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Bruce Johnson


The Stadium, 1995,

a late July night in the Bronx.

Liz was eight and Billy fourteen,

and I can’t remember who

was playing for the Yankees,

except that Paul O’Neill

was Billy’s favorite.

I think the Rangers were in town,

but I can’t tell you who won,

just that Billy and Liz and I

cheered through extra innings

from the nosebleed seats above home plate

under stadium lights as bright as day.

Round about eleven-thirty we heard

the first Strains of “New York, New York”

as forty thousand fans filed out.

We sat and watched the place empty.

The black night beyond those lights,

and the vacancy of the ballfield

made the grass an impossible green

and the baselines a soft, even brown.

For a few moments this small world was ours

and only ours. For a few moments

there was nowhere else to be.

Then Sinatra finished his song

and security waved us down

from our seats and toward the exit.

We made our way to the empty

parking lot, where I realized

that it was unwise to have walked

the empty Bronx streets at midnight.

But we made it to the car

and drove across the Triborough

to what seemed like safety on Long Island.

Billy still had twelve years, good and bad,

and we went to the game many times more,

and we often chose to sit and wait

for the empty silence at the end of that song,

the impossible green silence,

the soft brown stillness,

for the foolish feeling of permanence and ownership

of a time and place that can only be borrowed.

After each game, we walked

the darkened streets and fought the traffic

to the far side of the bridge,

and I always delivered the kids

safely to their home.

Then Billy’s time was up,

and going to the game didn’t make sense anymore,

and anyway, security had started chasing us

out of our seats long before the song ended.

Bruce Johnson is a lifelong resident of Long Island and lifelong lover of poetry.  He recently published a collection of his poems, “Borderlands and Dreams,” written over the past 30 years.