My childhood is a collage of so many
Images: assorted ball games and always
Roller hockey when the city’s bitter cold
Stung the fingers and hit the face with
Ice-slaps too much for our fallback sports;
A motley but loved coin collection and a
More magnificent gathering of 3-D comic
Books; the fiery sounds of Elvis, Jerry Lee
And more mellow tones of Frank and Dean.
But the adhesive whirling through all these
Fabrics of the clothing I wore in the 1950’s
Is the aroma of pink, the powdery flavor of
That gum! . . . those rectangular slabs of
Bubble gum that accompanied the packs
Of baseball cards that I had a love-hate
Relationship with. I treasured every card,
But most worshiped the ones with photos
Of my New York Yankees. I knew the number
Of each player (in those days, before
Expansion watered down the statistics and
The quality of play). I loved to feel the cards,
To arrange and rearrange them, to flip and
Glide them in contests with friends, and I
Could never stop that smell, that pink-cloud
Whiff, from entering my nose and mind.
The hate — too strong a word, perhaps —
Came from my never getting Mickey Mantle,
No matter how many packs I bought. I used
My mental powers to conjure up an image of
The Mick taking a mighty lefty-righty swing,
The resulting likeness captured forever on the
Front of the card I never found. That collection,
Foolishly, is long gone — along with those 3-D
Comics and the coins — but the smell of pink
Is there when I recall those treasured days,
And I’ve never overcome my longing for
Possessing that haunting and much too elusive
Mickey Mantle card.