Note: As the Yankees and Red Sox square off for the first time this endless pandemic summer, I’m reminded of a poem from my 2013 book 20 Poems & Other Translations from the English, which is about my father’s last visit to Virginia. He was afraid to leave his wife, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, for too long, but he spent a week with us and it was wonderful. It was also the last time we watched a Yankees game together until the month he would die, last July. So just a nod to my dad that I’m still watching.
The King of Frederick Street
Almost eighty, my father is surrounded
by my children, their dogs and cats
while wrestling a Solitaire game whose battery
will not seem to die. We set a folding chair
on our elevated patch of lawn
where the maple’s shadow slows and slurs
across his feet, sliding up the grass
to the house like an instant replay
of a baserunner sliding past him safely home.
It takes an hour, but now he rests in the sun.
The King of Frederick Street, we call him,
sitting on a lawn above car level on the high
side of this crooked hill, watching cars
go by, too fast, he notes, for a street
with children. Seven hundred
miles to the north his wife does not remember
most of while she’s loved. Still, him she loves
and recognizes four times a week,
musses his hair and strokes his nose and laughs,
and now does not beg to be released.
From love and parenthood there’s no escape,
also no home safe to slide past and drag
a hand across the plate just beneath
Death’s late tag. Though I can see him
try to calculate the odds, the angry focus
like leading off third, game on the line.
Pop–the Yankees are on at eight. He’ll come
Then, pick up that infernal Solitaire game
and we’ll play it side by side on the couch,
stand for the anthem and work the count
as innings race by in slow motion.
I glance across the thirty year gap
And know the years will thin;
Meanwhile, we sit, and compete
at who’s best at being alone.
He wins and wins.