Poems for September

September 1st, 2008

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Got Those Ballpark Blues

Hitters get scythed by their own bats,

runners stumble as in gopher holes,

our line-drives slam into their mitts

like berry-drunk birds into window panes,

our clean-up man’s entranced (streeek three!)

paralyzed like a bronze statue

by lust for a break-out slam,

and when we finally work a walk—

double-play, the purest cruelty, kills

hope just as it starts to grow, whacks

the sprouting dream before it fruits. 

 

Our guy’s two-strike pitches, low and

curved like beauty smiling open-lipped

are brutally murdered back up the middle.

Their foul tips skitter free,

ours buzz and die in the web.

Their pop-ups navigate beyond reach,

ours sail into gaping mitts.

  

The sun eats high flies and spews down

flaming meteorites to blind our fielders

who flail as if fending off vultures.

Umpires with the vision of rhinoceri

and every bit as ignorant and stubborn

charge around the field blowing calls

their way.

  

One of us must surely be a Jonah,

running from some sacred calling:

why else such misery? Find him,

throw him over! Trade the bum

and let him wreck some other team

or send him down until he lands

in a one-horse town

and never sees Double-A again.

  

Did someone hang his cap up backward,

open a gum pack from the wrong end,

lose the wad he chewed hitting that homerun

when his kid picked it off the headboard

and fed it to the schnauzer on the bed,

let his wife wash his lucky underwear,

forget to sign the cross before batting,

tie his shoes in the wrong sequence,

lose the only glove he’s ever loved,

sit on the wrong side of the plane,

shave or not shave (either way we’re screwed)?

  

Because dammit all there’s got to be some reason

we’ve been stuck in this slump the whole season.

 

©2008, Dan Liberthson, from The Pitch is on the Way: Poems About Baseball and Life

 

Dad Eats a Hardboiled Egg

 

He cradles it with thick fingers egg-cup shaped,

admires it for a long moment, pale blue eyes

struggling for focus behind thick lenses,

turns it carefully counterclockwise, passing

its seemingly uniform surface before his gaze

as though he alone can see difference there,

a range of snowy mountains and fertile valleys

in this perhaps the only egg left, a world

within a world bereft. His orbit around the egg

now complete, he steadies and carefully

starts to crack it, turning the oval

and rapping it deftly on the table edge

at regular mathematical intervals

he of all his family has discovered

or had passed down to him

by his parents’ parents and beyond.

Appraising the web of cracks, he nods

as though he and his egg have found

the answer to a tough question,

the key that fits the lock of the door

to the future. Now he disrobes the egg,

studiously peeling it naked, stroking clean

of shell shards the smooth uncovering skin

with his tobacco-stained fingers,

careful not to blemish the white sheen.

Lips slightly parted, tongue touching their curves,

breathing slow and shallow, he appreciates

the full being of the egg, ovoid promise

of a small pleasure he learned to cherish

through hungry years on the Lower East Side,

of which he said the only blessing was learning

to enjoy the simplest things. Now he may be thinking,

two of these end to end make infinity, but I am happy

with this finite joy, this single egg.

  

Then those blunt strong fingers shape themselves

around the tapered hexagonal salt shaker

with its familiar dented metal head,

and the right hand lifts it toward the left.

His startlingly sharp tongue

snakes out as he bows his head to lick the left hand

(firmly holding the egg in its fist) at the cleft

between the thumb and index finger.

He raises his head and shakes an exact measure

of salt onto the wet spot as if ending a ritual dance.

Again he pauses, solemn, expectant gaze

worshipping the unspoiled surface, and in

the unifying silence of that moment

I recall him saying, before the meal began,

All work is sacred, even menial labor,

and the reward of a job well done

is to eat your food with peace in your heart,

knowing you are entitled.

 

Dad sighs, ahhhhh,

lightly smacks his lips, raises his hand

to lick the salt and then at last

bites through the wall of the chamber of paradise

clear to the yellow sun within, with such a light of joy

spilling from his eyes that even twelve years gone

it warms me still.

 

©2006, Dan Liberthson, from A Family Album

More Poems for July

July 17th, 2008

Bench Player

It’s long past bedtime

but that’s half the delight—

tented in my blanket,

crackling radio at my ear

as the Rochester Red Wings

(Minor League, but mine)

play the Triple-A World Series.

Shetrone, Powell, Valentine,

these names are spells to me,

conjure silhouettes alive

against the blanket’s weave, powered

by streetlight rays and waves of applause

trapped in my transistor like ocean in a shell.

Clean-up hitter swings, and my blood

sings along the arc, rocking heart

pounding ribs as bat on ball cracks

and I leave my body to follow,

rise through the cool night,

evade opposing mitts and land

free and fair in the right-field grass.

Coming back, we rise like the red horse

that wings over trees and fields,

Pegasus, my dream mount, invincible

as long as I keep just the right pressure

on the radio speaker with my thumb:

too little or too much and the sound

smashes like a waterfall on rocks.

Out in the night the pitcher winds

and speeds the ball in, but my grip

bends its path, forces it to the bat:

mind power surges through my fingers

to shape the game the Red Wings’ way.

Bottom of the ninth and the count is full,

hold your breath, think home, and PRESS.

From “The Pitch is on the Way: Poems About Baseball and Life”

by Dan Liberthson, ©2008


Poet Shows Young Nephew the High Sierra

Truly, it was a tarn,

a word nearly as lovely

as the banked Alpine hills

around bluedark waters

deepening the sky, the trees

more piercingly rooted,

much more steep,

crownside down

than trunkside up.

You were skipping young

across the felled pines, leaping

astonishing distances rock

to rock

as if you knew no weight,

no care for the water,

icecold, sinking below.

You gave a wild wave,

shouted come on old man!

laughed as the echoes died.

Not yet, I muttered, not old yet

but at the first long gap

hips locked tight,

thighs gave way,

and I was alone

with my reflections,

the only world where I

could still leap agile,

thought to thought.

The depth of that tarn

dwelt more luminous live

than any shifting or rooted

upper world: jays flashing,

clouds shaping,

trees impeccably upright,

sky filling the shores,

each caught and held

undiminished in depth

long after upper

passing.

There you were again—

suddenly as if risen

from the actual water

or landed from the sky—

your face, your trunk

beside mine in both worlds.

This is so cool, I love this,

you and yourself blurted out.

Yes, I said, have you noticed

how much more vivid the reflected

world is than the real one?

You could live and die in there.

Sure, Uncle Dan, and fish can fly

up here, but what I want to know is

where can we get a good cheeseburger?

From “A Family Album” by Dan Liberthson, ©2006

Listen to the podcast (audio) for More Poems for July:

http://www.liberthson.com/audio/MorePoemsForJuly.mp3

 
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