Thursday, July 27, 2006

For the Birds # 1

The Orioles reached a new franchise low on June 22nd against the Florida Marlins. First, they squandered a four run lead in the ninth with their closer on the mound and then, in the tenth, pitcher Todd Williams, in an attempt to intentionally walk a batter, tossed one too close to the plate and it was slapped into right field for the game winning hit by Miguel Cabrera. The Oriole Way prided itself on a mastery of the fundamentals. The Orioles have lost their "way." I started watching the Orioles at the age of six. Brooks, Frank, Boog and Jim Palmer became my surrogate fathers and the late Oriole announcer Chuck Thompson was my babysitter as I sat through every inning of nearly every game on television. My favorite Oriole player back then was centerfielder Paul Blair. Blair was lithe and cool, with leopard-like quickness. I learned to catch flies one-handed and wave the bat slowly like him. I went to a game at Memorial Stadium with a sign, "Yankees Beware, Here Comes Paul Blair." My first lines of poetry.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Sweetheart Like You

I drove to work today listening to Bob Dylan's 1983 release, "Infidels." Lyrics in the song "Sweetheart Like You" struck me, "Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings, steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king." Our present leadership seems to embody these lines, and I am transported back two weeks ago to Terminal One in O'Hare where I was stranded for eight hours awaiting a flight to China. I picked up a bottle of water, a Cubs jersey for a change of clothes (can't do Chisox) and the New Yorker (the 7/10 & 17 issue). I read Sy Hersh's "Last Stand" about the the military's policy on Iran. Hersh proves again that he knows more about our military than our current assemblage of Nixoneers who believe that we can actually win a Vietnam. Lawrence Wright's article about the Cole investigation is enough to make one consider living abroad for the rest of one's life. As a business case study, and a good one at that, you learn that abysmal and non-existent communication in the highest levels of government results not only in lost revenue but also in lost lives--3,000 of them on September 11th. Sure, we heard that communication was poor--but what actually happened is far worse and does not bode well for the future. Topping off an excellent issue, David Remnick's "Murrowesque" response to the administration's attacks on the media is also worth a read. The eloquence of William Safire speaking through Spiro Agnew is definitely missing from the present day. Suffice to say we live in interesting and passionate times. The current administration inspires us as artists to create powerful work in response. Take music for example. Springsteen's interpretations of our folk heritage on "We Shall Overcome" (The Seeger Sessions) through songs like "John Henry" and "Old Dan Tucker" uncover in my mind, what is the true American spirit. The "transformative power of song" brought solace to those working in the trenches of our history--on railroads, in mines, and in the fighting of wars. The true essence of our history resides in these songs, not in metallic decals on bumpers.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Poem from "My Father's Gun"

Empty the Chamber

Dad keeps a loaded
.357 Magnum on top
of his dresser.

At the firing range, he wipes
drug dealers off streets,
guns down intruders.

My father shows me
paper targets riddled with holes,
obliterated faces and hearts.

He grew up in Baltimore,
will make someone
pay for its ruin.

I’ve felt his anger on my skin
know in real life
he will not hesitate.

He hears things at night,
crouches in boxer shorts,
points his weapon with both hands

at shadows from streetlamps.
“Feel the weight,” he says.
I empty the chambers, run

bullets through my fingers,
squeeze the trigger once,
hand back the gun.
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