“A Perfect Game,” by Yesenia Montilla

This poem starts out nostalgic, and then becomes very serious very quickly.  It points to some uncomfortable issues, including Sammy Sosa’s skin bleaching. This poem was originally published in the Winter 2015 issue of Prairie Schooner.

*

To this day I still remember sitting
on my abuelo’s lap watching                 the Yankees hit,
then run, a soft wind rounding the bases
every foot tap to the white pad gentle as a       kiss.

How I loved those afternoons languidly
eating jamón sandwiches & drinking root beer.

Later, when I knew something about                 the blue collar
man—my father who worked with his hands & tumbled
into the house exhausted like heat in a rainstorm—
I became a Mets fan.

Something about                 their unclean                 faces
their mustaches               seemed rough
to the touch. They had names like       Wally & Dyskstra.
I was certain I would                 marry a man just like them

that is until                      Sammy Sosa came along

with his smile a reptile that only knew about lying in the sun.
His arms were cannons and his skin burnt cinnamon
that glistened in my dreams.

Everyone said he was not       beautiful.

Out on the streets where the men set up shop playing dominoes
I’d hear them say between the yelling of       capicu
“como juega, pero feo como el diablo.”

I knew nothing of my history
of the infighting on an island on which one side swore
it was only one thing: pallid, pristine.                        & I didn’t know
that Sammy carried this history like a                    tattoo.

That he wished everyday to be                 white.

It is a perfect game this race war, it is everywhere,       living
in the American bayou as much as
the Dominican dirt roads.
It makes a man do something to his skin that seems unholy.
It makes that same man change               eye color like a soft
summer dress slipped on slowly.
It makes a grandmother ask her granddaughter

if she’s suffering
from something feverish
because that could be the only excuse why
her hair has not been straightened
like a ballerina’s back                 dyed the color of wild
daffodils growing in an outfield.

Sammy hit 66 home runs one year
& that was still            not                  enough
to make him feel handsome

or worthy of that blackness that I believe a gift
even today while black churches burn & black bodies
disappear from one day to the next the same as old
pennies.

I think of him often       barely remember what he looked like

but I can recall his       hunched shoulders in the
dugout                 his perfect swing
& how maybe he spit out       something black
from his mouth                 after
every                 single                                  strike—



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