Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ballpark Paintings (for Andy Jurinko)

Wall-wide murals at Mickey Mantle's,
a central perk hot spot fashionable
with super exact paintings
of Ebbets and Crosley Park
and Yankee Stadium situations
up the ying and yang
for me, the hour-late,
because nobody from Arizona
ever knows what time it is

But the baseball artiste had waited,
patient enough for me
to do a drop in from the desert,
for a burger and some chatter,
to bat with a baguette,
as the son of a South Texan
bewildered already by the bowels
of Penn Station, intimidated
as the wild wolf chased on the field
by sea gulls at Shea Stadium,
who had spent the previous day
walking across Manhattan
to his studio, wearing a ridiculous
reddish purple beret,
a spontaneous purchase
at a military supply store,
who reached the apartment
in the shadow of the Twin Towers,
eviscerated but enduring
the wide-eyed, world-weary
embrace of glass canyons,
the smell of sweet rolls
and garbage wafting in from rows
and rows of back alleys, taxis rolling
like bullets, wild-eyed preachers
mixed up by dirty magazines,
every language spoken at once
as public drinkers, private thinkers,
compassionate aliens in action
sold books on blankets

Only the pastoral lights could paint
a bolt-down for the bogey out there,
saving me from a big bad swing at my
home run hollow head

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Arlington Stadium

Arlington Stadium diamond is buried
In a Kilimanjaro of scooped-out pond peat.
Right behind old home plate,
Mounds of green grass bubble,
Claiming Saint Jude's glory against
Staccato, encyclopedic volumes
Of late-season, dog day fades.
They say an old black man--
Dressed in a guard's uniform
With a Texas Rangers' insignia--
Patrols the sun-punished remains
Of Arlington's tinker toy park
As if games were still going on
Every night at the Turnpike.
He makes the rounds.
Regularly checks the cluttered ramps,
Seat backs strewn in an autumn pile of leaves,
Chairless rows of buckled, heat-bent steel,
Windows spiderwebby in little white lies,
Dark stairwells with broken chairs,
An eight-ton scoreboard lying dead,
Knotted telephone lines stunned into silence,
The gutted luxury boxes desolate except for
The speckled and cracked wall mirrors
Indicating a premonition of
Seven more years of second place.
He listens for the haunting echoes
And speaks to the ghosts of overturned Poseidon
While the refuse of Rangers' history
Is just a salvage barge away...
If they can just find a buyer
For the steel.
This is my dream denied.
This is my lost thirteenth year.
My found treasure. Aired only in box scores
In a brown and faded and distant archive,
Ted Williams managed outcasts so bad
Dick Billings was a shooting Lone Star.
Is there anything of value I can reclaim?
Where is Dick Billings' red, white and blue
Wrist band or Mickey Rivers' broken speech?
Where is chatter so remote as to defy transcription?
After the last game they lifted home plate by helicopter
Like a clump of old sod they used to replant Comiskey,
And locked it into the new park
Where there are new dreams for others. Not me.
Just saw Nolan Ryan, he's doin' fine--Not me.
There is my youth but where are my dreams?
We moved San Antone in seventy-two
And I never saw one damn game here.
I stayed locked in a closet for a decade
Longing for that girl at the soda pop stand.
Now I'm back to break off
A piece of useless memorabilia
And wash it with tears to give it soul.
Somewhere in the humid winds
I hear the whisper
Of muted, hospital sounds.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Life is Practice

How many brain-dead
baseball diamond drills
do we need to run, rookie?
Do we need to purchase
for you an insurance policy
to protect you against
the sorcery of blurring
curves, the chin music
of mommie balls
coming in fast?

Spring training
is the hope-forming time
to scrunch scar tissue,
to test aches subtracted
from the totem death-dance
of old brown city street snow,
of writer's block shaped
into three white bases,
to take into our nostrils
the sweet fragrance of March

And after the vets have tapped
the buzzing fridge of free cokes,
turning terminal pains
into mere dietary disease,
we must line up trainer's tape
to meet and meet together
at the left-field foul pole
to intensify the muscle memories,
the heated up PFP, PFP, PFP ...
the endless ritual
of pitcher-to-first,
pitcher taking the lob,
spiking the bag

This is how we practice
each thin temporal moment,
experience to ascribe antidotes
for thoughtlessness into decisions
because only repetition can influence
our grace before ownership's
remote tentacled lens
so if we can make it to October,
if we get lucky,
maybe you'll thank me

So don't be a loud-mouthed rook
wasted for higher purposes
beyond the reasoning of mere mortals
Don't talk back to me!
Don't think to much!
It's bad for everyone concerned
Don't carouse with wild women
sent to stand on your bases
and don't talk money with me
We pay you plenty
and candy comes after

Because I knew John McGraw
Who fussed himself silly
Made teammates enemies
But they played great
Despite his tyrannical self:
Gawd how I loved his glare,
like Joe Torrie's blank stare;
a poker face almost saying, man,
I loathe baseball, I wanna go home

I heard stories about such skips:
See, this pitcher, this catcher,
they hate each other, so they throw
harder and harder to each other
and surely at some point
there's got to be a limit,
a point where their palms
turn red, maybe even bleed
until all innings end, unforgiven

By the time they get back
to the bench they are screaming
at each other so ol' skipper
comes over, spits, and says,
"Okay boys, you go back
into your pretty clubhouse
and have at it. May the worst
man win. I'll warm up Johnson
and Mack, get the equipment on."

So the two embattlers
go behind closed doors
and end up killing each other
The general manager calls
new recruits up from Triple-A
to replace them both:
Everybody wins

Chasing the Rabbit Ball

The deep need
to point the toe toward the plate,
releasing the pitch toward the pit,
as I consider the fine art
of making surreal threads
for baseballs, scuffing the stuff,
making it real and raw,
a finger food for the not so famous,
keeping the dead ball down,
chastising the ancestors of Curt Flood,
those all diamond decked out
in silver and gold necklaces,
glittering chains telegraphed
for the coming of screw balls,
superstitious as hell,
awaking to the heavenly bells of spring,
where promise is a red bird on a wing ...

Hear the crowd ... Hear it sing!

All you free agents of the mind:
You know I'm no perfectionist
of any kind, only a man struck
by lightning twice
in the minor league
of my own mind,
a simple child ticketed thrice
on opening day


Sing a dainty dirg
for the New York Yankees,
but note the fact
the sun arose the next day
as all the victories
stand, sure as yellow sunflowers
in the fall, falling away ...
Now that the best team
money can buy needs
first aid from the tip jar
for the daily
emergency management
donut fund, the Bombers
and the Joker
are on the run,
and the gangster managers
of U.S. Banks are running
from pranks organized
by mischievous teenagers
running out of bullets
playing digital games,
the bragging rights
now a toss up into the air,
a toxic point-and-shoot affair
of agents so say it ain't so
the best team in baseball
needs to reload, since the Sandman
can no longer come in the Ninth
to ice over the Show
and those who gave a flying f ...
about football can stand
and listen to make sharp yelps
about how I'm paying my own price
with wobbly knees, posts as painful
as typhoons out of season
as we ask a Navajo woman
draped in a royal blue
Dallas Cowboys' number nine jersey
in a defense against the sound and fury
of the noise of the laundry room,
focused on her cell phone like a weapon,
a fence against the outside world,
which sends in scores and more
as the rocking horse hick drones
on about how much his Saturday morning
hangover hurts over the radio,
and neither of us can see the country
crooner because today, sponsored
Ford trucks, is the anniversary
of the day I confessed to crimes
I never committed, places I never
will see, to things I can't remember,
forces I have no knowledge of, waves
I can sense but not see, feel or hear
churning up the winds, the rains, the snows,
falling from above, pushing up from below,
in patterns beyond my science,
no longer local, just passing through,
not on the ball, like Lucy removing
the football to make me look like the fool
after your ice-cold Bud is just another
beer can on a giant empty parking lot
where gas-guzzling lads, ladies in cheerleader
uniforms are stripped, cloned and sent
on their way for a full day
of prayer and fasting, knowing:
The sports godz have had their say