Play Ball!

What is it about this sport
that fascinates me so,
when the best a player can do
is end up back where he began?

Why do I accept as a worthy goal
the ability to run in circles—
or have I been fooled
because the powers that be
have given those rounds sharp corners
rotated them 45 degrees
and dubbed them diamonds?

How is it that I have become mesmerized,
spending hours each day
for 162 days
glued to a screen
just so I can watch
the most accomplished of these athletes
come up empty
seven times out of ten?

Am I addicted to the rewards
(and to the frustrations
that drive up their value),
bringing my pan to the river’s edge
and sifting through all the walks,
foul tips and errors,
the pop-ups and routine ground balls
for the sake of turning up
one glittering, precious nugget:
that scorched line drive
towering homerun
swan-diving catch
or picture-perfect double play
that makes all the time invested
worth my while?

Or is it that I wish we could approach
more of life
with the perspective we bring
into the ballpark—
celebrating with wild abandon
the successes of those we care about,
accepting periodic failure
as just one element in a complex equation,
and knowing there will always be
another inning
another game
or, worst case, another spring
wherein we once again will have
the opportunity
to knock one out of the park
or sacrifice ourselves
so that a teammate may advance?

© 2011
Alexis Spencer-Byers

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Welcome to the Neighborhood

First things first, I offer apologies for not having posted anything new for a while. Today’s poem touches on part of the explanation for my long absence: February saw me moving for the third time in two years. There may be those out there who have mastered the art of the seamless transition, but apparently I am not one of them.

Anyway, this latest move took me from Pasadena to (shallow) South Los Angeles, where I encountered a rather unusual welcoming party, as described below. (For any of you inclined to worry, please rest assured that this experience seems to have been an anomaly.) In the weeks since the move, I have begun to settle into my new community, and I eagerly look forward to seeing how the next season of my life will unfold…

Welcome to the Neighborhood

The darkness seems to deepen every moment
as I drive slowly down
what has just today
become my street,
gearing up to spend my first night
in unfamiliar
and reputedly dangerous
territory.

Reaching my new lodgings,
I inch along a narrow driveway,
then wiggle into a muddy parking space
at the edge of a bedraggled
and foreboding
courtyard
in the back.

As I step gingerly from my car,
my nameless, shapeless anxieties
take startling physical form,
as I am immediately accosted
by a swarthy young fellow
bleeding profusely
from one hand.

He tells me that he gouged his palm
trying to scale a fence
(a claim I see no way
either to verify or disprove)
and wonders if I would be willing
to help him clean his wound.

“I don’t mean to frighten you,”
he hastens to assure me,
and while I appreciate the sentiment,
the part of my brain still capable
of rational thought
wonders whether his repeated assertions
to this effect
ought to do more to extinguish
or to fuel
my smoldering alarm.

Although the entire contents of my residence
are in a state of boxed-up disarray,
from the jumble I manage to procure
a bottle of drinking water
a tube of Neosporin
and a roll of Charmin:
just enough in the way of supplies
to establish a fly-by-night first aid dispensary
on the sidewalk.

Before my minimally treated patient
takes his leave,
he politely inquires whether I have any objection
to his hopping the fence
that borders the rear
of my landlord’s property.

I find myself taken aback by the request—
certain that if I were he
I would now make every effort
to stay as far away from fences
as humanly possible—
but I muzzle my naïve astonishment
and simply tell him that as far as I am concerned,
he is free to make his own choice
in the matter.

Then, too flustered to wait and see
how the youthful hurdler fares
against his chosen obstacle,
I ensconce myself within the fortress
I will learn to call my home,
replaying what has just transpired
and hoping I have done enough
to earn a passing mark
on this first test
of neighbor-hood.

© 2012
Alexis Spencer-Byers