Two poems today by baseball players and coaches. Neither poem is about baseball, though. They’re both about school.
When Harry Bauld was a Columbia University student, he was voted All-Ivy League shortstop twice and broke Lou Gehrig’s records. Unfortunately, he says, they were Gehrig’s academic records. He currently teaches English and coaches sports at Horace Mann School in New York, the high school, by the way, that William Carlos Williams, Jack Kerouac, and Anthony Hecht attended in earlier years.
Here’s Harry Bauld’s poem “Trivium” from his book The Uncorrected Eye, which Passager published in 2018.
My pen leaked in my pants while I aced math.
The loafered girl beside me, so English,
made fun of me in her accent: mawth
geek, she said. I felt her laugh in English
where we belabored the sonnet, Italian and English.
Lunch looked like my life, a catastrophic math
problem, some noodles and a vegan thing on English
muffins. Then I had history; my math-
stained pants made a map of India. When the English
Empire came was a snooze. Math
homework was a hundred lonely fires. English
was no better. Then I got a letter from the English
girl: I loved the heart you drew for me in math.
Remember that girl in 9th grade English?
Her lipstick was like a private history
of red. She tortured you with her English
accent and then you trudged off to European history,
where the map of Spain looked like an English
muffin plastered with the bloody jam of history
boys never flinch from. Hormones clacked like the English
we put on cue balls, our future the history
of those ricochets. We woke when the English
sank the Armada – that was dead white history,
and at 3:00 we were those who broke with the English
over simple notions that began American history
from taxes and intolerable acts: school, at last, was history.
. . .
“Trivium” by Harry Bauld, from his book The Uncorrected Eye.
Gilbert Arzola is the child of Mexican migrant workers. He moved to northern Indiana when he was three. When he turned 12, he began working nine to ten hours a day weeding, irrigating and harvesting the fields. He worked before and after the school day, during the winter, and over breaks, juggling school sports seasons, too. His eighth grade teacher praised a story he wrote and read it to the class. Gil said, “It was the first time, I think, that anyone had ever said anything like that about me that wasn’t something physical.”
In 2019, Passager published Gilbert Arzola’s first book of poetry, Prayers of Little Consequence. Here from that book is his poem “Third Grade.”
Patti’s mother gave the class a talk about cats and then she died.
So Patti’s desk sat as empty as the principal’s heart.
And the teachers told us to be nice to her when she
came back to school.
So we were.
Donna walked like a boy and took measured steps like a
farmer stepping over new rows in a field.
And Peggy walked quickly as if something was after her.
But even then we all knew, there was no need to hurry.
I loved them both with third grade love
and sent them anonymous notes written in blue crayon,
and they never guessed it was me.
Danny dared me to walk on top the monkey bars.
And I walked them as perfectly as a fat man to a buffet.
Mrs. Brown made me wash my hands twice
because I was a Mexican and she said she couldn’t tell
when they were clean.
Becky pulled up her dress at recess to
show us her panties.
And the sun set forever inside Patti’s eyes.
That’s all I remember.
. . .
“Third Grade” from Gilbert Arzola’s book Prayers of Little Consequence.
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And this reminder: Passager will host a reading Sunday, November 8th at 2:00 Eastern time
with Liz Abrams-Morley and several other poets published in the 2020 Contest issue.
To get the details on how to watch it online, go to the Passager web site—passagerbooks.com—and click “events” at the top of the page.
Due to the constraints of online publishing, poems may not appear in their original formatting.