Yield to Stroller


My son Jiro loves city buses and any bus-like vehicle. When we stop at an intersection to cross the street, he kicks his arms and legs from his stroller and yelps in delight at a Fedex truck. Its driver waves back and holds up traffic to let us cross. When a cab behind him honks in protest, the truck driver leans out his window, “yo! it’s a f*cking baby.”

On our daily coffee run I hurry across the street with the stroller, crossing in front of a cyclist who has to slow down. He turns his head as he passes and I prepare to be scolded for jaywalking with a child.

“Babies before bikes,” he says with a smile and rides on.
Red Socks

On vacation in San Francisco, we push Jiro up and down the hilly streets. A laid-back California guy stops his car and calls out, “A man with red socks always has the right of way.”


Kerry D. Martin


I push my son in his stroller around our Brooklyn neighborhood for entertainment. We encounter other mothers with babies doing the same thing. One woman wearing a tiny infant in a sling stops to say hello to us.

“He’s so big. Is he Asian?” she asks.

“Thanks,” I say. “His father is from Japan.”

“He’s part Korean,” she looks down at her baby. “Sperm donor.”


Kerry D. Martin


An old man resembling a hobo out of a movie asks me one morning if I know where Ten Eyck Street is. I have lived blocks away from it for thirteen years.

When I was in the first grade I had a crush on Steven Eick. A blond boy with the kind of smile that turns one’s face into a series of wrinkles. His eyes became two down-turned em-dashes.

We used to wait in line in the auditorium after school let out for the school bus together. When you’re a kid so much activity takes place while waiting for things to happen.

My older brother Pete always called him “Steven Itch.” He told Steven one day (in front of me) that I liked him. I denied it and Steven looked off into the distance, distracted by embarrassment. Things were never the same between us after that. It was always hanging in the air.

I’m thinking about this with the hobo standing in front of me. “I’ll ask someone else,” he says.


Kerry D. Martin


I never saw my Grandma K in a bathing suit so I made the assumption that older people aren’t allowed to go in the water. Maybe something would happen to their thin bones or papery skin, maybe their organs couldn’t stand up to being emerged in water; I wasn’t certain.

My grandparents each had their own bedroom, side by side, each with a single bed on top of golden shag carpeting. My Grandma K’s floor was covered with a forest of paper bags. Her filing system.

One year the women in my family went on a “girl’s getaway” together. I saw my Grandma K walk out of our hotel room bathroom in a black bra and slip.

I spent most of the trip swimming along the bottom of the hotel pool. I scraped the bridge of my nose on the blue concrete. My grandmother, watching me from a deck chair came over next to the pool and dipped her hand in the water and said, “just the temperature I like it” leaving me to wonder how she would know.


Kerry D. Martin



It my top dresser drawer live a layer of delicate, pretty bras that have been undisurbed for the past two-and-a-half years. Shoved in with them, in heavy rotation are taupe-colored, utilitarian nursing bras. They are like pushy subway passengers taking seats that are clearly too small for them.

Scissor Lover

A barista with a Russian accent asks me to repeat my order. She’s staring at my necklace, which is a tiny pair of scissors.

“I don’t even know what you said, I was looking at your necklace. I just love scissors.”

Gladiator Sandals

These remind me of shin guards, or something that belongs in Beetlejuice.


Kerry D. Martin


My son Jiro is hooked on crackers. Anything you need him to do can probably be accomplished by giving him a cracker. One day I push him on the swings in a Greenpoint playground where an emerging condo is going to ruin the view of Manhattan. When he reaches for the construction site I incorrectly call one of the diggers a tractor.

“Cracker?!” he asks.


Kerry D. Martin

Greg Maddux

“I’ll play with him any day.” Andre Dawson, spring, 1988 when asked about pitcher Greg Maddux’s prospects with the Major League ball club the Chicago Cubs.

“Only a wind that keeps turning, turning
Around an abandoned ball park.
That blows and blows, forever blowing
Away: always away from home.”

–“The Swede was a Hard Guy”, Nelson Algren

I A feeling on the el sometimes

Late March, there is rain, in Chicago
the wind is still cold like January
though the sun warms with promises,
and then, Greg Maddux is gone.

Sometimes, loud el ride,
this is the final straw. This is the push
over the proverbial edge, people thinking
about other people, staring at brownstones
and into windows of the buildings
along the track and then,
Maddux is in Atlanta.

II Everyone tells stories

Baseball in Chicago is like everything
in Chicago, or perhaps, it is the other way
around. There is dirt mixed
with faith and love—there are ballplayers
from 1919 we still long
to claim and clean and make
beautiful as they were, before
broken conspiracies opened up
like the Lake at the end of all
these brick buildings. Chicago longs
to open up like the ploughed fields
that created it, longs to leave
on the railroads that made it.
Telling stories of itself through
the night, an epic sprawled out
and spelled strewn on the corpses
in garages, in alleys, in courtrooms
all built on this ancient swamp.

In Chicago everything is examined,
everything becomes part of the narrative
and you can bet that criminals on first
examination, are saints on the fifth.
Maddux, his first 20 win season dangling,
let it go, defending a teammate
in the fifth inning of a 9-0 game.
Maddux, those of us who watched will never
tire of saying, was more beautiful than Koufax,
more dominating than Johnson.
Maddux destroyed the batters’ belief,
made them the yokels
from New York, from L.A.
From cities that tried to take the railroads from us
a century ago. He looked effortless,
he was clawing at you.

If Maddux fell apart in the play-offs,
was it not because he had thrown so much,
held together so much an entire season?
In Chicago, baseball is an effort for tragic heroes,
for illiterate Hamlets and joyful Romeos
who would play baseball as if seduced,
as if the game was destined, through
annual heartbreak to find, sometime,
a rapture. We have been snake-bit,
sunburned, sold into purgatory for the sins
of the chafed and the chafing:
There were lords to defy,
there were subjects to keep in place.
Conspiracy is Chicago’s wine,
time again it leads to a truth
so great, that Chicago, in its writhing,
is great. Our players are beautiful,
we misplace them like so many toy soldiers.
We wait the winter for them.

III 1969

It began, in late summer, with a cat.
Soon it was Seaver, and not Jenkins,
soon order asserted itself. We were left
with beer-stained memories, memories
of bleacherites discussing Santo’s quick hands,
much the way, generations earlier,
bleacherites discussed Weaver’s
just to the South. What summer promised,
the fall so easily took away: this game is
an artist’s game, a skill of hands.

IV Fanatics are sad in October

In September the sun is warm, but the wind
promises the winter, it begins its process
of expiation early. All these beautiful leaves
that have fallen then: the ball fell through
Hap’s glove and he says it was an honest play.
It is Chicago, there is no doubt that this was
the honest play.

In 1984 the ball went through the Bull’s glove,
and this too, was an honest play:
this too, was a wound to the heart.
You will hear grown men, without irony,
describe where they were when that happened,
what they were drinking, what they said:
other lines to add to the corpses’ bodies.

There are ghosts in baseball: there is the ghost
of Eddie Cicotte aching to use his arm in Game One.
He felt his good stuff but he had given away his arm.
It was classic Chicago, how the deception
turned on the deceptor, revealed the saint within
at the moment of sin.

There is Hartnett, the ivy gone, the sun down,
the knees weary with summer in this now awesome
September streak and if we did not hear
the bat groan from our seats in the grandstand,
could we even see the ball slip the sky
for the bleachers? If there were no miracles
left for fall, was there not that moment,
when like wine from water, day was taken
from night? Baseball was released:
it was the revelation of drama.
It was the festival for harvests,
beginning with the planting,
ending with the gathering.

V Ballparks

Maddux is in Atlanta now,
there he is in that new ballpark,
that ballpark that doesn’t even remember Aaron.
In Chicago the graves are kept for the bodies
but not the ghosts,
it was here that Ruth called
or did not call the homerun,
where Hornsby snarled and a collection
of our 4-Fs lost to some 4-Fs from Detroit
after the War had ended.
Maddux is in Atlanta moving the ball in
on hitters so that they hit it off their feet,
so they roll it to the second basemen,
so Maddux can chase this perfection in peace,
without the echoes of this demon-town
with its beautiful ghosts.


Andrew Decker