Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Retarded Children Play Baseball

by Wesley McNair

Never mind the coaches who try
to teach them the game,
and think of the pleasure

of the large-faced boy
on second who raises hand and glove
straight up making the precise

shape of a ball, even though
the ball's now over
the outfield. And think of the left

and right fielders going deeper
just to watch its roundness
materialize out of the sky

and drop at their feet. Both teams
are so in love with this moment
when the bat makes the ball jump

or fly that when it happens
everybody shouts, and the girl
with slanted eyes on first base

leaps off to let the batter by.
Forget the coaches shouting back
about the way the game is played

and consider the game
they're already playing, or playing
perhaps elsewhere on some other field,

like the shortstop, who stands transfixed
all through the action, staring
at what appears to be nothing.

Monday, October 03, 2005

What Free People Choose, or, What Happens to Free People

a second excerpt from "Indecision," by Benjamin Kunkel

We were walking toward the islandy clump or copse of trees in the direction of which I'd -- whoops -- hit my ball. Once when I was seventeen I'd deliberately knocked my ball that way in order to duck into the dappled shade and take a hit off of this little one-hitter I'd carried with me at the time, since I was then in the grips of a conviction that weed made you see things more truly, clearly, and that was how I wanted to see dad, in order to check out whether, defamiliarized a little, the guy was basically a good guy or what. On that occassion when I exited the trees disguised by Visine and breath mints and those aviator-type Ray-Bans we all used to wear, he'd struck me as just some bluff pink-faced ghoul of a commodity-trading genius who had chosen the main features of his life in order to make himself into some weird totem of his social position, instead of -- I don't know -- following the mad, barking dictates of his soul wherever those might have led, like possibly to Vermont or else northern California. I mean, how could any free person choose, from the whole universal range, to be this dad and moneyman and golfer, a resident of northwestern Connecticut walking around in WASP casual, going to the reunions, belonging to the clubs, and describing himself -- still, or at least then -- as a Rockefeller Republican?

But now in light of my own recent actions and, even more, my damaging reluctance to carry them out, I tried experimenting with the conclusion that dad's scotch-and-golf-oriented generation wasn't so different, in terms of courage, from my more weed-and-rock-climbing one; that it was a pretty unusual life that didn't travesty the better nature of the person inside it; and that dad's very dad-like knowledge about many things, and intermittent basic decency, and astounding handiness, made him not such a bad person at all, despite any reservations I may have had about the rate of his scotch drinking, and any sorrow I may have experienced at having become, thanks to him, and along with Alice, another child of divorce.