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Chicago Cubs Sestina photo

"Do they still play the blues in Chicago / when baseball season rolls around?"
— Steve Goodman, "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request."

On Opening Day and through all of April, the outfield ivy
hangs bare, exposing rough brick, tough luck
for the ambitious rookie who attempts to rob a homer
and winds up bruised from cap to cleats—innocence lost.
The Friendly Confines are anything but, cursed
as they are by a billy goat, pennant aspirations grounded.

Dark nights reigned at Wrigley, its hallowed grounds
unlit ‘til '88. Reagan in office and the ivy
in cushioning bloom. Grossman flipped the switch and cursed
the heavy rain dubbed “Da Bambino’s bad luck” 
in the next day’s Trib. What electric gain? What loss?
Playoff games and profits. An intruder enters the home. 

If only Steve Bartman had stayed home.
If only Prior had thrown a sinker, forced a groundball.
If only Alou hadn’t flied out the inning before, losing
his poise like a ground-rule double sucked up by ivy.
If only we could grasp the mechanics of luck
without agency—no blessing, no curse.

But isn’t that part of the fun? The curse?
A curse is comfortable clothing, sweats we wear at home
that bear the proud stains of our sad luck.
We are Midwesterners: salt of the earth, grounded.
If our brick houses are covered in ivy
the foliage is humbly earned. We specialize in loss. 

Some call the bleacher bums a flock that’s lost
its way. Soused on Old Style, they loudly curse
while kids get that first up-close look at the ivy.
Manners are hard but loyalty’s easier: a home
run by the visitors is hurled to the ground.
Throw it back, the saying goes, and that night you’ll get lucky.

Turn the red C backwards for luck.
Rally any cap to buck the loss.
Take the Red Line el and toss popcorn to the pigeons on the ground.
You haven’t gotten a good price til you’ve made the scalper curse.
Ask, “Is this the year?” as the first batter steps up to home
plate and aims for budding ivy.

If we make our luck, we also make the loss.
From warm winter homes, we lay hope in the frozen ground and thaw the curse.
We carry it home each fall from the ivy-covered burial ground.