The Building

Babe Ruth lives on the other
side of the court. His brother-in-law
       jumped from the 18th
       story into the handball
area where we play until tenants
get angry. I heard the thump
       when I was in 
       bed. The Babe gave
me a baseball diploma. The same
elevatorman, Joe, who slapped me for
       not being nice to
       Jerry (it wasn’t true)
took me upstairs to the Babe’s 
for the photo in the Daily News.
       Sunday afternoons we hear
       Father Coughlin and Hitler
live, shrieking on the radio. Everyone 
hates Hitler. Comes a strike, new 
       men keep billy clubs 
       by the doors. I 
like the scabs same as Ruddy
and Joe outside to whom we
       bring sandwiches. I heard
       Ruddy got hit trying
to bust in. They almost broke
his head. It’s funny for men
       to ride me up
       the elevator. I always
run downstairs. They slow me down
as I race for the outside
       into the north pole 
       wind and the gully.
But often I spend the afternoon
in a corner of the elevator,
       going up and down
       in the tired coffin.
When no one else is riding,
they let me close the brass
       gate. I do it
       like a grown man.

From Mexico In My Heart: New And Selected Poems (Carcanet, 2015) by Willis Barnstone. Copyright © 2015 by Willis Barnstone. Used with the permission of the author.