Return to the essay table of contents
Return to the Home Page
Centerfielder And More (April 2005)
"To pull a ball-- that's advanced technique. When you start a
The thing to do is hit it where it's pitched.
Leave your ego out of your game. Swing smart!
What's 'smart'? Take, don't force: Each pitch has its hit.
At the keyboard, relax: Music's not a road
To run, it's the world around the road, and look,
The journey's best the more your senses hold.
Your attention to all that glows-- that's technique."
At the peak of his art the master won two pennants
With two swings. "But remember-- they were pulled, not willed."
In music, open to all that mere notes meant--
And each is flesh-- enriching what the text "allowed".
Cheers swept the stadium, tears in every eye
Below the stage, as his hands reached out through their mastery.
My first great pro game bunted them nuts and when
The third baseman moved in spitting, practically
At my feet, what I did I dinked this piddly
Soft pop over his glove-- plop! short of outfield.
"Fairy hit!" Me care? I didn't care. I chopped
A curve onto the plastic grass, stood on first
Before it came down.* Their dugout went wild-- pitcher,
He levelled me...Got up, bounced a slider
Down the right field line for a triple. Ha! I was six
For six-- scored five-- and hadn't hit a ball
A hundred feet. So-- some accomplishments
Are insults? I mean, your "can't's" they're you if I can?
My Manager. "No. Way." He rose like an old
White bear-- "Kid's weird."-- now he said "Hey way t' go!"
Yeah thanks, Pops. He'd nearly cut me these ten
Times. "No power. Uncoachable." Want to see
What a scout ass wrote? "Enigmatic riddle."
Me. Here's one. Spearing a liner: "Don't hurt your hand!"
The jerks. I also play a treble note
Or two, and listen to me world! Shouldn't
"The force that through the green fuse drives the flower"
Take a bat in its hands if the notes can't fill this hunger?
Hungry for what? I don't know it-- for tricks,
For mortal tricks. "Hey, kid-- shut up!" They all
Said that. My teachers in astonishment
In different words, coaches when the young man
Said stealing home would be easy if the old
Men would first let me fail-- one day, at least, I'd know how,
I'd know how the course of a melody flows, how a dance
With its rhythms unfolds, what is "golden" in tone, what is "gray",
What an audience wants, how lives join through notes, how these folks
Cross a bridge when there's tapping on keys. So I ran on alone,
Slipping barlines, leaping urtext's phrasings,
Speeding up and slowing down and driving
My teachers wild and away and good riddance!
Not their dike but the sea when it crushes the dike enchants,
And I'll say it again: We're born to die and play.
So piano practice-- then to the field to practice--
Practice for what? A game! For sport! To hone
This abstract gift for mastery-- the wings!
"C'mon, Kid! Don't talk like that!" Kid was striking
Out that day: Sometimes he was a full mess:
The scores meant nothing to him** , tidy sums! Art!
Some sort of artist player, thus called the Kid,
That's all I heard on every swing I tried
On Pitcher Time. I know. Hell-- look, forget it.
See, to think ahead! So I swung at the "bad" pitch-- it
Was to learn to broaden "good". What's the failure
If it teaches? (a cracking seed) No one ever
Really struck me out. I pulled my young bat
From the pitches at its command-- swung and learned defeat:
They call it that-- but I lived through each retreat
And running backwards like insanity
Went roaming painful roads to mastery.
Dig it, (High School) Coach? "No. You're cut." Right. Good-bye begin
To hit at will-- choosing hit's direction,
Bunt exactly where I want, or just chop the
Ball into an endlessly hanging bounce-- there had
To be a way. ("No. Way.") To fake-bunt the
Cleats off their feet! And bunt-fly over their heads!
To "go" with every pitch, to just accept
The hit each has. Through Struggle To The Stars,
Or Stardom, or the perfect stroke, except
To get from here to there! Like climbing to Mars.
And music was the same, incredibly
The same, which made me sure that baseball's not
A fake: When I stepped back from the obviously-
Accomplished to dare anything that it dared not
In its limits of wisdom and let my fingers slow
Like an ice-choked brook and then when Spring yelled "Go!"
On To Semi-Pro
Dare the tempo of its cry and damn the
Voice at shore! Explore the "wrong" and I'd store
Its "right" and as the "teach"-- "Monster! Monster!"--
Fled extend his tempo-- stre-e-tch-- till all the
Sadness in this music that I had felt
Rose behind my dam and then I spilled, played
It in great floods beyond the text and thrilled
As this outlaw fluctuation proved-- not moot.
Oh I had a lot of fun in my room-- music
Was my taffy-prayer and I'll let you lick
(Chew?) that one-from-two. (Well, what do I mean?--
Something about freedom, my soul so keen
To trap a rhythm second to second the way
These humans breathe to dance with them some day.)
Look! I don't want to get too poetical,
But I don't want to write my autobiography
Either: Six months in college-- "Drop it right now!"--
Pick-up teams then semi-pro and finally
On to Mexico-- so that's the baseball.
And wherever I went I found the piano and time
To play. I worked hard and I advanced and
That's the American Way. (I'm just being practical.)
I batted .385 one Mexican stay.
(I'm twenty-two-- they say "Hey show us how"
In the bigs at twenty-four-- naturally--
Well-- big. jump.-- I'm not quite ready for the Hall.
Not yet. Time builds its Einsteins from the slime.+/+ +
To the poemend! Concertland and Pennantland:
("American League Rookie-Of-The-Year To Attempt Classical Recital In Carnegie Hall")
"Fur Elise". Start with something simple--
"Mere" song. I'll let them laugh, I'll only sing.
"Islamey"-- a stallion on the steppe it
Wants to ride and faster, wilder than the page!
"Concerto For Piano Solo". Go
Ornament the impossible it dares you!
"Arabesques On Johann Strauss's 'Blue
Danube' Waltz-- Astound them! Your Art is Fun.
"Tannhauser Overture"-- for piano yes!
All music's one, one water's riverrun.
Opus 111. The goal of life
Is trill and everything that comes before
Is life before apotheosis-- so
His work, my sound, is bidden up the mount.
--But No Encores+ + +--
("American League Rookie-Of-The-Year Astounds Critics At Carnegie Recital: New Pianistic Giant Hailed
Audience Responds To Freedom And Virtuosity")
Ludwig Van Beethoven -- "Fur Elise"
Mily Balakirev -- "Islamey"
Charles Alkan -- "Concerto For Piano Solo", Op. 39, #'s 8-10
Artur Schulz-Evler -- "Arabesques On Johann Strauss's 'Blue
Richard Wagner -- "Tannhauser Overture" (arr. Franz Liszt)
Ludwig Van Beethoven -- Sonata # 32 in C Minor, Op. 111
And five years later my first pennant, people!
I'd given up the homers, learned Batting
Ritardando-- holding back for effect--
Then-- for mastering the ego-- you think it's strange?--
I earned my surprise reward-- I came to know
Exactly which pitches I could pull (Go-go-go!)
And now I really made myself of use.
Advanced technique! And I-- two players in one,
A sort of Reggie Rose-- once past the rest
Could give my fans a dose of crazy fun.
I'd mastered a game, though my life like yours is brief--
Folks dug what I did-- and how I loved the roar
Of the crowd begging more and More and MORE-- quite the show!
I had so many game-winning hits I couldn't count,
And there I stood, the pennant at stake-- but that's
Another poem. Rather, now I'll give an
Overview, a Sum-It-Up-- on second
Thought I'm beat-- he plays, he writes and he bats!
It seems like I play a different kind of game,
Though from moment to moment the details are the same.
Well, I play by a vision (a sort of conscious Ruth):
Genius knows the absurd is sometimes Truth.
I watched the expected in the world-- use them eyes--
When you do you see limits-- and try otherwise.
That's it. Okay. You don't believe at all.
(Rhyme-rhyme-rhyme.) No way. Pianists don't play ball.
Well, to be profound-- I like the game. Listen-- it's your problem, not mine!
(Right, I just do it for money.) Meanwhile-- are you ready?-- Dig this line:
163 653 150 262(!) 68(!) 20 21 156 .401(!) 42
*Well, a "slight" exaggeration. But I'm fast.
+Instruction C: After bons mots, spit your tobacco juice onto
Astroturf-- talk about slime!
+ +Actually, I averaged .291 my first three seasons. It's the
dinosaurs who couldn't hit!
+ + +Gave everything all 9 innings.
Sport's a very minor art-- it's like a
Grasshopper, not like Paganini-- still, the bug's
A fiddler too. And sometimes, say, on a
Summer night, his merry insect's song-legs
Singing and all the fiddles of this wide world
Can't fill the air like our little friend with wings
And you know, it was like that on a night that felt
Like Summer in October when they held
The playoff for the teams that were tied-- he brings
You his final poem of three, like an insect
In the scheme of things, able to rise despite
His tininess to please and thrill and awe.
We're down by three-- they're full-- two outs-- that's right--
I stood in a natural dramatic structure.
The pitcher was a bitch-- the best-- sinkers
Dropping like dead men, fastballs that left a smell.
And Prudence, Medieval angel at my ear,
Whispered: Remember what got you here. And hell,
She was right! I should wait for the pitch, slap it to left,
Make it 3-1, let the next hero bring me
Home. But I let two good strikes by. And now
The count is 3 and 2. An irrelevant
Roar is ringing in my ears! The fans, can't they
Understand? I can't respond to that-- it's how
My bat will fail. Limits, limits, I accept
Those lines, a single is enough, victory
Is enough, they are shouting for infinity
On a finite field-- here it comes!-- whizzing to the mitt!--
It's fat as the Moon, and white as the leaping cow--
Yet there's another baseball in my mind,
I see it flying from the park, I know
It can be, and this moment's like life, one breath, then the end--
It's a pitch I could pull, I can pull it, I know, having learnt
To hit within this pitch is mine-- Good Lord!
Kid swings from the heels! And here I understand
Those lovers who die in myths-- that sometimes the best
Means lose it all, just let life be a cliff
From which you fly and fall. With one last "Oh well."
What's this? And did I hit it tragical?
No wait. I see the game stays pastoral.
For there it flies, the pea, I see it sail
At the stands beyond the grass-- beyond belief?
Perhaps synthesis-- with mental weariness
I stood at the plate, and viewed the arc of my
Desire, then traced the line through empty space
Again, sampling triumph both rationally
And otherwise. I'm beyond further thought or
A conclusion. It's time to wander through the now.
It's time to trot around and take my bow.
And perhaps this moment means nothing, or perhaps more,
Perhaps science, maybe just a story,
Maybe I'm God-- nah, let me finish this:
Fireworks bursting in the air, and the fans pouring
On the field, the organ plays schlock, I'm scared, running
Through a crowd, now lifted on shoulders, as if for them
An icon in beer-filled rites-- the lockerroom
Awaits me-- I enter-- there's a hush-- of awe--
And then it breaks and voices scream and roar!
For me? Hey I forgot-- hit .401--
I'm their Moses, their King-- "Hey Kid you sonovagun!"
(My Manager again-- I've made him rich.)***
"Wow!" "Ey hey!" "You mother!" "You son of a bitch!"
(All in good fun.) And so let's rhyme a rhyme.
I guess I couldn't have picked a better time
To hit one out. "KID DOES IT ALL!" I know.
Reporters ask "How do you feel?" And now
"How does it feel?" And this: "How did it feel?"
"Is it like a dream?" Well no, I think it's real.
It's the President. The who? Who wants to talk.
"Was it ball or strike?" You know, I think a balk.
Look, let me step outside the batter's box a moment. This is
what I tried, yet one more time, to explain to those dazed, gleaming faces:
***And we won next year too! (Me-- .353)
The main triumph of my youth was
learning to surrender ego, which most
people lose only after the legs go.
This made the act of hitting internal
and controllable, though it displays
externally. Without the block of ego
all my limitations became clear.
Thus I learned my possibilities. So
the road to some was through the
unorthodox or forbidden-- an
irrelevancy now. Columbus did not
create a single new inch of Earth--
but by daring to sail in the wrong
direction he extended the parameters
of physical possibility as surely as
if he had. Thus, though my home run
seemed magical, it was achieved
within my limits-- just as the
single would have been-- the choice
was between possibilities. Granted, I
am not a natural power hitter-- hence
the moment of hesitation. But through
self-exploration I had learned to recognize
all valid "moments of exception", so to
speak, just as my exploration into pianistic
freedom brought me to searing "breakthrough"
moments, which, being for others part of
their desire rather than established
technique, I mean that "advanced
technique" which I earlier referred
"Woowee!" My Manager is wrapping his big
Arms around his star! "Hooee!" Okay. "Describe,
Can you tell us, can you explain, what sort of thing
Are you?" I'm you. It's so hard to explain to this tribe.
They're feasting on magic-- which is too nice a word--
It's the President again, agents, others--
What do they want?-- Let me sit.-- and hold the wood wand--
As melancholy as a brand-new mother--
I hear a roar, and there it goes rolling
On the road of the rainbow that ends where they're sitting--
Listen a second time-- to the announcing
"Wack!" (or a "thwack!" or "crack!"), loud beginning
To my memory-- and I can't explain--
I want to swim-- I want to grow a fin--
And prefer to think that I have acted without
Explanation (a switch!)-- I'll retire words--
Acting within life, without having understood
A moment of it-- no, that's not right-- not that.
Will someone rescue me!? Introspection
Doesn't fit this low scene. Let the champagne flow!
Pop, corks! Gleam, o my head! Look! A musician
And other artist-friends in baseball caps.
And the music critic of the "Times" deigns to show
His face in a lockerroom-- and so perhaps
I should end with this unified vision I'll take to my rest.
And I know this sounds cheap, real corn-- I'm not great, Man is blessed.
(I stared so hard, I lost my myopia.
And everyone! Hit smart! That Utopia!)
copyright 1986 Ira Rosenstein
My published works are six, available from amazon.com, or Barnes & Noble's bn.com, or directly from Starlight Press (Box 3102, Long Island City, NY 11103). When ordering from Starlight Press each book is $6.00, plus $4.00 postage (add $1.00 for each additional book's postage). Make out checks to Ira Rosenstein.
Left On The Field To Die I: Timothy Richardson
Left On The Field To Die II: Yehudi Weismann
Left On The Field To Die III: Peter Koslov
Twenty-Two Sonnets (including "Centerfielder And More")
Starlight Poets I (as editor)
Starlight Poets II: Sonnets (as editor)
Return to the essay table of contents
Return to the Home Page