In honor of The Wire season finale, a poem to Baltimore.
All-American Fresh-Air Cure
“I couldn’t see for lookin
For lookin I couldn’t see.”
--Epigram written on a baseball painting by Paul Darmafall, The Glassman
I want to believe in the power
Of the fresh-air cure,
So I am standing on the sidewalk,
Smoking, with The Glassman.
He can’t take walls or doors,
The stuffy shadowbox and
Wine reek of the art show.
He’s an outsider artist, after all.
He shifts in his lawn chair and
Its legs scrape the sidewalk,
Uncovering another sliver of material.
He believes in America, in science,
In a strong constitution as protection.
He believes air conditioning will kill you.
He doesn’t call them paintings, but signs.
Covers each one with bulletins from beyond.
Out of colored fragments he picked up in the street,
The Glassman sorted red, milk-white, and blue,
And traced three baseball players in glass and glue
On a splintered plywood scrap—
One running, one sliding, one home.
That’s the one I chose, out of all
The glass-encrusted slabs, so many
Stacked to the gallery ceiling, salon-style.
I don’t know if The Glassman knows
That each red dot inside means “sold”—
A couple hundred dollars more for him.
He hangs his paintings on chain-link fences.
He hangs his paintings on the sides of trains,
And lets the rails bear them away.
I give him cigarettes, but we don't
Look each other in the eyes.
I don’t say, but I get messages, too.
I don’t need a crystal ball,
All you have to do is read the signs.
It always leaves me feeling shaky,
Like catching yourself stumbling
On a crack in the concrete,
Your foot sending a shard of broken glass
Skidding down the sidewalk in front of you.
I came to this opening
With a new man, a fresh man,
A transparent man, an all-American man,
A man who loves baseball,
Who doesn’t bother with messages and signs.
At night now I sit in my car and listen to the radio,
Waiting for the last play to play out
Before heading into the bar.
Later, on the rooftop, my man’s
Breath on my neck, I watch
The fireworks flare over the stadium,
Sparks shimmering down around
The Domino Sugars sign
And falling into the harbor,
The water flat and deep brown as
The bottom of a bottle.
Photo: "National Anthem" by Paul Darmafall, from an Austin, TX, gallery site.