American Portrait 12

by Ken Harnisch

From Montana to MIT

Harry Chang comes east to

Boston, and opens his mind

To a brand new world.


And how gullible is the boy from the

North; how sweetly innocent he is;

Devoid of

Knowledge of the ways of jaded men

In their skyscrapers and their city

Full of baseball, brawn, and beans.


Harry learns the ways of the “T”

The Back Bay and Beacon Street

He smiles at the eye candy on the campuses

From Charlestown to Cambridge

He looks out at the iron sweep

Of the Atlantic, and is

For the moment, in awe


Young Harry is the bookish sort

Who has trouble tying his shoes

And when his roomies bring him to

Fenway Park, he seems utterly perplexed


The one and only time he played ball

He was seven, hitting off a tee.

The one and only time he

Watched the game, he was bleary-eyed

And sleepless, just before writing

His valedictory speech in a little town

Near Great Falls.


He admits he has heard of the Red Sox.

Ted Williams stirs him to a smile

Yaz a lesser puzzled glimmer

But for Pedro, nary a flicker on his lips 


Appalled, his friends bring him

To the shadows of the Green Monster

To a bar tinkling with the beery cries

Of the eternal fan, the hapless and the

Hopeless Red Sox fan, the guy who

Has turned Next Year into

Another trip to Lourdes.


They ply him with Sam Adams, grill him on

His knowledge of the game. Yes, he knows

How you walk and how you hit. Yes he knows

What striking out means. Yes, he knows the universe

Of English is peppered with the language of the game.


But the team itself? What’s so special,

He wants to know.

Why the air of impending doom?

Why the spirit of the futile, which he smells with every



An old man, Stan Casey, takes a liking to him

Wraps him in the belly of his scarlet arm

Drooping with the unworked sinews of retirement

But far from flabby flesh


“You are in the presence of Heaven,” says Stan

“This cathedral next door is to be visited

Only by the faithful, who possess the Faith

You cannot enter the gates

Without reverence for the years

Without knowing of the Pain

But always, you must learn

To chant

The never-ending prayer,

Wait ‘til Next Year”


And Harry smiles dumbly,

Sipping on his umpteenth beer

Says, “But, what makes your teams such losers?”

Drawing gasps of indignation

And white faced rage, but Stan raises his hand

To calm the embattled multitudes

“No losers here, Harry,” he says.

“Warriors, son, warriors! Laid low by perfidy and

High rent owners from that accursed

Megalopolis below,

And yes the Curse”


Then Stan goes on about Harry Frazee

And how he sold the Babe to the Yankees

To invest in a Broadway bomb

And how the dominoes fell from there

And how, in the Fall, they topple still

And in such agonizing ways

Always, damn it all, to the New York

Bleeping Yankees


Then Harry, seeing finally the dull revealing light

Says, “That’s what you mean by Bucky Bleeping Dent,

Isn’t it?”


And Stan smiles, wiping that painful tear from his eye

“For years the man stood alone in our shattered hearts,”

He says. “But now he has company at last.”


And taking Harry by the scruff of the neck,

Stan orders another round

Saying, “have you heard, Harry, of the

Yankee blackguard

We now call Aaron Bleeping Boone?”




Author's Note: "To know America, you must know baseball" - Jacques Barzun

Posted on 11/18/2003
Copyright © 2023 Ken Harnisch

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Maureen Glaude on 11/18/03 at 11:58 PM

I have a writer I must show this too, he would know all the references. It sounds wonderful to me, who is not that familiar, with them. Great theme and well done, Ken.

Posted by Kate Demeree on 11/24/03 at 04:16 PM

Your AP's keep getting better and better. Baseball ever close to the hearts of many and how you weave life and lessons through the tale... Well Done!

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