One Horse

The Ogalala Good Lance
Sought medicine for war
A Cheyenne medicine man
Gave him the Power
Pulverized roots in a deerskin bag
And a buffalo robe
Including the horns and tail

To test the medicine
The Cheyenne shot him with a pistol
But it was only a skin wound
And bayoneted his back
But the point struck a bone
Good Lance paid the Cheyenne
One horse
He died in old age
Long after the days of battle

Sculpture & Photograph by Anton Lignell - 1979

Sculpture & Photograph
Anton Lignell - 1979


Out here
Pissing in the snow
In there
Dizzy Gillespie on the radio
Night in Tunisia 1946
Go man go
Spread the gold mellifluous
Spin it!

January 6, 1993

Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie from  Jazz by Jeffrey Ward and Ken Burns
Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie
from Jazz by Geoffrey C. Ward


Yellow schoolbus fly
By and down the hill
Children's voices singing high
Then waveringly past and still
I'll never tire of this life
Never wish for another
Oh child!
Sing those planets high
Oh child !
Make that wild moon fly

Susannah McCorkle


Susannah McCorkle
I sang your songs and heard
The Spring frogs chortle


Four months now I almost forgot your name
Perhaps this is what should be
Living, we want life as it swells not truth
Forming now from a future transcendence
As consequences burgeon backward
To touch on their cause
Each time to be simpler, more revealed
Having learned to give up everything and who we are again and again

We were close on the granite and brick
Of Berkeley 1964
Those thick foggy nights, the pollarded limbs
The steamy rathskellars, bread in a basket
I'm searching for you then
The first sign was we abandoned that nexus in blind unison
You cast away as far as Europe
We listened to Billie Holliday
You mixed your name with hers
I see you slender, not that pretty
But alive a desperate glow
A gardenia captured, poignant in a glass
Your nose in the photograph tells me
How determined despair can be
Three thousand songs in four languages
In your fake-book
Viva despair
And me with my angels
Luck and bitter grit
You saw no further reason to live
The next hour became garish with light
My heart took note when you dropped to the street
Our notes will be song another time
Like the river banks of September listen
For the waters of March

Seven Addresses On Baseball


In the living temple that is Spring
Throw me down to the playing field
I'll land in motion
It's my native earth
To outrun time for an hour
While the old worlds close and wait
To gain position and invoke familiar laws
That lie elsewhere now far away
In the country of gears actuaries
Explanations fluorescently-lighted halls
That never felt the silence
Muting distant outfield cries
Or sensed spin speed and angle
Of the sky-borne leather ball

Between the striking and the flight
Between the arcing and the fall
Between the diving and the base
The flying then captured ball
Is the Silence the half-time
Mystery ballgame mystery time
Inning ended by darkness
Events decided by a line
This is the only moment
But there's always another game

When I lift above the playing field
And merge into the air
Ride the fiery horse to somewhere
Calm and unblinded by the sun
I'll see the ball I hit before
And catch it going by
I can use it next season

Play ball!

April 1990

James Thurber, Swing
James Thurber, Swing


I was born as a hitter in '54
Drove the ball thirty yards or more
To bat-thin squeals and shouts of fun
In the recess game in Washington

Learned to field in '56
Copying Willie Mays's tricks
Flat out to center on the April land
To snare the ball in a leathered hand

Essegian Moon Don Demeter Neal
No run no hit no field no steal
Chick Pie Slim Nig Spike Hank and Swift
Chief Bender Three-Finger and Freddie McGriff

Bubbles and Shoeless, Nappy and Buck
Whitey Red Blacky Pumpsie Green and Duck
Devine DeBerry Delahanty DiMaj
The Preacher the Sultan the Kid and the Raj

It was McKechnie McInnis McGraw and McGee
And Sandy and Dummy and Rube and Big D
Their names and their ghosts must be following us
Wahoo and Dizzy and Heinie Manush
In right there's Furillo Clemente or Stan
The right thing happens to the happy man*

Now we're gentlemen players having a spree
Well on our way to eternity
Aged boys with a summery story
Some luck some friends and the sunlight glory

Play ball!


*Theodore Roethke, The Far Field, Doubleday, 1964, p. 94

Honus Wagner, Photo by Charles M. Conlon
Honus Wagner, Photo by Charles M. Conlon


The Star Spangled Banner
After a Time of Bush

Oh pray you can see
By the afternoon light
The white ball we flail
Til exhausted and beaming

Whose blue threads and slight scars
Take foreseeable flight
Or the rare shot we watch
Disappear in sun's gleaming

And it rockets through glare
The bombs no longer there
Giving proof of the spite
That the people still bear

Towards blood-mad world orders
That spit on what they say
But we know the land is free
And what games we'll quit or play


George Herman Ruth 1918,  Photo by Charles M. Conlon
George Herman Ruth 1918
Photo by Charles M. Conlon


Civil War ball the game of cheer
Speed and danger count more than fear
Connie Mack had a cut filet
Block it stop it anyway
Numbered days and they breathed that air

Million a month for some this year
Three fifty beer--over here
Hey you--park my car
Bought a glove if they hit this far
That's fancy dude as you breathe brown air

Separated shoulder broken thumb
Prescription-glasses help out some
Way too late for the limo rides
The glove's no good for legal asides

Doesn't matter anyway--
And the injuries were another day
We're here--does the field look fair?
New year and we'll breathe this air


Joseph Jackson, Photo by Charles M. Conlon
Joseph Jackson, Photo by Charles M. Conlon


A hundred throws after sixth grade
Geysers of dust at the home plate I made
Chasing the ball that rolled in the shade
Bless the drill become years that I've played

Flood four-for-four and a hot summer sky
Furillo scored two on a sacrifice fly
Moon juking Aaron into throwing behind
Innings and seasons and years going by

Sandy could throw what they couldn't see
Willie Mays ran with his arms floating free
Williams turned like a wave of the sea
My childhood keeps turning back to me

Play ball!


Joe Martina, Photo by Charles M. Conlon
Joe Martina, Photo by Charles M. Conlon


I carried the hickory and hit for Elmira
And pitched for the franchise in Munger Ohio
I tried out in Atwater, Billings, Holdrege
Up the Big River in windy Bimiji
Optioned to Festus, Ames, and Itaska
Geneseo New York and Homer Alaska
There was Boise, Ramona, Gallup Augusta--
A fish caught a flyball in Lake Matawusta
I've been on the field in Millihocket
A dog chased a cat there the both of them walk it
But I won't play the minors the rest of my life
Gonna heal the old injury settle the strife
Rest for the winter, vacation until it's
Late April or May when they blast 'em in Willits

Play ball!


Walter Johnson and Lou Gehrig, 1937 - Photo by Charles M. Conlon
Walter Johnson and Lou Gehrig, 1937
Photo by Charles M. Conlon


At the Oakland Coliseum

It was the Oakland Coliseum
Yankees versus the A's
My old pal Danny and I
(He saw the Dodgers in Brooklyn)
Did not stand for our National Anthem
In all my years as a patriot–
The Berlin Blockade, Korea, McCarthy
Eisenhower, Sputnik
The National Defense Inter-State Freeway System
Kennedy, Malcolm, Watts, Vietnam
King, Robert Kennedy, Humphrey, Nixon, Agnew
Haldemann, Stans, Howard Hunt
North, McFarlane, Allen, Casey, Bush
Nicaragua, Guatemala, Salvador, Kuwait–
I never got the words right once
Everyone else stood
The 90,000 legged creature
What will happen if we don't stand?
Danny asked
Nothing I said
Nothing did
O Doctor could it be
There is no Nation?
But many building inspectors
Public health officials
Lawyers treasurers actuaries
Bailbondsmen police
By the thousand ten-thousand hundred-thousand
All marching under the gigantic pinata
That no one will break
Because there's no candy inside?

Nearby my son and daughter
Were faces forward
Pretending they didn't know me
They don't never have good for them Hurrah!
Father of free hearts
The music was ending there was Pandemonium
The multitudes joined my hosannas
Father! The flag rippled in the summer air
Father! The crowd so hoarsely glad
Father! --Of his country!
The acre back home--
It's small as countries go
Rhode Island could kick the shit out of it in a war
But I pledge allegiance--
I pledge allegiance to my

It's no Nation

August 1997

Walter Johnson, Baseball Hall of Fame
Walter Johnson, Baseball Hall of Fame

Click below to hear WJ Ray reading
"At the Oakland Coliseum" with musical background:

John Fogerty, "Center Field", John Fogerty, Reprise, 1998

or Click here to Download Mp3

Previous Page
  |  Next Chapter

All Rights Reserved · Copyright © 2005, WJ Ray
Website by