Baseball is back today. Thank God. Maybe the flurry of swinging bats will beat back the cold fronts that have been sticking to us like duct tape. I felt warmer by the mere act of turning a ballgame on the radio as I drove home from school this afternoon.
I don’t have many blockbuster predictions for the season. My predictions never tend to be of the blockbuster type anyhow. But what I’m thinking is the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers will be facing off at the end of October. Here’s why: The Dodgers have pretty much become the West Coast Yankees. They’ve shelled out a lot of money to buy a solid team that should go a long ways into the playoffs. They have the pitching and the bats to get it done. But the also have a heated rivalry with Arizona, their all-time rival San Francisco isn’t going anywhere, and San Diego is hungry. That should make for a contentious division, perhaps enough so to rival the American League East. As for the Tigers, they’re going to do it with powerhouse pitching. Their new manager will install his on-base game instead of relying on the power hitting that failed them the last two seasons. But they will have timely power hitting. Defense will back this all up. It won’t be easy come October, but they can do it. I like that Miguel Cabrera is back at first base and Victor Martinez is the designated pinch hitter in the fourth spot in the lineup. In fact, he’s already hit a home run this season. What’s more, the new skipper is working on a third base pick-off move. I have to give him credit for inventiveness. It reminds me of another well-known manager.
But who knows what is going to happen? Nobody. That’s why they play the game. The only prediction I can make with any certainty is that I will watch a lot of Tiger, Brewer, and Oriole games, keep some good scorecards, and find a way to get to more than my share of games this summer. And speaking of the other teams I follow, I’d be darn happy to see Milwaukee and Baltimore make it to the post-season. Realistically, they’ll be wild-card teams.
Ah, baseball. Has it really been five months?
Here’s the final installation in this mini serial. I’ve been wanting to write an imagist poem for some time now, because I envy what William Carlos Williams does and want to do it myself. A colleague dropped an imagist poem on my desk a few weeks back–something she literally scratched out on the way to work based on something she saw during her drive. That got me thinking about this all the more. Truthfully, I was jealous. I know there are images in my daily life that are ripe with deeper meanings if only I take the time to sit down with pen and paper and mine them. Finally, this came to me two weeks ago when we were let out of school early because of… of course… the horrible winter weather. I spent some quality time that night crafting this, and am pleased with the results. I think I’ll try to do more of these. If nothing else, they are an excellent exercise in concision.
And I borrowed that semi-colon from Ezra Pound.
Faculty Lot, January by Jeff Burd
Wipers pulled away from windshields,
the blades tilting and tottering in the wind;
a chorus of arms waving us away,
warning us: Danger. Go home.
Since running outside has been pretty much impossible given the horrible conditions we’ve had for two months, I’ve been making time on my bike on the trainer. An hour-long ride each week has been enough to keep up my stamina, and watching some Netflix while I do it makes it at least tolerable. The poet in me wants to find the deeper meanings in this and other mundane activities. Writing this poem helped me to that exact thing.
This was another fun one to write as I labored to figure out what the activity really meant, and what the poem was going to say. I picked up something from studying Kay Ryan and made use of it starting in the middle of the first stanza, and I borrowed from myself with “Frost crackles and creeps up the window glass.” The closing lines aren’t quite doing what I want them to yet, but here they are nonetheless.
When The Old Man Heaves Snow At Us by Jeff Burd
I jack my bike up on the trainer
and take long rides to nowhere
right there in the living room.
I hunch over the handlebars and
pedal. Sweat rivers down my chest.
My legs are young again.
I sit up and ride hands-free
because why not?
My tires hum on the asphalt
as I fly past golden wheat
waving in the wind beside
the long, shallow-sloping
roads of last summer. The sweet
smell of ryegrass hangs like perfume
over fields striped with windrows.
Cows raise their heads in time
to see a blur of a smile.
The thermometer outside is
a vacant tube.
Frost crackles and creeps
up the window glass.
I can’t outride it.
I can only ride through it.
In case you haven’t heard, winter in Chicagoland totally sucks this year. We’re already on record as having the 5th-most brutal winter, and we still have three weeks to go. There have been more sub-zero days than I care to count. Snow that fell on New Year’s Day is still on the ground. I’m sick of wearing my winter coat. I haven’t run outside in over six weeks. I’ve had enough.
One benefit, though, is that I’ve been able to practice some poetry. I was reading Poets & Writers while I was still on the holiday break two months ago, and came across a segment about a writer who practiced writing tonkas as a warm-up to writing. The person got so good at them, and so comfortable with them, that he was able to publish a book of them. Ooops… my practice is publishable! I got curious about tonkas. I had never heard of them. Turns out they are a bit like haikus in that there is a fixed pattern of lines and syllables (five lines; 5-7-5-7-7 syllables). Also, the third line is supposed to be a “turn” from observing something to the personal reaction to it. I had some fun producing this one, though my personal reaction isn’t what I did with the last half of the poem. But hey–poetic license!
A neat trick I learned while experimenting: The first three lines should be able to stand alone and make sense, as should the last three. That makes that “turn” line in the middle pretty critical since it has to play both sides of the quintain. Also, once I started working on this I decided to use what was right in front of me and literally in my lap. The restraints made it easier to focus the poem.
Tanka by Jeff Burd
Winds howl. Frost creeps and
crackles on the window sill.
Warmth is near heaven.
Kitty finds my lap and curls
into a purring cherub.
Strangely, only one page before the bad romance passages from my old journal that I shared the last two days, I found the final drafts of an actual love poem I wrote. It’s legit–I was actually dating someone at that time, and had written her a poem. Love poetry is not something I ever really do (I practically crucify my students for it), but this one ain’t bad. Looking back, I surprised myself with what I came up with considering that I was a neophyte poet. My journal shows that I drafted it for a week back then. I’ve retouched it a little bit here. Happy Valentine’s Day! ~Jeff
A Brief Meditation on Time by Jeff Burd
How long until the future?
Not the speculative future
you see in movies
with spaceships and robots,
the near-certain future
when we will lie together
after midnight wondering
how on Earth
the stars could align
to make the future
greater than the present.
continued from yesterday…
Later on, as we chatted about jobs and hobbies and respective educations and all that other first-date stuff, she asked, “You’re an intellectual snob, aren’t you?” She had an in-between tone, sort of joking, but a little edgy.
In my mind, I said, “Yeah, sure,” but on the surface I said, “That’s probably saying it too strongly. But I am very intellectual.”
Now I have to explain. We were at a hotel bar, and the reason I was at a hotel to begin with was because there was a writing conference being held there, and I was attending the writing conference. So the whole lobby (and especially the bar) was teeming with writers and professors and editors, who themselves are very intellectual. So I was really in my element. I tried to consider how this might make her feel uncomfortable; I tired to tone down the intellectual intensity I know I have. However, the second and third time she accused me of being an intellectual snob, I let all consideration go and thought, You’re on your own, sister. I didn’t feel so bad about it, either, because she was a therapist and I think it’s reasonable to expect that she should be able to manage her emotions effectively if for some reason she is uncomfortable in public.
We parted way and haven’t spoken since, which surprised me because we had a 2 or 3 week lead-up to the date ripe with emails, texts, and phone calls. But at least I know she walked away with some nice Ferrero Rocher chocolates. I realized, too, that she torpedoed things form the word “go” when she opened our conversation by announcing her plans for 7PM and it was already 4:30. But like I said, she’s a therapist and I’m certain she figured it out. But that leads me to question: If therapists need to talk about things and figure out their issues, do they go see another therapist? I think they would or should be aware of things in their own heads because they are trained to recognize things in the heads of others and help them with their cognitive processes. But then again, if that were true, then therapists would be the most emotionally balanced and lucid people we could imagine walking down the sidewalks right next to us. And that’s not true, so I guess it’s fair to suppose that therapists go see a therapist hen they need therapy.
I think it’s mere happenstance that these two dates took place on Valentine’s Day. Regardless of the day, it was the people on the dates that was the problem. These dates wouldn’t have worked on Bastille Day or Cinco De Mayo or even Arbor Day. Some people might be thankful that at least there was some sort of romance on Valentine’s Day so I should be happy about that, but I’m not one of those people. That’s usually what happens on Valentine’s Day anyhow. Besides 2003 and 2009, I’ve usually had a girlfriend on Valentine’s Day (all except for 2007, when for whatever reason I didn’t).
I was digging through an old journal a few weeks ago and stumbled across a long piece about a pair of Valentine’s Day adventures I had some years ago. I re-read them and thought it would be good to post them here in honor of the day of love and romance, regardless of how things work out. I’m trying to preserve the original journal as much as possible, so this might look a little rough. ~Jeff
April 9, 2009
For whatever reason today, or last night actually as I pulled into Wal-Greens to buy cold and allergy medicine, I realized that on two occasions I had first dates on Valentine’s Day. The reason I thought of this is because both times before the date I stopped by Wal-Greens to buy my date a card and some candy, and both times it was the same candy (I had remembered the candy from the first date in 2003, and thought it was a good idea then… good enough to repeat with someone totally different six years later). I had bought one of those plastic heart-shaped boxes with a dozen or so Ferrero Rocher chocolates inside. They’re simple, elegant, the candy is delicious, and it’s perfectly priced for a first date. The card, on the other hand, is much more complicated. You can’t go too sexual with it (and there are plenty of cards at Wal-Greens slathered in sexual innuendo) because you don’t want to come across as some kinda first-date Lothario. But you don’t want to be all friendly handshake nice-guy, either, because it’s a date and you want to have some sparks to see if any fires will ignite. So picking the card takes lots more time.
Anyhow, both dates took place at a bar downtown, and I just happened to be downtown on Valentine’s Day, so why not have a date? I sat with my date both times and had a few drinks and gently batted pieces of conversation back and forth. We tried each other out for size (intellectually) and walked around a little bit in our minds. After a few hours, we called it a night. She went her way with a nice, perfectly appropriate card and some delicious Valentine-themed candy, and I went my way thinking it was kind of nice to have a date on Valentine’s Day, and it was even nicer of me still to bring a gift for my date.
The story could end here and it would be all cool and everybody would walk away thinking how sweet things were and how great it is to have a date like Valentine’s Day to celebrate (or initiate) love. But the story doesn’t end here. It’s not sweet, and it doesn’t celebrate love. Those first dates ended up being last dates, and with the exception of one phone call there was no more communication between those two ladies and me. No emails, no texts, no letters, and I’ll be damned if either one of them hired a bi-plane to scrawl “Thanks for the great date, Jeff Burd!” across the sky out over Lake Michigan.
The dates weren’t even average. With an average date, you might be left thinking, “Hey, that was okay… let’s try again and see what happens… .” No. These dates were reminders of the types of people we don’t wish to date. From my point of view, one was so pre-occupied with sailing (it was all she talked about over a few drinks at Jaks Tap on Jackson Street) that I was left wondering how I would ever be able to see her again. She was ready to rearrange her job and earn less money so she could take long boat trips over the summer on a boat that she helped crew. As for the other one, she had plans early in the evening that made our date seem rushed. What’s more, she announced those plans almost immediately after she arrived at the bar in the Hyatt Regency and gave me a hug. I should mention that I accidentally stepped on her foot, but only because it’s funny and not because it in some way influenced the outcome of the date.