“It has been worse than anything you can imagine.”
—Kathleen DeSerio, plaintiff in DeSerio vs. Ingraham, on her neighbor’s baseball diamond
She can’t see photo, quote will stand in Sunday’s
New York Times beside the war crimes, famine, hurricanes.
So much is worse than this lush land above a ball field.
Her belfried house above despised green velvet, perfect
pats of white the bases, home. Working men working
on smooth infield, outfield. They wave.
The zoning: bleachers are out. Also aluminum bats.
It has been worse than anything you can imagine.
Worse than stained machetes, rivers full of bloated cows.
Worse being hungry, getting stabbed or getting
fired. Bear with me, now, Kathleen: the sound of far-off
cheering, the smack of wooden bat to ball, that’s worse
than, say, someone breaking in and knifing all your chairs? Worse
than never knowing love? The imagination reels: the people stand in line
to trade their lot with yours. The Times includes a photo. Standing stiff
and pained, your arms are folded, lips thin. Tight. Your place
is thick with trees. Beyond them you can see, in miniature,
the ball field. It has been worse than anything you can imagine.
Worst thing there is in Tewksbury—in the full soul, collective
imagination of New Jersey, nothing’s worse. Kathleen DeSerio
is serious. She means it; read those lips. Her villain,
Mr. Ingraham, says, appealingly, God damned Americanally,
If they try to stop us they’re going to have to drag me off
that field in cuffs. His photo, taken late some sunny afternoon:
the shadows of a boy, his father, long beside their gloved and batted
bodies. Armed against the weak imagination of DeSerio.
The field wide behind them, glorious and mowed.
The winner of three Pushcart prizes, poet JILL MCDONOUGH taught incarcerated college students for thirteen years. She teaches in the MFA program at UMass-Boston and directs 24PearlStreet, the Fine Arts Work Center online.