The Poetry of Sport

In honor of Frank O’Hara’s birthday celebration, we present a few poems with some relationship to sport, including O’Hara’s ode to New York, which happens to mention the Pirates.

Steps

How funny you are today New York
like Ginger Rogers in Swingtime
and St. Bridget’s steeple leaning a little to the left

here I have just jumped out of a bed full of V-days
(I got tired of D-days) and blue you there still
accepts me foolish and free
all I want is a room up there
and you in it
and even the traffic halt so thick is a way
for people to rub up against each other
and when their surgical appliances lock
they stay together
for the rest of the day (what a day)
I go by to check a slide and I say
that painting’s not so blue

where’s Lana Turner
she’s out eating
and Garbo’s backstage at the Met
everyone’s taking their coat off
so they can show a rib-cage to the rib-watchers
and the park’s full of dancers with their tights and shoes
in little bags
who are often mistaken for worker-outers at the West Side Y
why not
the Pittsburgh Pirates shout because they won
and in a sense we’re all winning
we’re alive

the apartment was vacated by a gay couple
who moved to the country for fun
they moved a day too soon
even the stabbings are helping the population explosion
though in the wrong country
and all those liars have left the UN
the Seagram Building’s no longer rivalled in interest
not that we need liquor (we just like it)

and the little box is out on the sidewalk
next to the delicatessen
so the old man can sit on it and drink beer
and get knocked off it by his wife later in the day
while the sun is still shining

oh god it’s wonderful
to get out of bed
and drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much

—Frank O’Hara

The Runner

On a flat road runs the well-train’d runner,
He is lean and sinewy with muscular legs,
He is thinly clothed, he leans forward as he runs,
With lightly closed fists and arms partially rais’d.

—Walt Whitman

The Buddhists Have the Ball Field

The Buddhists have the ball field. Then the teams
arrive, nine on one, but only three on the other.
The teams confront the Buddhists. The Buddhists
present their permit. There is little point in
arguing it, for the Buddhists clearly have the
permit for the field. And the teams have nothing,
not even two complete teams. It occurs to one team
manager to interest the Buddhists in joining his
team, but the Buddhists won’t hear of it. The teams
walk away with their heads hung low. A gentle rain
begins. It would have been called anyways, they
think suddenly.

—James Tate

OCTOBER 1995

Many people can tell you who
played who that fall classic.
I’m pretty sure it was the Braves.
I hate them. And I’m sure it came
crackling across the radio, Route 40,
and I’m sure of many other things
like the plot of The Big Sleep
and what kind of gun I carry
and the way you would say
where shall we go and I
would say anywhere you want
and the way the ocean crept up
suddenly inside of us, but
who pitched that night as the headlights
made their own waves and who
beat who, all of this I’ve lost,
like a clue.
—Austin Kelley

Baseball

I am split like an inning, the Yankees
are up, no outs, and the air, it’s like candy.
I am split like bananas. Hot Fudge! It’s a
home run, Matsui and me, we are
split like an atom, you’re standing,
we all are, on molecular peril, I am split
like a leaf, this moment, the next,
you’re sitting, you’ve, lost, the sky
turned down rain’s way, at the split
of the second, delay and the future’s
curled up like the tarp, like the always
and never twi-night double-header.

—Austin Kelley

Carlton Fisk Is My Ideal
by Bernadette Mayer
A Bernadette Mayer Reader
New Directions 1992

He wears a beautiful necklace
next to the beautiful skin of his neck
unlike the Worthington butcher
Bradford T. Fisk (butchers always
have a crush on me), who cannot even order veal
except in whole legs of it.
Oh the legs of a catcher!
Catchers squat in a posture
that is of course inward denying orgasm
but Carlton Fisk, I could
model a whole attitude to spring
on him. And he is a leaper!
Like Walt Frazier or, better,
like the only white leaper,
I forget his name, in the ABA’s
All-Star game half-time slam-dunk contest
this year. I think about Carlton Fisk in his
modest home in New Hampshire
all the time, I lve the sound of his name
denying orgasm. Carlton & I
look out the window at spring’s first
northeaster. He carries a big hero
across the porch of his home to me.
(He has no year-round Xmas tree
like Clifford Ray who handles the ball
like a banana). We eat & watch the storm
batter the buds balking on the trees
& cover the green of the grass
that my sister thinks is new grass.
It’s last year’s grass still!
And still there is no spring training
as I write this, March 16, 1976,
the year of the blizzard that sealed our love
up in a great mound of orgasmic earth.
The pitcher’s mound is a lighting mound.
Pudge will see fastballs in the wind,
his mescaline arm extends to the field.
He wears a necklace.
He catches the ball in his teeth!
Balls fall with a neat thunk
in the upholstery of the leather glove he puts on
to caress me, as told to, in the off-season.
All of a sudden he leaps from the couch,
a real ball has come thru the window
& is heading for the penguins on his sweater,
one of whom has lost his balloon
which is floating up into the sky!

David Andrew Stoler    Nov 30, 01:32 PM    #

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