Baseball in Gary, Indiana: June 2014

The cool breeze carries the nostalgia down the toll road
Over the skyway and into the once proud city

In the center of the old city is a shiny gem
In the center of the storied city is a diamond
It sparkles amidst the ruins of industry
The ruins of progress
The ruins of neglect

Throughout the waving sea of green seats
Signs of life are beginning to emerge

In a dance that was once uniquely American
Men of dubious haberdashery stretch their limbs
In a most reptilian fashion

Old men in Dickies wipe down each seat
With the same reverence they did 40 years ago
Wiping the seats at Wrigley or Comiskey
Finding loose change and pencil stubs on the littered concrete

When you love the game there is nothing you won’t do
To hear that singularly familiar sound of the cowhide against a wood bat

The smells deliver ghosts to the base paths
Where barrel-chested umpires bark their unforgiving calls

The smells deliver you to summer days sitting next to your father
Trying to figure out the score card between hot dogs and root beers

The smells deliver you to high school hooky and getting caught in the bleachers
Reaching for a home run while cameras snapped from around the park

Our game has traveled around the world but the soul and the history remains here
The soul and the history belong to the men who sacrifice for the chance to play

The men and boys who may never make the big dance
But will play until the last out of the last inning

Philadelphia 1977

I was never beautiful even when the illusion of my own beauty seduced me
And I carried that illusion – used it as a shield as I navigate my mortality
The illusion has let me down like an underfed love connection in Philadelphia – 1977

The philanderers and the charlatans of my dreams have finally caught up with me
They have taken my legs out from under me – as if there was nothing I could do about it
They did me a favor – they have stripped away the artifice that held me safe since 1977

I will never be beautiful but I will be honest – I will be out on the limb reaching for fruit
The best of what that old tree offers – that appears to be just out of reach – that fruit
I will not let myself down like bottle of vodka and a stranger in Philadelphia – 1977

The Rise and The Fall and The Loss

I feel the weight of the loss of my county’s history
And my soul sighs for what my child will never see

This isn’t a diatribe against the epic leaps of progress
This isn’t a diatribe against our country’s growing pains

This is a search for the less amazing things we grew up with
The things we never knew we’d one day miss only now we do
The things that are lost now – lost to time – lost to decay – lost to life

My country’s history is not always an inaccessible concept in a too heavy book
Sometimes my country is simple in its story – unfettered by class or by nationality
It can be a phone with a dial and a party line shared with the upstairs neighbors
Or a one-piece clothes pin that snaps when mother is hanging sheets out to dry
But makes a great milk-bottle game to play at your birthday party

My country’s history is a brilliant tapestry of rich colors and dazzling hues

Much of my country’s history is crumbling before my eyes and no one seems to care
These aren’t renewal projects that signal the advance of a civilization – these are different
These are decay and apathy and a shameful loss of vision and potential
These are anger and spite and the idle hands that are the devil’s pleasure

Mother doesn’t even hang the laundry out on the line anymore
Mother doesn’t even host birthday parties anymore
I’ve had enough birthdays – I have enough history

Walk Me Through Your Peru

Walk me through your Peru on a summer’s morn
Where the distant echo of the trumpet
From the wrinkled trunk of the massive
Invisible elephant fills your soul
Bringing you back to greasepaint and dreams
Bringing you back to calliopes and sawdust

Take me beyond the crushed peanut shells
And the sticky sweet smells of caramel corn and candied apples
And the haze of danger looming overhead without a net

Walk me through your Peru on a summer’s afternoon
Show me the bountiful table with golden fried chicken
And corn-on-the-cob that glistens and green beans so fresh they snap
Corn bread with some lumps in it – gravy with none
And a tall cold glass of milk

Walk me through your Peru on a summer’s evening
Deliver me at last to the star-filled night
Where we lie on our backs and connect the constellations
You hand in my hand – my heart in your hand
On our backs in the tall grass – gazing up to the heavens
Gazing up from your Peru

Pig Iron

The rusted rickety shopping cart rolls down Fulton Street
The conductor’s eyes are cast down and his shoulders slump
Shards of architect’s ideas weigh him down in scraps and snips
He senses the presence of the foreigners – but still will not look up

These people will never push a cart full of pig iron across these pot holed streets
These people will never dig into a dumpster on south Ashland Avenue for food
These people will never feel the burning pain of hunger or the reminders of failure
These people don’t belong on Fulton Street west of Ashland on recycling day

Love is brutal she said

Love is brutal she said
Like a big knotted fist
In the mouth of a baby

If I can’t kiss you
Let the fist do its worst
Love will break your teeth for you

Love digs into your skin she said
Like that old kitchen appliance
That splits your tender fingertips

If I can’t touch you
I have no use for these fingertips
Love will split them for all they’re worth

Walk Me Through Your Peru

Walk me through your Peru on a summer’s morn
Where the distant echo of the trumpet
From the wrinkled trunk of the massive
Invisible elephant fills your soul
Bringing you back to greasepaint and dreams
Bringing you back to calliopes and sawdust

Take me beyond the crushed peanut shells
And the sticky sweet smells of caramel corn and candied apples
And the haze of danger looming overhead without a net

Walk me through your Peru on a summer’s afternoon
Show me the bountiful table with golden fried chicken
And corn-on-the-cob that glistens and green beans so fresh they snap
Corn bread with some lumps in it – gravy with none
And a tall cold glass of milk

Walk me through your Peru on a summer’s evening
Deliver me at last to the star-filled night
Where we lie on our backs and connect the constellations
You hand in my hand – my heart in your hand
On our backs in the tall grass – gazing up to the heavens
Gazing up from your Peru