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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
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