some muted notes for larry burchart, among others

We’d make the journey, all but Hannibal-esque in nature,
Either on foot (even on the most dogged of the dog days
When the antidiluvian tar on our side street would bubble up,
Causing our sneakers to make a rhythmic flik-wump
Until we reached those byways deemed worthy of asphalt)
Or in ones and twos on our bicycles,
Our locks, assuming we were not the wards of parents
Who were devotees of the shorn-to-the-skull “summer cut”,
Flying unencumbered in the breeze
As we paid occasional fealty to the rules of the road,
Our destination being the “variety store”
Shoe-horned into one of the narrow storefronts
On our unprepossessing main drag,
A cacophony of canned goods and candy bars of uncertain vintages,
Novelty pens and girlie mags two-thirds obscured
In jerry-built wooden shelves toggled together
By some former paramour of the frowzy divorcee
Serving as empress of this nickel-and-dime principality.
We coughed up our dimes, hoarded and guarded
With the feigned nonchalance of royal Beefeaters,
In the procurement of Cokes, handfuls of Bazooka,
And always but always trim foil packs of baseball cards,
Which we’d unwrap breathlessly, greedily, hungrily,
Hoping our efforts would unearth an Aaron, a Mays, a Clemente,
But usually our reward would be some utility infielder,
Some second-tier relief pitcher or third-string catcher
Whose card would have the particularly pernicious reek of stale gum,
And one particular summer it seemed every pack
Contained the card of Larry Goddamn Burchart,
Clad in his full Indians uniform, smiling at some untarnished future
Just this side of the horizon, fully visible and all but realized.
At some point, we moved beyond banana bikes and baseball cards
(Our attention turning to pursuits more expansive and expensive
Giving up children’s things and boys’ games and fanciful dreams)
And looking back, it seems that the smile on that baseball card,
Ubiquitous as cockroaches at the time, now mourned for its absence,
Was more than a touch on the wan side,
That apparition in the distance undefined and unpromised,
Malignant in its very uncertainty.

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17 thoughts on “some muted notes for larry burchart, among others

  1. I got a lot of Larry Burcharts, but I think I got even more Joe Verbanics (Yankees) and Larry Browns (a utility infielder for the Indians, not the basketball coach) standing there pretending to bunt at a ball.

    Oh, and that year (I assume you’re talking about the 1970 cards) my sister and I made fun of the Seattle Pilots cards, a team that not only had stupid uniforms and funny looking poses and facial expressions (check out the card of Jerry McNertney), but a team that didn’t even exist. WE had never heard of the Seattle Pilots, at least.

    Glen

  2. This must be very evocative to those who grew up with baseball. I don’t get may of the references, but do pick uo the nostalgia.

  3. Larry Burchart is surely the guardian angel of Boomer diaspora! Boy was that trip to the convenience store my own, always for trading cards of some sort of another — Lost in Space, James Bond, Outer Limits, Baseball. It was a rite of passage, that trip, back when home was prison and there was plenty of adventure in the ten blocks to the store and back. I saw Clemente rip up my Cubs one Wrigley afternoon in 1971. Well done.

  4. Auctions and collector shows felt like cheating after days and months forking over paper route money to complete a set. For me, it was 1980 Topps. All i needed was one freaking gorman thomas card and I kept getting someone else. I can’t remember who, but eventually I traded something for Gorman and completed the set.

    As a side note, I was totally blown away to be mentioned in the intro to your book of poems wk. At the risk of putting you on a pedestal, I’m gonna put you on a pedestal. I have tons of awe and respect for your intelligence, your wit, and obscure references and so much more. Again, it’s an honor.

  5. Any poet who can include the words, antediluvian, ubiquitous and pernicious in his work has my full attention. Your words create an interesting tension between the adult voice and the childhood memories.

  6. I love this so much. Never bought baseball cards, but I traveled that same Main Street on my banana bike and shopped in that same worn store. Woulda described the shelves as jerry-rigged. 🙂

  7. I didn’t collect cards – maybe it was because my dad came from another country and didn’t ‘do’ baseball, or maybe more because I was hit by a pitch my very first at-bat in little league and said, uh, not for me…. this, however, I can see it. You possess an uncanny eye.

    Your book is on my coffee table. I’m looking forward to diving in. ~

  8. Does one ever really get over banana bikes? I always longed for one (never got one) and to this day when I happen to see one it brings me right back to that longing…. Bazooka and Harlequin Romances for us…. loved this – made me relive my youth filled days…

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