"Campy was the hardest man I ever met," Kahn the sportswriter said. Campy, the guinea-nigger-halfbreed, Kneeling in a Germantown sandlot With bruised ribs and a ball in his glove. Campy rising at 1 a.m. to deliver milk And two blocks' worth of papers. Campy who had three grown men pull up In a white Caddy convertible, Pay his momma three times Daddy's weekly wage to let him Catch games on the weekends. Campy who quit school at 15. Spent ten Years squatting in the Negro leagues, Birmingham to Harlem. Spent ten winters In the Latin leagues -- Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela -- making the year A hard and dusty perpetual summer. Campy who got the call from Mr. Rickey To be fourth, join Robinson at Ebbets. Campy who slept across town While the rest laughed it up And danced a block from the stadium. Campy who got MVP in '51, '53 and '55. Campy who had mitts so sore he couldn't Lift the trophy. Who sat upside-down In an icy car in a Long Island ditch Thinking how he couldn't feel his legs. Who sat upstairs, looking out the window While his wife made love to another man In the front seat of a Pontiac. And Campy who grew old remembering A September afternoon. And that sound. And how the ball rose steadily Just inside the third base line And how he thought, "Jesus, sweet Lord Jesus, oh it's good to be alive."
Sailor Boy in the Checker Bar on Maundy Thursday Night
Jimmy Red, the coke dealer's brother, Is mouthing off to me. He's thinking I'm trying to scoop Rosa. Not tonight. Just A hey to a neighborhood kid. He's hammering and hammering. After fair warning I pop Him with a sucker shot. Catch him In the mouth, off-balance. His boys stand up, then the motorcyclers Get up because their boy Clever Trevor is my boy, too. After the ruckus the barman Tells me BANNED FOR LIFE. A pisser start to a two-week leave at home. So I walk. Take a leak in the alley. Then head across Market, give a quick Wave to who-knows-who headed Toward the park in a piece-of-junk Chevy. Drifting down the street I count The stores. Shaffer's: gone, Linderman's: Gone, the pizza shop with two stoners. I cut across the priest's yard, past The church. But turn right instead of left. I'm sweating by now so I sit On the bench at the Community Garden. No one around in this part of town. And I say to whoever's listening: Christ, even the moon looks damaged tonight.
An April Funeral in Pennsylvania
In memory of Clarence Rowe
These men only wear suits for two reasons. No one is getting married today. Outside, on the stone porch, we stand Awkward and alone. A few of us smoke Into the twilight. A woman wipes Her eyes. A man cleans his glasses. Inside you stand five feet >From the coffin: Thanks for Coming. Nice to see you To folks you might remember. The Masons leave the room At ten to nine. They return in white aprons. Speak of the purity of the lambskin, Brotherhood. He's built well and Will take refreshment in the temple, One of them tells us as the others File past, bend low, whisper A shibboleth in the ear of the corpse. In the morning, we go to the college. I buy a book, a pair of shorts. We linger. Rest against the hood Of the car. A thin haze obscures The spring sun and nascent landscape. In the distance, a farmer plows his field. The tractor's steady sputter a reminder. Pretty girls walk across new grass As the mist of our voices drifts away Then dissipates.