Rube Waddell Is Dying
He pitched as though he were throwing fallen apples at a knothole.
Then again, he threw fallen apples at a knothole
As though he were throwing fallen apples at a knothole.
For there is no mystery in the literal, no apology.
Which is why they called him an idiot,
Which is what he was.
And yet … “a sanitorium in San Antonio.”
At least there is melody in that,
And in melody, there is sometimes mercy.
You could fit his desires in a pillbox –
Trinkets that shone and crude origami
Made from his paychecks.
That should makes these moments
Simpler and less freighted.
With the blood wrung from his lips,
And his lungs as fat as an archdiocese.
We take him to be wreathed in unknowing,
And for us, the living, the full of mind,
Nothing quakes us like a man
Who doesn’t grasp that he should be afraid.
Perhaps, though, the hushed features
Belie the knowing.
Maybe he is a beast who wanders off to find
A dark and final thicket. This is
What passes for a wish.
Or perhaps his only regret is that
He can’t rise from this bed and
Drop the ball once more,
Let it roll dumbly and elegiacally off the mound,
Swivel his head toward the road
And hurtle through the outfield and over the fence
After the passing fire engine,
His cap fluttering behind him like a wasp,
Which is the other thing he liked to chase.
His bones shall make a fine mill whistle.