Stop commanded the officer's white-gloved hands,
so we stood on the curb. My father squinted
to hold back the sun's rays, and I waited,
anxiously, to go to that cavernous stadium
a summer late, the summer after his first promise
because then I couldn't walk for weeks, my foot squashed
beneath Detroit metal and Akron rubber:
my father's accident, and mine.
toward the stadium in measured steps to watch
the Indians limp through an unseasonably cool June,
loving these perpetual losers, and he and I walked
silently as we did everything together,
toward the lights on even at noon, perched high
on the stadium's aging roof which cracked and shed
black tiles across freshly-mown grass in right-center,
behind the plate, hugging the line in left, so alone
they could have been someone like me.
Feet from the padded blue wall, I watched Snyder,
an island to himself, guarding against a double
pulled past the first baseman's diving stab.
Two seats from my father, I ate one of our smuggled
McDonald's hamburgers, one with too much mustard,
yellowed bitterness on my tongue,
and I wondered why my ear was so much slower
than my eyes: the ball zipped through the infield
long before the quick crack meandered to me,
echoed off the dirty brick wall behind,
and dissipated in the moist June air. Or was the sound
carried through the horseshoed stadium's open end,
sailing over Erie's shallow waters, walleye and perch
heeding the muffled meeting of ash and leather,
toward Canadian shores to a girl with pigtails and glasses
on the swing her father pieced together, just for her?
I looked at my father, his bushy, black eyebrows. Mine,
fair and thin. Brown eyes. Blue. One sign: our shared chin.
He stared at Candiotti's deliberate delivery, knuckleball
floating into the oversized catcher's mitt and mouthed,
They use big ones for him. Never know where it breaks,
laboring to string even this together.
I nodded unsurely and wondered how a glove
so simply could fix that broken it. We shared
the obligatory father-son sign of unity, a high-five,
as Mel Hall sauntered around second,
fireworks bursting in red and blue asterisks high above
the centerfield bleachers no one sat in anymore.
He winced as I raised the wooden-planked seats
on either side of me and slammed them in ugly unison
to drum beats meant to rally the Tribe from an 8-1 deficit,
two outs, none on, Clemens still hurling BBs in the ninth.
From a section over, a beer-stained voice yelled,
Fucking Indians. Another moaned, Why do I even bother?
But then the third strike held my father's chin to his chest:
a handful of words between us, the crumbling
overpass and the trains rumbling under us
where I remembered him driving as I sat
in my mother's lap. My hysterical pleas to not peel
the red-soaked sock from my swollen foot went ignored.
At the train crossing, gates down, I didn't look,
but I eyed him as he did, gauged his pained squint
before he turned back to the road, not to look at me again,
not until my foot was bandaged.
Stopped, hand on the railing's
rusted metal, my father pointed to the choppy lake.
Afraid the bridge would collapse if I came near,
confused how excited his face was, how eagerly he wanted
to show me what he saw, I stayed in the middle.
And he shrugged because men can't be islands;
boys and fathers, another story.