3 Prose Poems by Gerard Sarnat
Updated: Feb 1
At War With The World
-- thanks to PBS American Masters, 23July2018
Ted Williams was “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived.”
So confident of skills, batting average .39955 which record books would’ve rounded-up to .400,
the Splendid Splinter refused to sit out the last game of that season, instead went 6 for 8 in a double-header to raise his average to .406. “If I’d known hitting .400 was going to be such a big deal, I would’ve done it again.”
Ashamed of Salvation Army Mexican mother and hating grifter white trash father, Ted invoked them at the plate, “I hit better mad.”
Also OCD regarding fishing technique, he was inducted into two of their Halls of Fame plus baseball’s. He missed his first child’s birth, on the water in another state. “I thought about hitting, not sex.”
A biographer recounted, “As a husband and father, he didn’t have family background to help, ‘This’s the way to be with a wife and kids.’”
For better and worse, Williams was a man’s man, John Wayne before there was a John Wayne.
Missing five years as a crack fighter pilot in World War II then Korea, Ted speculated, “Imagine the numbers if I’d played.”
Feud with hometown Boston love-hate sportswriters and fans were legendary. After some slight as a rookie, he refused to tip his hat as was customary rounding third base post home runs – including after his last-ever at bat when he blasted one out of Fenway Park – till surprising everybody doffing his Red Sox cap addressing the crowd on the 50th anniversary hitting over .400.
During college in Boston, I came early to catch glimpsed of Ted instructing new and eventual Hall of Famer left fielder Carl Yastrzemski on the science of hitting. I thought of Williams as a left-handed big cat, but actually he’s a cold fish, still existing frozen by Cryonics.
Virgin Spring Renaissance Faire, Circa 1973
Carrying my toy plastic axe, I am all decked out like a faux woodsman while she plays the part of fair damsel in distress wearing one quite fine, long sequin red velvet dress.
We wink our easy way through Marin County’s annual Shakespearean dress-up celebration, watch chained mama plus bear cubs, ride giant rope swings hung from huge Sequoias, devour corn on the cobs slathered in butter, baked goodies and fire-pit exotic meats made to seem perfectly fit for a king Medieval from an Ingmar Bergman movie classic.
But the object remembered most from now a half-century ago is a wonderfully hand-crafted wooden cradle with its exquisitely scalloped delicate décor bordering super-wide slats which today (along with mistreatment of above hibernating animals) probably would be banned. That’s because in 20:20 hindsight there’s obvious potential danger of our firstborn, currently getting ready to exit my wife’s womb to join us, might get her head stuck between its bars -- thus destroying these fantasies.
While I took this year out from my Harvard medical internship, we lived in an unincorporated part of the wild and wooly Pt. Reyes National Seashore -- bottom of an unpaved road which no municipality or government could be convinced to plough during muddy winter.
So I had to leave the Volvo topside in order to assure how our old auto would not get stuck when time-to-go-deliver came to push my humongously pregnant wife uphill then take to hospital, including during three extra trips for Braxton-Hicks false alarms
Such a hard-won respite from training in Boston’s mecca didn’t happen without paying the price when we returned. The prickly Chief of Staff for West Roxbury’s Veterans Administration Center didn’t allow me to start assigned rotations, Since no serious Havad physicians should EVER interrupt hallowed residency to have a silly family --until his boss overruled.
Soon as we are able to escape back to friendlier Northern California environs with new daughter in tow, I had barely checked where we’d stored our residual furniture that didn’t sell before we left, only to discover despite carefully locked doors everything except our precious crib had been cadged probably by the sketchy neighborhood’s infamous beastly heroin addict.
Subsequently we nostalgically schlepped our cradle home to home. It never occurred to leave a single uncribbed belonging behind. But the once cherished bassinet beauty is never used for other kids or theirs – although if truth be told, similar to on Netflix’s currently trending Tiding Up, I can’t just yet bear tossing away what was our youth.
Once In A Lifetime Reunion With Someone Universally Known
Big jigsaw piece left in mid-septuagenarian’s “unfinished business” quest, I flew to Lincoln for rib-eyed medium rare steak at Flatiron before frittered the next day away downing Indian food before idling in a few museums ‘til donning tie/ jacket at 5PM to remeet my chum.
When a young man on the come from Nebraska via Andover Prep, this Harvard frosh roommate who campaigned to be president of the Class of ’67 and wanted along with many of us to succeed alumnus JFK as POTUS, visited my parents’ Los Angeles home where we engaged in ping-pong death matches which he won.
Since then [name withheld] has become an ultimate top-tier VIP, a person of unlimited re$ources, influence, recognition, connections.
When I arrived twelve days before the mid-term elections, he was on the phone with Nancy Pelosi assessing Democrat chances of taking back the House and her becoming Speaker once again.
____ also mentioned that Tom Steyer, who was a recipient of one of those rightwing terrorist pipe bombs a few hours before, was a good friend but ____ does not believe the Impeachment Initiative is the optimal way to proceed now dealing with Trump.
More details of which are imprudent to share right here in public.
But getting back to that two-stop pilgrimage arriving from San Jose: we spent our first time since college downing cherry Cokes dining while schmoozing at his club not far from where Malcolm X was born.
In setting up our tete-a-tete through Hecuba gatekeepers whose jobs are to keep seekers at bay, I’m clear: Want nothing. Zip ulterior agenda.My primary purpose is to make him happy no matter our interaction.
Whether The Convo develops like I would prefer beyond good-old-days nostalgia toward intimate, animated, wide-ranging worldly reflection.
More than four hours of what seemed to me to be riveting talk I think turned out to be both -- and maybe possibly even bilaterally fulfilling.
What’s it been like for such a naturally withdrawn person to be a celebrity?
How has it been with just about everybody on earth wanting a piece of you?
What has it been like to be in the catbird’s seat of insider comprehension?
But together, ninety-nine percent of the questions went from me to him.
One hundred percent of the photos and family stories shared were mine.
After dinner as we were winding up, not exactly but kinda sort of as a joke, I made a move to pick up the tab but smiling he would have none of it.
Plus I wasn’t invited back to the same house he grew up in which we passed.
Nevertheless, it was no quicky obligatory perfunctory meal before his driver hulky enough to serve as bodyguard if needed, did not drop him at home (no words were exchanged between them) before taking me back to the hotel.
My once buddy went those extra miles to The Hilton, got out of the limo -- actually, it was more a below-the-radar town car -- to give me goodbye hugs.
Following morning while I waited for the shuttle bus to take me back to the airport, the Senior serious Hecuba texted, “Hi Gerry, it was SOO nice meeting you in person finally yesterday! It was just great of you to visit. And I know ____ truly enjoyed spending time with you. Could you send me a copy of the photo of the two of you? I know ___ would love a copy.”
Biography: Gerard Sarnat won San Francisco Poetry’s 2020 Contest, the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, and has been nominated for handfuls of 2021 and previous Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards. Gerry is widely published including in 2022 Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival Anthology, The Deronda Review, Jewish Writing Project, Hong Kong Review, Tokyo Poetry Journal, Buddhist Poetry Review, Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, Arkansas Review, Hamilton-Stone Review, Northampton Review, New Haven Poetry Institute, Texas Review, Vonnegut Journal, Brooklyn Review, San Francisco Magazine, Monterey Poetry Review, The Los Angeles Review, and The New York Times as well as by Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Penn, Columbia, North Dakota, McMaster and University of Chicago presses. He’s authored the collections Homeless Chronicles, Disputes, 17s, Melting the Ice King. Gerry is a Harvard-trained physician who’s built and staffed clinics for the marginalized as well as a Stanford professor and healthcare CEO. Currently he is devoting energy/ resources to deal with climate justice, and serves on Climate Action Now’s board. Gerry’s been married since 1969 with three kids plus six grandsons, and is looking forward to potential future granddaughters.