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.
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.
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.