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

spray 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 turn, face the crowd,  and sweep up


their arms, commanding us to rise from our seats.

At first only a few respond, but like molecules quickening

or cells dividing or a herd 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 laborious issue 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.




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