Poetry Sunday: Baseball by Gail Mazur

Baseball is sometimes referred to as a metaphor for life and I suppose it can be interpreted that way, but for those of us who love it, it is first and foremost just a game. A game that is played on lovely green fields within the designated chalk lines. It has rules and it has disinterested arbiters to enforce those rules. The winners are determined by the skill and acumen of the players and their ability to play within those rules. Would that winners in life were always determined in that same way.


by Gail Mazur

for John Limon

The game of baseball is not a metaphor   
and I know it’s not really life.   
The chalky green diamond, the lovely   
dusty brown lanes I see from airplanes   
multiplying around the cities   
are only neat playing fields.   
Their structure is not the frame   
of history carved out of forest,   
that is not what I see on my ascent.

And down in the stadium,
the veteran catcher guiding the young   
pitcher through the innings, the line   
of concentration between them,   
that delicate filament is not   
like the way you are helping me,   
only it reminds me when I strain   
for analogies, the way a rookie strains   
for perfection, and the veteran,   
in his wisdom, seems to promise it,   
it glows from his upheld glove,

and the man in front of me
in the grandstand, drinking banana   
daiquiris from a thermos,
continuing through a whole dinner
to the aromatic cigar even as our team
is shut out, nearly hitless, he is
not like the farmer that Auden speaks   
of in Breughel’s Icarus,
or the four inevitable woman-hating   
drunkards, yelling, hugging
each other and moving up and down   
continuously for more beer

and the young wife trying to understand   
what a full count could be
to please her husband happy in   
his old dreams, or the little boy
in the Yankees cap already nodding   
off to sleep against his father,
program and popcorn memories   
sliding into the future,
and the old woman from Lincoln, Maine,   
screaming at the Yankee slugger   
with wounded knees to break his leg

this is not a microcosm,   
not even a slice of life

and the terrible slumps,
when the greatest hitter mysteriously   
goes hitless for weeks, or
the pitcher’s stuff is all junk
who threw like a magician all last month,   
or the days when our guys look
like Sennett cops, slipping, bumping   
each other, then suddenly, the play
that wasn’t humanly possible, the Kid   
we know isn’t ready for the big leagues,   
leaps into the air to catch a ball
that should have gone downtown,   
and coming off the field is hugged   
and bottom-slapped by the sudden   
sorcerers, the winning team

the question of what makes a man   
slump when his form, his eye,
his power aren’t to blame, this isn’t   
like the bad luck that hounds us,   
and his frustration in the games   
not like our deep rage
for disappointing ourselves

the ball park is an artifact,
manicured, safe, “scene in an Easter egg”,   
and the order of the ball game,   
the firm structure with the mystery   
of accidents always contained,   
not the wild field we wander in,   
where I’m trying to recite the rules,   
to repeat the statistics of the game,
and the wind keeps carrying my words away


  1. I have never played baseball, but had I realized you could earn more money in a season hitting a ball with a stick, than I will make in a lifetime I might have paid more attention to it.

    1. I played some as a child, although in the games that we played, the rules never mattered much, unlike in the real sport.

  2. This poem fits in nicely with a post I just read about C. S. Lewis and Narnia. In the post, Lori notes, "The (Narnia) books were powerful for me in childhood not because they conveyed intellectual content, but because they immersed me in experiences."

    1. And it is certainly important for a child to be immersed in experiences. It is one of the ways that we grow. Baseball can help with that.

  3. I don't love baseball, but I don't hate it either; I think it's more fun to play than to watch. But the poem is lovely.

    1. I learned to love baseball at age 12 and my ardor has never flagged through the years. I was never any good at playing but I love watching and speculating on next moves and the strategy involved. I find it endlessly entertaining. It's the only game that I really follow.

  4. I started watching baseball around 1960-1961, when it wasn't something "girls did". I didn't play it and had little talent for softball. I lost interest in major league baseball years ago, but I can still enjoy a good game when my husband is watching. This is a lovely poem.

    1. I don't watch as many games as I used to but I still look at the scores every day and follow my Astros throughout the season.

  5. I only played Baseball when forced in PE but I did love watching my classmates play and cheering them on.

    1. I wasn't any good at it and never enjoyed playing that much, but I do love watching.

  6. So lovely. Thanks for sharing this poem. Baseball is not my favorite sport, but when I was in college, there was nothing better than sitting along the third base berm in the spring, cheering on the Huskers!

    1. Baseball is really the only game I follow. For me, it is perfect.


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