Brian Turner – The Field at Night

Brian Turner

It’s been an honor to write these poems over the last 15 days—all in service to the Larry Levis Scholarship fund at Fresno State. It’s an honor, too, to write alongside Fresno poets Monique Quintana and Joseph Rios. Thank you to all who have been able to pitch in and donate to this phenomenal cause. In community, we are creating a life-changing possibility for writers in the future, writers who will house experience in language, stanza by stanza, in ways we have never experienced before. I look forward to their verses in years to come. And all of that will be made possible by you. By each of us pitching in what we can so that the world might shine a bit brighter than it already does. Thank you for that. 

I woke up and made some coffee this morning, then took my dog out for a walk. As I set out to write this last installment for the Fresno 15, I wanted to include a shout-out to my mentor and friend, poet Corrinne Clegg Hales. Connie, as she’s known, has been (since I was about 20) a life-long influence. Everything I write is in some way written with the hope that she might read it, that she might nod to herself and think—that’s it, that’s it right there. I am in imperfect vessel for the wisdom and knowledge she has shared with me, but with each poem I write I hope to make her proud. I’ve lifted a short phrase (‘…the dense, pressed asphalt…’) from her amazing poem, “1967, Girl and Snow.” As always, Connie’s work and presence in this world helps me find my own.

The Field at Night

The field has turned to silence in the hours after the game, the grass slowly unfurling itself after embracing the weight of a player in motion, or perhaps something much heavier, the weight of the moment itself, when the center fielder dove parallel to the earth and was suspended for a brief instant before landing in the grass with the ball caught just in the webbing, that last out of the game, that’s what the grass has been gently lifting back into the air once more, where midnight leans its shadows toward dawn, the stadium lights turned off at the breakers, the bleachers empty and picked clean by the hunger of birds, then swept and cleaned again by bored attendants listening to music only they could hear, the parking lot emptied of the last car as the dense, pressed asphalt resumes its pooling meditation on ink, and the last birds have gone off to roost with their heads tucked into a wing, the crowd itself having driven home, the window blinds of their houses pulled down, lamps switched off, some of them having drunk themselves into a stupor approximating sleep, while others, restless, sweating feverish in their beds, carry some measure of history in their bodies as they dream, while most fall into the deep silence of the body itself, there in the dreamless gulf of sleep, falling deeper into themselves hour by hour while a few, only a very few, make love, late, the sheets crumpling at the edge of the bed like clouds furling high in the atmosphere above, the bodies of these lovers glowing with what they discover in one another.

In the stadium, here at the edge of the modern world, the infield grass gathers its dew as the tiniest drops of moisture begin to form at the tip of each blade, small translucent globes that shimmer with moonlight inside of them, and if one were to lean in close, kneeling as if in a sacred place, with knees forming hollows into the soft wet ground, the palm of each hand flattened on the cool turf, whisper close, it might appear as if tiny apparitions moved there, weightless, suspended within a medium of water, where infielders lean forward as the pitcher winds up in the stretch, these tiny ghosts who need only moonlight in a world given a breath-held hush, who need only to be granted enough light to see by, and here they are, returning, the grass at their feet, their cleats digging in, the game in motion once more.

And how could it be any other way? Time reels itself forward and back. This is something the game knows well. Because baseball is a game played by the living and by the dead. We hear it in the breeze carried over the corn in Dyersville, or as it trembles through the walnut trees in Visalia. When we sit in the stands and watch the game together, we are made young again, we are reminded of the passage of years, our bodies gathering the decades as the past whispers to us, and through us, even if we can’t quite hear it, history calls out on our tongues just as it calls out over the treetops and the rooftops of the world, where the wind carries the last echoes of the crowd on its feet. How could it be any other way? It’s why we invented the game to begin with—so that we might live, here, right here, in the great stadium of memory. 

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