Several years ago I did a reading in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I was lucky enough to be driven from the LaGuardia airport to my hotel in Scranton by a guy who often works with the Yankees for transportation issues. This poem comes from that drive, from some of the stories he told, from sitting there in that beautiful car and watching the world go by.
It’s about a 2 ½ hour drive in either direction,
give or take a few, but any driver will tell you—
it’s a nonstop conversation on the way up to The Show,
and 130 miles of dead air when you’re headed back down
to Scranton, to that Triple A field in Moosic, Pennsylvania,
where the ballplayers burn through their per diem
at the Longhorn Steakhouse, eating alone sometimes,
their heads leaning over a porterhouse as they chew
and ponder their on base percentage, the cost
of a new set of cleats, the season slipping away,
which credit card to put the hotel room on.
And how could it be any other way? To watch
a dream turn blue in the rearview mirror
as the sun turns to rust in the windshield—
is it so different for any one of us?
The way we sometimes know, so clearly,
that we’re driving away from everything
we hold most dear, the hard work, the tears,
all that we’d imagined and then realized, if only
for a brief sliver of time—all of it, gone.
The infielders at the edge of the grass.
The smell of pine tar. The heft of the bat.
The vision required to see a thing through.
The ball in flight. The outfielders wheeling back.
And all of it gone now. Just a stadium in a city
on a day that once was. The past frozen in the air.
And the sound of the crowd rising to its feet,
once so electric, fading by increments, subsumed
by the silence of trees, the endless sway of pines
along the roadway, how they blur in green applause.