Saturday, January 31, 2009

The First Life of Leroy Satchel Paige


RITES OF SPRING:
The First Life of Leroy Satchel Paige

1.

I arrive in a plain brown package

Careful, do not disturb me with rips
Cuts that tear my face into ribbons

Instead, unfold my front with tender mercy
Rush the win lines of both hands
Along the soft leather of my skin

Make me the friend you dearly need

2.

The first life of Leroy Satchel Paige

This natural oath is who I am

They made me rubber at the core
And rolled me in bands of string

Inside I yield to shape and code
Outside the field is under my control

My will is born against this road

3.

I am a white pony who leaves
Your hand in a flash of light
Sets down the batter in the storied
Blink of an eye; his theory will
Try to move one wisdom muscle, but
Reflex betrays him at the usual speed

He drops his bat and thanks me

4.

I am so black and saint famous
That my praise name has become please
Cease and desist; they now call me
Arrow of dread, scythe of the soul
One who destroys the ball player’s church
The Perch of America; grace and fatal
Vitality rolls up in my gourd vine

5.

For awhile you all look like pillars
Of salt; stand stone still for hours
And call out my name shaking pain
From elbows to tips of the fingers

Are you frauds waiting in the dust?
Biting the silence with two broken wings?

I know you took your three swings!

6.

When I came down into the city
A giant with red teeth told me
I could never combine my ancient weeping
Sense of night time with the drummer
Making the daily weather report; the sport
Had moved past me, like a bullet
Pierced my name, put out my fire

7.

I was a pitch; used to sprint
Halfway to the plate, crack a smile,
Take a break, recoup rites of spring
I knew I had missed the train
By a mile; the day dream stopped
At the tracks; some small voice said,
“Don’t look back, they’re gaining on you.”

*

1948 photo of Paige by George Silk for LIFE Magazine.

1 comment:

david said...

OK this one is beautiful but i will read it several more times.