‘Jimmy Allen at the Library of Congress’

Last week, one day around suppertime I was walking our family’s Boston Terrier on the South Common and I had what I can only describe as a sense memory. The strong sun, bright sky, dry air, grass underfoot, and voices bouncing through the park made me think that the evening was perfect for a softball game, reminding me of the many games I’ve played. Here’s a poem I wrote in 1987 that evokes the culture of men’s  softball teams. The poem later appeared in the anthology “For a Living: The Poetry of Work” (University of Illinois Press) and is included in my collection of Lowell writings, “What Is the City?”—PM


Jimmy Allen at the Library of Congress


The folklore researchers, all Ph.D’s,

dropped by to collect softball behavior,

part of the Lowell Folklife Project.

Dr. Tom began shooting in the hot, low sun

back-lighting trees at Parker Field;

Dr. Doug and Dr. Dave taped the chatter:

“C’mon now, be a hitter! Dig in. Take a look.

Make the pitcher work. Good eye. Drive that ball!”

After the win, Dr. Tom set up a team portrait,

then everyone drove to the Civic Club

for a feast of popcorn, pizza, and beer.

Somebody kept yelling a cousin curse;

Dr. Tom made a note of the term.

Bird informed the bar regulars

that the folklore guys were “Congressmen,

right from the Library of Congress!”

Next, Bird and Dr. Dave sang “O Canada”

while Dr. Tom took another team photo,

sort of a “before and wasted” situation.

That’s when we called it a night.

Months later, Dr. Doug gave a lecture with slides

on Capitol Hill for the erudite, including

Smithsonian scholars and National Geographic Society.

He showed a Greek priest, Cambodian dancers,

kids on skateboards, a wine-maker,

and suddenly Jimmy Allen was on the mound

in his crimson Burgess Construction jersey,

as big as he’d want to be on screen,

throwing a strike for American folklife.


Paul Marion (c) 1989, 2006