To the child in the suburbs of silence

Someday you will learn to pronounce enough of the words,
To enough of an approximation
That your harmonies blend in with the rest.
When they ask you where you’re from
It won’t beg a follow-up;
No muddled consonants will suggest an accent
And you will not have to take root in defiance,
Claiming a city with central, commonplace voices
Almost as a challenge. To push them back
Into silence instead.

You are young now. When you moved away
It was an adventure, thrilling, fascinating.
But now other children make friendships naturally,
Stretch out their hearts, transformed by some magics,
Telepathies you cannot name, cannot read,
Insights you cannot touch, cannot comprehend,
Cannot put words to the unseen void.
Maybe, you hypothesize today, it was easier before,
It is only the new start that has set you behind.
You do not think it could be anything lacking in you;
How could it be, with your digit-reckoning,
Your story-weaving, the skills the adults praise?
Homesickness is a shield, an explanation.

And being an underdog, you sense, is good.
Overcats are blamed for everything.
People like you overcats are the guilty,
The evil, the wrong,
Will never have been good enough,
In history, in books, in the paper, in the church,
Everything they make you read
To prove how smart you are, to skip ahead
Says you’re an overcat, an overcat,
You and the ones like you,
Never enough, never enough.

But when you catch sight, on the street
Of a hat, a t-shirt, maybe,
Of the city you remember, not even a fan then,
The hat your mom loved, the shirt your grandfather knew,
Amid the football horns, amid the foul weather in these new towns
And the fans not sure whether they are fair nor foul,
No, fans like you are not quite the majority here–
You smile back at something recognized.

They will still ask you, someday, many questions
“Where are you from?”
Not for your voice’s sake, but for your shirt
And you will not be nimble enough
To answer in time.
Cities down the line, you’ll stammer something:
“By birth, by college, not consecutive”
But usually it’s enough
For the questioners who don’t say what they mean.
Are they filtering out bandwagon hoppers?
Or happier to find true fans
From unexpected sources?
You still can’t read their minds. But you’ll get by.

They will look for overcats.
They will look for scapegoats.
They will look for stories, but not the stories you know;
There are, I suppose, as many among “they”
As there are people like you among
The great crowd of witnesses
Your bandwagon has led you to.
And trying to lump them together,
Bestowing praise and blame,
Is a fool’s errand.
But there are many fools running errands.

You have many associations now,
Some wondrous and graceful,
Other associations–in some minds–guilt-trips.
But while you learn to shake your fists
At the players who muff it,
Adding their histories to a litany,
You never become a scapegoater,
Even as you burn at being mislabeled one.
Though the stories will spilled forth
From your fingers very soon
In joy and in sorrow
When stars make way for prospects,
They will come in indignation, too,
When fantasy is the only way to clear your name.

For the players you love will move on.
You’ll cling to their jerseys
And then they’ll move on.
And then their numbers will circle around again
And you’ll find that the numbers are still there for you.
People will see you in the shirts, little seventeen,
And say you haven’t aged a day.

They will still ask about your age, later,
Doing double-takes when you answer.
To get them to trust you,
I suggest spouting advanced math.
Even if you’re disheartened by that path from day to day
Some of them won’t believe you’re grown-up
If you explain that you haven’t changed much;
There was no rupture, no crisis of faith,
No artsy-fartsing and no newfound pretentiousness.
There was change, yes, more slowly;
No more newspapers, no more box-score reading;
A grudging tolerance for freer verse
(Well, okay, at times
You will go for rhymes.)

Just as they ask about your age now
And you hope to impress them
After giving prodigious answers,
Showing off what you’ve learned.
Memorizing, internalizing, regurgitating records
That serve as touchstones, conversation starters
And after them, quirky plays
And after them, quirky people,
And after them, a world that unfolds
With every improvised abbreviation of the scorecard
Until the radio lulls you to sleep
With patchy AM broadcasts, bouncing off the ionosphere,
Your hand a living antenna.
It is others’ nostalgia that glorifies the medium,
Not yet your own,
But the books you turn to are an ionosphere of their own,
Magnifying the signal several times over.

Or maybe when the world’s telepathy is a cloud, disrupting the signals,
And the numbers in your brain are the radio tower,
Baseball will be the nighttime boost,
Amplifying the call to reach your hand.

Someday they will come echoing back,
The voices you have known,
Exultant for you to reach the heights you have seen.
(You will not be alone;
There will be, if ephemeral, ways of connecting.)

Someday, when you are not quite so young as you are now,
But still, in the grand scheme of things, young,
And not always sure if you are worthy of what you have been given,
But not caring about your optimization,
Because there are others who have waited longer, endured more,
And grateful beyond words that they have a share in this moment,
You will be the voice that echoes back.

What you are seeking is not an end to struggle,
Not an end to identity,
But the chance to compete as others do;
On a field that is fair,
With mounds and warnings and everything in between.
Without naysayers nor overcats, without guilt or false narratives
But with room for the ever-new stories the game spouts forth.
Room for you to own the richness of your mind,
In its weakness and its strength,
And to own your faith without naivete,
Wherever you may be–
Like the prayer of the ever-steadfast voice
“Not for a win,
But that there may be no goats, and only heroes.”

There are other games, other connections.
In the high school cafeteria, out of the blue
You’ll get recruited onto the chess team,
Striving to logic your way though black and white,
Learn to keep score,
And carry the quotations of the game with you,
Forging new stories under your fingertips.
Two years later, your recruiter moves away,
Transferring to the Lightning,
And again, you feel obliged to take it out through words.
Sonnets this time.
(I don’t feel bad about spoiling this,
Since you plagiarized it from their fight song anyway,
Which was itself ripped off from Notre Dame.)
We sing “Shake down the thunder from the sky”.
But does that mean we want to seize the rain?
I couldn’t hold a thunderbolt in my
Hand without undergoing cosmic pain…

Lightning is weird.
You can’t trap lightning in a bottle;
You know this, watching players regress toward the mean
After brilliant performances one year.
You can’t count on anything, can’t be sure
Until it is proven, until it is over,
Whether leading or trailing, quiet as a mathematician;
This fear, this hope, has always defined you.

But there are lightning rods.
There will be other underdogs and other flukes
That captivate your heart along the way,
That seem to use up all the magic
Until your team are favorites in the end
And this can’t make you love them any less
Than the first day you started counting homers.

This is not the end. Nor is it
An end to anguish, to headaches
Literal or figurative,
Beyond and probably within the game.
Even now, as I write this to you
In apprehension for what lies ahead
I sit waiting for a letter I cannot receive
From my own future. But I may send one
When I am as far removed from this day
As I, who now sit writing, am to you.

The day will come when you will find your voice.
And after that will come another day
When you will scream, and weep, and then rejoice
After numbers’ worth of mind-numbing play.

You’ll see a playoff game with your own eyes
As your team makes its way out of the dark
Onto the path where they can lift the prize
And ultimately leave their winning mark.

When the flags that count bear the final score
When the clouds lift after the rains descend,
When no one speaks of curses anymore,
And your beloveds’ waits come to an end.

I can’t say how. I cannot say how long.
But someday, you will raise your heart in song.

The NLCS, and beyond

The lead off third–most of the way around
The basepaths, yet the distance still to go
Looms large. The runner checks himself, has found
He can’t turn back; and he is left with no

Choice but to run, break forward, and defy
The pitch itself. Time slows, a run appears
From desperation, being forced to try,
And jaws that dropped pick themselves up for cheers.

What remains now, when superstition’s gone?
After imposed fake narrative, what’s left?
The game itself finds more plays to spin on;
Out of the blue, a miraculous theft.

One needn’t be a loser to love story;
There will be space for small moments of glory.

…I just want to make public transportation puns, that’s basically it

The fine folks at Bardball.com have been going strong with the limerick game all through the division series so I thought I’d jump in late. Can’t say when or if there will be more in this vein but here I am on the bandwagon.

I pity the Nats fans who bailed
When the strength of an early lead failed.
If I’m no mistaker,
Dusty’s still a half-baker,
And the city’s hopes all lie de-railed.

Not All Cubs Fans

I’ve lived a pretty sheltered life, all things considered, and can’t complain. That penultimate word–can’t–weighs down on me from no direction in particular, an invisible, unseen force. It shouldn’t be like this. It shouldn’t be about me. I’m no one in particular–just a hobbyist, a fan. Being a sports fan is something I do and am for fun. But not only is it a source of pleasure, it can also be a way of making connections to people who aren’t like me. As a little kid, my ability to rattle off trivia statistics delighted older fans and provided a way to start making friendships with those near and far, even as I struggled to master the social skills needed to bond with my own peer group. Sports can sometimes have this power–the power to be used for good.

I was born outside the Chicago area but had already moved away by the time I fell in love with baseball. Most of the baseball hats on display weren’t Cubs hats, but a few were, and every so often I’d get thumbs-ups or high-fives for my little T-shirts. Baseball team affiliation is something innocuous enough that it’s a way to identify onesself as one of a relatively small “in-group” and display comparatively benign loyalties. Just as the sport as a whole was a bridge for me to make connections, team affiliation became a way to signal a postive form of pride, when I was almost too afraid to do so in most other ways. How dare I take any pride in my country, when people like me in so many ways (birth place, skin color, religion) were responsible for so many atrocities? On the internet, where one-liners and point-scoring were the currency of the day, citing one’s atypical neurology could too easily turn into an excuse, so better not hide behind that either. At least T-shirts and virtual avatars could still endure.

When I was twelve I started learning that there was no safety in this approach. Oh, I don’t mean that the mistakes of one fan would be redistributed as collective guilt; people (some people) can deride an individual scapegoat much more easily. No, I mean the second-order response of assuming all other fans were content to mock the failings of their fellows, rather than hold the players accountable. Of lumping us all in the same boat.

I don’t mean to claim any higher ground than is due–that kind of attitude leads to the backlash present in, say, the “Best Fans St. Louis” running joke. Some people probably think my dreams of true egalitarianism are naive. I’m just one voice, and a quiet voice at that. But I have to try.

All this is just to say that, in the slightly ironic spirit of #victorinooutsforcharity and the slightly tiresome ads that companies do (apparently some of them just pay a flat fee anyway, but, welp), I’m going to be donating $5 for every Aroldis Chapman save (with the Cubs this year) to Wings Program. I hope I don’t need to be very wordy about it here or elsewhere, and I’m not sure if posting this defeats the purpose. But please know, if you’re reading this; in the midst of all the nihilistic hand-wringing and disdain that will follow for people like me, or maybe it just feels like it from amid the distortions I squint through, I’m here too.

Edit: figured there had to be something like this going on on a larger scale. Check out @pitchin4dv on Twitter! (Their main recipient is the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic.)

Spring Training

I was writing this last April, taking part in a hard fight with many avid bards (and an all-star grading). As it’s March again, I bring it back. Happy Spring!🙂

All limbs in whirls that lash, craving maintaining.
A small rain falling in an arid land, draining
What was a farm. This day it’s scalding, blazing.
This fall, I cry, will flash with wins amazing.
In a mad wind, kids flip backwards and wind
Till arms display what avid fans will find.
I pass as a baby, rattling silly stats
That sat amid this mix; minds, balls and bats.

I’ll sit in any chair, skip that which is shaming
Past failings, past draws. It saps will, blaming
What was. In this dry warmth; again I’ll start
Planning against panic, playing any part.
Till that day wins banish a final wraith:
I am a fanatic, invisibility sparks faith.

Slide, Utley, Slide!

This blog has been dormant for some time, despite the amazing baseball that’s been going on this year, and my life has been changing a lot since then too. The blog may well go back to being dormant, I don’t know.

However, after the NLDS Game 2, John Thorn put out the call for song parodies of this 1880’s classic, and John Thorn doesn’t have to ask twice.

I played a game of baseball down at old Chavez Ravine
The crowd was intermittent, and the heat was fierce and keen
A nobler lot of people there might have chanced to play
But you would never hear that said from teammates in LA.
The game was quickly started while I sat on the bench
Waiting for Mattingly to call upon a would-be mensch.
Hernandez drew a walk and then it was my turn to bat,
Eked out a quiet single and there was no need to spat.

(Chorus):
Slide, Utley, slide; the fray will never end
Slide, Utley, slide; your havoc they’ll suspend
If your blows are just too crushing, and you aren’t duly blushing
They won’t take you to Flushing; slide, Utley, slide!

Twas in the seventh inning they called me in, you’ll find
But once I got to first, moving along was on my mind.
But something was the matter, sure I couldn’t see the ball
But my slide into the base broke down Tejada’s leg and all
I was running down the baseline, I figured that he tripped
For when I tumbled into him, he got severely flipped.
‘Twas a most unpleasant feeling, though at first they called me out;
We both were ratlled, and that’s when the fans began to shout;

They overturned the play so to the base I got to go
The way they took Tejada out, it must have been a show.
On Gonzalez then depended the victory or defeat,
And he came through to show the world that we would not be beat.
Five to two was the score of the game when we got done,
But when I got suspended I thought that was much less fun.
The news got home ahead of me, they said I couldn’t play;
The fans told me that I should sue, and then began to say…

World Cup Found Poetry: “Ribbon” (Germany/Argentina)

Like tigers, and they win
to enjoy the sunshine
with a ribbon tied around
the Redeemer statue:
a troublemaker-in-chief.
Don’t wear any, of course.
Wednesday o’clock;
that rat-tail hair style.
That looks like gold dust,
a lot of tears.

World Cup Found Poetry: “Key” (Netherlands/Argentina)

Daylight is saying its final goodbye.
A kickboxing expert
in the vocal ascendancy.
may just be the tears of a heartbroken
grinding intensity,
because there’s blood on that
golden key.
The reason for the flood:
bluff and double-bluff.

World Cup Found Poetry: “Yellow” (Brazil/Germany)

The movie Monsters
both wore yellow,
haunted by what happened
(whatever you want to say)
the day they took the Tube.
The frustration isn’t
a morbid fascination;
otherwise there’s no space.
You and I are pinching
cause I’m running out of words.
This towel was,
struggling with illness,
a place to hide his face.

World Cup Found Poetry: “Property” (Netherlands/Costa Rica)

The honest guy card
still makes him feel young.
There’s no hotter property than
its volcanoes.
Continuing to explore
a titanic struggle.