LONGFELLOW PARK

That summer we were devoted to baseball
And counted dexterity highest of all things.
Under high trees we learned what we could do on our feet
With the wiffle ball—make it soar or run and with its curve
Baffle both the left handed and the right handed batter.

Our umpire was the venerable Henry Wadsworth Longfellow;
On Brattle Street in Cambridge,  Longfellow’s house stands,
Between it and the Charles River, Longfellow Park;
A dozen stone steps on either side descending to the river
Frame a monument fifteen feet high, featuring the bust

Of Longfellow, with his fictions carved in low-relief
On the wall behind him; the base on which his bust sits
Is a pedestal forming a strike zone perfect in width,
The wall a fine back-stop to the field of play, formed by
A three foot stone wall enclosing the infield, lamposts

Perfect foul poles just beyond the short wall’s two corners;
Three stone steps opposite the statue twenty feet away
Lead to the grass outfield and a curved path: homerun.
Two is all that’s needed; one bats, one pitches.
Singles need to clear the three foot stone wall,

Doubles are any hit which hits an outfield tree on the fly,
Triples those hits which on a fly strike the distant path,
Homeruns those which clear the path, sixty feet away.
Home is the vertical area behind the batter,
Under Henry’s beard.  He watched the called balls and strikes

We threw against his pedestal all summer.  My fastball
Was okay, but then I changed speeds—she’d lunge at the ball
Before its anticipated arrival; that was the change-up,
My best pitch.  She threw hard and learned a spot
Where I just couldn’t hit it and threw it there all day;

She shut me out once; we’d play nine innings
And we took it seriously.  We fell in love with the game;
We hated to stop when tourists came by to peek at Henry,
Or when it rained, or grew dark, or when lovers
Were there ahead of us, sighing in our perfect field.

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