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The Ocean is a Flower Called Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente kicked my ass last night.

He came out of the darkness like a train whistle

with his 21 Pittsburgh jersey tucked in

and laid me out with a left hook.

I fell to the grass and screamed,

What’s your problem, Roberto?

Couldn’t sleep, he said.

Get a motel.

He said, My plane crashed. I am dead.

Go home.

He said, I come from Carolina, Puerto Rico.

So, what’s the problem?

He said, My name is Roberto.

I have three sons and three thousand base hits.

My name is Roberto Clemente.

And when his plane took off from San Juan,

overloaded with bananas and gauze

for the earthquake victims of Managua,

it was New Year’s Eve

and his eyes were bloodshot bullets

under the canopy of the Atlantic Ocean.

When the sharks got their teeth into him,

the turtles,

the manatees and sting rays,

the vapor trail of his gait around second base

brushed back the wind.

Ten hours later my father woke me to say, El Padré, Roberto,

no longer swings for the fences.

I was seven.

I have been seven ever since.

from Mesmerizing Sadly BeautifulFind more by Matthew Lippman at the library

Copyright © 2020 Matthew Lippman
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Published in Matthew Lippman Poems

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