Carlos Zambrano, you were Wrigleyville’s delicate flower
        you were a bud on the spring blossom of baseball’s stem
        you blew petals at the slightest wind across home plate
        you were all caps, oil caps
           a nationalized offshore oil rig on fire in the middle of Lake Michigan
        you worked fast, for the North Side is used to day games
           and can grow sleepy-cranky if kept up late

Carlos Zambrano, you hurled balls in a furious flurry of floury pan dulces
        sweet coconut sprinkled and shaped cochito in the window
           warm dough on a Saturday morning
        Sweet Lou sure as hell liked you, your steam
           could have powered the Finkl Steel Mill on West Cortland
        sweet poet of the physical, sweet potato of the mound
           hitters left pie-faced in fear of your heat
        sweet chewer of goo, savior of spit and jaw muscles
           carry-on cleats to make it faster to heaven
        sweet crotch-grabber, bat breaker, tie breaker
           runner with bulls across rubbers and rosins

Plantained, padded skeleton of rage, your blue pinstripes
  undulated as you became undone
      cursing, kicking, stomping, romping, circling and jerkling
Please come back next year and every year
  to startle the lake-blown wind some more
      startling, exhortling, chortling, battling and straddling
Por favor, Big Z, the Gatorade, it feared you
  bringing your medicine show back to the dugout
      grabbing, lifting, slamming, jamming, storming, then to the clubhouse showers

Hermano, you threw a fucking no-hitter as the home team in someone else’s ballpark
  stomping up wooden rainforest steps to the observation deck
      in the canopy hammock of grandstands in Milwaukee

Someone who met you said you smelled of sweat
  but I can’t believe them, those must have been beads of gold running down your forehead
    there on the mound, staring down the bricks behind home plate
      working like you were catching a train, faster than people catch trains

Sensation hustled from you in beads of cursing sweat, you demanded, you rendered, you flew
      jawbones of the ass you hurled, making Roger Clemens appear a muttering pansy

Winter thought of you, can you see palm trees where you are?
Spring training baited, ramp tunnel to the light, will you tender-gander at the sky-god?
      Venezuelan Locust, buzzing and gnawing at the mound
       sainted cleats digging, shuffling, quick fly-around, lotta noise

Carlos, why did you fly away like Kerry Wood, like DeRo, like a butterfly?
      retiring without a championship made you a true Cub
      wondering with the wonderful Banks and Santo, Sandberg and Jenkins

Where is your fastball now, Big Man? Don’t point your finger at me
      you pinstriped Hercules, just pitch like a minor god
      opening day Brutus, don’t betray us your luck-full love
      bat in hand, you pointed at the centerfield scoreboard, daring it down

Carlos Zambrano, bully of the mound, this second city waited
  for your big shoulders to carry it
    back to that same old place, sweet home, Zambrano
  to a new century
    of curse and command
      back to that same old place, sweet home, Zambrano

~ ~ ~
R.L. Buss is the black sheep trucker of literature and an outsider student of American studies. As a freelance writer and photographer his credits include San Diego City Beat, San Diego Free Press, Happy, and Impact Press. He is the author of Life Between Cigarettes, and his current project is the intrapersonal and pataphysical literary cartel Ragged Archetypes. R.L. lives in the deciduous canopy atop a red brick tepui in Chicagoland, where he pays the endless stream of bills with a day job in library administration. His website is and he welcomes any and all feedback on his work.