Carlos on the Mound or Sweet Home Zambrano (of curse and command)

Carlos Zambrano, you were Wrigleyville’s delicate flowerCarlos Zambrano, you were Wrigleyville’s delicate flower
you were a bud on the spring blossom of baseball’s stem
you blew petals at the slightest wind across home plate
you were all caps, oil caps
a nationalized offshore oil rig on fire in the middle of Lake Michigan
you worked fast, for the North Side is used to day games
and can grow sleepy-cranky if kept up late

Carlos Zambrano, you hurled balls in a furious flurry of floury pan dulces
sweet coconut sprinkled and shaped cochito in the window
warm dough on a Saturday morning
Sweet Lou sure as hell liked you, your steam
could have powered the Finkl Steel Mill on West Cortland
sweet poet of the physical, sweet potato of the mound
hitters left pie-faced in fear of your heat
sweet chewer of goo, savior of spit and jaw muscles
carry-on cleats to make it faster to heaven
sweet crotch-grabber, bat breaker, tie breaker
runner with bulls across rubbers and rosins

Plantained, padded skeleton of rage, your blue pinstripes
undulated as you became undone
cursing, kicking, stomping, romping, circling and jerkling
Please come back next year and every year
to startle the lake-blown wind some more
startling, exhortling, chortling, battling and straddling
Por favor, Big Z, the Gatorade, it feared you
bringing your medicine show back to the dugout
grabbing, lifting, slamming, jamming, storming, then to the clubhouse showers

Hermano, you threw a fucking no-hitter as the home team in someone else’s ballpark
stomping up wooden rainforest steps to the observation deck
in the canopy hammock of grandstands in Milwaukee

Someone who met you said you smelled of sweat
but I can’t believe them, those must have been beads of gold running down your forehead
there on the mound, staring down the bricks behind home plate
working like you were catching a train, faster than people catch trains

Sensation hustled from you in beads of cursing sweat, you demanded, you rendered, you flew
jawbones of the ass you hurled, making Roger Clemens appear a muttering pansy

Winter thought of you, can you see palm trees where you are?
Spring training baited, ramp tunnel to the light, will you tender-gander at the sky-god?
Venezuelan Locust, buzzing and gnawing at the mound
sainted cleats digging, shuffling, quick fly-around, lotta noise

Carlos, why did you fly away like Kerry Wood, like DeRo, like a butterfly?
retiring without a championship made you a true Cub
wondering with the wonderful Banks and Santo, Sandberg and Jenkins

Where is your fastball now, Big Man? Don’t point your finger at me
you pinstriped Hercules, just pitch like a minor god
opening day Brutus, don’t betray us your luck-full love
bat in hand, you pointed at the centerfield scoreboard, daring it down

Carlos Zambrano, bully of the mound, this second city waited
for your big shoulders to carry it
back to that same old place, sweet home, Zambrano
to a new century
of curse and command
back to that same old place, sweet home, Zambrano

 

This poem first appeared in the museum of americana.

R.L. Buss has written five books, including Life Between Cigarettes and Suspicion of Indifference, and his fiction, poetry, essays, photos and commentary have appeared in publications such as San Diego City Beat, Happy, Impact Press, San Diego Free Press and the museum of americana.

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