Michael Collier

The Wave

Vendors with racks of soft drinks, palettes
of cotton candy, ice cream in bright insulated
bags, pretzels in metal cabinets, and the peanut
man with his yellow peanut earring. Money folded


between fingers, spokes of green waving
in the glad pandemonium greeting the Budman
with his quick-pouring mechanism strapped
to his wrist like a prosthesis, or the hot-dog guy


genuflecting in the steep aisles, anointing
the roll and weenie with mustard before passing
it down to the skinny kid sitting between fat parents.
In the air above us the flittering birds attracted


and repelled by planetary field lights, swoop
in ecstatic arcs, trapped under a dark invisible dome.
The park organ, the Jumbo-tron, the mascot
pacing atop the visitors’ dugout, taunting them


with over-sized antics, while the groundskeepers
mist the infield with a fire hose, leavening
the calm, raked earth… Later, in the fifth
or sixth, two soldiers sitting next to me, who


have paced each other with a beer-an-inning and kept
their buzz buffed with a flask, take off their shirts,
though the night’s cool, and move to the front row,
where they face the crowd, sweep up


their arms, and command us to rise from our seats.
At first only a few respond, but like molecules quickening
or cells dividing or herds stampeding, we coalesce—
orison provoking unison—section by section, as if


township by township, our standing up and sitting down,
becomes the Simon Says and Mother-May-I? of a nation,
as it runs through our rippling, shimmering, upraised hands
that form the crest of a wave built on the urges


and urgings of the soldiers whose skin is slick
with sweat or some other labor and whose goal
now, for all of us, for themselves, for the players on the field,
is simply to stay in the wave, to keep it going for as long as they can.

Michael Collier
“The Wave” is from The Ledge (Houghton Mifflin, 2000).