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.
Not long ago, I asked my wife if she had a favorite poem. Her blink reaction was, “the one about the baseball glove.”
It was written sometime in the early 1990s. We were just starting a family. My career was having troubled taking off. The agency where I worked had just downsized, leaving the few of us who remained in a state of anxiety. I would take long lunch breaks and write poems parked by the side of Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.
Years before, back in my Missouri hometown, my first love had been 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.
My first baseball glove was a treasure, my most prized possession.
I knew the starting line-ups of both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City A’s by heart. Hot summer nights were made tolerable listening to games my little transistor radio. Harry Caray (who broadcast for the Cardinals BEFORE he jumped to the Cubs) was my favorite. “Holy cow!”
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 discovered girls and moved on to other interests. A long and winding path led me to the love of my life.
We were married 33 year ago this June.
The inspirations for this poem are multiple. I recall midsummer drawing near and along with it my wedding anniversary.
I was feeling that sense of my youth slipping away. But, despite the oppressive job I was enduring, I was confident that good things still lay ahead.
In particular, I was hearing the line where Van does his improvisational scat-singing thing repeating 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 rhyming 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, I post this little poem again. It’s as true today as when I wrote it years ago.