Saturday, May 16, 2015

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




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.






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




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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