Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Elysian Fields: Trodden Upon


Tom Clark: Baseball and Classicism, plaque on pavement, Addison Street, downtown Berkeley, California: photo by O. Bermeo, 9 July 2008

One morning, about 10,000 years ago, in that small window of dwindling opportunity just after the Dawn of Time and before the first thumping footfalls of the Epoch of Deconstruction, one was dawdling-about, as per the custom of the period, under a faint cerulean glimpse of sky that had momentarily opened up in the overhanging marine cloud layer adjacent to the spiky tips of the branches of a large cypress tree on the dirt margins of Nymph Road, just off Cherry, when the fair and gentle Eurydice returned from her underworld voyage to the roadside postal box with the day's mail.

A postcard from a total stranger, dispatched from a remote quarter of this large and mysterious land. Well, in fact, from Conesus, New York. Perhaps not so remote -- these things are so subjective -- if you hailed, as had Vic Raschi, from New Jersey.

The card contained a brief, but, to one whose routine daily existence was at this time almost entirely uneventful (ah, the bliss!), most interesting message.

"I showed your poem 'Baseball and Classicism' to my neighborhood liquor dealer, Vic Raschi...", this unfamiliar correspondent began.

Naturally one held one's breath. For heaven's sake, the last thing one had ever intended was to offend Vic Raschi.

"...and he loved it!"

That was nice. It made the morning brighter. As the years went by, moreover, whenever recalled, less and less frequently perhaps, but still, over the trundling-on of the decades, every now and then, accidentally summoned to the night courts of curious remembrance, it made the increasingly ponderous expiring passages of the century more friendly, more forgiving, somehow.

The world has changed a lot since those mornings. What ingenues everyone must have been, then. Everyone is so much smarter now. "People" have "learned" to Distrust Strangers. The police chief of New York boasts of the power and intent to shoot down any airplane that appears the least bit out of the ordinary. Never trust a stranger. He (or of course She) might be a Terrorist. But to Hell with all that. One takes one's Elysian Fields where one finds them, gratefully. And with humility. If also a bit of confusion.

Unsolicited correspondent from Conesus, may you still live and breathe!

And Vic Raschi, your mortal frame now twenty-three years in the grave, here's to you, wherever you are! Your spirit yet lives. Your name is etched in stone upon the pavement of a faraway city you were perhaps fortunate never to have known. Now everyone in the world is able to tread upon your good name!

Vic Raschi: 1951 Bowman baseball card

Orphée ramenant Eurydice des enfers: Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, 1861 (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)

This post dedicated to Angelica, conducted out of the underworld without benefit of rational consent


ACravan said...

The poem, prose, pictures and motivating sentiment are all very beautiful and make me smile broadly. Baseball and classicism do go together, of course, no matter how hard "they" try to ruin things. I was struck also by the police commissioner's remark. When I let things like that slide by, as they inevitably do, I know it's because worse is on the way, just around the corner. Conesus is a great name for a town.

kent said...


A year ago,
Carting catered goods
Across a threadbare melancholia
Of crumbling goodbye ways

My distraction opens
Upon the grace & speed & timing
Austin Jackson performs
Over present-day AL outfields

That swift figure now
Superimposed over Say’s
Over-the-shoulder miracle
Off the monster bat of Detroit’s
Biggest Budweiser distributor –

Whoa, hard right
I follow the green sign reading,
“Vic Wertz Blvd.”

Ed Baker said...

I got this Currier and Ives picture book
an old book of their prints
in it is a rendering of a B-Ball game on that Elysian Field ..

wasn't that where American The Game of Basebal was invented

and I do believe that I saw Vic Raschi pitch against the Senators in early to mid 1950's

I pick out your:

"on the margins of Nymph Road, just off Cherry ..."

(location, location, lo-cation)


"Eurydice in the Elysian Fields one her perfect day"
"ingenues everyone must have been"

that is one hell-of-a neat poem/stream
and written in concrete !


p.s. Vic Wertz was another Vic tor

TC said...

Curtis, true that.

In my own playing days, the only rub was having a glove made of concrete.

But Vic Wertz...

The mere memory of Vic provides a ray of hope for those whose hair has been rapt away to the Elysian Fields.

He had already started to lose it when famously robbed by Willie Mays, he of the silken glove, at the Polo Grounds.

Austin Jackson is here today...

Wertz is just around the corner.

vazambam said...

As Willy's was, this one's also a great catch. Thanks for pitching it again.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is so much smarter now, aren't they? & are as quick as spontaneous combustion with their intelligence--ill-gotten & earned, though mostly cribbed. Rarely borne from box scores, and rarer still inscribed on plaques. All this ephemeral intelligence being as tiresome as it is dangerous. I would, I think, settle for a 1 for 4 with one walk.

jk said...

Here is the scoop on Eurydice and the real Champs-Elysées:

Robb said...

Home run.


David Grove said...

J'ai perdu mon Eurydice
Rien n'égale mon malheur
Sort cruel! quelle rigueur!
Rien n'égale mon malheur!
Je succombe à ma doleur.



What a great remembrance of things "10,000 years ago" (can it be?), the morning Eurydice returned to corner of Nymph and Cherry (just over there, once upon a time) from "the roadside postal box" (also once upon a time) with a card from Conesus (RE: "Baseball and Classicism" and the "neighborhood liquor dealer, Vic Raschi" -- who "loved it!") . . . .


light coming into sky above still black
plane of ridge, red-tailed hawk calling
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

further consequence of this,
which is connected to

present motion, having seen
that, how such can be

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
cloudless blue sky above green of ridge

TC said...

Thanks very much, friends. Yes, they are smarter now. I suspect they are reading our signs. Even when we are not flashing any. Brad, that's a pretty good on-base percentage.

JK, what a grandstand gallery! It looks like Orpheus may have more on his hands than he can handle.

(Did she steal those pan pipes from Manny Ramirez?)

Julia said...

I love it, Tom!
Hago mías las palabras de Curtis...
I love the poem but specially your dedication.
Long live to wise Eurydices!

TC said...

Julia, do you suppose that big stain on the bronze plaque could be a congealed tear of Orpheus?

Julia said...

No. Orpheus did never looked back and is happily enjoying his life with Eurydice. No tears, here.

Ed Baker said...

well now that we are talking of Orpheus
Here is Jack's poem:


What if Orpheus,
confident in the hard-
found mastery,
should go down into Hell?
Out of the clean light down?
And then, surrounded
by the closing beasts
and readying his lyre,
should notice, suddenly,
they had now ears?

this out of my hard-backed copy of
that I picked up for $1
around 1965 on a table at a U of Md library
book sale ...

TC said...

The best myths only get better when poetically re-written.