Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 4, 2014

On Poetry: Poetry in spring training

"Spring training’s started,” says my husband every year. “There’s reason to go on living.”

It must be great to be that enthralled. It’s never happened to me, but I do like baseball probably best of all sports because it’s slow, you can see pretty much everything that happens, and it provides an interesting study of personalities.

It seems more about personalities to me than most sports, although some would no doubt disagree.

This poem is about personalities remembered. It honors those who still live in our heads. It gives us the past in that beautiful opening — Luis suspended, reaching for the soft line drive, the ball suspended, and the crowd — of whom the poet is a part, at least in his mind — suspended also. It’s a tableau — a caught moment, held.

Time suspends itself. As Luis reaches for the ball, the past is present with him, all those shortstops reaching for the ball with him, not paying attention to each other, but to the ball.

And Russ Kern — whose full name is used — at the farthest out aura. The poet, Dabney Stuart, who’s an old friend, tells me Kern is the earliest, for him. When Dabney was 9 or 10, he saw him play against the Richmond Colts a couple of years after World War II ended.

None of the shortstops will meet under the ball to catch it. Time prevents that. But in the mind and heart of the watcher, they’re all there.

I love the way this poem carries us the whole way, from the memory of one catch to all the beloved players. Right in the middle of the poem, there we are, in concentric rows, watching, and time goes away. You can feel how that is, when you’re focused on one moment, and time seems to stop.

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