You gave all of us names,
out of your presumptive fiction,
from baseball statistics, organic names
out of Byron’s Unpublished poems as you
called them, from a freak spin on basketball
court when the ball tipped in off Tutu’s fingertips.
We come now, called and bidden, only
names alive to share your leaving, daring us
to be civil in the whole matter, laughing up your
sleeve about all this clap-trap and silly ties, dark
jackets on a hot night when your veins are
cool and glacier-slow.
All of us you’d fool,
you said, slipping out of bounds
before we’d even know, leaving camp
when we would least notice the huge emptiness
you somehow carried for years in your back pocket
like an unexpended plug of brash tobacco.
You knew something we didn’t.
The walls are made of speech.
your nouns and names sound like posters
having voice. More than one of us thinks you
might sit up and laugh before this night’s over,
before comes down fragile cherry-wood
lid, ticket finally punched, you’ve said,
a Boston & Maine conductor’s tally.
Myself, I thought you’d never go,
knowing basketball and Baudelaire,
too full of the sense of imagery at hand,
the cautions of similes and other like tastes,
too brave to call when pain tore like blowouts
through your heart. This is about those so named,
39 Stone. They’ll know way past where they’ve gone,
light enough to read new signs, new paths, Jake,
Ronnie, Barney, Ormie, a host of pals gone
on in their delivery, taking pieces with
casual indifference, bio notes, stars
in the running, images loose,
memories called on cue.
That night in Shea Stadium,
in the end zone cheaper seats, those
around us found out we were from Boston,
you stood at the challenge, 6’5″, 337 pounds,
just at the moment Emerson Boozer broke free
of Nick Buoniconti’s grasp, in a TD flight
that refereed us from combat, saved
our souls for this other flight;
that sticks with me yet, 39.