Last May, I passed along the good news that Measure, A Review of Formal Poetry, would be expanding to two issues per year. I know I sold at least one subscription with that news, so I’m happy to report that the second half of Volume III arrived this week and it’s as delightful as ever. Some of the poems are built on classical allusions, some meditate on events as recent as Katrina, and some are almost entirely whimsical (though no less artful for that).
But on the eve of the Big East Tournament for men’s basketball — and a post-season that I fear will leave Hoya fans disappointed — it’s this poignant reflection on fame and fate by Michael Cantor that strikes me as the best sample to give RM readers. (Note: I had to use underscoring to get the broken lines to stay broken.)
The Man Who Caught the Pass
– Michael Cantor
This is the time of year, year after year,
in the rooms of this winter-dismal city,
when Billy Crowther, slim as a young God,
vanishes himself again and again
into an alien stadium’s twilight, sees
that football arching, arching towards him
and somehow, falling backwards, reaches out
towards blackness, finds and grabs a golden ring,
and ends up on his ass, possessing now
a ball, a game, a life.
___________________You can see it
as often as you want these days on YouTube —
twenty years ago, but always just the same
six seconds on the clock, the team down four,
as legendary Sweeney waves the crowd
to silence, sprints imperiously right
to find a quiet patch of turf, then plants —
and hurls — a sixty-seven yard long lightning bolt, a javelin
that Billy Crowther gathers in, becomes
and that will be his name
Sweeney won the Heisman that next week.
It was The Play, they said, The Greatest Pass
That Ever Was. He posed and smiled handsomely,
turned pro, and was a superstar for years,
sold breakfast cereal, and pushed his charities.
Billy Crowther signed a lesser contract,
blew out his knee before the second game
and never played again — a lesser lord,
a Rosencranz, a Guildenstern, whose role
was simply to be there.
____________________His job was done.
We wonder what it must be like, at twenty two,
to be so well defined, to spend your life
as anti-climax to an accident —
a safety gets confused, a coverage blown —
that’s all it takes. The Man-Who-Caught-The-Pass
is who you are, and almost every day,
unless you find yourself a mountain-top,
someone will bring it up, and you will smile,
and make a gracious joke, so they can think
how nice he is, The-Man
I met him once on business, recently —
a capable Vice President of Sales —
attentive, helpful, poised, intelligent;
and realized this was exactly what
he would have been if he had dropped the pass.
There was no tragedy to end the play:
he’d never spiralled downhill, never read
the script, was unaware how things should be.
Our business done, I called out as he left.
He paused, and turned his head.
_____________________________”Nice catch,” I said.
(According to the contributors’ biographical notes, “MICHAEL CANTOR’s work has appeared in The Dark Horse, Iambs & Trochees, Texas Poetry Journal, The Atlanta Review, The Cumberland Poetry Review (Robert Penn Warren Award finalist), and The Comstock Review.”) As I’ve said before, if you like poetry in traditional meter, you really owe it to yourself to subscribe to Measure. If you do, and if you do it in time to get this issue, don’t miss “Nor Any Drop to Drink” by Michael Spence or “Skelated Bating” by Randy Koch.