Poetry by Richard M. Berlin, M.D. - "Fungo"
He walked home where the path cut
through right field, a blazer hanging off
his arm like a loose bandage,
the smells of subway sweat
and leather soaked into his skin.
He'd wave to future baseball stars
deep in fantasy and finish his forced march home.
One August night, when haze and humidity
hung over New Jersey like a steamy dream,
he loosened his tie and asked if he could hit
a few fly balls, fungo. I'd never seen him play,
and when he picked up the bat and ball
in the wrong hands, I pulled the cap over my eyes
and wished he had kept on walking.
I'd like to tell you he found his range,
launched a long fly ball to deep right field,
that he backed us to the fence,
his arms synchronized with the bat,
the ball flying in perfect arcs through twilight air,
that we stopped when the last line
drive cleared the outfield fence.
But the truth doesn't matter here.
What is left are the memories
of thick August air and cricket buzz,
the pink glow of city lights on haze,
a ball field paved over now in black,
all the shame sons can feel for fathers,
and the way I walk through late summer,
the smell of his sweat under my arms.
Dr. Berlin is associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Berlin recently established the Gerald F. Berlin Creative Writing Award at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the only medical student creative writing prize in the United States.