Out,  grown men arose;

not worrying about  how it seemed; so they smiled,

 put down their beers  and sang, boys of five again.

  And so I cheered  and chomped on pizza with congealed cheese

 on top, gazing at the nostalgic frieze.     
 
 
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Nocturne in B for Strings by Antonin Dvorak
 
 
 
 

 

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