51 Years, 5 Months, 23 Days

 

(This long poem is part of an ongoing encyclopedic epic about

the place where the author lives,  Euclid Creek:  A Journey.)  

 

 

               1

 

DECEMBER 27, 1964

 

             to

 

   JUNE 19, 2016

 

No clever epitaph,

                            because these are not

birth and death dates on the tombstone

of someone comparatively short-lived

in early twenty-first-century America,

                                                      but, 

                                                             rather,

the lifespan of the championship drought

of my home's professional sports teams

 

(nitpickers will quibble,

                                  mentioning

minor-league and minor-sport teams

as well as natives who've won titles

in individual sports

                             during that span,

to which I say:

Go write your own poem)

 

I thought the seventh game

of the best-of-seven series,

the first close contest of the series,

was destined to go to overtime,

                                               but

a key block,

                   and a three-point shot,

made overtime unnecessary

 

When the buzzer sounded ending the game,

I heard some shouts of joy

from other apartments in my building

(our windows open on the warm

almost-summer evening),

                                      and

I hope the areawide celebration

won't involve anything more serious

than excessive noise

 

                                    And

I hope the title will finally put to rest

the talk of our town's being under

some sort of supernatural curse

(inept management is definitely a curse,

                                                            but

there's nothing supernatural about it)

 

 

               2

 

When I wake up the next morning

I realize yesterday wasn't a dream,

                                                    and

I take great pride that,

                                 again,

it didn't happen here,

                                that my town,

unlike other towns,

                             had no reports

of shootings,

                     stabbings,

                                     or things set on fire

as a way of 'celebrating' a championship,

though a local radio host has promised

to set a couch on fire to 'celebrate'

(he later did so;

                        people like him

help to keep my former firefighting

brothers and sisters employed)

There was nothing bad reported,

other than a few broken windows downtown

I hope my town will be different

from other towns in another way as well:

                                                            that,

unlike in Boston and Chicago and other places,

all those who say now they can die happy

will have the good grace to actually die

(no reports as to whether anyone

said such a thing here)

 

I will use the longest day of the year

to celebrate in my own way,

exploring the city on the day after

 

I visit

some of those former brothers and sisters

for the first time in a year,

                                      and

we all rejoice in the title,

                                     even 

those who aren't basketball fans

 

I drive past the Cleveland Clinic,

the hospital that ate Cleveland

(and the one that advertises,

in good times and bad,

its proud connection to all

the local sports teams)

Traffic around there is extremely slow

because lanes are closed and the road torn up

This is one area of the city

where,

           as promises,

road repairs are always on schedule

 

I drive by the ballpark

when my city's first championship

was won ninety-six years ago

After decades of disuse and decay,

it has been restored:

part is now a baseball museum,

part has been reconfigured

to an actual playing field

                                       And

in the heat of the day there are several kids

out on the field getting a head start

in achieving their dreams

 

Near my credit union

a pawnshop displays a sign

welcoming the political party

that will be holding its convention

here next month;

                          they haven't yet

put up a sign congratulating the team

on winning the championship

The road in front of the pawnshop

has been beyond bad for years

with craters,

                   and

with hills on the road

where no hills are called for

Scheduled road repairs here

seem to be an urban legend

(though the road will be fixed eventually)

 

I drive past the football stadium,

a half-billion-dollar boondoggle

built on the site of an earlier boondoggle

where my city's teams had played

when they won the rest of their championships

(this season and next season

will show the current football team to be

an even bigger boondoggle than any stadium),

                                                                    and

the reinforced-concrete barriers

on the sides of the elevated highway

have a number of places where

the concrete has broken away,

showing the steel skeleton inside

 

I have lunch with my daughter,

celebrating Father's Day today

because she had to work yesterday

The restaurant has pictures on its walls

of past Cleveland sports glory;

I'm predicting 

ones of yesterday's victory

will be going up soon

 

The billboards along the highway

have

          (possibly)

                           foregone

a little income temporarily,

                                       as

one of the flashing ads congratulates

the Cavaliers on their championship

 

Does my city contradict itself?

Very well then, it contradicts itself;

it is large,

               and,

though not as large as it once was,

it still contains multitudes

 

 

              3

 

Two days later,

                       a Wednesday,

                                             an estimated

one-million three-hundred-thousand people

(all estimates are suspect)

attended the championship parade

through a few downtown streets

I saw some coverage of the pre-parade

while eating lunch at a restaurant;

fortunately I had finishing eating

when the media lackeys

(uniformly genuflectors before wealth,

no matter how it was obtained)

began to lionize the loan shark

who owns the team

 

                                Later,

not being a fan of parades or crowds,

I watched more of the parade

from a neighborhood bar

(the fifty or so people there

a big enough crowd for me):

                                          people

were climbing utility poles,

were climbing street signs,

were climbing The Free Stamp,

were coming dangerously close

to the vehicles in the parade,

all in order to get a better view

(I wonder how many of the loan shark's victims

were among the celebrants)

 

When the parade reached its destination

there were many short speeches given

                                                           (later,

prudes would criticize the star

for having used profanity)

 

 

                 4

 

It is now over two years later

The local teams have since sustained

three defeats in the championship round,

but the memory of the championship 

remains,

             and will do so

as long as my memory remains

 

Michael Ceraolo

 

Bio:  Michael Ceraolo is a 63-year-old retired firefighter/paramedic and active poet who has had two full-length books (Euclid Creek, from Deep Cleveland Press; 500 Cleveland Haiku, from Writing Knights Press) published, and has two more, Euclid Creek Book Two and Lawyers, Guns, and Money, in the publication pipeline.