Things Impossible to Swallow • poems by Pamela Garvey • number 24 in the 2River Chapbook Series • 2River
Elegy with a Child of the North
The word Yankee meant the thwack
of ball and bat harmonizing the Bronx, harmonizing the gravel playground
of PS # 5, where we bartered away spring
with baseball cards. By autumn my father laminated my final picks in plastic wrap,
displayed them on the coffee table between
sofa and TV. They glinted like a glass centerpiece for the World Series.
When the games began, with blue markers,
I striped my toddler brother from collar to socks. I stuck gold stars, one for each Yankee,
on his face and arms. In case one of us had to pee or eat,
our mother snaked every room with radios tuned to second-by-second calls
and the fans stomping chorus: a static
joy that echoed around our house, smoky with burnt-black stew and gum-like chicken,
left to overcook by all of us, too busy joining the crowd,
shouting, Bring 'em home, Reggie. Bring 'em home! Once he struck the ball
he was off, off . . . he's gone, been gone for years,
and I'm walking home. It’s Richmond, Virginia: a loose dog clicks around the corner
leaving me alone with dead generals, still
on their horses, one-man cavalries in behemoth bronze statues. Tonight I
station myself between Stonewall and his spotlights, lean
against the dated stone he rides over. I’d like to go Whitman and celebrate Stonewall—
warrior, lunatic, stallion, armless saint without his lemons
alongside peddlers lining downtown, prostitutes shooting dope a few blocks away.
But only days ago making coffee to rouse myself
from the haze of booze, I looked outside as detectives photographed
a homeless man’s corpse, blood
still flowing from his head. Whose wounds did I ever tend to
but my own? Clean up the South,
the saying goes, buy a Yankee a bus ticket. I circle these streets daily:
school to work to third
floor apartment, walls still bare, boxes still unpacked. I have failed to read the signs.
I have yawned at Sherman’s abuses flung
from the lips of amateur historians found in every bar this side
of the Mason Dixon. I touch this statue, as if it would reveal something more.
Its hands are as cold as mine.