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BenThum

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Registered: 12/07/05
Posts: 2,418
Reply with quote  #1 
As the USHA One-Wall Nationals swing into action in Coney Island
we once again trot out a classic handball piece from Brooklyn Native
Irving Feldman. He was a player at the old Brighton Beach Baths
beach club which featured more than 20 outdoor courts. Feldman's
words reflect Handball's Golden Age, an era when One-Wall was a
highly popular sport in parks and playgrounds across America.


The Handball Players At Brighton Beach

And then the blue world daring onward
discovers them, the aging, oiled and
well-bronzed sons of immigrants,
the handball players of the new world
on Brooklyn's bright eroding shore
who quarrel, who shove, who shout
themselves hoarse, who block and don't
get out of the way, who grab for odds,
hustle a handicap, all crust,
all bluster, all con and gusto all
on strutting show, tumultuous, blaring,
grunting as they lunge. True,
their manners lack grandeur, and
yes, elsewhere under the sun legs
are less bowed, bellies are less
potted, pates less bald or blanched,
backs less burned, less hairy.

So?

So what! the sun does not snub,
does not overlook them, shines,

and the fair day flares,
the blue universe booms and blooms,
the sea-space, the summer high, focuses
its great unclouded scope in ecstatic
murmurs of joy--- and you see it, too,
at the edge of the crowd, edge of the sea,
between multitudes and immensity:
from gray cement ball courts under
the borough's sycamores' golden boughs,
against the odds in pure speculation
Brighton's handball heroes leap up half
a step toward heaven in burgundy, blue,
or buttercup bathing trunks, in black
sneakers still stylish after forty years,
in pigskin gloves buckled at the wrist,
to keep the ball alive, the sun up,
the eye open, the air festive, clear,
crowded with enchantment and delight.
tonyF

Registered: 07/16/12
Posts: 43
Reply with quote  #2 
Great poem that brightened mood (I was planning on heading down to coney island tomorrow but I found out today that I'll be getting a root canal instead; ouch!). here's to keeping the ball alive.
flefty

Registered: 08/22/12
Posts: 1
Reply with quote  #3 
Glad to see my poem, but, hey, I played only on the Coney Island courts, and was a frequent visitor to the B.B. matches in the 70s and 80s when I visited my parents on West 5th Street. I wrote the poem in 1974 and, because it was published in The New Yorker magazine, the local players knew it and even used one if its phrases, "handball heroes."

Irving Feldman

Here's the poem without errors.


 

 

THE HANDBALL PLAYERS AT

BRIGHTON BEACH

 

 

To David Ritz

 

And then the blue world daring onward

discovers them, the indigenes, aging,

oiled, and bronzing sons of immigrants,

the handball players of the new world

on Brooklyn's bright eroding shore

who yawp, who quarrel, who shove,

who shout themselves hoarse, don't

get out of the way, grab for odds,

hustle a handicap, all crust,

all bluster, all con and gusto all

on show, tumultuous, blaring,

grunting as they lunge. True,

their manners lack grandeur, and

yes, elsewhere under the sun legs

are less bowed, bellies are less

potted, pates less bald or blanched,

backs less burned, less hairy.

                               So?

So what! the sun does not snub,

does not overlook them, shines,

 

and the fair day flares,

the blue universe booms and blooms,

the sea-space, the summer high, focuses

its great unclouded scope in ecstatic

perspection --- and you see it, too,

at the edge of the crowd, edge of the sea,

between multitudes and immensity:

from gray cement ball courts under

the borough's sycamores' golden boughs,

against the odds in pure speculation

Brighton's handball heroes leap up half

a step toward heaven in burgundy, blue,

or buttercup bathing trunks, in black

sneakers still stylish after forty years,

in pigskin gloves buckled at the wrist,

to keep the ball alive, the sun up,

the eye open, the air ardent,

festive, clear, crowded with delight.

 

BenThum

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Registered: 12/07/05
Posts: 2,418
Reply with quote  #4 
Thanks for the clarifications. It had been a few years since we spoke. My memory has not improved from then. Getting published in the New Yorker is no easy task. A stirring poem like yours was fully deserving.

In 1982 a fellow named Pinero wrote an autobiographical poem which somehow ended up on a work of art featuring a graffiti-sprayed handball court on Attorney Street. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired the piece:
http://images.metmuseum.org/CRDImages/ma/original/DT7702.jpg
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