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May 6, 2011

Baseball Canto by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (posted in celebration of Willie Mays' 80th Birthday)


Baseball Canto

Watching baseball
sitting in the sun
eating popcorn
reading Ezra Pound

and wishing Juan Marichal
would hit a hole right through
the Anglo-Saxon tradition
in the First Canto
and demolish the barbarian invaders

When the San Francisco Giants take the field
and everybody stands up to the National Anthem
with some Irish tenor’s voice
piped over the loudspeakers
with all the players struck dead in their places
and the white umpires like Irish cops
in their black suits and little black caps
pressed over their hearts
standing straight and still
like at some funeral of a blarney bartender
and all facing East
as if expecting some Great White Hope
or the Founding Fathers
to appear on the horizon
like 1066 or 1776 or all that

But Willie Mays appears instead
in the bottom of the first
and a roar goes up
as he clouts the first one into the sun
          and takes off
like a footrunner from Thebes
The ball is lost in the sun
                           and maidens wail after him
but he keeps running
    through the Anglo-Saxon epic

And Tito Fuentes comes up
looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointed shoes

And the rightfield bleachers go mad
with chicanos & blacks & Brooklyn beerdrinkers
         “Sweet Tito! Sock it to heem, Sweet Tito!”
And Sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don’t come back at all
and flees around the bases
like he’s escaping from the United Fruit Company
    as the gringo dollar beats out the Pound
and Sweet Tito beats it out
like he’s beating out usury
not to mention fascism and anti-semitism

And Juan Marichal comes up
   and the chicano bleachers go loco again
as Juan belts the first fast ball
out of sight
and rounds first and keeps going
and rounds second and rounds third
and keeps going
and hits pay-dirt
to the roars of the grungy populace
As some nut presses the backstage panic button
for the tape-recorded National Anthem again
to save the situation

but it don’t stop nobody this time
in their revolution round the loaded white bases
in this last of the great Anglo-Saxon epics
in the Territorio Libre of baseball

Lawrence Ferlinghetti  (age 92)

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