Brian Turner – Touch-and-Go Landings: An Elegy for Thurman Munson

Brian Turner

Dear Friends, Writers, Readers, 

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing a first full draft of a poem with you each day. You’ll quickly notice that they are all baseball poems. For those of you with no interest in sports or a full-blown dislike of baseball—please don’t turn away, as you’ll quickly see that, in many ways, they aren’t baseball poems at all. I wrote this first poem completely on my laptop over the course of an afternoon, with breaks to play with my dog and to drive a relative to a doctor’s appointment for a CT scan. For the next poem, I’ll try to capture more of the rumination involved, some of the choices, edits, phrases scratched out and then returned in variations as the poem develops into a full draft. I think there are subtle differences between poems written on an illuminated screen and those written by hand on paper.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these things and (much more importantly) I hope you’ll consider donating to the Larry Levis Scholarship fund at Fresno State. 

My best to you and to your own verses—

Brian Turner

Touch-and-Go Landings: An Elegy for Thurman Munson

            August 2, 1979

What are we to do when the news comes, the paper
describing the Cessna, the airport on approach,

that blue and cloudy light at the end of summer?
What are we to do when those we love die young, die

short of the runway, the engine stalling, fire
engulfing the cockpit? In Munson’s last at bat,

the night before in Chicago, the count run full,
the pitcher, a lefty, leans into the windup

and the ball, spinning, keeps spinning, suspended now
for as long as the imagination allows, 

so that everything remains possible, yes, 
it’s true, in the air between the mound and home plate

the ball is spinning, even now, and it could be
a strikeout or a home run, all of this and more, 

as time itself holds its breath, leaning in, witness
to the wild unfolding secrets of history.

The way it is for us all. A Tuesday morning,
a Thursday afternoon. Our bodies radiant

with the light we carry, with all that we have learned,
and death itself a surprise sometimes, landing hard, 

too soon, the way it is when those we love most   crash 
into that last moment, that last breath, that last glimpse

of all that is or ever will be. But imagine. 
Imagine if we could hold them in that space, there

between the mound and home plate—the way Munson flies
over the curvature of the earth, nose up, climbing, 

15,000 feet and leveling out, the plane
becoming his body, his body given wings. 

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