Five Poems by Harry Staley

About His Grandson
He runs ahead of me.  I call him back.
"Stay near me, Steve, until we reach the park."
He no longer toddles, loves to run
until he's out of breath.  "Stay near me, Steve,
it's almost, almost dark."

I'd like to tell him "Paradises" means "walled-in park"
where no one ever had to feel ashamed
and none were ever old enough to totter,
and beauty was not yet sin-deep,
and none would sense a pun in "out-of-breath."
Long before the apple and the snake,
long before the scepter and the orb.

He runs ahead of me toward years and days
and afternoons I'll never know.  Even so
I try to call him back.  Even so,
call him back and stay forever
in the daylight in the park.

Parakeet and Pilot (1979)
Nearly dead, she will not sing her flight, this trifle
in the corner of the room,
losing the little heat that all the living lose.

Unlike my childhood dream of flight
decades ago:  the helpless ALBATROSS , gaudy fuselage aflame,
propellor feathering,
burning back to earth in Europe's smoke
while I salute and roar away.

Now, a cold bird gone,
I clean the cage.

GUS KELLY and The National Pastime
Toward the very last, almost dead,
he, Gus Kelly,
[Baseball-fan, Salesman, Poker-man, St. John's Alumnus] said
"Sometimes my pants were shiny and my shoes were matt,
but I'd close the deal, I'd close the deal, and hang around to chat.

And what do you make of that?

"The cards God dealt were low,
mostly spades, none really wild,
and none of them, none of them, a joker."

"I had" he said, "a paradox for openers, and a rare
deck of baseball cards for sentimental solitaire
when nobody else, nobody else, nobody else was there.
Not Zeke Bonura, not Bordagoray,
'Boots' Poffengerger, not 'Blubber' Malone.
I was alone."

"Not Hal Schumacher, 17,
Not Mel Ott, (number 3? Number 8?)
I watched those two play a nearly perfect game.
They were great.  They were great
(cheap bleacher-seat for maybe half-a-buck
in Ebbets Field in '38.  In 1938.)

"'Schumie' shut them out;  and Mel Ott shot
a big one into Bedford for the only score.
And Rosen, Goody Rosen, got ...osen got?
... the only Dodger hit."

"He was erased at second base.
I don't recall his number, or his face,
but he was erased, all right,
at second base, a double-play,
'twin killing' they sometimes say.

"I ran across their names again:
In Germany was an Eugen Ott,
who served the Reich, a general, a diplomat;
and a Schumacher named Kurt
who lost a leg
from torture in a concentration camp.
A Socialist, he was.  A Social Democrat."

"For all I know,
there might have been a Jew named Rosen, squeezed
inside a box-car with a number on his arm;
more digits than the one on Goody's uniform."

"On the day I watched the game
I'd never heard of them.
I was a fan;  I watched the game."

"As for history:  I suppose
The Brooklyn Eagle's 'Morgue' has Goody's name
somewhere in a box-score."

"Nowadays they mostly play at night;
but the lights are going out
and I forget the score,
or maybe I don't care.
And nobody else is there;  just me alone.
Nobody else is there.
And maybe I don't care."

Cute Kelly
Cute hears a house-fly thud against the glass
an inch above a spider-web,
buzz off, turn and thud again,
then lumber back in shock.
Perplexed by hard transparencies,
sophisticated space,
it falls into the web.

Cute half-remembers his career:
bright gloves smashing swollen flesh,
lost six bouts, some teeth, and quit for good,
mumbling into buzzing waves of space,
a puzzled courage yearning in his eyes.

He swats the fly against the sill,
hoping to spare, happy to kill.

Sing, heavenly Moose!  Make thou the depth
of swollen midnight darkness risible.
I pine for paronomastic brilliancies
provoking laughter preternatural,
monstrous undulations of giggle and guffaw
as though old Aeolus and some companion gods
of flatulence and storm send gasps
and gusts of wind that, gathering, explode
in ruthless hurricane across the lawns
of Troy, and Rome, and Gloversville, New York.
I beg of thee, O Horne'd God of Farce,
the balm of wide approval and applause.


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