Opening Day

It is opening day in the baseball season for the local nine, a day which reveals that hope does not spring eternal in the human breast after all. The Twins will be a terrible team again after losing 103 games last year and not doing much in the off-season.

But it’s still baseball, the grass is still green, and it’s a game in which you don’t forget people from your past.

That’s why the Twins are honoring Rick Stelmaszek, the former coach who has pancreatic cancer now.

And a few wise parents are pulling kids out of school across America today, because in a few places, opening day still means opening day, and while an education is important, children must be indoctrinated in other ways, too, no matter how pointless and misguided.

Travis Gonick, center, and his son T.J., both of Nutley N.J., wait with other fans to enter Fenway Park for a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates on opening day, Monday, April 3, 2017, in Boston.  Steven Senne | Associated Press.  6-year-old Kilian Riley enters Washington's Nationals Park for Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season April 3, 2017 in Washington, DC.  Win McNamee | Getty Images.

Baseball is not life. But it’s poetry.

The game of baseball is not a metaphor
and I know it’s not really life.
The chalky green diamond, the lovely
dusty brown lanes I see from airplanes
multiplying around the cities
are only neat playing fields.
Their structure is not the frame
of history carved out of forest,
that is not what I see on my ascent.

And down in the stadium,
the veteran catcher guiding the young
pitcher through the innings, the line
of concentration between them,
that delicate filament is not
like the way you are helping me,
only it reminds me when I strain
for analogies, the way a rookie strains
for perfection, and the veteran,
in his wisdom, seems to promise it,
it glows from his upheld glove,

and the man in front of me
in the grandstand, drinking banana
daiquiris from a thermos,
continuing through a whole dinner
to the aromatic cigar even as our team
is shut out, nearly hitless, he is
not like the farmer that Auden speaks
of in Breughel’s Icarus,
or the four inevitable woman-hating
drunkards, yelling, hugging
each other and moving up and down
continuously for more beer

and the young wife trying to understand
what a full count could be
to please her husband happy in
his old dreams, or the little boy
in the Yankees cap already nodding
off to sleep against his father,
program and popcorn memories
sliding into the future,
and the old woman from Lincoln, Maine,
screaming at the Yankee slugger
with wounded knees to break his leg

this is not a microcosm,
not even a slice of life

and the terrible slumps,
when the greatest hitter mysteriously
goes hitless for weeks, or
the pitcher’s stuff is all junk
who threw like a magician all last month,
or the days when our guys look
like Sennett cops, slipping, bumping
each other, then suddenly, the play
that wasn’t humanly possible, the Kid
we know isn’t ready for the big leagues,
leaps into the air to catch a ball
that should have gone downtown,
and coming off the field is hugged
and bottom-slapped by the sudden
sorcerers, the winning team

the question of what makes a man
slump when his form, his eye,
his power aren’t to blame, this isn’t
like the bad luck that hounds us,
and his frustration in the games
not like our deep rage
for disappointing ourselves

the ball park is an artifact,
manicured, safe, “scene in an Easter egg”,
and the order of the ball game,
the firm structure with the mystery
of accidents always contained,
not the wild field we wander in,
where I’m trying to recite the rules,
to repeat the statistics of the game,
and the wind keeps carrying my words away.