Phil Tabakow

“Without baseball, life would be a mistake.”

Friedrich Nietzsche said that while sitting on a rickety wooden grandstand in Louisville, Kentucky, watching the Colonels battle the Blues during an American Association doubleheader in August 1884.

Sent abroad by his family in a last–ditch attempt to toughen him up (and to separate him from his sister), he fell in love with the national game, quickly coming to see in its pastoralism a moral equivalent for Wagner’s operas—minus the anti–Semitism, of course. And with a smaller cast of characters.

Several dozen illiterate athletes, a few rapacious railroad barons, a score or so of     silver–haired cardsharps, and a crowd of simple working stiffs—this was all he needed to spin out his fantasies of a better, albeit a Godless, world to come.

A little later on, he wrote all about it, carefully encoded, of course, in Beyond Good and Evil, a book which Washington’s Big Ed Delahanty never bothered to read, though that star batsman, after another  bout  of  heavyweight  boozing  in  the  summer  of  1903,  fell,  flung himself,  or  was pitched—existentially and fatally—from a fast moving express train on a rain–slick bridge between countries and helped usher in a new century’s sport.


When the Bear Dances

Skirted and muzzled,
his terrible claws clipped,
he turns on a point in time.

And Pablo twists the rope.

Juan strikes the strings.
Tina laughs.
She flashes a gold tooth and twirls.

The men drink up her long brown legs.
They roll cigarettes and pass the jug.
They stomp their feet and shout.

Ragged urchins run abreast of the beast.
They poke him with wands of willow.
They blind him with handfuls of dust.

But when the bear dances—
everybody dances.
By the grace of God and the devil’s goad,
they dance. They dance and they dance
and they dance. 

Widows lift their skirts
and pound the dry, packed earth.
The butcher abandons his block.
The baker brings his dough.
Father Gregory swings his censer
and eyes the eager altar boys.
The wrestler bears his weights.
The cuckold comes with his wife.

And they dance and they dance and they dance.
By the grace of God and the devil’s goad,
they dance.

When the bear dances—
everybody dances.

And Pablo twists the rope.

Phil Tabakow is the author of a book of poems entitled The Mechanics of Submission (DC Books, Montreal 2004) and has published individual poems in many journals and magazines in the U.S. and Canada, including Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, Interim, Matrix and Poetry East.  His poem “Walt Whitman at Pfaff" was chosen for the anthology entitled Visiting Walt, published by the University of Iowa Press.  He has recently completed a new poetry manuscript entitled No Apparent Order, as well as a co-authored poetry chapbook with M.L. Tabakow entitled The Gulf Between Us.  A new poetry manuscript called Dead Pan Rhapsodies is also nearing completion.