By Kenneth Purscell

Ball Field and Stream

For just a moment 
Pause and smell the popcorn,
Chocolates, gum, chips,
The hot dogs in their coats
Of bread and chili and cheese.
The last remaining breaths
Of winter hang in the shadow
Of the wall. The first 
Promises of spring fruit 
Are only wisps in the air,
Overpowered by the 
Summer-like riot of 
commotion right at hand.

Ears, now raised,
Focus on the chatter
Past the fence.
Infield is noisy,
Outfield not as much.
But the flavor and the noise,
The pull and push,
Are bunched together
Near those further walls.

A muffled ping and then
The clamor rises all around,
A multitude of voices 
High and low, 
A rumbling growl
But not of threat. Not yet.
Encouragement, perhaps?
Some smaller feet 
Seem to patter slowly round
That fenced enclosure.

The murmur fades.

Not yet.

When the sun dips down 
Below the further mountain,
When the not-sun finally
Goes out, when the larger ones
Collect their cubs and leave,

Then the pull will have
No barrier.
Then the nose will emerge
From the hidden cove.
The ground will yield 
Forgotten bounty.
The barrels will contain
A banquet to assuage 
Spring's hunger. The river
Just beyond will be cool
On paws and tongue.

It is not safe 
It never will be safe
To live so close 
To such neighbors.
They are so pathetically slow 
But so cruelly violent.
Still, hunger and waste
Are so balanced here 
That their silly game becomes
Part of a larger, more serious 
Stratagem of stealing,
Deception, risk, striking out,
And when this season ends at last,
Running home.


You're forced to share the passage
With grumbling motors
And creaking metal canisters.
The Euclidean plane of concrete
Drives on to certain 
Predetermined ends.
You are granted leave to pass,
But you are minimized,
Merely pedestrian. The river?
It vanishes. Unseen, unheard,
It may pass beneath, but then again
It may not. It doesn't matter,
As you don't matter.

But here,
In steel, in wooden planks,
The footpath jumps from bank to bank,
From park to parking,
From nowhere to nowhere.
The curve suggests the arc
Of a line drive, or a squirrel's leap
From branch to branch.
Trees shade the path
And gentle breezes add their voice
To the ripple and the flow
Down below. You can watch 
The water bug dance her way
Across a surface tension bridge
That only she can see.
And in the middle you can pause
And realize again the miracle
Of bridges. For you have been raised
In the air as well as to the rank
Of human walker. You may share
A moment with a passing bike,
But neither car nor truck will ever
Pass this way. They are forced
To go around, to meander.
Your path, though arching,
Is the straight one. For this path 
Is truly yours. Even if you have
A destination, this path itself
is destiny enough. 
To walk it
Is to stroll through healing
And to mend in part the broken shards
Of driven life.

Post Office, Outside

In an age of presidential scandal 
The name on the cornerstone 
Stops me. 

Stamps! It seems so quaint now.
He provided special issues 
To the Collector in Chief,
The Big Man himself 
In his (hidden) wheelchair,
For the Big Man's very own 
Collection. Hobbyists were 
Appalled, and who can blame them?
How could they compete 
When emoluments like this
Were given to
The privileged few?
They complained, and thereby proved
That sometimes philately
Will get you somewhere.
He was forced to print for many
What he'd made 
For just the few.

Make no mistake:
It was a time of privilege.
But it also speaks of innocence 
That the outrage could be heard
And a compromise reached.
I know his name. It appears 
In my own album,
On a special issue
Mounted with such care,
Evidence of both 
the fall and a measure of grace.

The sins of our time, our own injustices,
Seem less tractable. Maybe they are not.
Maybe we only lack
redemptive imagination.
Or maybe we have lost
A determined will for healing,
Give a low priority to grace.
But maybe too the worst is true:
That we see our flaws as features, 
hear jeremiads as praise.

His name is here, 
On this cornerstone,
underneath another.
That one names the man
Who saw beneath the shine and order
To the ugliness of the Reich: murder and chaos,
A system that said a few were special,
And the rest less than human.
Why could a Treasurer see
What a Postmaster General could not?
Here, etched in stone
In a corner of the mountains,
Is a small monument
To both a clear moral vision 
and its absence.

Post Office, Inside

If nothing else,
This marble filled temple
To the postal arts
Is a testimony of a faded age
And an even more faded belief:
That everyone should share
The service station
Of communication.

Some, like minor railroad barons,
Could afford the faster airmail.
But all people, even miners,
Were entitled to first class service.

Inefficient? Probably.
Corrupt? Possibly.
But still the envelopes
Of the powerful
Crossed paths, shared space,
With the postcards 
Of the poor. Standing in the line
At the window was an exercise
Of E pluribus unum writ large;
The few could not jump the queue.
The pluribus were not easily

And in an age of desperation,
The unum was 
so desperately needed.
The unemployed and starving,
If totally neglected,
Would never have become
The fit and fighting force
They soon became.
They stormed the beaches,
Built the bombers
Mined the coal (lest we forget!)
Precisely to defend 
This sacred space, this line
Of commonality, this subtle limit
To the cult of privilege.

The union was not perfect, no.
And there were still
Pernicious barriers 
Of race and clan.

But underneath it all
There lingered the ideals
That we now miss.

No federal style facade
Adorns the private delivery service.
No marble floor
Becomes communal space
For email or for tweets.
Amazon eschews the queue,
Primes the pump of revenue
By serving only
those who can afford
A little more. 

In the name of speed,
In defense of privilege
And a different 
spirit of corruption,
We have sold our birthright.
We will weep when we discover
That we cannot get its blessing back.

I cross the marble floor
Laid in an age 
Of generous poverty.
I mail the bills through the slot 
That even now says "Airmail."
I open up the ancient box
Once rented by a corporation 
That apparently hasn't paid its tax
For several years now. I take out
The ads, the next month's bills,
The movie next in queue.
I sort these on a table used
By generations great and small
And which still provides
A space for inkwells.
The finely crafted details
Can yet amaze me. 
I gather up my pile, 
Make my way to leave,
And hold the door open 
For an older gentleman.
We smile and nod.
He enters, goes about
His solitary business.
I stand a moment, listening
To the echo of his steps,
And back beyond to many other

The silence here
Is deafening.

Kenneth Purscell is a retired pastor, adjunct professor, customer service agent, and retail cashier. Some of his poems have been published in New Verse News, Fleas on the Dog, MDLVLMAG, inScribe Journal, and Grand Little Things. He and his wife now live in the suburbs of Chicago.

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