by Donald Hall
Twenty-five years ago, Kurt Schwitters,
I tried to instruct you in baseball
but kept getting distracted, gluing
bits and pieces of world history
alongside personal anecdote
instead of explicating baseball’s
habits. I was K.C. (for Casey)
in stanzas of nine times nine times nine.
Last year the Sox were ahead by twelve
in May, by four in August—collapsed
as usual—then won the Series.
Jennifer, who loved baseball, enjoyed
the game on TV but fell asleep
by the fifth inning. She died twelve years
ago, and thus would be sixty now
watching baseball as her hair turned white.
I see her tending her hollyhocks,
gazing west at Eagle Pond, walking
to the porch favoring her right knee.
I live alone with baseball each night
but without poems. One of my friends
called “Baseball” almost poetry. No
more vowels carrying images
leap suddenly from my excited
unwitting mind and purple Bic pen.
As he aged, Auden said that methods
of dry farming may also grow crops.
When Jennifer died I had nightmares
that she left me for somebody else.
I bought condoms, looking for affairs,
as distracting as Red Sox baseball
and even more subject to failure.
There was love, there was comfort; always
something was wrong, or went wrong later
—her adultery, my neediness—
until after years I found Lauren.
When I was named Poet Laureate,
the kids of Danbury School painted
baseballs on a kitchen chair for me,
with two lines from “Casey at the Bat.”
In fall I lost sixty pounds, and lost
poetry. I studied only “Law
and Order.” My son took from my house
the eight-sided Mossberg .22
my father gave me when I was twelve.
Buy two pounds of cheap fat hamburger
so the meatloaf will be sweet, chop up
a big onion, add leaves of basil,
Tabasco, newspaper ads, soy sauce,
quail eggs, driftwood, tomato ketchup,
and library paste. Bake for ten hours
at thirty-five degrees. When pitchers
hit the batter’s head, Kurt, it is called
a beanball. The batter takes first base.
After snowdrifts melted in April,
I gained pounds back, and with Lauren flew
to Paris, eating all day: croissants
warm, crisp, and buttery, then baguettes
Camembert, at last boeuf bourguignon
with bottles of red wine. Afternoons
we spent in the Luxembourg Gardens
or in museums: the Marmottan!
The Pompidou! The Orangerie!
The Musée de la Vie Romantique!
The Louvre! The d’Orsay! The Jeu de
Paume! The Musée Maillol! The Petit
Palais! When the great Ted Williams died,
his son detached his head and froze it
in a Scottsdale depository.
In summer, enduring my dotage,
I try making this waterless farm,
Meatloaf, with many ingredients.
In August Lauren climbs Mt. Kearsarge,
where I last clambered in middle age,
while I sit in my idle body
in the car, in the cool parking lot,
revising these lines for Kurt Schwitters,
counting nine syllables on fingers
discolored by old age and felt pens,
my stanzas like ballplayers sent down
to Triple A, too slow for the bigs.