FanPost

OT: Body and Soul - a baseball poem by BH Fairchild

Anybody here familiar with the poetry of BH Fairchild? I was introduced to his work by my mother (who apparently dated him in high school). Fairchild is a master of the long poem. His poems take on a ‘heavily formatted storytelling’ vibe, if you will. I thought "Body and Soul" would make a perfect poem for a Friday afternoon at RR. A great way to avoid actually working and kill time until 5:00 quitting time (….maybe 4:30). I’ll only post excerpts from it here, since it truly is a ‘long poem’. If you want to read the whole poem, it can be found in his book "The Art of the Lathe", his best book in my opinion. It is also posted online in full form here: poemhunter.com/BodyandSoul

Body and Soul - BH Fairchild

Half-numb, guzzling bourbon and Coke from coffee mugs, our fathers fall in love with their own stories, nuzzling the facts but mauling the truth, and my friend's father begins to lay out with the slow ease of a blues ballad a story about sandlot baseball in Commerce, Oklahoma decades ago. These were men's teams, grown men, some in their thirties and forties who worked together in zinc mines or on oil rigs, sweat and khaki and long beers after work, steel guitar music whanging in their ears, little white rent houses to return to where their wives complained about money and broken Kenmores and then said the hell with it and sang Body and Soul in the bathtub and later that evening with the kids asleep lay in bed stroking their husband's wrist tattoo and smoking Chesterfields from a fresh pack until everything was O.K. Well, you get the idea. Life goes on, the next day is Sunday, another ball game, and the other team shows up one man short.

They say, we're one man short, but can we use this boy, he's only fifteen years old, and at least he'll make a game. They take a look at the kid, muscular and kind of knowing the way he holds his glove, with the shoulders loose, the thick neck, but then with that boy's face under a clump of angelic blonde hair, and say, oh, hell, sure, let's play ball. So it all begins…

...they chatter and say rock and fire, babe, easy out, and go right ahead and pitch to the boy, but nothing fancy, just hard fastballs right around the belt, and the kid takes the first two but on the third pops the bat around so quick and sure that they pause a moment before turning around to watch the ball still rising and finally dropping far beyond the abandoned tractor that marks left field.

As if this isn't enough, the next time up he bats left-handed. They can't believe it, and the pitcher, a tall, mean-faced man from Okarche…leans in and throws something out of the dark, green hell of forbidden fastballs, something that comes in at the knees and then leaps viciously towards the kid's elbow. He swings exactly the way he did right-handed and they all turn like a chorus line toward deep right field where the ball loses itself in sagebrush and the sad burnt dust of dustbowl Oklahoma. It is something to see.

But why make a long story long: runs pile up on both sides, the boy comes around five times, and five times the pitcher is cursing both God and His mother as his chew of tobacco sours into something resembling horse piss. They have lost the game and some painful side bets and they have been suckered. And it means nothing to them though it should to you when they are told the boy's name is Mickey Mantle…

I think, though, as I scan the faces of these old men just waiting for the obvious question to be asked: why, oh why in hell didn't they just throw around the kid, walk him, after he hit the third homer? …

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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