From An American Poet: What Really Matters Is What Happens At Home

by Cantinker Moss

 

Originally penned in 1999, this poem has more to do with what happens off the diamond.  Though inspired by the Baseball Playoffs,  (Go Sox!)  it is intended to be a metaphor for something more universal.

 

Casey was at the bat,

And he didn’t strike out.

 

Now let me tell you something about baseball

And the ones who play the game.

 

There is the pitcher:

Tall, rangy, poised.

The franchise.

The golden boy.

He steps out of the dugout

And walks to the mound.

His is the arm that launched the season.

His is the arm we talk about all winter.

Movement, speed, location,

Heat, curve, change.

You wonder and adore.

He is the king of the hill.

 

He throws the ball.

But what if it is hit?

 

There is the infielder.

Perpetual motion.

Lateral motion.

First base, second, short, the hot corner.

‘Round the horn.

His glove is his partner.

A weapon.

A secret solution.

The enemy of the bat.

The siren call of every hit ball.

“Come to me…come to me…”

And then like a cat,

Six, four, three,

And that’s that!

Two outs, as a matter of fact.

 

He fields the ball.

But what if it goes through?

 

There is the outfielder.

(No, actually there are three of them.)

Maybe that’s why young boys want to be one.

Because they need so many of them.

So many of them.

So many names.

Names that you and I remember:

Joltin’ Joe and the Mick,

Yaz and the Kid,

Tris and Say Hey,

Hammerin’ Hank and the Babe.

But logically speaking,

And due-respect keeping,

If the pitcher did his job,

And the infielder his,

Would there ever need to be

An outfielder or three?

 

He catches the ball.

But what if it falls?

 

And then there is the catcher:

The player behind the plate.

They say he sees the whole game,

Probably the first to know its fate.

His ears hear the umpire’s “Ball!” and “Strike!”

But he alone may know whether they were right.

And slammed foul balls to the mask.

And foul balls run out to the back!

His body twisted backward on the dugout rail,

Or headfirst into the bat rack.

Those passed balls that just might have been wild pitches.

And yes, he feels the pitcher’s pain!

But the pitcher never comes to him.

But he goes out again and again and again.

And his knees are shot,

But he still “runs ’em out.”

And catchers become managers,

And some other players, millionaires no doubt.

 

But let me tell you something,

And may humankind know it well,

From the catcher’s mitt to the family hearth

Know this:

As far as we are all concerned,

What really matters

Is what happens at home.

 

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From an American poet: The Man In the Seat By the Rear Tire

by Cantinker Moss

 

On a bus.

Oh…too much of a bus

And somewhere near Mobile, in old Alabam…

Yeah, I guess it was.

This man.

This old drunk man

(Too much of an old drunk man)

In too much of this bus.

Well,

He drank

And stank

And thanked himself for all

He had a hankerin’ for.

But he did kill someone:

Someone from New Orleans,

Not the forgiving kind…

Who left all forty burns on his forearm

As if to pay the tab.

Oh God!

Oh God, dontcha see this man drinks too much?

Said this man.

But by the time it was over,

He was slumped over dead

In the seat by the rear tire.

The authorities arrived;

Everyone perspired;

Not sure what was even required.

And he,

Eyes wide:

A last retiring

Glance of glory.

And no one

Even

Applauded.

 

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From an American poet: Rendezvous #73 Revised

 

by Cantinker Moss

Written while in the U.S. Coast Guard in Southeast Alaska, aboard a buoy tender, USCGC Clover WLB 292, this poem reveals the mindset of a nineteen year-old thrown into the conflict of a youthful idealism as a result of the 1960’s with the cruel cynicism, complexity, and reality of daily life among shipmates.  Structured like a dream, it allows us to see the young man’s embrace of senseless hedonism, history, fear, disillusionment, and even genuine love but his rejection of it.  However, the poem ends with a strong memory of the powerfully irresistability of this true meaning of love embodied in Christianity.  Finally, the poem/dream takes you back, the same way you came in, to the airport and out of Alaska.  It is a “rendezvous” with the characters, or “identities” in something of a play.  In fact, and to the best of my recollection, I landed at Japonski Island Airport with overcast skies, and left in similar weather.  But perhaps a little poetic license never hurt anyone.

 

One clouded airport in the heat of the winter

As the airplanes duck closer to catch the right moment

And hoping they don’t ransack the runway

Only to land with a prayer on the table

And the people who recognize the crew and the pilot

Who crawl in thanksgiving to coffee-strewn offices

Of vending machines, tickets, and a few extra dollars

They gather

Themselves and their identities.

 

Driving with another who knows of the history

Of Tlingits and lumbermen and Russian-Americans

Who remember the winter in the first days of statehood

At the west rim of mountains that resemble the Cascades

And now all that matters is the whim of each tourist

Who hopes for less rain and the tourship good landing

With Britons and jet set in their first real adventure

They gather

Themselves and their identities.

 

The sailors who mingle in the bars and the pool joints

With gin and tequila and the hope of a good time

Who wonder if they really have come here for reason

Because the cost of living might be that much higher

And the money will help when their children get older

Who don’t drink fresh milk and get their food shipped from Oregon

And never ask questions because their fathers are trying

To gather

Themselves and their identities.

 

The spruce and the pine trees really add to the scenery

And spring doesn’t change much, it’s part of the winter

Although everybody around has calendars

And knows that Christmas comes after Labor Day

And October might just be twenty degrees colder

But you’re thankful you’re not living in Fairbanks

Where they don’t close the schools because of foul weather

Then no one would ever get an education

And the cost of living doesn’t have to be higher

Because the living up there is a matter of existence

And that’s probably why there’s a state university there

To gather

Ideas and identities.

 

The lovely family that took in my affections

They gave me a reason for living the living

With their talk of salvation and the blessing of the hereafter

But they don’t have to talk; you can see it in their faces

And you don’t have to take; you’re receiving without handouts

And you want to be loved, but it’s way above your head

And they show you some truth, and you go and live a falsehood

With your gin and tequila and hope of a good time

And you wonder if you’ve come here for any type of reason

Near the north side of a place called Japonski Island

By the banks of a channel across from the city

Which holds some secrets that not even your own mind

Will ever figure out on account of some reason

That you might have come here, and there might be a good time

But it all turned so bad that nothing’s reconcilable

And all you can do is go to the airport

Pick up a ticket for seventy odd dollars

On one of two flights that will take you to Seattle

Where you’ll land on a runway with a prayer on the table

Near a place with pool joints and gin and tequila

And the crew and the pilot will crawl in thanksgiving

To coffee-strewn offices and a few extra dollars…

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