Monday, July 24, 2017

A Perfect Game

Seven years ago, my cousin Patrick succumbed to cancer at the age of 17. He always had a bright spirit, and he loved his family, his life, and baseball. As a pitcher, he once threw a no-hitter (which means that he struck out everyone batting against him before they could even hit the ball). When he died, I wrote this poem to honor his life. It is a ballad about Patrick's battle with cancer, and the day he pitched the perfect game, and the indelible mark he left on his loved ones.

At home when on the pitcher’s mound, he wound up for the pitch—
his legendary pitch, renowned, confounding speeds he threw—
and he was calm out on the field; not one revealing twitch
revealed he might have fear concealed: for he was fearless too.

And later, when the doctors found him sick, he still was brave,
still calm, as if still on the mound, still quick though he was ill;
his body riddled by the cancer, Patrick knew the way,
and only Patrick knew the answer, how to stay strong-willed.

He loosed the ball and on it flew, and turbulent it burned
a break-neck path to home plate, through the batter’s errant swinging.
Another pitch, another strike; and now a third, a third—
the umpire cried, his eyes alight, “You’re out!”—the crowd was singing.

And what a crowd our Patrick drew, when he was sick in bed:
his friends and family, strangers too, all came to wish him well;
yes people on the thousands came, to help relieve the dread,
but Patrick, fearless at his game, was fearless here as well.

That day will live in legend when the pitcher Patrick threw
a perfect game—no-hitter—then walked calmly off the field.
One for the books, his chance at fame; I think that Patrick knew
that steady courage wins the game, that courage wins appeal.

So, calm and cool, he took the news that none of us took calmly;
though we supported him, it’s true his courage helped us too.
As in the game, so in ill health, with courage and aplomb, he
moved us through his hard time, impelled us through by being true.

And Patrick, though his life was short, did things that few men do:
he threw a perfect game, what’s more, he warmed his home and hearth.
The legend, number seven, he was brave, kind, funny too;
and though he’s now in Heaven he lives still here in our hearts.

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