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).