My Art


The days grow short and the gray alleys of mid- and early mid-twentieth century nostalgia are fading and breaking into small, brittle pieces. His mind now is like a photograph pulled from the wreckage of forgotten storage.  The corners are gone, and the tape that had repaired it a long time ago has browned and is crackling.

He barely and fully remembers days of clothing that was original, not throwback. Days of art, music, experience and experiment, all wrapped up in browns, burgundys, deep greens, and yellows. The film lies.  He imagines their time smelled of must and neglect.  They were happy, hardened, and as ignorant as any generation before or since. Their sports were rougher, their smiles were earned, and they became his history.

One by one, another piece of the photograph mingles with the dust and gnats at the bottom of a suitcase. Memories caught in time now forgotten, now crumbs. They laughed on the hood of a car on an Indiana back road. They squinted their eyes and smirked in the sun. They stood in the school parking lot with their huge collars and folders. They gathered in his great-great-grandparents home, or at least in their honor. In the corners sat the sages and elderly, “that’s my uncle” or “I don’t remember him.”  In spurts are the sporadic splashes of the younger, newer members of the family, up close, mouth open, eyes wide and smooth.

The scenes are blurry, the trees have silver garland and popcorn. The dresses had belts, the hairdos had wings, the pants had plaid. The glasses were black, the hats were dapper, the televisions were forgotten.

Weak images of strong recollection. Pieces of a single frame.  He prays to see them move, breathe, wink, cough.  His petition granted with a catch: silence.

In their background, they must have the constant rattle and hum of running from spool to spool. It’s all he knows of them, and they have to be hearing it, too. There must be large spots of dust in their world that appear then disappear as quickly. Their mouths move, but they don’t speak. There is background music, but he doesn’t think they hear it. If they do, they continue to smile, smoke, laugh, hug, and blush.  They move so much more quickly than he remembers.

They struggle with the same sins, he believes. Theirs are far more hidden, of necessity. Their tastes are simpler than his own, yet more complex than their parents’. Their word is their bond, and he will never again hear their bond. Their love is deeper from the start. “Till death do us part” meant they were both leaving, together. They, too, are a cycle, and their memories are crumbling just like his. Tin crumbles, too, and gathers, stains, and fills the space between floor and bed.

The screen goes blank. The spool beats the projector in hopeless rage. The vinyl goes white.  The room goes black.  Suddenly he feels he is a picture in his own hand.

The pictures fade. Their images are soon stock. No one remembers them anymore. His wrinkled hand hurts as it grips the faded, little paper. Drops of moisture are no issue by now. He can’t really save them. He knows so much more than they, and so much less.

They are now names that another explorer in a distant generation will discover in a library, and those names will be called branches. And those branches will hopefully make an herbal salve, healing wounded consciences that are unclean because they belong to fingers that didn’t write, hold, call, or wave.

The explorer hurts.

His memories are brittle, too.

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I’ll probably only join Rice’s ranks if I do it myself.

Let’s start with the New York Sun version from 17 August 1948

Game Called

“Game Called by darkness — let the curtain fall.
No more remembered thunder sweeps the field.
No more the ancient echoes hear the call
To one who wore so well both sword and shield:
The Big Guy’s left us with the night to face
And there is no one who can take his place.

“Game Called — and silence settles on the plain.
Where is the crash of ash against the sphere?
Where is the mighty music, the refrain
That once brought joy to every waiting ear?
The Big Guy’s left us lonely in the dark
Forever waiting for the flaming spark.

“Game Called — what more is there for us to say?
How dull and drab the field looks to the eye
For one who ruled it in a golden day
Has waved his cap to bid us all good-bye.
The Big Guy’s gone — by land or sea or foam
May the Great Umpire call him ‘safe at home.'”

Now for the 1956 version from the Fireside Book of Baseball:

Game Called

“Game Called. Across the field of play
the dusk has come, the hour is late.
The fight is done and lost or won,
the player files out through the gate.
The tumult dies, the cheer is hushed,
the stands are bare, the park is still.
But through the night there shines the light,
home beyond the silent hill.

“Game Called. Where in the golden light
the bugle rolled the reveille.
The shadows creep where night falls deep,
and taps has called the end of play.
The game is done, the score is in,
the final cheer and jeer have passed.
But in the night, beyond the fight,
the player finds his rest at last.

“Game Called. Upon the field of life
the darkness gathers far and wide,
the dream is done, the score is spun
that stands forever in the guide.
Nor victory, nor yet defeat
is chalked against the players name.
But down the roll, the final scroll,
shows only how he played the game.”

Lastly, here’s my humble attempt to pay homage to the greatest sport on the space-time continuum:

Home

All the players try to reach me.

They want to leave me at first,

But they’ll long for me when they’re gone.

I won’t see most of them

Until the next AB.

 

All the spectators want to sit behind me.

Those who make it to the coveted seats

Brag to all their friends.

They paid more than the people above them.

I am so small to them.

 

I may become dusty and covered with play,

But I am respected; they will clean me.

They want the boy coming to me to see me

When he stretches his hand as if he were saving me.

The man in black says “safe.”

 

The good ones, the really good ones,

They want to see me more than the rest.

They practice, hone, and prepare

To return in 120 steps; 360 feet.

The books will call them great.

 

Game over; papers waiting on stats.

I won’t be seen until tomorrow

Unless it’s September,

And I’ll be forgotten awhile,

But I will be sore missed.

 

The lights remain to help those behind me,

And those above them,

To go where the players have dreamed

All season–162 games–

They want to come to me.

 

Home.