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Baseball Dot-Lit: 'Hot Stove Seasons'

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Practice

How many brain-dead
baseball diamond drills
do we need to run, rookie?
Do we need to purchase
for you an insurance policy
to protect you against
the sorcery of blurring
curves, the chin music
of mommie balls
coming in fast?

Spring training
is the hope-forming time
to scrunch scar tissue,
to test aches subtracted
from the totem death-dance
of old brown city street snow,
of writer's block shaped
into three white bases,
to take into our nostrils
the sweet fragance of March

And after the vets have tapped
the buzzing fridge of free cokes,
turning termimnal pains
into mere dietary disease,
we must line up trainer's tape
to meet and meet together
at the left-field foul pole
to intensify the muscle memories,
the heated up PFP, PFP, PFP ...
the endless ritual
of pitcher-to-first,
pitcher taking the lob,
spiking the bag

This is how we practice
each thin temporal moment,
experience to ascribe antidotes
for thoughtlessness into decisions
because only repitition can influence
our grace before ownership's
remote tentatcled lens
so if we can make it to October,
if we get lucky,
maybe you'll thank me

So don't be a loud-mouthed rook
wasted for higher purposes
beyond the reasoning of mere mortals
Don't talk back to me!
Don't think to much!
It's bad for everyone concerned
Don't carouse with wild women
sent to stand on your bases
and don't talk money with me
We pay you plenty
and candy comes after

Because I knew John McGraw
Who fussed himself silly
Made teammates enemies
But they played great
Despite his tyrannical self:
Gawd how I loved his glare,
like Joe Torrie's blank stare;
a poker face almost saying, man,
I loathe baseball, I wanna go home

I heard stories about such skips:
See, this pitcher, this catcher,
they hate each other, so they throw
harder and harder to each other
and surely at some point
there's got to be a limit,
a point where their palms
turn red, maybe even bleed
until all innings end, unforgiven

By the time they get back
to the bench they are screaming
at each other so ol' skipper
comes over, spits, and says,
"Okay boys, you go back
into your pretty clubhouse
and have at it. May the worst
man win. I'll warm up Johnson
and Mack, get the equipment on."

So the two embattlers
go behind closed doors
and end up killing each other
The general manager calls
new recruits up from Triple-A
to replace them both:
Everybody wins

Taking Stock of Bonds

Ten warm-up pitches
ascend ten Dante-esque
levels up the screen
behind home plate
and Barry Bonds
took a look
and his mega-salary
was mistaken for humble
and human; his life as pure ego
was at stake, make no mistake

He waved to manager Don Baylor
in the opposition dugout
in the sunny half-joke
in spring training in the desert:
hard to reason with the risk
of certain beaning
as limousine Barry
goes up to the plate, the pitch,
and Bonds does straight-into-the-air time
and lands back down to do the earth dance,
an element of fear enhanced, gets up
and his earring shines from some light
beamed from far up in the sky
since, with nobody on, there are only
so many points a ball can be thrown
through the atmosphere as the next pitch
was down the middle of the strike zone

After Bonds had swung it landed near
a western wear store west of Apache Junction:
So much for the element of surprise

Later that day at the ballpark, frankly,
Barry Bonds almost trampled my son
trying to get his autograph
and my kid said, What a jerk!

It made me so proud

My Cup of Coffee in the Majors

A shadow passes on opening day
as the umpire screens the views
of new scores coming in,
old scores settled long ago,
as the heartbeat of the homeland
counts the day's receipts
checking for signs of mischief,
as angry Aztec gods
make a point, hiring lawyers
for copyright violation,
as spring birds bunt,
turning snow into drops
of sugary sweet wine,
as the ball comes down
the third base line
with just enough gust
to push the ball foul
as ice cold beer sales
flow into the face
of forever: O sure,
I had a cup in Euphoria
but didn't stick for the Stixx
and the banks were all closed
at sunset and I couldn't
get a grip and the previous
night's bright lights
could have been a trick

Sandman

Sing a dainty dirg
for the New York Yankees,
but note the fact
the sun arose the next day
are all the victories
stand, sure as yellow sunflowers
in the fall, falling away ...
Now that the best team
money can buy needs
first aid from the tip jar
for the daily
emergency management
donut fund, the Bombers
and the Joker
are on the run,
and the gangster managers
of U.S. Banks are running
from pranks organized
by mischevious teenagers
running out of bullets
playing digital games,
the bragging rights
now a toss up into the air,
a toxic point-and-shoot affair
of agents so say it ain't so
the best team in baseball
needs to reload, since the Sandman
can no longer come in the Ninth
to ice over the Show
and those who gave a flying f ...
about football can stand
and listen to make sharp yelps
about how I'm paying my own price
with wobbly knees, posts as painful
as typhoons out of season
as we ask a Navajo woman
draped in a royal blue
Dallas Cowboys' number nine jersey
in a defense against the sound and fury
of the noise of the laundry room,
focused on her cell phone like a weapon,
a fence against the outside world,
which sends in scores and more
as the rocking horse hick drones
on about how much his Saturday morning
hangover hurts over the radio,
and neither of us can see the country
crooner because today, sponsored
Ford trucks, is the anniversary
of the day I confessed to crimes
I never committed, places I never
will see, to things I can't remember,
forces I have no knowledge of, waves
I can sense but not see, feel or hear
churning up the winds, the rains, the snows,
falling from above, pushing up from below,
in patterns beyond my science,
no longer local, just passing through,
not on the ball, like Lucy removing
the football to make me look like the fool
after your ice-cold Bud is just another
beer can on a giant empty parking lot
where gas-guzzling lads, ladies in cheerleader
uniforms are stripped, cloned and sent
on their way for a full day
of prayer and fasting, knowing:
The sports godz have had their say

Flame Delhi

You made sweat dry in the strike zone
at great, zipping distances
And the copper company in Harqua Hala
Gave you a lifetime guarantee

If you loved baseball like life
Back then
The desperate diamond of cliche and stone
Wasn't so hard on your clay feet

If you wore black-laced boots at the top
of the mound
The heat would leak out in the sunshine and fame
Screamin' your name, ol' Flame

You came to Arizona long before Prince Hal
And his black-soaked bum friends
came to play ringers,
Cheatin' ore boys outta their nickel wages

They were cruel men, never shaved
They were thirsty renegades, restless;
With neither the guts nor style
For California

But you were good, solid folk
And when seven hits in three innings pitched
Was all you could squeeze outta
the shoulder at Comiskey
You returned, the nine-point-zero hero
of Harqua Hala

Cashing in your guarantee
The company re-armed you
with an engineering degree
and you built boats boats in San Francisco Bay
To keep the boys dry during the Great War

Ballpark Receipts

Read my memorandum
regarding the way echoes
in spinning wheels across
the desert of empty words
between the lines
of the "National Anthem"
populate the aisles
at the ballpark
filled with people
lucky enough
to afford to see you

I was wondering
if I can get my quarter back
or at least a phone call
in the bullpen
to get back into the game
See the falling stars
the dead lights of stars
falling off the diamond
the millionaire stars
with big broad foreheads
stunned into silent speech
taking the fifth,
announcing asterisks
for records erased
for their little lies
the Jose Consecos twittering
their tweets in the long hall
near the dugout, ducking
the limelight to get legal advice
where Will Clark once asked:
"Can you imagine hearing that song
one-hundred-and sixty-two times
a year?"

In the press box the muffled
crowd sounds are a continent
in sway, swinging left or right
and a hard-boiled cynic sports writer
comments, "Just like the Branch Davidians
when you just felt as if something screwed
up is going to happen, you just know it."

Barry Bonds' last home run ball
is running, still flying around,
on sale at America, up for auction
as a foul ball strikes the plexiglass
and more dead light falls off the diamond
the entropy sponsored by Bud light

Security has been tight
at the Ballpark in Arlington
since nine-one-one, as the FBI
shanks off a few foul tips,
and home base is buried in red dirt
as the manager goes to speak
to the pitcher, who has big ears
about everything from Hollywood
to Homeland Security
as the scoreboard's eternal
motor churns and churns and churns:
"Braves two, Reds two, in the Fifth
and the apocalyptic ghost of Ty Cobb
goes on an invisible walk
to get his free suit
at five-hundred feet
and it's beginning
to look like rain

Regarding this invoice
about the day I got lost
in the dugout right
before the endgame began,
or do I have to wait
for the eternal
seventh-inning hook?
If Christy Mathiewson
refused to pitch on Sunday
why should I?

Babe Ruth

Charismatic Babe Ruth runs hard and burns,
going good on subatomic energy, good as gasoline,
the homer baby of Babylon, playing Baal
in front of the unholy fences, no longer
a young being bowing to the crowd at Fenway,
during the later years as the unberman hero
at Yankee Stadium, which he built swinging
his bat like a hammer, a mirror to his time
when photos featured haggard stares
a prima donna, manpower in his belly
raging in the rag time, taking in a plug,
feeling his impatient behemouth beneficient guilt,
his soul a razor, at war with gravity,
thinking about walking unlimited miles
to whiskey in the bars near Central Park,
searching for the living among the dead:
History comes in threes, a Roman Catholic thing,
as there are as many anti-christs
as the uncountable stars in the sky ...

O great genie, over the fence man,
a poor boy but genes set right,
his fine-tuned antenna to the natural world,
his roaring twenty appetites scorching
Victorian-styled city streets,
humming New Orleans Dixieland rags ...
all on fire, unsatisfied, kicking the clay
out of his cleats,digging his pigeon toes
into the box, pointing toward
centerfield bleacher dandies

Go ahead and ask me if it matters:
I provide power: Power! Built this damn house
and they gave me everything but wanted I wanted,
to run the team, to be free to walk alone
in the back alleys at night to speakeasies,
to get a big drink so I can forget
that blond broad's name, to remember
who really loves me, though they all say
they do, but some future historian
may suppress my true memory
in order to maintain my superman myth ...
Good thing the common folk understand everything,
that it's no great feat: I just do what feels easy
Duly warned, returning to the box, straining
to keep from scratchin', spittin', and hell,
even sweatin', and thy mind off drinkin'
Next pitch, I hit it foul, but you won't
read about it here, kindly change all
strike counts to zero ...

Did he command the universal flux
cavorting with whores along Congo Square?
Did he find his Elvis there?
Black holes subtract starlight,
animal magnetism flirting, flicking,
kissing bits with flash powder,
avoiding the good Cardinals' cathedral,
igniting the musty atmosphere,
slouching toward home plate to be born,
uttering God's inviolate immaculate
sense of a woman's softest parts,
penetrating the thin veil masking
manmade laws we believe, tentatively,
to exist: He had the heart of an anarchist

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