Baseball

By Gail Mazur b. 1937 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
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

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   
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. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Nightfire (The University of Chicago Press, 1978)

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Poet Gail Mazur b. 1937

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Relationships, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Activities

 Gail  Mazur

Biography

After nearly 13 years of apprenticing herself to poetry, during which she studied with Robert Lowell and immersed herself in the Boston/Cambridge literary scene, Mazur published her first collection, Nightfire (1978), at age 40. Other books include The Pose of Happiness (1986); They Can’t Take That Away from Me (2001); and Zeppo’s First Wife: New & Selected Poems (2006). Tess Taylor, interviewing Mazur for the Atlantic Monthly . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Sports & Outdoor Activities, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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