Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phillies Win!

I was happy to see the Phillies win in front of that tough crowd last night. (I mean, when Tampa Bay hit that homerun to tie it up in the 7th, the silence was eerie. I didn't see the homerun ball get thrown back on the field, but I presume it was rejected by the fans. But seriously, not a single Tampa Bay fan in that stadium? More likely-- smart enough not to cheer.)

It made me think of my grandmother, who was a huge Phillies fan, and tough as nails. I can still hear her yelling at Mike Schmidt to get his act together in her living room on August afternoons. I don't have any poems about the Phillies, but I did write one in 2005 after the White Sox won the World Series and my father was out East in New Jersey burying his mother. So here it is...

I Imagine My Father after the Funeral:
a poem in 14 innings

My father buried his mother’s ashes
and that night stayed up late to watch
the White Sox battle fourteen innings
until after 2 a.m. to get a runner home.

It was the World Series, Game 3,
and he’d waited as long as anyone,
but now it seemed, like so much else,
he couldn’t remember why he’d wanted it.

Seventeen pitchers and runners left stranded
on both sides, the bases so far apart
and no spaces at all in that infield
even if you could make contact.

He was glad it was not the Phillies
his mother used to curse on the screen,
no praise at all when they won,
another beer, the power off.

Baseball will break your heart, the long haul.
He watched the wide face and white hair
of the former First Lady in the stands
beside her son, rooting for Houston.

Everyone at the funeral was proud of him
for having done what was right
when she had never done a single thing
but wrong by him, but still he was her son.

What dogged loyalty even she inspired,
when there was no money to be willed,
not even a Cadillac or the cubic zirconium
she won for S&H from Publisher’s Clearing House.

From the bench and bullpen are called
relievers and pinch-hitters one by one,
looking wild-eyed and young and stupid,
on the edge of moments great and small.

The ball flies so fast and strikes the mitt
so hard—how can anyone make contact?
How can anyone hope to send it straight
or curved or fast or any way and hit the mark?

It was the last duty, and though his name
had been the one she had remembered
longest, his face had made her smile at the end,
was that love, or even what he’d wanted?

When the unlikeliest of pinch hitters approached,
the replay showed the great surprise of that contact.
What part is luck when you’ve prepared
your whole life—is this what is meant by grace?

The funeral dinner was pre-paid and pre-planned,
so they ate well and his half-sister said what a waste
but still she signed every paper
willingly that didn’t cost her anything to sign.

It was my mostly quiet father who had yelled
until I learned the one cardinal rule of baseball:
never take a third strike. With two strikes,
good pitch or bad, go out and meet it, or miss, but swing.

Actually my father went to bed after the tenth,
no one to watch the game with him.
The game, he said, it started so late, and lasted
so long, it felt like it might never end.

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