Tag Archives: tribute

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 navigated 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

October 29, 2013

Her voice sounded like a pigeon playing an ancient cello on 63rd Street and May Avenue
At dusk on an autumn evening when hate was still an infant and innocence not yet a sin

She liked ballin’ the jack where she could stretch her loving arms straight out in space
But keep her knees pressed close together to preserve the last remnants of womanhood
And then you twist around and twist around with all of your might

She wrestled with mortality and lost more often than not – but she never backed down
She bargained with the saints and then she beat them with two queens and two jacks

Every book in her sacred room was open – she loved when the wind turned the pages
Every word was a nugget to be savored and treasured and shared with the hungry

She was truly known by few – but sincerely loved by all

The Seeker

For Nancy Lee
10/30/2013

I don’t remember asking for the rain – but I am glad it decided to come this afternoon
The day after the Seeker went on her final journey of discovery was the best time for it
The Seeker has been so far away for so long – now she is farther away from my body
The Seeker has been so far away for so long – now she is closer to my soul than ever

Then the rain came and it washed away anything that may have blemished a memory
Universal voices sing The Seeker’s praises as she skips down the road of her own making
There is a quartet of voices – who have created other voices – who will be her legacy
This is more than The Seeker asked for but – somehow – less than she deserves

On a Rooftop in Cicero

Because a lifetime ago something happened on a rooftop in Cicero
And no one ever really got the whole story
So we filled in the blanks ourselves
Ours was a much better story anyway
It was all about this guy one summer night on a rooftop in Cicero
His mother was taking him back to where he came from

When he saw her face in the drunken haze of the shameful moon
He wanted to push her off of that rooftop in Cicero
She moaned and reached for his throat as she opened her eyes
There is some truth here – some of this story is true
She looked in the eyes of her own son and didn’t know what to do

Now his oldest son looks just like his best friend
It is uncanny how much his kid looks like his oldest friend
No one here seems to want to talk out loud about it

The Fighter in Repose

Bobbing and weaving through round after round without a trace of grace or irony
The fighter knows nothing but the fight – the endless fight that can’t seem to break him
Then the bell – he hears the bell – the sweet melodic chimes that call him to come home
He sits quietly in his corner – one hand full of love – the other full of peace
Like a solid roundhouse from a ropey southpaw – he never saw this coming – not here – not now
Like a Christmas kiss from Grandma on his frosty cheek he never felt anything better – not ever
The fighter is exhausted but he is done bobbing and weaving – for now anyway

September Birds Revisited

Your eyes flit across the page landing on the words long enough
To extract the pollen of my emotion
You are reading about birds – doomed birds – but you don’t know it yet
The coffee on the iron bench beside you is starting to get cold

I can see by the sparkle in your eyes where you are on the page
You are still here in Chicago – you love the child and his mother
I love you for seeing my family in them – seeing me and seeing my own mother
My coffee is perfect – crisp like the pages you hold in your hand

As you turn the page I am with you all the way to the small village in Italy
You stop to let something sink in – I think you might have an idea where this is going
You sip the coffee and look at me as if to ask the question you don’t want me to answer
Then back to the page as I pivot restlessly poking through my pockets for a cigarette.

I see the tears welling up and rolling down your perfect face and I feel bad for a minute
I know how the story ends so I’m not sad about the old man -I just don’t want you to feel conned
You know me well enough to know how it is going to end – but you’ve been tricked before
You place your hand on your chest and hitch once – twice – then you look up at me and smile

Later – at the bar – I am pouring drinks for the families at your engagement party
Your face is so tragically twisted in sadness it forces you to apologize to me
You look me in the eye – and through your tears – at your party – your big night
You ask me to understand – you tell me it was just one of those things

One minute we are sharing coffee and words and thoughts and love
The next minute we’re back on opposite sides of a chasm that is only a few feet wide
But it may as well be a few miles wide – you can’t even look at me anymore
And we are back in 1976 a low-rent Romeo and Juliet with nothing and everything to say

Now I am mostly tired

I don’t miss anyone who walked away
I don’t believe in miracles anymore

I caught my soul on a crescent moon
And I tugged a little harder than I should have

I was strong – until I wasn’t
Now I am mostly tired

Standing alone amongst the smoldering embers
An absurd superhero in a black and white melodrama

Standing along amongst the smoldering embers
Another long lost hot dog forgotten on a holiday grill

I am standing here with my chin up
And my finger in the air like I just don’t care

I just don’t care is the lie
I just keep selling to myself

The Sun Struggles Up

The most natural feeling as the sun struggles up is my bones grinding against yours
You are jarring and crushing and breaking your promises to the ghost of my childhood
Still a whispered breath trapped within your vena cava keeps me cold and you alive

The ribcage forged of your love protects the soul of my past and memories of my father
Washing the bony joints of our crippled fingers the dirty water runs down the baby’s face
The weak understand this is a baptism of desperation and consolation but not redemption

The charred remains of a dream I couldn’t afford and you couldn’t live without haunt us
Our bones have been put up for the first thaw and there’s something burning on the stove
We argue His presence in the room but we don’t deny it as we watch the sun struggle up