June 26: “Casey at the Bat”

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, ‘If only Casey could but get a whack at that-
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.’

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
‘That ain’t my style,’ said Casey. ‘Strike one! ‘ the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
‘Kill him! Kill the umpire! ‘ shouted some one on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, ‘Strike two! ‘

‘Fraud! ‘ cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered ‘Fraud! ‘
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer has fled from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go.
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville- mighty Casey has struck out.

— Ernest Lawrence Thayer

May 18: “spring again”

spring came /
the same way winter left
& summer will come
& summer will leave;        slowly
          / when no one’s expecting it
             when people are tired of waiting
 
like waiting for welfare checks /
          a long wait/             a slow wait
 
the windows are open
but butterflies don’t fly in
to display a sense of love
           / only housefly enter
              to sit on food       & eat crumbs
 
& dreams escape /
& become stolen      & lost      & used
& wasted        & thrown away
& dreamed anew
the junkies sit on the stoop
& nod themselves into dreams
            / maybe into the ones which escaped
& stinkball is played
& on warm nights        the ghetto musicians play
our ghetto song
on garbage can tops         & bang on empty coke bottles
& sound real chévere
 
:tomorrow
the junkies will sit on the stoop
& nod themselves into dreams /
stickball will be played /
                                             the streets will become chalked
                                             with 1st and 2nd & 3rd bases
hop scotch will become a game
& tops will spin on sidewalks /
& everyone will anticipate summer.

— Jesus Papoleto Melendez

April 11: “Forsythia”

You said, take a few dry
sticks, cut the ends slantwise
to let in water, stick them
in the old silver cup on the
dresser in the spare room and
wait for the touch of Easter.
But a cold wave protected the
snow, and the sap’s pulse beat
so low underground I felt no
answer in myself except silence.
You said, winter breaks out in
flowers for the faithful and
today when I opened the door
the dry sticks spoke in little
yellow stars and I thought
of you.

— James Hearst

January 11: “Rooms Remembered”

I needed, for months after he died, to remember our rooms—
some lit by the trivial, others ample

with an obscurity that comforted us: it hid our own darkness.
So for months, duteous, I remembered:

rooms where friends lingered, rooms with our beds,
with our books, rooms with curtains I sewed

from bright cottons. I remembered tables of laughter,
a chipped bowl in early light, black

branches by a window, bowing toward night, & those rooms,
too, in which we came together

to be away from all. And sometimes from ourselves:
I remembered that, also.

But tonight—as I stand in the doorway to his room
& stare at dusk settled there—

what I remember best is how, to throw my arms around his neck,
I needed to stand on the tip of my toes.

— Laure-Anne Bosselaar

January 9: “The Couple”

A Greek ship
Sails on the sea
Carrying me past
The islands
Into an unknown
Island where
The burros
Are sleeping, houses
Are white, and brown
Honey is sold in
The general store. That’s
Me up on the hill,
Living with the
Man I’m going
To marry– there
We are– he plays
The violin
But never practices,
I fold and unfold
The nylon blouses
I brought from
America and put
Them neatly in
A drawer. It is
Time to go out.
We explore the island
And at the same time
Argue about
Getting married.
We walk close to
The sea, which happens
To knock our eyes
Out with its blue. An
Old lady, call her a
Witch, passes us by and
Asks us the way to
The post office.
We continue on the rocks,
Walking by the sea. “I bet
We look married,” I say,
And turn my eyes from
The sea. “Only to
An old lady
Going to mail
Letters at the post
Office,” he replies.
And begins to weep.
Not one snorkel
Will float
Us under the sea,
To the schools of fish
Who are enjoying
Their mateless
Existence, or
Take us away from
Our troubles. The
Young girl folds
Up her blouses and
Begins to pack.
The young man
Picks up his fiddle
And places it
Back into
The imitation
Alligator case.
The island
Now is sinking
Beneath the blue sea.
The life plot thickens.
Wait.
We have forgotten
Our footsteps.
We must
Cover them up
To
The post office.

— Sandra Hochman