EXPANSIVE POETRY ONLINE
A Journal of Contemporary Arts 

 

POEMS

by

GARY C. LAPOINTE
____________

TO THE ROOKIES, TO MAKE MUCH OF TIME
Fatten your average while you can,
     Old Time is still a-shaking;
And those young legs that sprint today
     Tomorrow will be aching.
You think the hits will never stop,
     Your stardom never fading;
The more your average starts to drop,
     The nearer you’re to trading.
That age is best before you’re cursed,
     When youth (and bats) are eager;
But being spent, it’s worse and worst
     ‘Til you’re a minor leaguer.
Then go, my boys, enjoy your time,
     And while you can, deliver;
For having passed what was your prime,
     You’ll ride the bench forever.
					
EARL BYRON CONTEMPLATES FREE AGENCY
When a man has no pennant to play for by June,
     Let him play for the prospect of riches.
Let him think of the glory of off-season boons
     (The hell with the fans—sons of bitches!)
To do good for the team is the Manager’s plan;
     A ridiculous way to be graded. 
If you play for the pennant, perform for the fan,
     Unless you’re a star—you’ll get traded!
 
HOW SOON HATH TY, THAT SUBTLE THIEF...
How soon hath Ty, that subtle thief, a youth,
     Stol’n (on my wing) his twenty-third this year!
     My last few days fly by, a dull career,
And my last spring a dud of loss and ruth.
Perhaps my knuckler may deceive some youth
     That must for manhood wait another year.
     But late at night, though fortified with beer,
No knuckler of the mind may fool the truth.
So, be it on the corner, fast or slow,
     Or smack dab down the middle of the plate,
     Or low and in the dirt, or hard and high,
Towards Death Time leads me, down the well of Fate:
     Into the Hall of Fame I’ll never go,
     But ever know that glory passed me by.
 
LINES
        Composed in the clubhouse in Charleston, West Virginia, 
        on being shipped back to the minors.  July 13, 1978.
A Fragment
Five years have passed; five summers with the stench
Of five losing seasons!  And again I hear
These catcalls rolling from the dollar seats
With a hard, drunken mutter. –-Once again
Do I behold these grim and empty stands,
That in a bush-league baseball park impress
Thoughts of a more deep exclusion; and connect
My silence with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again relieve
Here, upon this flat, muddy mound, and view
These rookie infielders, these scrawny kids,
Who in this season, with their unripe skills
Are mired in one long slump, and lose themselves
In whores and barrooms.  Once again I see
These basepaths, hardly basepaths, little trails 
Of pebbled dirt run wild:  these eroded dirt paths
Sloped to the very bags; and wreaths of dust
Kicked up, in silence from the batter’s box
With some uncertain menace as might seem
Of rookie prospect staring at the fence
Or at the pitcher’s mound, where on the hill
The Pitcher stands alone.
                                         These hideous forms
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a spitball to a blind ump’s eyes:
But oft in Hilton rooms, and ‘board the cabs
Of big-league cities, I have owed to them
In hours of triumph the joy of fame
Heard in the ear and felt along the heart
And passing into Tuesday morning’s stats
With glad accomplishment:----feelings too
Of oft-remembered failures: such perhaps
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a pitcher’s book,
His wins and saves, well-remembered feats
Of pitching out of jams.  Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another boon
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed groove
In which the burthen of the minor leagues,
In which the bus rides and the cheap motels
And all that unimaginable crap
Are disremembered; that serene and blessed groove
In which the headlines lead us on
Until the years of Doubledaysian fame
And even the twilight of our coaching days
Almost finished, we hang up our spikes
For good and become a living legend,
While with an arm made longer by the years
Of fastballs and a hundred thousand curves,
We make it to the Hall of Fame.
                                                     If this
Be but a vain belief, yet oh! How oft—
In extra innings with the bases full
Of pin-striped Yankees, when the homer-hitting
Center-fielder bats, and all my tired curve balls
Have hung across the center of the plate—
How oft, in spirit, have I thought of thee,
O minor leagues!  Thou graveyard of my hopes,
How often have my thoughts recoiled from thee!
And now with globs of hidden Vaseline,
And many change-of-paces soft and slow,
And something of a shaky knuckleball,
The pitcher of the past relieves again,
While here I stand, not only with the fear
Of present failure but with fright’ning thoughts
That in this inning is my life--and food--
In future years.  And so I dare to hurl,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these bushes; when like Schoolboy Rowe,
I blazened through the line-ups, fanned the side
Of better clubs and the lowly teams,
Wherever baseball led; more like a kid
Enduring something that he dreads than one
Who loved the thing he did.  Yet baseball then
(The quicker pitches of my boyish days
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all there was.  –--I cannot pitch
As then I could. The loud smack of a glove
Haunted me like a passion; the sharp curve,
The slider and the hard, high fastball,
Their rotation and their breaks were then to me
An appetite; a confidence and zest
That had no need for wobbly knuckleballs
Or grease supplies, nor any interest
In sneaky, off-speed stuff.  –--That time is past,
And all its blazing fastballs are no more,
And all its wicked sliders.  Not for this
Fail I, nor mourn nor murmur; other tricks
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe
Apparent recompense.  For I have learned 
To look on batters, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The shrill, sad booing of seventh place,
Both harsh and grating, and of ample power
To hasten our remove….
        (Note:  Here the manuscript breaks off, 
                    first into semi-coherent scribblings  
                    about “august benevolences” and then 
                    into doodling, before this final sentence, 
                    done later in a shaky handwriting and with 
                    a leaky fountain pen:  “Exterminate all the brutes!”)
        					--- Gary C. LaPointe
 
                 

 

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