Long Meadow

This poem has been drawn from the August issue of the American Reader. The American Reader is available in our Shoppe, as well as in independent bookstores and Barnes and Nobles nationwide.

[applause]    people are    playing some volleyball    near barbecue pits
just ran through clouds of smoke    rising from the pits    smelled of meat    [wind]
bodies roast in sun    a mom and her    child sit    on a beachtowel
in the shade    one guy takes practice swings with    wooden bats    [rustling
grass]    looks like he’s hitting flyballs for a friend    oh there
seem to be two guys in the outfield    squinting I see    tiny golden discs
of light before my face    I wish I    were jogging    shirtless    but
I need somewhere to    clip the mic    “let’s hold em defense    OOPS I GO”
[kick]    “have a nice day”    a stray soccerball rolled toward me    all the
different players    wear different    soccer jerseys    a variety of    stripes and colors
it’s great to see folks    using the public space    here this evening
I still have yet to    adjust to    North American life I    can’t say exactly when
the sun sets these days    I know in Berlin    you’ll get daylight until    9:30
or so    but    here there may very well be just    an hour hour-and-a-half    of daylight
remaining though the sky    is blue    I see puffy    mountainous clouds
in the distance    a gull    its wings tipped black    gigantic trees I can’t name
reflective pond    [voices]    groups of friends    play sports    I see soccer and
volleyball    badminton    baseball    frisbee    maybe lying in the sun could be
considered    a sport    brother and sister play catch neither of whom
using gloves    that’s actually    mom and son    four friends on a towel wear
sunglasses    nobody speaks    other people bring    big sandwiches    “good dog    hi
   what a good puppy    what sort of dog is he”    “a papillon”    “is that right   
until recently I’d confused them    with long-haired chihuahuas”    “yeah they
look alike”   “though this dog certainly doesn’t look like a chihuahua    I’ve
seen smaller    papillons is it”    “yes a”    “a French dog    you three have
a pleasant afternoon    evening rather”    [breathing]    soft dog    here I see wiffleball   
one group reads    bestsellers    I’ll always space when I see people    holding best-
sellers    it would be nice to live in a society where    people read good
books since    well I don’t need to complete that thought    an abandoned traffic cone
it must’ve marked    some boundary    or goal    earlier in the day    but now it
lacks significance    I love the terrain    here in Long Meadow    how you find slopes
    [spitting]    sometimes I’ll    sprint the grassy hills and imagine myself
in The Rockies    “hello”    a girl    stepping out a wagon    running to meet her
friend wearing pink pants that say    Sweet Princess 2009   under this    oak
a man sleeps across coolers    exhausted from today’s heat    another girl   
snores on her dad’s back    and a    woman in    black shirt and hood    throws
football    “hello”    it’s nice to greet my neighbors    my temporary neighbors
I’ll be in New York    two more weeks    though    I feel I’m here    even when I’m
not here    it’s less    a place than    an attitude toward life    commitment to
public life and    good feeling you could say    “nice kick”    a triangular kite
is superimposed    on those mountainous clouds which    don’t seem to be moving
at this particular hill I see    [zipping]    tiny white weeds    [intensified zipping]
and    someone chases a balloon out of which    air has been let it    releases
a zipping sound    as it flies    oh here’s some authentic    cricket
it’s not every day    I see this    I don’t know the rules    for cricket    [radio]
“hello”    [breathing]    I don’t even know if it’s proper to say “let’s go batter” or
“hold em pitcher”    I’m not sure how positions get referred to    in cricket
far in the distance    besides    families carrying bottles    and high-tech baby-
carriages    and a guy who resembles    my fourth-grade friend    Keith Steckler
I can discern a    chunky    corgi    who I’m sure will    pass out in his dish    once he
returns home    [spitting]    now I’ll turn around    and    run back    toward the
other side of Long Meadow    I could repeat this trip    endlessly    here’s a little
pomeranian    “hi”    [tongue clicks]    “a very playful dog”    [tongue clicks]    “is
he friendly”    “we think so    kind of”    “kind of ”    “he’s in a biting”    “oh    he’s a
playful little dog    what do you call him”    “Buddy”    “Buddy    hi Buddy”
Buddy Buddy Bud-dy”    “does Buddy need any water    I have water
down the”    “no we have”    “field    oh there’s a dish for him”    [tongue clicks]
“oh I’m sorry I don’t mean to make him nervous”    “careful”    “hi Buddy”    “he
always does that”    [tinkling tags]    “is that right    is he scared of me
I don’t”    “he’s scared of everyone”    “oh ok    but he is scared right now he’s not
just playing    how old is Buddy”    “five months”    “does he like heat or no”    “the
heat”    “the heat    does he like summer or”    “yeah so far”    “does he
take long walks    through the streets”    “he’s a very good guider
“good dog”    [tinkling tags]    “well maybe next summer    I’ll meet Buddy”
alright”    “see you”    “right”    [wind]    “hello”    “were you trying to touch
“yeah it’s impossible”    “I know”    “we need to exercise patience    and
wait till next year”    “yeah”    “I’ll see you    I’m going to try to forget about
Buddy he’s a soft boy    see you”    [wind]    it looks like    that Chinese girl
tried meeting Buddy as well    I can only imagine    how it would’ve felt to     
bury my    left hand    in his fur    my right holds this walkman
“I GO”    [kick]    “first time I’ve kicked a soccer ball in a while”    “glad I
could do you the favor”    “thank you”    I love retrieving    stray balls    Kierkegaard
longed to be useful    he didn’t feel    all that useful in his    room    thinking
about Christianity    and would walk the streets    wanting to open doors
[voices]    and I    feel splendid returning balls to    groups of friends or
bounded fields    plus it gives me opportunity to practice    kicking and    throwing
though yesterday I threw a ball    probably no more than    ten feet and    my shoulder
aches    [applause]    look at this    another    soccer game    I missed it my
way down the field    the first time    see this is why    I retrace steps here
strictly speaking I’m not retracing steps    I’m not caught    in some vicious
monotonous circle    “I GO”    [wind]    once again an opportunity to retrieve
a ball    “thank you man”    “hey my pleasure”    a bright blue soccerball    more
midnight blue    I’m trying to    pull shirtsleeves    over my shoulders    air
on my body would increase    lucidity    I can’t comprehend how    it would feel
to be barefoot    the    lucidity that would    come from cool summer air
crossing my feet    I’d jog barefoot    in the north shore of Massachusetts
taking a    train    to Manchester by the Sea    I loved those days I’d    always find it
difficult to say    goodnight to my    “I GO”    [kick]    “my pleasure”    a
ruby-colored    soccerball    and now I see people playing    I’ve forgotten
the name of this game    “what is this sport called    I forgot”
croquet”    “croquet that’s right    thank you”    he’s using a    mallet    if
that’s what it’s called    to    hammer down    one of the    well it’s best for me not
to even talk about that game    because I don’t know    the language    [wind]
someday I’ll have to come here and    just sit in the sun    though I don’t
always like the person    I become when    absorbing lots of sunlight    far too lustful
    “LET’S LOOK ALIVE CENTER    YOU GOT IT”    there’s actually a    baseball
game with full    teams if you can believe it    [breathing]    “look alive second”    [bat
striking ball]    “OH    YOU GOT IT SECOND”    alright    he    caught the ball and
stepped on    not a base since they have no bases but   the spot    where the base
would be put   had they brought them   to Long Meadow   [bat striking ball]   “FOUL”
I enjoy serving as    temporary umpire    for    these games I’ll jog through
yesterday    I called balls and strikes    [nose blow]    it’s nice    to see a
baseball    hit    way up in the blue    [far-off applause]    and to watch    people focus
on it    and retrieve it and    throw it back    to where it came from    [wind]
my feet rustle    thick grass    as I jog toward Long Meadow’s    northern end
“here you go”    “thanks”    “my pleasure”    [breathing]    handsome couple    the
woman lying with her leg over the guy’s    I felt the heat    or I could    imagine
a sweaty leg    resting on mine and    enjoying that sensation    “good dog    hi
a dachshund yeah”    “yeah”    “are there    I’m sorry to interrupt    are there places
for dogs to swim in    Prospect Park”    “yes right over there    like literally
“ok that’s good to know    I was in Berlin this summer and saw dachshunds    swim
for the first time in my life”    “she was swimming about ten minutes ago”    “you’re
kidding”    “no”    “I only bring it up because    she seems to have    come from
a swim    her fur has certain    I can’t describe it    I guess it’s still damp but”
sure”    “she    her fur is matted down”    “right”    “just as our hair gets matted
after a day at the beach    for how long    does she swim before tiring”
oh she    doesn’t swim    I made her swim”    “did you throw her in the water”
I didn’t throw”    “I’ve seen that before    I’ve seen owners throw their dogs”    “I
wouldn’t throw her”    “ok”    “she wouldn’t like it”    “and why did you think it a good
idea for her to    swim today”    “I just wanted her    to experience it    she’d
never been in the water    I wanted to see how she responds”    “well it’s
a pleasure talking”    “alright have a good day”    “bye bye    do you think
she’ll step in the water next time of her    own    accord”    “I don’t think so
“it was semi-traumatic”    “I think perhaps”    “did she sprint onto the bank”
she did”    “did she really    well she seems    perfectly adjusted in the grass”   
yeah she does”    “yeah I never would’ve guessed she had a traumatic experience   
earlier in the day    take care”    “alright    bye”    [breathing]    nice talking with
a neighbor    I think she saw the    mic on my collar but was    “hello”
still happy to talk    “I go    there you oh    OH I’M SORRY    I didn’t mean
to throw it over your head”    retrieved a volleyball with my    left hand
and I’m not used to    throwing left-handed so I put too much into    that toss
it sailed    past a woman’s head    but    was soon retrieved and in fact the distance
between her and the ball    was less    than what it would’ve been had I not run by
    which means I    think I helped    now I’m in a quiet cove    “I GO”    [wind]    I
was in the cove but decided to retrieve    [kick]    this soccer ball instead
I still have to retrieve    because my    kick was insufficient    “here you
go”    [wind]    this cove    is where    quiet souls    dwell
I see couples in love    though maybe some are    in difficult stages and need
quiet    to sort through    difficulties    real or imagined    [spitting]    I see logs
turned into benches    and from    the forest I can hear    the evening’s    first cricket
I’ll step in these woods    it’s faint    [silence]    “hello”    a good-looking
pair plays cards    on flannel blankets    they looked over and    smiled and
nodded    and that’s what I’m talking about    the good feeling which pervades this
city    I’ve lived in a number of cities and    I don’t mean to sound    sentimental
but if I could have    a life in New York I’d be grateful    although I don’t always feel
much in common    “oh hello”    “what’s up”    “hello    that’s right    let’s go defense
    you got em”    it’s a lovely    volleyball game right here    the slappy style
of volleyball I    personally enjoy    I’ll stand and watch a moment    [Mexican
guitar music]    “NI    NICE PLAY”    my voice cracked    because I was
so happy    well you know    people have said that    art directors
are replacing artists and music producers    are replacing    musicians    [voices]
but still I find    pleasure    in this density of perception    “hi    just talking
talking to my friend    thank you”    a little girl was totally    baffled    by the fact  
I’m speaking to    apparently nobody    and seems reassured    by the remark I’m talking
    to a friend    she’s wearing an orange shirt    has braids    “hello”    “hey what’s up bro
    “going for a run”    “I can see that”    and it’s nice too    when greeting somebody   
even if you don’t know them    you say man or bro or    I’m not sure what I’d call   
a woman    but I can say hi and not be    considered    insane or    trying to pick
her up    [voices]    I’ve sweated through this shirt    [silence]    today I spoke with   
Brian about my final    memory of    Berlin    and it was the sun
at a Weissensee train-station    illuminating    Anna’s skin    there were    countless
tiny golden hairs    around her    neck    and shoulders    and now I see    a dog    with its
hairs    lit up    I’m close to Buddy once again    we’ll see if he’s    more relaxed and
    comes over to me this time    a guy drags a kite    lots of string    unraveled
this was the triangular kite against the    clouds earlier    which have
since moved on    “I GO”   [wind]    a baseball sailed over    “here you are”
a young dad’s head    his son pitches to him    I threw the ball back to    the boy
but he didn’t catch it    he seems pretty uncoordinated I have to say    though I
think I’d rather be    an uncoordinated kid in New York    who at least knows the name
    Gauguin    or the name    Baudelaire    for example    than    oh    I just tried
lunging for this frisbee    “OH THIS IS FOR BUDDY    HERE YOU GO BUDDY
    OOPS OH    OH SORRY”    Buddy’s now off-leash    and his frisbee flew toward
me    “look at Buddy    I think he wants to play    I love the sound of his collar
well    you six    have a nice night    including Buddy”    [wind]    “wow    good kick
I GO    I’ll get it”    a soccerball    was kicked rather hard    at the goalie    who
stands between two trees and    that’s funny    as I kicked the ball back
it hit a juice bottle    and sent the bottle    into the air


Recorded August 2009
Transcribed May 2013 

The American Reader stopped publishing in 2015.
This is a living archive of our work.