-->Back to Current Issue
(for Enos Slaughter)
By John Poff
An ancient North Carolinian broke off a plug of tobacco
And said, "When you get to the ballpark,
First thing you do is check which way the wind is blowing,
And then get yourself a good ball to hit." I took that native
Advice to heart, but it was years before I felt it in my hands.
You see, I rode the bus; he took the railroad.
The ocean is a whale-highway, but America is a railroad.
Many times Ive crossed it, rolling my own tobacco
Into homemade cigarettes, cupping there in my hand
The eternal promise of addiction, a park
Thats beautiful, filled with hope and native
Flowers, but always just around some corner, blowing
Out of reach like this smoke is blowing
Across the continent. At ten I played ball down by the railroad.
The leather and dirt and grass and wood provided a native
Thrill. My dad sat in the stands smoking tobacco.
Did his thoughts ever run out past the parked
Cars, out to a whole world he once hoped to hold in his hand?
Once I hit a home run and the audience gave me a hand.
As I circled the bases, I felt the wind blowing
Across my every molecule. This was a new park
To be in, fantastic, like a railroad
To the sky. When original Americans smoked tobacco,
America was like this, something tremendous, a native
Splendor. That first home run is with me yet, a nativity
Scene enshrined in memory. If my wrinkled, weathered hands
Now shake, still I remember. Pass the tobacco.
Sometimes I think what was once me is now blowing
Far off, on the other side of the railroad
Where we used to play. A graveyard is also a park.
We drove all night to get to Cleveland and parked
Six blocks from the stadium. The natives
Rushed to sell us junk and we felt railroaded
By the ticket-takers. Still, through the prism of clapping hands,
I see myself there, one moment real, one moment blowing
Into nothingness, like a dream of Indian tobacco.
There is a park where natives and invaders smoke the same tobacco,
Where the sound of one hand clapping is known,
And where the wind blowing and the railroad whistle are the same.
After graduating from Duke University in 1974, JOHN POFF was a
professional baseball player for eight seasons, appearing briefly in the big
leagues with Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
© 1999 John Poff
BACK TO TOP
Batter's Box Bring Us Home
On the Newsstand Sample
Submit a story Tell a Friend Advertise with us Our First at bat Privacy Statement
© 1999 - 2006 Elysian Fields Quarterly Web Master Dahlke Designs