Long before I discovered girls, my first love was baseball.
I cannot begin to total up the hours spent playing baseball, watching baseball, collecting baseball cards, sorting baseball cards, reading about baseball, and dreaming about playing in the World Series.
I knew the starting line-ups of both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City A’s by heart.
When I played one-man whiffle ball against my friend Royce, we would pick a team and go through the line up as each individual player. If the guy batted right, we batted right. If he batted left, we batted left.
(We drew the line at pitching left-handed, because neither of us was truly ambidextrous.)
Our spare time was spent searching for discarded pop bottles which we could turn into the neighborhood grocery store for two cents apiece. Every 5 bottles meant we could buy two more packs of baseball cards.
Somewhere between the ages of 12 and 13, we moved on to other interests. A long and winding path led me to the love of my life.
We were married 30 years ago today.
The inspirations for this poem are multiple. Several years ago, it was coming on to midsummer and my wedding anniversary.
I was feeling that sense of my youth slipping away. But I was confident that good things still lay ahead.
I was also listening to a lot of Van Morrison. His song “Madame George” was stuck in my head. (Quite possible the more poignant song ever written.)
In particular, I was hearing the line where Van does his improvisational thing where he repeats the words “love” and “glove” over and over in an almost hypnotic chant.
My story is about a very different glove, and a very different love. But that merging of the two words was lodged in my mind.
The result of all of this ferment was this poem.
The only time I’ve ever read it in public, I was told it was “an audacious metaphor.”
I’ll take that.
Today, upon the occasion of my 30th wedding anniversary, I submit this little poem. It’s as true today as when I wrote it years ago:
Here Comes Midsummer’s Milestone
Here comes midsummer’s milestone of our love,
Years since our selfish selves we pledged to yield,
So we’re as broken-in now as the glove,
I wore so long ago while in the field.
Fresh from the store unworn straight to my room,
Rubbed in the oil and every crease explored,
All through the night I savored the perfume,
The musky linseed leather I adored.
Come sober daylight with our job to do,
All awkward stiff not giving either way,
How many sweaty strivings’ deja vu
It took before we as one flesh could play.
Some ragged days I’d spit and pound the palm,
Or hurl the thing against the dugout wall,
But all the while a magic mute and calm
Mutated hand to glove with every ball.
The softening was gradual but sure.
Soon nerves and muscles seemed just like they spanned
From fingertips to join the glove secure,
As if I had been born with one webbed hand.
We’ve come now to the eve of middle age,
Well worn but with a lot of sport to go.
We must each for the other one assuage
Those stinging blows life certainly will throw.
We’ve held through wins and losses and through rain,
That etched new cracks not there at all before.
But loves like this were made to take the strain,
Just like that piece of cowhide that I wore.