Infield Chatter

by Michael Harty
Wild Poetry Forum
First Place, January 2011
Judged by Kwame Dawes

You don’t hear the old chatter these days,
the third baseman’s chipping staccato
to your right, the random hoot from first,
behind you a warbled stream, a doubleplay
duet like meadowlarks celebrating summer:
that chorus of monologues, chanted mantras
of got-your-back, comebabe humbabe
shoot that pill, rock and fire, you’re the one,
but you’re not the one any more
and the game has changed.

It’s a poor imitation, just the very young
in their home and away jerseys
and all they know is batter the batter
with empty crescendo, like practice
for the talk shows. In the end your best stuff
is thrown into shadowed silence,
the seats half empty, the sun
sunk below the grandstand roof,
the birds gone mute,
even the children grown old.

It is not easy to make fresh a poem about time passing that uses a sports metaphor at its core, but this is a beautifully managed poem. The final image of the sun falling behind the grandstand roof is so evocative and so perfectly moderated for this poem: “the bids gone mute,/ even the children grown old”. The second stanza is the heavy counterpoint to the playful game with words, sounds, and the perfectly captured richness of baseball chatter which is hopeful until those final three lines of the stanza: “…you’re the one,/ but you’re not the one any more/ and the game has changed.” It would be easy for this poem to sound like the ranting of an old curmudgeon complaining about how things have changed, but there is a delicacy here, a self-reflective sadness that undermines any hint of arrogance; and in the end the poem is not about baseball because it is really never about baseball, is it: “...In the end your best stuff/ is thrown into shadowed silence,/ the seats half empty,…”For its pitch perfection, its tidily shaped classic structure, and for its understated honesty, I really like this poem. --Kwame Dawes