The Likes of Moonlight Graham

A row of silent
baseball cards
placed face up
looked at the ceiling
from a table
where they were sorted
alphabetically.

It was a special collection
of baseball players
with only one stat-line
in the baseball encyclopedia.

Unknown to most people—
even those who study
baseball history.
Some with only one
plate appearance.
Others with less than
an inning pitched.

They all made
the Majors

—briefly—

so it was impossible
to consider them
losers or failures
or unaccomplished.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Grandstands

When I was a young poet of no consequence
I never imagined I would grow to be an old poet
of no consequence.

The fault is all mine.

I refused to join the academic assembly line
that insures poets have teaching jobs
so they do not starve to death.

Graphic artist was my day job.

I did not have tuition in my bank account
or a desire to take on student loans
to devastate my future bank account.

Can the term outsider be paired with poet?

I did gain consequence as an editor of anthologies.
Poets (at least) pretend to love editors
who may or may not publish their poetry.

It was a state-wide anthology not national.

Also I gained consequence as an emcee
of open mics with featured readers
and I paid the featured reader for reading their poetry.

Very few venues pay poets to read.

More people might have attended
the open mic I hosted if I hosted it
in a bar instead of a bookshop.

Beer is not necessary for hearing poetry.

When I was a young poet of no consequence
I thought I might meet other poets
who liked baseball and catch a game together.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

Spritz

I take a baseball and toss it as high as I can.
My toss fails to puncture a cloud.

My hands fail to catch the ball when it returns to earth.
The ball’s white hide is now grass-stained.

I determine to practice until a throw punctures a cloud.
I require a great deal of practice.

A crowd gathers to watch my tosses.
No one interferes and some cheer me on.

The cheers apply to good tosses.
Ones that come really close to the clouds.

The crowd enlarges and people at the outer edge
are not quite sure why they are here.

Nor can they see me toss the ball
even though they do see the ball go up and up and up.

The fringe of the crowd starts drumming and dancing
which diverts part of my crowd to become their crowd.

Other parts of the fringe play music on instruments
while others startup rope-skipping competitions.

So the crowd’s attention is now split seven ways to Sunday
but it is Tuesday and the saying fails.

On my eleventy-twenty-third toss I hit a cloud
but do not puncture it as planned.

I think the cloud took pity on my tiring arm
and lowered itself.

Though it may have wanted a closer look
at the drummers, dancers, rope-skippers, and crowd.

The cloud rains just a little. Not much.
But enough to dampen a square inch of each shirt in the crowd.

We continued until it is nearly suppertime
when everyone disperses.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Peanuts & Cracker Jack

Paul caught a fly ball.
He caught it by a mountain stream.
He assumed is was a foul ball.

He looked around
but no baseball field was in sight.
No ball court or other athletic facility was in sight either.

Paul pocketed the ball
since there were no visible ballplayers
to throw the ball back to.

For a moment he thought
he might be a character in a Kinsella baseball story
but this was New Mexico not Iowa.

He thought God might being playing catch with him.
Or the disembodied voice from Field of Dreams.
To have a catch, he corrected himself.

Paul took the ball out of his pocket
and tossed it as high as he could.
The ball did not reach the low clouds.

It did return to earth a few feet away.
Paul stumbled on a rock
trying to catch it again.

He fell and bumped his head on a different rock
which refused to take responsibility
for Paul’s hearing Take Me Out To The Ball Game.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Holiday Lights Still Strung Across the Living Room

Paul kept so much about himself
that was lovable hidden
in odd places about the house
the chicken coop
and stables.

Sometimes the neighbor kids
hunted for those aspects
like Easter Eggs
but never found them
because sitting by themselves
unused
those qualities
had no substance.

One should not
hold against him
that he chose to hide those qualities
thus appearing broken
to the eye that looked
only skin deep.

It is his life and he gave up
grand stand seats
at major league baseball games
to live here—
let alone feeling
the turnstile and all the hands
that pressed the bar
before his.

It was spring with daffodils in bloom
when I found shoveling heavy snow
for his older neighbors

placed in the bottom
of an empty cookie jar
up in the attic
when what I sought
was a souvenir baseball
with Cal Ripken’s signature on it.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Editing

Paul does not like poetry.
Paul does not like other people’s poetry.
Paul does not like some people’s poetry.
Paul does not like incoherent rambling poems.
Paul does not like thinly stretched rhyming poems.
Paul does not like overly green nature poems with yarrow.
Paul does not like putting green poems.
Paul does not like new mother changing soiled diapers poems.

Paul does not like apple pie poems
unless the poet provides slices of apple pie to all attendants.

Paul does not like Spanish grandmother
making tortillas by hand poems.

Paul liked those poem categories the first twenty times
he heard them, but has grown weary of them
over the poetry slam seasons.

Paul likes hot meals better than poems about hot meals.
Paul likes sex better than poems about sex.
Paul likes walking in nature better than hearing nature poems.
Paul likes playing baseball better than hearing
Mighty Casey at the Bat or Tinkers to Evers to Chance.

Paul supports his independent book shop
by purchasing copious amounts of small press
and university press poetry books.

Paul reads each poetry book once
then places them in a sidewalk poetry edition little library box.

Paul keeps one out of every one hundred
poetry books he purchases to collect dust on a bookshelf.

Paul has become his own get off my lawn poem
when it comes to poetry.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Vine Ripened

Paul takes
an evening walk.
Albertsons offered them
as free samples
in aisle seven
by the frozen foods.

He wishes
Albertsons
offered
orange wedges
like after
Little League
baseball games
when he
was young.

Or if the produce
section
had free samples
of fresh love
on a stainless
steel tray
pierced
by toothpicks
proffered
by a girl
from marketing
who wore
a dangerous
smile.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Sunday Night Baseball

Paul arrived with a garden sized trash bag
full of dirty clothes, an orange peel
and the start of a story he got lost in
somewhere toward the middle
where the hero seemed like a pudgy kid
with hairy feet and a stolen ring.

The clothes were not his clothes.
He found them along the road
and on the sidewalks on his way over.
Serendipity caused him to bring along
the garden sized trash bag in his left hip pocket.

The orange peel was actually two half orange peels
he picked up in our yard
unaware that we cut up one orange a week
and put it out for the song birds
on the belief or mistaken belief
it makes their songs sweeter.

The middle of the story is set in Middle-earth.
Which is something of a translation of the Norse
word Miðgarðr for this earth.
The one we live on now
with its pandemic and catastrophic hurricanes
and rise of authoritarian rhetoric
by people massively uncomfortable with change.
Like climate change.

So the pudgy kid is actually a hobbit.
A creation by J. R. R. Tolkien.
In this case Frodo.
As is the story and the ring.
But the moral is pertinent to our earth.
The evil of the world is defeated
when the common man decides
to take up the burden of setting things right.

Paul washes the clothes from the garden sized trash bag
so we can drop them off at Goodwill
or another five-o-one-c-three resale shop with agency.
Dianne invites him to stay over for supper
since it is easy to add another bratwurst to the grill
and there is enough sauerkraut and potato salad
to go around.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

Ninety MPH

Two boys line up against each other.
One on the pitcher’s mound.
The other in the batter’s box.

Sixty feet six inches
takes point four seconds from the release
of the ball from the pitcher’s hand

to reflect light waves to the batter’s eye
as it rises high and tight
heading for his chin.

It is a message sent about territorial possession
and who really owns the batter’s box
and its chalk lines.

The batter has point two five seconds
to process the ball in flight
and decide whether to swing

let the ball pass into the catcher’s mitt
or get his face out of the way
of the spinning white sphere with red seams.

If the batter is in the slightest way distracted
his motor flight response jerks his limbs
a little too late

and the ball imprints its seams
on his cheek or jaw
or (if he is lucky) his helmet

and the crowd’s collective breath holds
an astonished note as dust rises and settles
to see if the batter does the same.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney