Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Too Cold for Baseball?

Everybody's talking about the cold. Y'know, it does get cold in the winter in these parts, but I understand why it's still newsworthy. It got really cold really fast (see the graph on Rob Hardy's blog, it's...umm...chilling). And it's the first nasty cold snap this season, which, though inevitable, still takes one by suprise.

Here are a couple of poems by Gail Mazur that I think are apropos.

Ice
Gail Mazur


In the warming house, children lace their skates,
bending, choked, over their thick jackets.


A Franklin stove keeps the place so cozy
it’s hard to imagine why anyone would leave,

clumping across the frozen beach to the river.
December’s always the same at Ware’s Cove,

the first sheer ice, black, then white
and deep until the city sends trucks of men

with wooden barriers to put up the boys’
hockey rink. An hour of skating after school,

of trying wobbly figure-8’s, an hour
of distances moved backwards without falling,

then—twilight, the warming house steamy
with girls pulling on boots, their chafed legs

aching. Outside, the hockey players keep
playing, slamming the round black puck

until it’s dark, until supper. At night,
a shy girl comes to the cove with her father.

Although there isn’t music, they glide
arm in arm onto the blurred surface together,

braced like dancers. She thinks she’ll never
be so happy, for who else will find her graceful,

find her perfect, skate with her
in circles outside the emptied rink forever?


Gail Mazur, “Ice” from Zeppo's First Wife: New & Selected Poems (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005). Copyright © 1995 by Gail Mazur.

Baseball
Gail Mazur (for John Limon)


The game of baseball is not a metaphor
and I know it’s 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


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

to the aromatic cigar even as our team
is shut out, nearly hitless, he is
not like the farmer that Auden speaks
of in Breughel’s Icarus,
or the four inevitable woman-hating
drunkards, yelling, hugging
each other and moving up and down
continuously for more beer

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 pitcher’s 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 wasn’t humanly possible, the Kid
we know isn’t 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 aren’t to blame, this isn’t
like the bad luck that hounds us,
and his frustration in the games
not like our deep rage
for disappointing ourselves


the ball park is an artifact,
manicured, safe, “scene in an Easter egg”,
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 I’m trying to recite the rules,
to repeat the statistics of the game,
and the wind keeps carrying my words away


Gail Mazur, “Baseball” from Zeppo's First Wife: New & Selected Poems (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005). Copyright 1978 by Gail Mazur.

"...the mystery/of accidents always contained..." Sweet music.

Enjoy the cold!

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