AMERICAN PARADE – Part One: the New York Fan

If I were floating in a trance
Standing on a mellow-darkened stage,
Having volunteered to entertain
All those Americans who paid good cash,
And if the well-dressed hypnotist,
Tired of making his subjects cluck like chickens
Or bark like dogs, commanded me
To respond without restrictions
Other than between the foul lines of my mind
To the word “baseball,” I would drown him
With passing images,
Memories that have marinated in my mind
For more than seven decades,
Visions that have lived with me and helped
Form the person that I am this day:
Joltin’ Joe in center, next to the rookie Commerce Comet,
Happy Felton watching over kids at play,
The Old Perfesser ambling to the mound
In Yankee Stadium, the Polo Grounds or Shea,
Hands in back pockets and genius thoughts
Like bolts of lightning in his storied face,
Larson being perfect on a black and white TV,
Making Yogi jump into his arms
On the low-def screen as Mitchell (the only time
That batter struck out in 29 Series appearances),
Hearing the Yanks lose to the Cards on Armed Forces Radio
At an unearthly hour and then going to teach my African students
Half asleep in my first year of Peace Corps service,
Richardson getting hit after Series hit,
Watching the Giants for free, thanks to Chesterfield,
Jackie stealing home and Yogi jumping up and down complaining,
Maz’s homer to the heart, Kubek’s throat shot, Billy’s running grab,
Willie’s backward catch, Jay Hook
Getting that first win,
Several Series wins and heavy losses,
The slow years of the late ’60’s
For the Yanks and the late ’70’s
For the Mets, Wayne Garrett calling
A late night talk show on the radio
And guaranteeing a first Met series win,
Piazza’s homer after 9/11, those Banner marches
Around the dirt path at Shea, the guy
Who always held up black and white
Signs that got to the point at early Met games,
Joan Payson, Del Webb, Steinbrenner,
The announcers: Mel, Jim, Red, Phil, Lindsey, Bob, Ralph,
The pennants won and lost,
The songs and ads (Ballantine, White Owl),
Kiner’s Korner, the Knot Hole Gang,
Knight’s fight — and Buddy’s,
Clemens throwing part of a bat,
Wilmer crying, Yogi in left and Mickey at first,
And so much more resting in the Netherlands
Of my memory, waiting for their non-linear return —
And then unexpectedly a snap of a metaphorical finger
Or a simple slap of cold-now reality
And I am back where I belong,
Eagerly anticipating spring training.
I willingly acknowledge the recognition
That my baseball memories are an adhesive
Holding me together from my past,
Only paralleled by the loves I have for
The people in my life, in my extended family.
It is a sport so deep inside
That it is now the coheson of my DNA.