One thing to do when you were a kid at the ballpark
was to ask is it over yet
every time the outfielders trot off the outfield.
The dads didn’t like that too much.
They were just trying to teach you something
that their dads had tried to teach him, and their dad before that.
It was called for the love of the game.
One of the things I remember from the old Tiger stadium
was that you got to line up with all the other men
to piss in a long steel trough.
When they blew up the old Tiger stadium,
they replaced the playing field with a regular field.
When they revealed the statue of Al Kaline
his face looked like the face
of a demiurgos suspended in carbonite,
like that first baseball type feeling as you passed
through the turnstile.
It felt like a belly flop
crammed into a calcified bounce house
or riding that rickety, wooden roller coaster
when you went to Coney Island that one time.
There were some good Tigers players
and some bad Tigers players throughout history.
Ty Cobb was a racist and all around asshole.
Hank Greenberg hit 58 homeruns and served
as an anti-tank gunner in WW2, before moving to Beverly Hills.
Alan Trammell was only so-so statistically,
but everybody liked his soft, boyish smile,
so they let him into the Hall of Fame.
Cecil Fielder was my favorite.
He has perfect sideburns on his rookie card.
And one way or another
it finds you at odd, little sad points in your life:
the love of the game like a single prick
of polite anticipation that spreads to your nostalgia parts
when you’re doing your taxes, taking the trash out,
considering burial plots.
All of these secret unspeakables shared between men
going all the way back to some dad in a butcher’s apron
in some Boston side street with a broom and rubber ball.
A worn patchwork vocabulary
of hopeful estimations, betrayal, heartbreak, delight.
Who is a bum and who isn’t, it could be, it might be,
it doesn’t have a chance.
A certain way of looking that accounted for the whole frame,
the minor details, the quietus
at the center of the crack of the bat
when the other team hits a dinger at the end of the game.
The way Kaline used to stretch his left shoulder,
his right shoulder, his left shoulder
before every 1st pitch.
Like it was just him out there in the vast center field,
just him and the game,
and all of the dads in the stands
nodding the same nod to all of their dads nodding
to their dads all the way.