Someone recently reminded me of an old poem I wrote in college, about memories, childhood, art, and baseball. If you’ll forgive my indulgence, I want to post some of it. [You can read the rest (including lots of other juvenilia) here.]
On summer Sundays we took communion
at Holy Redeemer. When church broke
we ran down Vernor Hwy to Clark Park,
Past the bodegas we just called stores
if we didn’t know them by name.
Miguel lived on Christiancy,
which was faster; I liked Vernor
Where we could see Rosa skipping
double-dutch, and where old Manuel
gave us baseball cards and taffee,
and warned me about las mujeres.
The men would watch their sons
from the Clark Street stoops,
kept mothers inside while we stained
church clothes with grass and sweat.
A double to right field—I lost
my shoes rounding first base,
took off my socks and played barefoot.
After baseball, sliced oranges
and sweet raisins, reruns of Sanford and Son
or Chico and the Man. We hung sheets
Over doorways, ran fans to keep cool.
Miguel’s mother, my godmother,
stroked my hair until I fell asleep.
After summer, Dia De Muertos,
when we’d light candles and laugh at death.
We took the long walk from Holy Redeemer
to Holy Cross, the cemetery, praying
For Rosa’s father, Manuel’s wife,
Willie Hernandez (who wasn’t dead),
and Novia, Miguel’s sister who died
still a baby—who had clear blue eyes—
Our angelitos, our saints.
When I returned years later,
The milkweed still grew, and I drew
A self-portrait beneath the Ambassador Bridge.
The miracle of art is its rediscovery of the real,
That every day it breaks bread anew
With the mountains and hollows of our memory,
And memory always seems lacking.
We blessed ourselves and came away.
I held the bat tighter; it cracked in my hand.