Inside Camden Yards
when the Orioles played the White Sox
on this idyllic spring afternoon,
the wail of sirens accompanied pre-game music
that echoed across 46,000 empty seats,
a few loyal followers hung banners, looked from nearby balconies,
gathered outside locked gates,
stood to watch through a wrought iron fence,
while residents just blocks away swept up streets and stores
after days of riots, protest marches, curfew,
despair and frustration.
No vendors sold beer, hot dogs, or peanuts,
no lines snaked toward restrooms,
no hawkers roamed the aisles with cotton candy,
lemonade, or ice cream.
On the field, the players seemed smaller,
like Little League kids without even parents in the bleachers,
surprised to hear their own voices
carry across the outfield to call for a catch
or encourage each other,
at least one player tossing a ball into the stands
to invisible spectators
where it rattled around like a huge pinball machine.
Through all nine innings,
the one constant sound was the sharp slap
of the ball into the catcher’s mitt,
a loud whack we rarely hear during a regular game,
a sound like a club hitting flesh,
yet rhythmic and strong
like the heartbeat of a city
as it slowly catches its breath.
Nancy Haskett