(Hereâ€™s an old poem to keep the holiday kindling. 1989â€”Jeromy Burnitz was in right field for the Columbia, S.C. Mets that day.â€”GVH)
The ball field in Columbia,
Capital City Park, ramshackle
but benign, with bleachers
that sag like a hammock,
squats in a now-abandoned
neighborhood, all the better
to foster fans to the stands
with a sport for nostalgia.
The Augusta Pirates bat,
their second baseman slashes
at a curve. Then he searches
for a hole in his wood, curses.
Behind home, a silent umpire
does nothing more than raise
his right hand, doesn’t say
a word. And why should he?
The score’s already eight to two,
the Mets ahead. If they score
ten runs, there’s pizza, free
for everyone attending.
Rodriguez holds his stance,
takes a called strike three.
End of the inning; beginning,
perhaps, of the binging.
Enough’s been written about baseball.
We all know why
we come: to verge on open fields.
Any lingering resistance fades
into the filaments of light which
banish those vague, returning nags.
A certain silence reserves
these grounds for aptitude.
A new Augusta hurler takes
the mound. It’s only the bottom
of the third, and I don’t know
much about pitching mechanics,
but his aren’t good.Â First batter up,
Bill Fordyce, raps a single into
center field. The expectation is
turning this slaughter into comedy.
Right fielder Brian Davis steps into
the batter’s box. He seems to study it,
as if the outline in chalk carried
an oracle. No voice bestows
its full grace; he hits into a
fielder’s choice. This may be
the best of fortunes, since
he gets a lead and steals second.
In turn, Alberto Diaz takes
to the offensive and stilts
a check swing over the infield.
Davis had to hesitate.
He doesn’t advance. With runners
on first and second, Mark Thomas
trundles towards the plate, ponderous
as he hefts his heavy lumber.
The mood at the park is like a funeral
for jazz; no true fan would let it pass.
As a pitch descends, Thomas staggers
his threatening bulk in stages,
twisting his shoulders, abdomen, torso:
strike one. Everyone uncoils.
I discover that boiled peanuts
are for Southern palates.
That last hanging curve still
hangs in my memory, the echo
Thomas created with the crack
of his bat’s impact, a banner effect,
the crowd rising to its feet, their
hunger for dreams satisfied
by the arc of the ball against
the sky. I felt beauty for the fly of it.