Despite the 15 inches of snow outside the window and temperatures that are stalled near freezing, it is officially spring and the baseball season has begun. Those of us who observe the start of baseball season (and I credit our poetry editor Paul Worley for reviving my interest in the game many years ago), invariably find ways to set aside a little time to watch or listen to early season games and in a quintessentially spring time ritual, feel a swell of hope for their team: things could be better than they look on paper or the pundits believe, aging pitchers and sluggers might yet be evergreen, and untested rookies could bloom into everyday contributors. Spring time is baseball time.
To celebrate this, we’re sharing Barry Harris’s poem, baseball time, and hope you all find “a borrowed Thursday” (or even a borrowed half hour) to savor some poetry and “decide for yourself what matters.” And if you find yourself wanting more, do check out the poetry of Dan Quisenberry which we featured in NDQ 88.3/4 and some of the other excerpts from issue 89.1/2.
As you likely know, these days are particularly challenging for many cultural institutions, publishers, and little magazines. So even if NDQ doesn’t float your boat, If you can, consider buying a book from a small press, subscribing to a literary journal, or otherwise supporting the arts. I heartily recommend grabbing a copy of the new issue of Hotel Amerika which is celebrating its 20th anniversary by publishing an anthology of some its most creative, provocative, and stimulating work. Grab a copy here.
Bottom of the fourth.
The scoreboard clock reads a quarter until three.
It could read a quarter until anything.
The office buildings beyond right field
stand in sight of a different reality today.
I sit with my wife in upper grandstand seats
on a borrowed Thursday,
for a day our attention withdrawn and refocused
in baseball time where one thing does not march
in a straight line neatly behind the other.
Between innings the home plate umpire
walks idly toward the third base side then toward first,
the crowd roaring its disdain as he approaches too close to ignore.
We don’t like him today.
We are having a philosophical discussion
concerning the size of his strike zone.
In baseball time there is a certain rhythm.
Events ebb and flow with a tide that time ignores.
Middle of the seventh. In the press box a local celebrity,
the crowd isn’t quite sure who,
urges to be taken out to the ballgame
where we already are and he is right.
Frankly, we don’t care if we ever get back.
Bottom of the eighth. Thirty thousand fans,
many of whom have been drinking,
are uniformly convinced that a ball is six inches outside.
The ump can do no right.
Top of the ninth. Pigeons and seagulls on their own schedule
descend on the stadium flying toward fans like foul balls.
They perch on rafters perhaps sensing the game is ending
and wait expectantly for us to leave
so the feast of abandoned hotdogs may begin.
In baseball time the ordinary is suspended.
Your personal problems are postponed
for a daytime September pennant race game,
one that matters,
and tomorrow you can live the day in another flow
and decide for yourself what matters.
Barry Harris is editor of the Tipton Poetry Journal. Work appears in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Grey Sparrow, Silk Road Review, and Saint Ann‘s Review. Married and father of two grown sons, he lives in Brownsburg, Indiana and graduated a long time ago with a major in English from Ball State University.