(But I Didn’t Die) / a new poem by Tom Evans

A.A.’s kidnapping and drowning

When I was a child, horrified me,

And still does.

It was an image of my

Own childhood —

To be taken away

In the midst of play —

What to say to the little

Brother (almost a twin)

Left behind?

He, too, came home

To an empty room.

 

You say — “We have packed your things

And are moving away.”

Away, today, from Jewett Parkway.

 

 

 

 

 

Say It Isn’t So / a new poem by Tom Evans

Days of summer gone.
If I had written a line like that,
Joe Bolton, I would have died
A happy man.

Why did you do it,
Were you half in love with
Easeful death?

How did you do it?
Did you bite your tongue?
I would understand
If that was the case.

You see, I have these questions.

The seasons, each one wistful
In its own way, but especially
Summer, which you chose, Joe-
Evanescent- lingering echoes,
Distant strains of music
Fading in and out,
Vestiges of the past that you can
Imagine, remember, and even see,
But never quite put your finger on,
Much less grasp.

And though you grieved
Summers past
You did it in
Marshy spring,
Not wanting to see
Another summer come
And go, I suppose.

Your poetry is full of
Lost loves, ghosted memories
And empty beds—
All unrequited.

I get that
Joe Bolton
And who am I
To say you nay?

But summer
Came anyway.

And couldn’t you
Have at least
Stuck around
To tell us
If it was worth
The strength it takes
To see another
One through?

Instead you
Left us
With a wordless
Answer.

Say it isn’t so Joe Bolton!

Heat Wave / a new poem by Tom Evans

Heat never bothers you

As a kid, play until

You drop, brown and dusty

Then haul ass on your bike

To the corner store,

Grab an ice cold pop

From the cooler

And you’re good to go,

Ready to play two

Before you’re called home for dinner.

 

It turns up a bit as a teen, though,

Hot to trot seemingly every second,

Flushing with embarrassment

At every faux pas committed,

A frequent occurrence

At that most awkward age,

As I’m sure we all remember.

 

Then in your prime, the biological clock

A time bomb ticking,

The procreative urge at white heat

Intensity, making you even

More prone to lapses in judgment

That can have a life-long impact

(choice of mate being one).

 

And perhaps a mid-life crisis

Or two, one last chance to

Recapture your vigor

(such as it was)

Ruin everyone’s life

(including yours)

Revisit your youthful aspirations

And do something about them

If it’s not too late

(it’s never too late).

 

Even now I love being out in it,

(Though admittedly mostly in my

Imagination these days)-

Reading about it in Faulkner,

Recalling the stillness of days past

In the shimmering heat.

Just the thought of it

Gives me some warmth

In the depths of winter.

.

But as you grow older, and the

Vital heat paradoxically wanes,

You can’t escape it, and notice it

In many different ways, though often

Retreating to desert cities,

Where, even if you wouldn’t

Be caught dead outside in the

Scorching air, you can still

Enjoy it vicariously

Through the picture window in your

Air conditioned abode.

 

I suppose it does warm your bones

A bit to do that

Although you know

Your time has passed

And you’re preoccupied

With merely trying to survive

Desperately attempting

To control your temperatures

Within and without

All the while allowing

The planet to burn up.

 

 

BASEBALL, OR THE MYTH OF THE ETERNAL RECCURENCE / a new poem by Tom Evans

Dear Ken, FDR wrote to Judge Landis

shortly after Pearl Harbor when it was

being decided whether major league games

should continue during the war,

America needs baseball as a recreational diversion for a nation

that will of necessity be working longer and harder than ever

 before in the coming times.

 

My friend Rich, when I stood beside him

in his hospital bed during his last days,

echoed a similar sentiment,

asking me to talk about baseball

for a while. I knew, that despite having

the mathematical mind of the engineer

he was, it wasn’t the facts he normally

craved- standings, statistics, playoff probabilities

of each team (especially those of his beloved

Phils)- that he wanted, he had the newspaper

lying next to him for that.

 

I chose instead to talk about the beauty

of the game we loved beyond measure, its

history, the evolution of its

rules, some of the players we loved- Cobb, Wheat,

Ruth, Mathewson, Parker, Stargell, Omar

the Outmaker, Schmidt, Carlton, and Richie

(call me Dick) Allen, the fact that it had

brought us together, what we would do

after the final out was made, but more particularly

of the time Ferris Fain (of the other

Philadelphia team) went 5 for 5

against Vic Raschi for his team (including

a game-winning  home run) in our

Strat-O-Matic baseball game.

 

Thank you for the diversion, he said,

looking up at me when I had finished.

I leaned over and kissed him good-bye.

Afterward, when asked by his wife to give

his eulogy, I declined. I couldn’t- wouldn’t-

discuss our friendship in front of strangers-

it was private, cherished, and ultimately ineffable.

 

I offer this elegy instead.

 

for Richard Swiniuch (1952-2001)