May 17, 2001

Baseball Fields Seen from the Air

by Michael McFee

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Poem: "Baseball Fields Seen from the Air," by Michael McFee, from Colander (Carnegie Mellon University Press).

Baseball Fields Seen from the Air

In the absolute panic of landing,
these are the best of all possible signs.

Their sandy fans unfold below.
Home is the hub of that sweet green breeze.

Pie in the sky, pie of the irrefutable earth!
Each field is a thick delicious slice.

A little league park that's a red-clay scar,
a minor league field with mange,

a major league stadium's emerald diamond
set in a golden scallop shell —

they all broadcast the same welcome message,
V for victory, peace be with you.

What crop could grow in such peculiar fields?
What silt-rich rivers left such deltas?

The plane's loud shadow haunts the waiting game.
There's a sudden sound that will release us.

Each field is a clock where time has stopped,
fair hands frozen at the quarter hour.

On this day in 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The unanimous ruling stated that racial segregation in public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees equal protection of the laws to all citizens.

It's the birthday of writer Gary Paulsen, born in Minneapolis (1939). He ran away from home at the age of 14 and traveled with a carnival; then he took jobs as a farmhand, an engineer, construction worker, truck driver, and sailor. He was working as a satellite technician for an aerospace firm in California when he decided he wanted to be a writer. He came back to northern Minnesota and rented a cabin on a lake; by the end of the winter, he had completed his first novel, Mr. Tucket (1968). He's now one of the most important writers of young adult literature. Three of his novels - Hatchet (1987), Dogsong (1983), and The Winter Room (1989) - were Newbery Honor Books.

It's the birthday of television writer Dennis Potter, born in Berry Hill, Gloucestershire, England (1935). He's best known for the BBC series The Singing Detective (1986).

It's the birthday of James (Cool Papa) Bell, born in Starkville, Mississippi (1903). He played 24 seasons in the Negro Leagues, had a lifetime batting average of .338, and was called the "fastest man ever to play baseball."

It's the birthday of novelist Dorothy M. Richardson, born in Abingdon, Berkshire, England (1873). She was one of the first writer's to develop the stream of consciousness technique and the use of interior monologues, long before James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. She's best known for her 13-volume sequence novel Pilgrimage (1915-38).

On this day in 1673, Louis Joliet and Jacques Marquette began their exploration of the Mississippi River. They set out in Michigan, in two birchbark canoes, and headed for Green Bay. They went up the Fox River to a portage that crossed to the Wisconsin River, by which they reached the Mississippi near Prairie du Chien on June 17. They arrived at the mouth of the Arkansas River that July, and then came home.

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