Poetry Porch: Poetry

 

Baseball
by Gail Mazur

The game of baseball is not a metaphor
and I know itís 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 Breughelís Icarus,
or the four inevitable woman-hating
drunkards, yelling, hugging
each other and moving up and down
continually 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 pitcherís 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 wasnít humanly possible, the Kid
we know isnít 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 arenít to blame, this isnít
like the bad luck that hounds us,
and his frustration in the games
not like our deep rage
for disappointing ourselves

the ballpark is an artifact,
manicured, safe, ďscene in an Easter egg,Ē
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 Iím trying to recite the rules,
to repeat the statistics of the game,
and the wind keeps carrying my words away

                    ófor John Limon


Copyright © by Gail Mazur. This poem is from Nightfire, David R. Godine, 1978. Reprinted with permission.