Poem of the Week: Baseball Canto

This week’s poem comes a day late, but you know, at least it’s here. It’s a canto in the tradition of Ezra Pound, featuring an allusion to Ezra Pound, and written by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Ferlinghetti is (I’m pretty sure) a Giants fan, which is a bummer, but his life’s work in writing and advocating literature makes up for it. He founded City Lights Books in San Francisco, palled around with fantasy baseball fan  Jack Kerouac, and published Ginsberg’s Howl.  Here’s his poem, Baseball Canto:

Watching baseball, sitting in the sun, eating popcorn,
reading Ezra Pound,
and wishing that Juan Marichal would hit a hole right through the
Anglo-Saxon tradition in the first Canto
and demolish the barbarian invaders.
When the San Francisco Giants take the field
and everybody stands up for the National Anthem,
with some Irish tenor’s voice piped over the loudspeakers,
with all the players struck dead in their places
and the white umpires like Irish cops in their black suits and little
black caps pressed over their hearts,
Standing straight and still like at some funeral of a blarney bartender,
and all facing east,
as if expecting some Great White Hope or the Founding Fathers to
appear on the horizon like 1066 or 1776.

But it don’t stop nobody this time,
in their revolution round the loaded white bases,
in this last of the great Anglo-Saxon epics,
in the territorial libre of Baseball.
But Willie Mays appears instead,
in the bottom of the first, and a roar goes up as he clouts the first one into the sun and takes off, like a foot runner from Thebes.
The ball is lost in the sun and maidens wail after him
as he keeps running through the Anglo-Saxon epic.
And Tito Fuentes comes up looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointy shoes.
And the right field bleachers go mad with Chicanos and blacks and Brooklyn beer-drinkers,
“Tito! Sock it to him, sweet Tito!”
And sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don’t come back at all,
and flees around the bases like he’s escaping from the United Fruit Company.
As the gringo dollar beats out the pound.
And sweet Tito beats it out like he’s beating out sury,
not to mention fascism and anti-Semitism.
And Juan Marichal comes up, and the Chicano bleachers go loco again, as Juan belts the first ball out of sight, and rounds first and keeps going
and rounds second and rounds third,
and keeps going and hits pay dirt
to the roars of the grungy populace.
As some nut presses the backstage panic button
for the tape-recorded National Anthem again,
to save the situation.

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