March 22, 2018

Five Poems by Maik Strosahl: "Stengel," "One Voice from a Mass Grave," "Seventh Avenue Jesus," "The Immortals," and "Counting the Scars"

Michael E. Strosahl was born and raised near the Mississippi in Moline, Illinois. He has written poetry since his youth, but became very active when he joined the Indiana poetry community. He has participated in poetry groups and projects around the state and at one time served as president of the Poetry Society of Indiana. Maik’s work has appeared on buses, in a museum and in several publications such as The Tipton Poetry Journal, Flying Island and the 5th Anniversary Collection from Bards Against Hunger. He currently resides in Anderson, Indiana.


The old man
stares out from the bench,
watching his hapless Mets
turn this game into a sad
Laurel and Hardy routine.
He drifts to happier times,
when the grass was overgrown,
when sandbags were bases,
sawed-off broomsticks
were the lumber of longball,
when double plays were scored
Bobby to Jimmy to Joe,
and Timmy was the strikeout king,
whiffing the great lefty
from two blocks over.

Today, his stars are all faded
from glory days with other teams,
the kids are bushers—
probably would have spent
three more years on the farm
if it wasn’t for expansion.
But then,
where would he be
if the Paysons had not
brought baseball back
to 8th Avenue and West 155th?
Probably riding
some cushioned seat
far away from
the pine of this dugout—
a welcome thought
for his tired legs and dead arm,
bones creaking a plea of
enough already.
But in his heart,
he still loves being here,
still yearns for the game
he learned from stickball,
and on the bench,
the eyes are still bright—
the eyes of the boy
in the face of an old man
watching another game
bobbled away.

(Originally published by the National Art Museum of Sport for an Ekphrastic project.)

One Voice from a Mass Grave

When the men came and
dragged us to the edge of town,
father kept encouraging me
to be brave.

They made us dig this hole.

As dusk approached,
they lined us around,
allowed a moment to pray.

I saw father,
again whispering
from the other side
to be strong.
I saw him fall.

One by one,
men fell into the pit,
boys fell into the pit,
I fell.

They checked only once
for movement,
fired extra rounds
until satisfied
all were stilled.

I fear I was not so brave,
I fear I was not so strong.
Father’s death brought sorrow,
my wound brought tears,
the shovels full of earth
brought darkness.

Seventh Avenue Jesus

He came my way today,
That Seventh Avenue Jesus,
Dragging his burden while
Crossing 57th
On his way to
Save the park.

I stepped in and
Took up his load
As he spoke of
Sins and salvation,
Death and eternal life
Above the clouds
I could not see

In the dearth of my faith,
Through the shadow and steel
Of this cold, cold city.

He asked how long
It had been since I prayed.
I thought
You yourself would know
The sinner cannot ask forgiveness
If he cannot forgive himself.
I silently shrugged under the weight.

He blessed me
As we approached 59th
And I hefted back his cross.
Come join me,
His blues beckoning to mine,
But I was already turning
And three steps away,
Running behind on my own path.

I would drop a five in the cup
Of a Buddha on Broadway,
Share a sandwich with Muhammad,
Take a tract from Jehovah
In the shadow of the Marriott
And consider it a good day.

The atheist on the corner
Wonders why did I bother,
The jaywalking agnostic,
Why should he care?

The Immortals

As another slice of partly-clouded June
Faded from blue to shadows,
We crept upon unguarded barricades,
Yellow lights blinking like fireflies,
Beckoning us toward silica sand immortality.

By morning, our fingerprints had hardened,
Palms set in cement with our names,
Declaring ‘We were’ for all to see—
And it was worth the grounding received,
Clear through the harsh sun of August.

Counting the Scars

This one is from
A rock I threw,
Not expecting ricochet,
And I remember,
With no one around
I let the tears flow.

That one down there
Was a wild ride
On my banana seat Stingray,
Pedaling furiously until
Kicking out my back tire,
Throwing rocks from tread—
Only once
It bucked me
And I flew,
Touching down
Without landing gear
Into the gravel
We would pick from the wound
For days.

This one bled
From shattered glass,
And as I pulled the shards free
I noticed my eyes
Were clear and dry.

Those were self-inflicted
The day she left and
Tore my soul apart,
Just stabbed me deep
And walked away,
My heart tossed
Into the corner waste basket
As she closed the door behind her—
I wanted my blood to follow.

Which leads me to this one,
Pulsing with every beat,
The one that has
Ripped open so many times
I believe it to be
More scar than birthed flesh.
I know
It will bleed again
The day you leave.
And I will clean away the debris,
I will apply antibiotic to the new gash,
Bandage it up real nice.
It will heal once again
Covered with
Yet another permanent reminder,
A bump maybe,
Or a discolored line
That I will someday
Explain to someone else
As my eyes remain tear-free

And I feel nothing.

Maik Strosahl

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