Everything grows into somethingThe folks at the Special Collections and Archives of the University of Rhode Island Library have agreed to take my journals and papers for safe-keeping. So, for the past few days I have been busy getting all that in order to say goodbye to. The library gave me boxes in which to stash it all—fifty years’ worth, maybe 10,000 pages in all. The oldest of these files have followed me from Harlem to Berkeley to New Jersey to San Francisco to Samoa to Rhode Island. The 26 years of Samoa papers still retain the fond moldy smell of the islands.

There are at least a thousand poems and hundreds of pieces of both finished and abandoned prose to sort through. Every time I moved I threw away more than I kept, but there is still too much. I sort it all through yet another, final filter, filling black garbage bags with the less than necessary. So much paper waste—I have not lived a forest friendly life. But I do get to revisit raising my son in the benign bush of Tutuila and re-fear cyclones I had forgotten.

I’ll share a few pieces here, all from decades ago.


I want a t-shirt
that says on its back
Use Other Side First.
I want a ticket
that no one will question,
a friend in high places.
I want a history
where no one is named
and facts have no dates
but eons have names
like Nancy and Jane
where nothing happens.
Please pass the eraser.
Between us we can
get somewhere fast.
I just feel it rising
out of the sidewalk
and into my soul
nothing that I ever
needed or wanted
as naked as I am
as useless as cops
as salty as sex
as open as a wound.
I want an old day
to stop by and visit
to sit by the window
and tell me about
what the king will say
to the queen when they
finally are left alone
and all her sorrows
have dissolved in tears.


Santa Pajama

Santa Pajama was a bedroom community just up the coast from Vaudville. We drove up the coast road. The ocean was so calm it looked asleep. Samantha slathered sunblock onto her arms and face and shoulders. It was May.

When we got there I couldn’t find the place. I kept rereading the directions she’d taken down over the phone and kept getting lost. Samantha pretended to sleep.

What I finally found was the wrong place on the boardwalk above the beach. But the people there knew who Buddy was and sent us to a bar on the Vista Verde where we could find him. He wasn’t there but Samantha knew the bartender — remembered him from a Shinto halfway house up in Nofloss — so we stayed and drank diet maitais.

I found Buddy’s phone number on the on the toilet partition in the men’s room. I left a message for him on the machine that answered at a Swedish phonesex service. When I went back to the bar Samantha was gone and there was a new bartender. Her purse was still on the floor beside her empty barstool.

I slept in the car, in the back seat. I’m short. In the morning a 13 year old girl wearing a pair of men’s peach jockey shorts as a halter top and a pair of Italian roller skates was asleep in the front seat. I married her. We’ve got three kids now. We don’t live there anymore.



in order
just to know
questions re:
without which


Satchel Paige

Satchel Paige

It is that blessed time of year again, when the season opens in uncertainty and hope. When new guys blaze across the outfield, slamming into fences, and superannuated sluggers acquiesce to the role of designated hitter. Five months ahead of games behind and on base percentage. A pleasure except for all those goddamn truck ads.

I played a lot of baseball. When I was a kid it defined the months when there was no snow on the ground. I was good at it, but never big enough or strong enough to be more than just good. I was a catcher mostly, and what I liked about the game was that even if you weren’t the best you could often out-think them. I made it to semi-pro in the summer of my seventeenth year, catching for Hewitt-Robbins in the Greater Buffalo Industrial League. They paid me when we won. Then I discovered other things, like girls and the private joys of wandering. When I was a kid I measured the worth of things in catcher’s mitts. Top of the line was about twenty-five bucks, four to a hundred, forty to a thousand. The day my dad sprung for a pair of pricey (one catcher’s mitt) kangaroo-skin spikes I knew he truly loved me. I had a good arm but had trouble hitting the slippery shit that the old guys threw.


Easter, Passover, Opening Day

Another thing I like about baseball
is that they don’t give anyone
whistles to blow or buzzers to
set off or only so many time outs.
As my wife says, it’s real time
and therefore gets to set its own pace.
I describe to her how
your hands sting in early April
when it’s forty degrees out and you
foul off an inside fastball.

What’s so cruel about spring
is that it’s not yet summer,
dusk comes too soon, and everything
must start again in mud and hope.


The Throw to Second

If your body can’t—if blind you can’t—
make that throw to second in your dreams
you got no business catching.
The mitt goes down and out
like the weight on a catapult and
from behind your right ear the ball is launched
with a peculiar straight-arm snap of the wrist.
It’s a throw unlike any other,
a bazooka’s accuracy or nothing.
Explosion has no grace. You end up
on your face or close to it.
The shortstop’s safe because
the throw was there in time
to cancel the slider’s need for spikes
and you’ve nailed the sucker.


Leroy Satchel Paige

The soul of any journey
is its unendedness,
therefore all our heroes
should be those who just
refused to fucking stop.

Like someone who at 42
began his “rookie” season
in the show with Cleveland
some thousand wins behind him
in the Negro Leagues, the bush

which counted for zip in
the real books, the white books
the history of the bigs.
Like some unpublished Homer
some hero of an unknown kingdom

an ageless sage playing baseball
in a shadow world of greatness
ever moving—Mobile to
Chattanooga, Pittsburgh to
K.C., Cleveland to the Cards.

At 59 he was still throwing
shutout innings for the A’s.
Excuse me if I stare
trying to see who’s pitching there
extra innings after midnight.


The Zen of Baseball

Satchel Paige didn’t throw fastballs
or curve balls or sliders. He threw
what he called the trouble ball
along with the bat dodger and bee-ball.
He called it the bee-ball because
“it be right where I want it to be.”

He was a skinny dude and I bet
he hid the ball well and worked fast.
I would have liked to catch for him.
Somehow I would know where he wanted
the target of my mitt to be
—bat dodger down and away.

The Zen part is we wouldn’t keep score,
no stats, just the next swing and miss.

(Poems from 14 Degrees South, University of the South Pacific Press, © John Enright, 2012)

Slow Motion

No need to surprise.

I’ve been surprised before

and it doesn’t last.

It’s the slow things now

that make me take notice.

Got something slow to show me?

How snow drifts disappear,

ditch water with nowhere to go?


You hear how catastrophes happen

always in slow-mo—the car

tumbling once then again,

stretching endtime like taffy

—half way to eternity, then

half way again, ad infinitum.

Roundtrip Journeyman

Cities I Have Walked This Way

(looking for sense in the time map)

Buffalo, Boston, Manhattan, Dublin, London,Frankfurt, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Berkeley, Charleston, Portland, Honolulu, Venice, Bozeman, Paris, Stockholm, New Orleans, Hong Kong, Chicago, Apia, Suva, Seattle, Sydney and Townsville and Auckland, at least

Take it to the wall again tonight, bro.

Finish the bottle and the cigarettes.

You’re not there yet. Take it to the streets

long after midnight. At the market

women are sleeping beside their taro.

Taxis are taking the last whores home.

Take it to the waterfront where always

everywhere men are awake with their

cigarettes. Walk it past the police station,

let the back street dogs bark at you.

Take it back to your indigenous city jungle,

walking like a ghost that casts a shadow.

Take it back, reclaim your birthright—

lost nights on the street like a swollen

scabbed-over fist, a bad cup of coffee,

a women in your brain driving you crazy and

a long walk home where you don’t want to be

because the words won’t begin and

the bottles are empty and the bed

is a succubus. Walk it off, shake it off,

city boy. Disappear in an alley way,

walk through that wall to survive.

(from 14 Degrees South, John Enright © 2012)

*   *   *   *

“I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

*   *   *   *

3700 miles later, Connie and I drive back across the Jamestown Bridge from Kingstown onto our home island, making this a roundtrip. We have been dodging weather all the way up, waiting for windows of warmth to the north. Not all journeys are roundtrips. There have been many places of no return, just passing through.

There have been hitchhiker wandering times in my life when I would wonder if the strange town I was hiking into with just a pack on my back would become a terminus destination. I might meet some woman in a bar, find some seasonal work; and the next thing I’d know it would be three seasons later, she’d be pregnant, and I’d just bought her a used washing machine. That almost happened a couple of times. Life would have been different. Fate is just another name for happenstance. Chaos shrugs off determination. One of them was named Petranella, warmth in a Montana winter.

In and out of time, like traveling from state to state. There is nothing as timeless as an empty highway, where your mind is free. The future is ahead, speeding toward you, but you can’t see it. Or think of it this way—that you and the present are stationary, unmoving, and the world and time are speeding past you.

home Back to our cabin buried in snow where the road ends at the woods, a single deer track through the drifts. The Weather Channel has made it from Juno to Thor in the naming of storms in our absence. I turn my cell phone back on. The six weeks of collected mail is mostly bills. The first night back my dreams are all of Samoa and filled with the dead. Is déjà vu caused by past dreams of the future? In Florida the most common birds were the always effortlessly circling vultures.

Roundtrip. Desert nomads followed a cycle, always moving, always returning. No true navigator ever set sail thinking that he could never return. We come home and find ourselves, like an imprint in a favorite chair.