My grandfather is lying in the hospital bed
Listening to the radio every night.
It's the second week of the season; he's an Orioles fan
Ever since the O's came to Baltimore
In 1954—but it's 1988 and they lose game
After game after game after game after game.
My grandfather's face looks like a hardball hit it—
Black and blue and yellow. It's cancer
That tie dyes you in muted shades so you
Wind up looking like a hung-over toad,
Which is no big thing to my grandfather
Who drank too much and smoked way too much—
Cigars-but never was vain, never was
A look-in-the-mirror type but always grabbed
His hat and said he was ready. Grandpa's got a month
At the most, according to the oncologist who spoke as if
He were putting down a deuce at Pimlico.
Grandpa knows this, which is to say it's not
The dogwoods or forsythia or magnolias he's going to miss,
Not the newly mown grass or the crab soup his long time
Paramour, Bessie, still makes even though Grandpa can't
Eat much of anything anymore; he's a slave to tubes.
It's the losing streak that he can't abide because they're
Bound to win one, sooner or later the announcer's
Voice is going to take off into the ozone of announcer
Excitement with a whoosh and a wallop
And the curse will be over. Losing is for losers and Grandpa,
Who has spent his life making and taking bets,
Hates losers. Inning by inning we sit listening
And Grandpa knows it's stupid, he knows
He's dying and he should be thinking about last things
But he doesn't know anything about last things.
He hasn't been in a shul in fifty years and his
Only religion is the worship of the female body.
He's an idolater. A sack of calcified lust. I turn off
The radio and the nurse looks in on the mostly gone man
And his grandson sitting in the wan, fluorescent light
That could have come from Macbeth it's so
Grievous and spectral and unhealthy. Death light.
We aren't saying anything, but Grandpa's still alive
And though the O's have lost another there's still
Tomorrow. Grandpa closes his eyes when the nurse
Comes in with a little paper cup filled with pills
And I say that I've got to head home and grade some themes.
He opens his watery hesitant eyes because he knows
He might not see me again; he might not hear another
"Here's the first pitch." "We're not finished yet," he rasps
And I smile a smile I can't help because he's right.