Thursday, April 5, 2012

smoky joe wood’s burgundy period

            Even the rain’s clatter was less than the boys raising Cain upstairs last night. And now I’m the one all done in, and ere this I’d wandered crutched by doubt by the corner market where, boozy and theatrical as always, the old man who works behind the counter screamed across the street, “Janet! Do you remember Alabama and The Forty Thieves? Alabama!” I got squeamish and hobbled away to the park.            
            I’m benched, cranky in the sun, watching glossy leaves on some shrub bush shine with it, and the smell of cut grass from the mower just about bowls me over, and I’m shivering. At a sidewalk café, some kid’s dad is commanding him to dip his bread in the sauce spilled on his plate. There’s a song that goes, “Land of plenty’s got nothing for me.” Well, it’s a start. One cloudy guy up there by a high-rise’s top. Grooming’s done for. Very much, Sam, played out. There’s probably some cool place to be, with drink in hand, right about now, but I’m far from it.
            Really there are only shuttled grunts heaving over the power lines, and I’m a stand-in for myself, regaling lunch dates with not very mesmerizing stories of life gone awry. A heavy lifter’s thawing, and it’s emphysemaville for this lemon picker, if you want to know the truth of it, how and by, cured as cheap bacon, suffering mild tantrums here or nearly there. Gut’s panicky and feral. Delirious is more than I can say for how I’m looking to see these things. Minor adjustments in temperament, I’m crusty with glory and defection. Every last hard-to-call pitch breaks in the dirt, and I’m shaking off signs for the rest of the afternoon’s season. Off-speed stuff, mostly. Nothing catching much of the plate, though. Lack is gnawing away at what’s not hustling down the line-- basically just me and my A-less-than-one motivation. Really, it’s all about as exciting as an intentional walk. It’s like tailing Herkie Styles and Mary Hatcher, and I’m making reservations for an encore, or at least staying put ‘til the bottom of the frame.            
            Holy Moses and Christy Mathewson too. It’s a stylized affectation of who I might’ve been, formerly, in a life less drab, and you know last night, well, a telephone pole I usually lean on while I’m waiting for the bus gets a car wrapped around it about 5 minutes before I get there. Seems luck’s shunting with a swilled crick just in time for extras. Barnstorming with Bloomer Girls in Ouray, let me see, that’d be about when it started. You go from Albuquerque to Des Moines, by way of a bus with a transmission that’s about to drop out and die in the road, and you’ve got yourself a head that’s liable to explode any minute, and there are no charter flights around these parts, so it’s a five a.m. wakeup call that gets your day started. Then, well, maybe you go into your mind’s windup, lollygagging back to Ness County, limbered up with much earlier episodes of how the Old Man tried to pickup on this chick by telling her that she could pour more sugar in her coffee if it were hotter, that it’d absorb better---um, something about supersaturation, or the density of a liquid, or something that’d rubbed off on his still nimble noggin in chemistry. And it almost worked, so, well, there’s where you get that first inkling of a kid, i.e., yours truly, coming up and into the picture’s focus. And it’s a bloop and a blast to this here now-- just a sagging, woebegone catcher’s mitt and a few broken toes to show for it. Boston’s snowed in. And, too, the grocery store’s always a tad far away. But, in some parts they deliver Mexican, so survival doesn’t go quite out of style. So, the sentence carries itself out, and you’re twixt the devil’s twin and a few shallow wine-dark seas in the meanest of times, in the dourest of hours of loss. A thousand or so stadiums away from thirty wins. And lord hurt us with slippery grass. 
           Chippy birds perch on bench rails. French kids skip-run, circle, and dart in a game of tag. The reek of homelessness; a ragged man asleep in his boots on the fountain’s concrete ledge. Wind’s scattering white petals of the trees’ flowers. My shoes scrape against the rough wood of the bench, and, shit, I’d spike any damn shortstop around these parts for a chance at The Bigs. Low-down, Rookie-League crap, if you’re wondering. Just a gimmick, see? In the way we’re built to ape the appearances of those we try not to get nabbed peeking at. From Topps to Donruss to Fleer, all the way through to a hundred and sixty-two, we’re sunk thrum-clacked to the cable cars’ mumbled moan-- a party of one, if you please. Left hubba-hubbaing at church bells, greater but smoked out, and clearly Wabashed in flowery mountains through cannons of love.
            The doormen flick their cigarette butts directly into the sewer grates, while I flop myself down here, taking my warm-up swings far enough away from the on-deck circle-- by gum-- for a chance at taking the next one deep. Lord, I’m like an old duffer with two canes who climbs these hills herky-jerky, up and down, back and forth, and now there’s only the return trip to look forward to, and, well, back at, too. Closing in on depth, a certain cling left whiffing at 3-0 junk, I spend my luck on flops and reruns. A stubbly hobo Judy Garland, thrown exhausted on some backstage stairs, humming herself back under the rainbow again…why oh why can’t I?             
            Shunned, budded, and nulled like an egg cracked over the void left when my playing days got through with me. Bloated and sarcastic, shaving corners, cooled to an ice-water sangfroid in the bottom of the ninth with two on and two out, down by one. Upbraided by no clock’s chime, all filled-up with labor-less folly, and so it goes, well, quitting time in the soul’s factory, I guess, from here on out. Toeing the rubber and tipping pitches. Smart enough to play the dumb ass. Shit. Where’s Jason Robards when you need him? Where’s Iron Man McGinnity? Hell, just a nuanced pick of the nose in the wriggled gist of eternity’s crop dusting, maybe, and we’re playing a-whole-nother ballgame, shirts and skins on the asphalt, and we need an impartial observer to, at most, say grace before all of this batting-cage supper’s substance is lost in the ephemeral fields of cowtowns and palookavilles: rubbed-out places on the map where the crack of the bat’s been replaced with pasteurized charm. There's nothing left to do here but spell my name and spit seeds, and, of course, gripe my way through this horrid slump. Time to relocate, to pull up roots and soak in somewhere else’s shine, and I’ll take the rain and the white-flowered trees along with me. Wracked and tortured with missing, I’ll make friends with a suitcase and a bottle of scotch. And, well, you see, the broken maples, they follow me wherever I go.