Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fuck or Write and Fuck or Pray

There are those who are born who hope they never die. We cannot change, however we may care, why. We call them poets, artists, professionals, parents, politicians, who have an unretractable urge (like a calcified talon) to project into the future. I write a poem in a bid for immortality. I fuck to be immortal, some core-self self-absolute that spilling my seed (or dropping my egg propitiously, if a woman) satisfies that bid for continuance. Born with culture; thus writing a poem should run so true as coming deep within my lover. What else. Plenty. Conscious of what I am told is God I seek the same - a shadow, a mimicking, a continuance. Baseball – a sphere seemingly disappears into a familiar sky; trains cross a desert; a painter’s brush eliminates planes, suggesting distance where he or she purchased a mere slip of canvas. I come, suggesting another world. Between your breasts a little map of Ireland. Born with culture. God taking a hand, available for speech, supplication. We raise a glass. The Ark of the Covenant. Israel, you and I, in a box, so written, crossing unfamiliar country. Fireworks and the Fourth of July. A bid for immortality on the back of a bull or a client presentation. Remember me, says the poet through the poem. This sperm, this egg, survive, let it please God. Let it leave you the mere corporeal You and the You you imagine me to be dead and behind.

You may be seated for poetics

There will not be a happy-making conference about poetry or poetics. You will not make friends with everyone nor will they. You may feel anger and disgust. You may take it out on your co-workers. Your clients will expect immediate, top-drawer service, even as you are rifling through your papers in search of last week's notes. At night, making love, your mind drifts over words spoken into a microphone.

Just when you had things all set up. Just when you were ready. Look at this place. It's a fucking mess. Yes I went out. Yes I got a little drunk. Best conversations I had the whole week. Try not to worry so much. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

There are the big names. No, I counted them out. They don't have more letters than yours, but they are big. Many are big women. There are no big Asian/Americans here. I want you to think about that, because I asked you to, and because it's about people, it matters. If you can think about it, or respond, at least nod your head to show there's something there.

We call a conversation about people and their values and behaviors a conference on "poetics." Many of us write poems and have pretty well in the poem business. When I was a boy, I wanted to pitch the Dodgers to a complete game shutout over the Yankees in the seventh game of a World Series. It appears I am not a complete washout after all. So, even though I think you are full of shit, I love you as a person and would chase down your mugger or back you up in any number of disputes other than what matters most in poetry, where you are full of shit.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Talk Baseball

I am one day older than what I was when I took my son to his first baseball game. This posting will not dwell on the oft-recited keen fatherly pleasures derived there from. Though I should say that I employ the term “keen” in the traditional sense, whereby one might describe the keen edge of a blade, where art has been brought to bear on an object of utility, perfecting it in its function.

And, but, this seeming digression serves to introduce my subject, which is the nature and purpose of Minor League Baseball (Triple A level).

Baseball, as it has been said, is a game for men sometimes played by kids. Nowhere is this observation better applied than with respect to the facts of baseball – or what constitutes the this, that, and the other of statistics, strategy, talent. A person or persons might involve themselves closely in the adult-oriented facts of major league baseball and remain completely ignorant of the analogical facts inuring to the minor leagues. Well, there’s life for you.

Enough archery.

You may poo-poo “minor” league ball; you may be ignorant of what it is or isn’t; you may not know what to root for or how to root for it. You may live within some sort of geographic/realistic proximity to a minor league team and not even know it (they run Rookie League - sometimes called Single A; Double-A; Triple-A). I undertake this article to tell you a few things about minor league baseball of which you may not be aware, but should be, because any asshole can root for the Yankees, but it takes a man or woman with guts (or a sense of humor – and I would hesitate to suggest that courage and humor are ever much parted) to root for the Portland Beavers.

In short, here is what you need to know about Minor League Baseball, species: Triple-A; sub-species: The Portland Beavers, established 1903.

• Guys at the Triple-A level are better athletes than anyone you have ever known, unless you know someone who played on a major league franchise in baseball, football, or basketball.
• When I say “guys,” I mean every player on the roster of a Triple-A team. Whoever takes the field and whoever is in the dugout.
• This means these guys are better athletes than you, your dad, your mom, your brother, or your uncle who played a few downs for some shit-ass college team. Anyone you now know or have known.
• What does “better” mean.
• They have quicker hands than anyone you have ever known. Triple-A pitchers throw Major League stuff. Fastballs in the 90’s. Breaking stuff in the mid 80’s. Triple-A hitters can hit the stuff Triple-A pitchers throw.
• If you have a problem with a guy with throws only a 94 mph sinker or isn’t Nolan Ryan, let me tell you a story.
• At the age of 29, living in Brunswick, Maine, I decided to learn how to pitch. I bought a copy of Tom Seaver’s The Art of Pitching, or whatever it’s called, and I learned how to pitch. How to throw a sinker, an overhand curve, a change-up, and, on a good, good, day, a slider.
• I studied this book, and I learned its lessons. For I was relatively young and could not or did not or would not comprehend the end of things.
• At some point, a friend of mine who worked in the restaurant kitchen I worked in told me that there would be a tryout at a town nearby.
• A “tryout” is an organized gathering of local talent, set up by one or more scouts, usually wise old guys who know real talent the way the rest of us know bullshit.
• So I go to this tryout (I have photos to prove it) and threw my best fastball about 72 miles per hour. Maybe. Okay fine fuck you it was like 68 mph. And was politely informed See you later.
• The story though is this.
• Waiting my turn to impress the scouts, I played catch with a much younger pitching prospect, who you should understand right now had no real talent.
• He threw only about an 86 mile per hour fastball.
• I had to catch his fastball with my pitching glove, then I had to catch his curve ball.
• Catching his fastball was unpleasant the way being hit by a bully is unpleasant.
• His curve ball reacted in the air the way a snake reacts to a mongoose.
• So this is what you need to know: guys at Triple-A have Major League ability.
• You have likely never had to deal with them on the field, and if you ever have, you would know exactly what the fuck I am talking about.
• Many of these guys have played in the Majors or will.
• A guy’s likelihood of playing in the majors depends on a lot of factors, like, does the Major League team have a spot for him; who would he replace; can the guy hit DH (Designated Hitter); does he "project" (scouting term) to being an impact player, a daily player, etc.
• A guy will get called up and given some time and the scouts are watching and writing reports and the coaches write reports.
• The guy might get called up again or not. Maybe he gets traded. Injuries play a role, etc., etc.
• All the time, this guy is a better athlete than anyone you know or have ever have known. All the time, people with an investment are assessing him for a return on their investment.
• If the guy plays enough innings or whatever in one year in the Major Leagues he qualifies for the minimum Major League salary, which is a simply Christly sum – I mean, like 400K or whatever - even though good Triple-A salaries are not half bad.
• Do not expect me to look this shit up.

Side-note: Seaver’s book saved my good looks and maybe something more. The year following my self-tutelage I migrated to Philadelphia where I was starting pitcher (right-handed) for an over-30 league team. On one particular occasion, I sought to finish off a team’s clean-up hitter (a taut, bearded, brown-eyed right-hander) with a lovely slider over the outside part of the plate. It broke, and he leaned into it and hit it at something a good deal greater then my best fastball speed directly at my nose. Happily, Seaver taught me to “follow through” with my glove in position to react to such an occurrence appropriately. I had exactly enough time simply to elevate my glove and catch the ball just in front of my face.
• That was the first and only time I have heard an umpire exclaim, Whoa.

So, the moral is. Go see a Triple-A game by yourself or with your kid. You can get great seats for a joke compared to Major League prices. There is constant entertainment – promotions, give-aways, contests – and every opportunity to meet these young (and sometimes not-so-young) men and:
• Get an autograph of a perhaps someday Major Leaguer
• Get an autograph of a perhaps someday Hall-of-Famer
• Just say thanks and good luck. He will need it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I seem to remember ambition serving to clarify. Perhaps available choices and techniques. Game plans. Perhaps a worldview in locating a point of light in the distance. So I would return day and again to locate that point of light. Now I am surrounded by forms of ambition. Some are dead or accomplished and others shrieking phantasies. Most are arranged in a subtly horizontal plane covering about 270 degrees, coming in and out, wavering, eyelids at half-mast. But in the quiet of now I hear a sound, and I think it is a true sound, as it enters my spine between my shoulder blades and spreads to my forehead. Even so, I cannot seek what I am sense. I occupy some other kind of ground.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

5 of 5

I wonder at feeling and understand, at their interplay. I am living a time in my life where feelings create openings for understandings .

To know a thing, not merely to think it.

As I achieve a particular understanding, I recall the thought of it. I recall the thought of personal balance. I recall prioritizing, and rest, and kindness. Thoughts and conversation though are nothing to understanding. One takes action and for a time - it may be just a moment - one holds oneself in thought, and understands.

I feel as if I pass through understandings, whereas thoughts can always be revisited. Thought perhaps is the architecture to understanding.

Thought, clothed in feeling, is understanding.

Would I achieve, hold, understand, without first having thought? I don't think so. Thought and conversation precede understanding, but they do not displace it. They may in fact, in certain instances, delay it.

One so one achieves, one holds an understanding, then moves on. I may experience a sort of plateau effect, then understand something new. The understandings may be of a specific or general sort. At this moment, for example, I am occupying a sort of compendium understanding of my present life, where I have made time and space for myself and freedom from distress. I understand that in the sense of void which accompanies solitude I must believe in myself. I must chase away self-doubt, and shame. I must everyday seek quiet and wonder as others seek food and shelter.

It is right and proper that I am doing what I do now - what I do today, openly, and without regret.

How else will I know what is new in my life, or feel the difference that is understanding?