“A Rainy Day at Newman’s Grounds,” “Headed Home” and “Derby Days”

by Luke Harvey

A rainy day at Newman's Grounds

The raindrops dribble down the shopfront panes

while back behind the counter the barista drips

her own creation into earthenware cups.

He's always liked the tables here, the way

they're cut with thick pine tops and sturdy legs

two inches thick, like they were made to last

for longer than a coffee's caffeine buzz,

and sipping his drink he greets the grainy dregs

with sifting teeth, the neural background beat

of study music pulsing in his ears.

She used to sit here with him before the year

when all went wrong and he had found she'd met

someone else she'd rather sit, and lie,

with more than him, but he had kept on coming

after his night-shift out of habit, drumming

his fingers on the counter and perfecting the lie

that she was busy with work; but now he'd get

his coffee black.

The rain was unexpected,

but so was her leaving him, and though he'd suspected

her discontent he never thought it'd hit

the fan the way it had, but then again

he also never thought his hair would grey

or his eyes would cloud, or that there'd come a day

when he was sixty-four without a ring,

so what's some rain.

Confident that it's able

to hold his weight, he rests his wrinkled elbows

on the tabletop, and staring outside he knows

now why he's always loved these pine-top tables.

Headed Home

To all the emigrants of the game

The smell of stale Bud Light and cigarettes

festering under a mocking Missouri sun

is not the smell of home. He swings to greet

a 1-1 curve, the number of years it’s been

since last he saw his wrinkled abuelita

kneading the corn tortillas he knows as well

as Grady’s signs at third, and stretches to beat the

throw to first the way his tita Isabel

would chase and beat him as a niñito if he

forgot to sweep out the colmado on Friday nights.

A pimply high school student yells out something

about frijoles while he cleans his spikes,

wondering whether the little worn-out spot

in Juan’s azúcar field where hitters would rub

the ground down thin with rhythmic practice cuts

is still the holy grounds of praying prospects.

The sound of

"Summer of 69" fills up the park

like Armstrong fills the zone on Friday nights,

and Bombers fans watch as their Latino shortstop

leads off of first, pivoting left and right

dancing the dirt with salsa steps. But he

is elsewhere, sweating beneath a sugarcane sun

in Santiago, the sound of flip-flopped feet

pattering as he rounds the bag to beat

the throw, a waylaid spirit stretching for home.

Derby Days

It looked like miles when seen through sunburnt eyes.

The Barlow brothers next door had brand new bikes

with bells, and intent on proving that ours could fly

the same — yes mom, we have our helmets — we’d lock

our flip-flopped feet into the stirrups and bend

our backs like the concrete strip was Churchill Downs.

And down the hill and past the church we’d

wind in effortless ecstasy, our T-shirts blown

like wide-brimmed Sunday hats, those August evenings

when we would race like we were running from

the end of Summer. We’d gradually slow and begin

to argue about the winner before we’d turn

to sludge our aching way uphill until

we felt the asphalt sticking to our tires,

dragging us down and making our muscles feel

as if they too were made of concrete; they tired

quickly those days, and dismounting to slog on foot

we’d push our steeds with sweaty hands and tongues

as dry as track dust. We were going up

and growing up, and it would not be long

before a bike was nothing but a bike,

and neighborhood hills were not the sacred strips

of Belmont, and the downhill racing high

of dreaming Summer-break jockeys had lost its magic.

But no, my dear, it’s not all bad – yes, you’ll

grow old like me one day, but together we’ll watch

the seasons rumble past like derby colts.

But do not rush, my love. And hush, my love,

for I think I hear a whinny in the garage.

About the Author

Luke Harvey

Website

Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Luke Harvey moved to Chattanooga, TN, in order to pursue a collegiate baseball career. After graduating with his BA in English and his MA in Teaching, he currently lives in Chattanooga where he teaches high school English and coaches baseball. Primarily influenced by the work of Robert Frost and Wilmer Mills, he desires for his poetry to be accessible to a novice reader yet simultaneously artistic, structured, and layered. While he is new to the publishing world, he has published poems in The Eunoia Review, The Thorn, and TravelHost.