The Day the Vests Played Ball

March 5, 2018

Today the Vests play ball

An outfield and diamond

Of dirt and dust

Pebbles and concrete

The Vests take the field in a city junkyard

As the Uniforms watch them from their trucks

The Vests

Court-ordered

Community service workers

Everything from first-offense

First-timers

To multi-offense

Seasoned veterans

Men and women

Who have spent more time in the neon mesh Velcro

Than out of it

The city employees call them, “Vests”

The meaner ones call them, “Inmates”

To remind some

Where they’ve been

Or

Where they’re going

Some days

The Uniforms like to gesture as they drive by State,

“Don’t you worry

Some of you will be in there

Soon enough”

They find this

Hilarious

Most Vests immediately respond,

“Ah

Hell

No!”

Some Vests reflect quietly

As they drive by that complex

Of concrete

Field

And fence

Thinking they’re just glad to be out

Others

Usually sitting right by the door

Or all the way in the furthest corner of the van

They gnash their teeth

They’ve got an itch in their blood

They say,

“Fuck you”

Under their breath

And the anger stays with them

Today the vests play ball

In a yard not meant for games

During their lunch break

The city employee says,

“Sit around

Inmates

Stare at your phones

Stare at the woodpiles

Stare at the rocks

Eat your food”

We chew on clouds of dust

Filling the air

Like all the bitterness of the past

Like the fear that we’re not actually all innocent here

Like all this time costs a lotta money

Like we've all got some serious shit to deal with

And that something’s gotta give

Or, it won’t

And we’ll spend a lot of time sitting here

Chewing on that

Or, we won’t

But not today

Today the Vests play ball

A broken broom

Or shovel handle for our bat

Pizza box and traffic signs for the bases

Fast food burger wrappers for the ball

We don’t need gloves to catch with

We have our hands

Today the Vests play ball

Moises is on first

Guillermo is on third

Antoine is on second

Cullen is up to bat

And I’m at the pitcher’s mound

Serving up soft balls because

Who doesn’t want to see

These Vests run the bases in this junkyard like champions?

We try

To make those burger wrappers fly

Cutting through that dust

So we can breathe a little

One ball flies high above the clouds

We run

Our open neons wave like banners

We steal bases

And joke with each other

Those too embarrassed

Or too tough to play

They tease us from the benches made bleachers

The city employees come around

They ask each other,

“Are those inmates playing baseball?”

They laugh,

“Looks like they’re playing with a bunch of trash!”

We’re just a bunch of trash-playing

Trash-people to most of them

Because their world is made up of opposites

Vests and Uniforms

The dirty and the clean

The good and the bad

Purchased equipment and mountains of dirt

Dirt that only children and idiots

Choose to shape into tunnels and sand castles

Forgetting that no passtime would exist without some nutcase

Putting sticks

Balls

Baskets

And lines in the sand together 

A city employee remarks,

“Looks like they’re having fun”

Another challenges,

“Well, why don’t you join them then?”

And he does

Comes up for a hit

Makes it

Smiles and quickly leaves

The ball falls apart

The wrappers and the stick left on the ground

The game ends as unceremoniously as it started

Lunch is over

The Vests get back into the van

And get back to work

In the days to come

Some Vests leave

Others come in

And every time we pass by that junkyard

I'll tell anyone who'll listen

About the day the Vests played ball.

 

 

 

 

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