Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Ghost of Ossie Vitt

The Ghost of Ossie Vitt

There's a swing-'n'-stumble old guy in a threadbare
turn-of-last century Detroit Tigers uniform
near home plate on the junior college field...
using a fire-scorched old Louisville Slugger fungo bat
to hit infield practice... grounders at absolutely nobody.

Long evening shadows of poplars stretch
from the first base line across the lush-green infield.
From the street, I can't make out who the man is.
Come on over here, he shouts.  Bring your glove.
When I walk around the 3rd base side dugout,
it's the ghost of Ossie Vitt, Where's your glove?
A true man always has his glove and bat handy.

He drops his fungo bat, walks across the infield,
starts picking up pebbles near third base.
Goddamnit, lend a hand.  We got to clear
this field of anything that can cause a bad hop.
It's been four decades, half a man's life,
since I've seen Vitt, since those boyhood
summers when I played, and horsed around,
at The San Franisco Examiner Baseball School.

How many times, you dummy, you got to be
told?  Catch the ball in the palm of the glove,
not the web.  Webs were put on gloves for the sake
of girls and sissies.  For old times' sake, I ask Vitt
if he's still bitter about Bob Feller and the other Indians
trying to get him fired from manager in 1940.
That was a team of petition-signing crybabies.
Vitt pokes my belly, laughs as if gargling glass,
You got no excuse, none.  You should be
using a medicine ball to harden your gut,
should be skippin' rope to get agile.
That's what me 'n' Ty fucking Cobb did.
Also we carried thick sheepskin rubbers,
because you can't have too much protection.

Vitt returns to his fungo bat, picks it up,
points to 3rd base, You want one more chance
to impress me?  This is the last one you get.
I shake my head, think about the Safeway
morning pastries little darlin' has on a shelf.
Vitt slams the bat off home plate, growls,
I ain't takin' guff from you, not you.
Watching you take grounders... 
your sloppy glove work at Graham Field,
that's what killed me.  Could a lived
ten more years.  But the memory
of Red Shuttleworth fielding at 3rd base,
like a nut case trying out for the circus...
that recollection, incidental stray thought...
that's what gave me a stroke, a killer
stroke on the last day of January, 1963,
my 73rd fucking birthday.
You're a bad glove.. a murderer.

Slump-shouldered, I walk out onto infield dirt,
pick up a magically-there 1940's Marty Marion glove,
look toward Vitt... and he's gone, just gone,
Ossie Vitt... who was once traded to the Red Sox
for a lefthanded pitcher named --for real-- Slim Love.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ernest Hemingway

Happy Birthday, Ernest Hemingway  ( July 21, 1899 - July 2, 1961)

They puzzled you, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett...
their circular talk of one day seeing the Grand Canyon.
That was not your country, nor is the country I live in:
rock, sage, rattlesnake, rainless weeks and months.
It's precisely that broken and arid in the universities...
perhaps no change there: aged virgins prattling
against you, worry-eyed tweed men pleased
with their own self-battering.  You never expected
to make friends in offices swollen with rancid custard.
Your words, still strong, most postmarked before my birth,
are tough to beat: you remain our Heavyweight Champ.
Trains no longer run on time, letter writing is email-bitched,
and the rich still announce forthcoming spousal splits
in expensive hotels surrounded by deep-green woods.
I imagine you forever homeward, a star we have
our lonesome eyes on, permanent as your novels.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Hunter S. Thompson

Happy Birthday, Hunter S. Thompson
(July 18, 1937 - February 20, 2005)

The management does not believe you're dead, at least
at San Francisco's, far-from-downtown, Seal Rock Inn.
There's a large room reserved for you... stocked with Wild Turkey,
a mountain of grapefruits, a sack of coke from Peru, and the desk clerk
is doing all he can, with pepper spray, to disperse over three-dozen friends.
They have quick-printed invitations to your party.  They are sure
the doctor is going to be in... and the good times are triggered to roll.
You'd recognize the ocean-view room.  You trashed it, trashed it again,
trashed it... and management declared it The Thompson Suite.
Among your friends, shooting silly string at the desk clerk,
is Riya, owner of a Tenderloin massage parlor.
Riya says, I'm fifty-one going on nineteen.
You'd recognize this, good doctor, as a humble-tussle, nothing serious,
only the weird grief of story makers, autobiographical fantasists
who perhaps, in better and wilder days, shook your hand,
perhaps even read Songs of the Doomed to their children as bedtime stories.
At peak, San Francisco will be 64-degrees by late afternoon, cloudy...
wonderful for a roar down the Great Highway
and then south on 280 to Woodside where pot is still queen,
where shrines to you are being constructed with redwod burl,
slight likenesses of Hubert Humphrey... targets to be shot
dead-dead-dead... because you might have led the festivities.

This poem, and other bio-sketch poems, are included in Red Shuttleworth's Ghosts & Birthdays (Humanitas Media Publishing, 2012), available from Amazon:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Will Bagley and Red Shuttleworth

Red Shuttleworth and Will Bagley

Historian Will Bagley is the author of Blood of the Prophets and So Rugged and Mountainous: Blazing the Trails to Oregon and California, 1840-1848.  Among the most distinguised and honored of contemporary historians, Bagley has written and edited many books.

Novelist Max McCoy and Red Shuttleworth

Max McCoy and Red Shuttleworth
with their 2011 Spur Awards
from Western Writers of America

Max Mcoy (novelist, screenwriter, investigative journalist) received a 2011 Spur Award from Western Writers of America for his novel Damnation Road.  McCoy is the author of fourteen novels.  He and Red Shuttleworth are good friends.

Max McCoy

Paul Zarzyski and Red Shuttleworth Celebrate Their 2011 Spur Awards

 Paul Zarzyski (winner of a 2011 Spur Award for Western Song)
and Red Shuttleworth (2011 SpurAward for Poetry)
Celebrate with Lash and Pecos
Near Great Falls, Montana

 Paul Zarzyski and Red Shuttleworth
Drink with "Mr. Mink"

 Paul Zarzyski and Red Shuttleworth
Celebrate Receiving Spur Awards
from Western Writers of America.
Zeke Zarzyski is Worn Out

Red Shuttleworth and Paul Zarzyski
(holding their 2011 Spur Awards)
with Zeke Zarzyski...
Ready to Rock 'n' Rowel

* The photographs were snapped by Elizabeth Dear. 
(West of Great Falls, Montana)