1974: Revisited

On the crowded bus in the inky darkness
On the wings of a child’s naïve utterance
You get dropped back into 1974
A chubby kid in a tattered parka
Crunching through the new fallen snow
Your footprints tell the story from the back door
Through all of the yards ending at the railroad tracks
No one else from your neighborhood walks in this weather
You clutch your brown paper Jewel gym bag in your frozen fingers

Your basketball shorts are hand me downs
They were once your mother’s dance shorts
No one will ever know – that is your prayer anyway
The kids are more distracted by your cracked cardboard shoes
The school shoes pinch your feet and scuff the floor

The low-slung building overflows with familiar sounds
New gym shoes squeak on the highly polished floor
Bouncing balls beat uneven rhythm in their own time
Chuck Taylor rules the day – that big blue star glares at you
That big blue star threatens to remind you who you are
And the steamy locker room offers no solace – no comfort

You are not one of them – not in 1974 and not now
You are not one of them – not in this bus and not in this world

The siren piercing the night drags you back to 79th and Vincennes
Your little house on the quiet street is a hand me down
It was once your mother’s home
They all know – they all know

You finally get close to figuring out who you are now
You are you mother’s son and this is where you belong

Slippers in the Snow

She wears slippers in the snow
Her ankles are raw and red and angry
Her smile fades as she puffs out thin steam
Across the frozen air between them

She wears slippers in the snow
Grey slush as cruel as her childhood
She remains defiant of the weather
The weather remains indifferent to her

And her slippers in the snow

Leaving the Conversation

(P-Bone’s flow)

So you left
I’m not bereft
It wasn’t theft
It’s for the best

You see my words
Are like Nerds
Not the man, G
But the can-dy

I give you sweet words
My reet petite words
If I do real good
I’ll make you feel good

That’s my gift to you
There’s no rift with you
Just a lift for you

So leave if you need to
Find a kid you can read to
Or a rock you can climb on
Or you own words to rhyme on

Just try to remember
From January through December
Until my words find an end
You will always be my friend

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