Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me, He held his darkened carriage low,
And waited patiently.
A chill across these pages blew
A blanket ripping free,
As we journeyed to the fallen souls
AT first we passed the tennis courts
Of Arthur Ashe’s grace,
And grief began anew again,
Just watching Arthur’s face.
The image of him at the net
Or sharing his life’s story
Could fate so cruel as tainted blood
Steal all his hard-earned glory?
BEFORE I asked, Death’s wooden carriage
Rolled upon a lake
The bodies of two baseball pitchers
Caused my hands to shake.
A picnic day, a pleasure boat
Now turned to widows’ sighs
“But this is sports” I asked the ghost
“How is it death applies?”
HE answered not, but pulled the reins
His horses brayed in chorus,
And suddenly, a Final Four scene
Filled the air before us.
Jim Valvano ran the floor
In search of players’ hugs,
But later, choked back cancer
In toasting those he loved.
HE looked so young, I wanted to
Scream out in haughty anguish
After all, what place is sports
For all this death to languish?
But as I opened lips to speak
The specter waved a finger
Valvano gone, and now inside
An empty gym we lingered.
A smiling man, with quiet ways,
And long arms made for flying
Collapsed, playing the game he loved
Was Reggie Lewis dying?
And even as he came our way
A man just one year older,
Who wore the jersey “Petrovic”
Joined in, a fallen soldier.
I wanted then to shut my eyes,
And ask for my release
But Death drove on with silent wheels
Into the tragic crease
And suddenly the air was filled with
Planes and crashes burning
And families named Allison and
Kulwicki were left yearning.
ON this went, our woeful ride
Through tears and sighs and speeches
Heather Farr, a withered star,
Chris Street — how far this reaches.
In Zambia, the mounds of dirt,
Are graves for soccer players
In Houston, off a highway pass
For Jeff Alm, they say prayers.
SOON the carriage struggled with
The weight Death brought to bear
And surely we were finished with
His horror and despair.
“What brings you here?”
I asked again, “Why must we pay your wages?
“Have you no more noble task
“Than haunting our sports pages?”
HE made no sound, but steered the carriage
Onward without bother
Until he reached the flowered grave
Of Michael Jordan’s father
The photo of the face they shared
Was withered now in two,
The famous son was crying,
Death seemed to nod, “Him, too.”
BEHIND that scene, I heard the noise
A click and then a fire,
Guns and bullets, sirens, broken
Glass and drunken tires.
I shut my ears and wished for sports
To hush these baying hounds
A football cheer, a golfer’s swing,
A baseball organ’s sounds . . .
“ENOUGH!” I screamed unto my guide
“This never was my choosing
Wasn’t I to write about the
Winning and the losing?
Send me back to innocence,
Of baseball and March Madness
Return to us the sports page
Minus all this sadness!”
BECAUSE I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me
He pointed once at glory
And once at agony
He crossed the fingers, then he spoke
“One world, one fate, one plea”
And we have learned that all too well