Posted by: cousinbrandon | March 5, 2010

Versus: The Poetry of Cousin Brandon

I’m baseball crazy. Specifically, I’m fantasy baseball-crazy. I’ve been running a league with my brother for the past eight years or so. We just went through an excruciating process in which we were forced to reschedule our draft date. Yeah, it doesn’t sound like a big deal to most of you, but getting 12 guys spread across the country to agree on a date and time to do an online draft is a notch below organizing a march on Washington on the difficulty scale. You’ve honestly never seen grown men kick and scream like children until you’ve tried to get them to settle on rules and regulations for something as stupid and meaningless as fantasy baseball. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a labor of love. And by that, I mean every spring at this time of year I feel as though my water broke, and I’m about to endure six month’s worth of labor.

So, with baseball on the brain, I thought I’d post a poem I’ve been working on for a few years now. I started writing it, put it away, came back to it, put it away, came back to it — well, you get the picture. I constantly felt like I was getting somewhere, yet I never (and still don’t) felt satisfied with the ending. I still think there’s something about the pacing toward the poem’s conclusion that feels off to me. Still, I thought maybe putting it out there in this finished/unfinished state might help me to figure out what’s still irking me. For the record, this poem was inspired by two sources: 1) B. H. Fairchild’s “Body and Soul,” from his outstanding collection The Art of the Lathe, a book introduced to me by my master’s thesis advisor, Dan Tobin; and 2) my brother. He played several years of Little League baseball, whereas I played only one year. He did, in fact, play for a team sponsored by and named Local 520; I played for Coca Cola. To this day, my only memory of my own baseball success came on a play where I, playing second base, threw my brother out at first on a slow-roller. My only other memory was that I was afraid of being hit by a pitch. Yeah, I’d say that’s why I never made it as a baseball player.

Local 520

It was my brother’s team every spring.
Each year he and the same crop
of neighbor punks donned
the blue and yellow pinstripes, arguing
over who’d man third, who’d
get stuck in right. Not my brother,
who worked home plate
like he lived there, sometimes
zipping the ball from his crouch
back to the mound, sometimes
throwing down to first just to keep the runner
honest. It became a spectacle of wills:
his versus the other team’s coach
barking at the ump to “Toss that little shit!”
No matter. Come game-day,
he’d squat poised to whip that thing
around the diamond if he had to,
hinting even then for a little “chin music”
from the pitcher. For years
I watched him call for it
high and inside, brushing back
the other teams’ hitters
who crowded home, who had the nerve
to try and take what was his.
I wanted so badly to step in myself,
take a cut with him behind me
wiggling his finger for a circle change,
signaling the pitcher for junk
that even if it got away and popped me
would never leave a mark. I wanted to watch
a couple balls dig dirt, call him “Pussy”
so that shit pitcher unleashed something
eye-level and in, something filthy
I could take a hack at and park
into the scrub patch over wall in left.
But no matter what cruelty my lips let loose,
no matter how many times I’d turn
and hawk up some awful thing
against home plate, begging him
to signal his battery mate
for one pitch black enough to blow by me,
he wouldn’t. He’d put down four fingers
and give me first, electing always
to give me a chance to run the bases,
maybe score on a passed ball
and win it in the ninth. A chance
to watch my teammates
dog-pile me at home.

BD

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Responses

  1. Hey Brandon.
    I liked that. In a hindsight sort of a way, I’ve always regretted that I never played baseball as a kid. I can’t even think of why I didn’t. It was always my favorite sport to play.
    I’m not good with the nuts and bolts. With music I can grab onto things and articulate a little better, but with writing all I’m no good beyond simply liking what I like. At any rate, I’ve enjoy the couple of your poems that I’ve read. Good stuff man.
    I also wanted to give you a big thumbs up. I checked out the LCS podcast and “The Rebel Jews” is an awesome fantasy team name.
    Have a good weekend man.

    • Thanks for the kind words, WUWRobots. Yeah, it’s hard to say I really played baseball, either. I mean, I don’t if one season of Little League qualifies. I spent my time playing soccer and tennis. Now that I’m an old fart, I’ve turned to golf and fishing, not to mention racquetball and handball.

      And, yes, The Rebel Jews is one of my standards. I typically go with The Jew Hefners, but thought I’d switch it up a bit.

  2. Me too man. Soccer and of all things I bowled my ass off from around 11 or 12 until I was 18.
    I’d love to play baseball now as an old fart myself, but it’s just too damned hard to get that many people scheduled and enthusiastic. It’s a shame too. The one time we did get it to work it made for a really fun day. The post game drinking felt extra gratifying with a scraped up elbow.

    I laughed when I read The Jew Heffners. That’s a great one too.


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