Turning Point




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Sample Poems by Sarah Freligh

No-Hitter, Fifth Inning

Too early to hope hell
he’s been here before jinxed
himself by thinking
too much hung
a curve to some jive rook
who gave it a ride high
fived his way around the bases

The Wages of Sin in Western New York

Fourth of July a tornado crashes
parties, backyard picnics, tosses ten
houses a dozen miles north, plants them
in a farmer’s field. A warning

God’s running out of patience,
says the parish priest, prompting
a parade of people to drive out after mass
to witness just what He has wrought.

Al finds a pair of sneakers that exactly
fit his feet, a catcher’s mitt, nearly new,
a birthday card signed Marge and Greg,
a baby doll without its head. Wonders

what Marge did, or Greg, to piss off God,
make Him stir the air with His index finger,
twist the wind so it blew their lives
to kingdom come. What could He

do now to Al, his family, snug in their Chevy,
a blue bead in the rosary of cars strung
bumper to bumper in both directions,
do to them when they bend

to say grace over Sunday dinner?
Suppose there’s a heavenly blackboard
somewhere bearing their names, a blizzard
of chalk marks tallied by angels

waiting to give the high sign to Him
that they’ve run out of chances, time
for a natural disaster to show who’s boss.
Afterward would some small boy sift

through the rubble, think about
the wages of sin? Or would he test
the leather of a catcher’s mitt, think
finder’s keepers, loser’s weepers?

Snapshot: Tomas and Evvie, April 23, 1949

Evvie is smiling. Why not? It’s Saturday,
sunny and seventy-two, not a cloud
on the horizon behind her.
She’s wearing her Sunday hat,
black velvet banding the crown,
forty dollars downtown,
what she earns in a month frying fish.
Three-inch heels, perfume and a garter belt,
stockings that whisper soft
as she walks. She feels like a queen.
It’s spring. She’s nineteen.
She’d like to be in love.

Tomas is smiling. Why not? He’s on furlough
from the steel mill, thirsty for release
from a week of brown bag lunches
and yes, sir. He’s wearing the fedora
he bought for ten cents at the Salvation Army,
cocked low on his forehead, slicing
his face into shadow and light. He’s gangster
handsome, the movie star who gets the girl,
the small-waisted one with the ripe
red mouth.

Tomas and Evvie are smiling. Why not?
Arm in arm, cheek to cheek, fresh
from a nickel cruise to Canada
and back where they shared
a cigarette in the stern as they watched
the buildings of the city shrink.
They smile for the photographer
who doesn’t need to say cheese, smile
as they walk the streets holding hands,
past a bum rummaging through a garbage bin,
his clanging hunger dim to their ears,
past men on corners, women on stoops.
Evvie is smiling as she removes
her shoes and tiptoes upstairs
to Tomas’ room where he skins
the dress from her shoulders, covers
her breasts with his hands, feels
her heart leap to his touch. He reels
it in, nets it for himself.
She turns and sighs yes
to him, hooked.

Tomas and Evvie are smiling.
Why? she wonders. Can’t remember
the sun, the cloudless sky, the light
off Lake Erie. Just this:
two fools clutching each other
for dear life, grinning like survivors
of a shipwreck. If they’d stood
in the bow of the boat, they would
have seen the rocks, jagged and black,
the V of the prow knifing
through rough water, the slap
of waves against the hull, seen
what was ahead of them, yes,
the endless slap of waves.

Bonus Baby

The scout who discovered Al grins
over his Al’s left shoulder, smiling like a sailor
sighting land after months at sea, land
at last, when—finally!—Al signs, smiling
his Mickey Mantle smile
for the flash of cameras radiating
the room, for his mom and dad sitting
in folding chairs like small gray paper dolls
pasted there for this occasion.

Afterward Al’s paraded through the neighborhood,
perched on a bullet-colored convertible
borrowed from Pulaski’s lot, bookended
between his parents who wave like new
Miss Americas to three people drinking
from paper bags in front of Fred & Eddie’s,
to the VFW where Al shakes hands with his uncles,
hugs his aunts who cry and bury his head
between the boulders of their breasts.
Al’s father sips a ginger-ale, wishing
he could sweeten it with a nip
of whiskey while Al’s mother arranges
furniture in the living room of the dream
house Al will buy her.