On maple tree branch remote from Pagnotti Park,
a robin guarded nest bearing two blue eggs.
the bird saw foul balls descend white cloud,
come its way, threaten for moment, then fall.
A baseball coach cried,
“Straighten-out your swing, Nomar!”
P.A. System played National Anthem,
the robin feared foul balls “burst in air.”
I looked to Riverside H.S. team bench,
players stared at arch rivals, Old Forge Blue Devils.
Nested anxiously upon dugout bench end,
hands beneath keister, I saw Chet Lukasiewicz.
Like Rodin's Thinker, gone paralytic numb,
Chet's big black eyes, weary red whites,
they closed for moment as I passed by dugout.
Tears..., but maybe only sweat beads?
Fifty year old triceps propped strong body,
it appeared Chet wanted to take shot for team,
dive (for no reason) at line-shots down 3rd base.
Never more can I be Chet's raven friend,
he ought be at Gethsemane prayer!
How can he watch a game when his
18-year old Gary (only child) nested in bed...
precisely, home hospice care?
A rare form of stomach cancer,
and winding down from a chemo-infection,
Gary's opposition cells on hit streak,
they gained unfair edge.
How can Chet stay any longer?
I hoped for rain, dispatch him home.
Recover baseball cards in Gary's closet?
Show him Tony Conigliaro's once mighty chin,
before Jack Hamilton's fastball struck?
I am the flyweight gorilla in the stands,
I wanted to scare Chet home, mourn like me.
Chet expected coach might ask him to leave.
Geese flew overhead, graceful like Willie Mays.
One bird far behind, warned about coming rain.
The umpire called “strike three!”
I could not stay in shell any longer, said,
“O Chet – how can you stay?”
“God gives all kinds of strength, Chuck,
and Gary # 29 wanted me here today.”
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My fists tightened on chain-link fence.
Gary cannot play... Chet here to pray?
I spat at reality, mortality, and memory.
On chopping block, little Isaac looked skyward,
he saw Abraham's Louisville Slugger aloft,
heard newborn robins cry.
And The Smart Money said to gamblers,
“Cancer Cells shall win decisively!”
Yes, yes, that's what the smart money said.
I looked for flukes, opposition errors;
a strong 1951 throw from Angels in Outfield,
nailing Blue Devil leading hitter,
Gastric Lymphoma, III, at home plate.
Gary # 29 at home, supplied oxygen tube
fell from nose, mother Cheryl reattached.
I strolled 3rd base line, cancer cells load bases.
I hate them – in humanitarian alliance,
can National League Laboratories
and Lockheed Martin stop them?
I root for Riverside High's lefty pitcher
to fire a “hard one” into Lymphoma's chest,
send cancer to knees, suffer stinger missile pain.
Chet still upon team bench, robin upon branch.
I bit tongue, kept spectator silence.
Suddenly, its May 18, 2012 –
Gary persuaded parents to allow
him to attend Riverside's Senior Prom.
That night, a neighbor rented Gary white tuxedo,
another rented a wheel-chair equipped van,
and on that beautiful Spring night,
Gary # 29 crowned King of Prom.
Classmate joy and tears,
90 pounds, a shriveling tux, supplied 02,
cameras flash, Gary smiled like Ken Griffey Jr.,
and love managed to “take care of its own.”
Next morning, Feast Day of St. Joseph, May 19,
The Times-Tribune front-page,
the unbeatable Cancer Cell closer got final out,
and maybe, just maybe, Gary swung at last pitch,
passed away at 10:30 A.M.
Baby robins emerge from shell,
one game over, another begins.
Victorious cancer cells leap, fled visitor bench,
they assembled on cleat-torn mound.
Lymphoma must celebrate, forever run in the blood
of those who run Race Against Cancer.
I watched Chet console losing players,
he walked down hill, side-stepped rock, picker-bushes.
“O, Chet, how can you continue watching game?”
Sunday evening, June 10, 2012.
Faraway, perched upon rooftop “nose bleed” seats,
clouds gathered, a spectator, I secretly watched
new life at Lukasiewicz's Taylor home.
Mother Cheryl poured milk into gray cat's bowl.
She carefully placed dusty baseball spikes
in shoe box, destined for a pair of size 10 feet.
Confetti in Fenway Park air,
only ¼ mile away, St. Mary's Cemetery mound.
Breeze passed through the Prom King's crown,
a robin stood upon colorful grave, picked at fern.
Chet sat upright on back porch bench,
tears welled in my eyes, “O God # 29,
please give me strength?”