North American Stadiums

North American Stadiums

by Grady Chambers


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Winner of the inaugural Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, North American Stadiums is an assured debut collection about grace—the places we search for it, and the disjunction between what we seek and where we arrive.

"You were supposed to find God here / the signs said." In these poems, hinterlands demand our close attention; overlooked places of industry become sites for pilgrimage; and history large and small—of a city, of a family, of a shirt—is unearthed. Here is a factory emptying for the day, a snowy road just past border patrol, a baseball game at dusk. Mile signs point us toward Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Salt Lake City, Chicago. And god is not the God expected, but the still moment amid movement: a field "lit like the heart / of the night," black stars stitched to the yellow sweatshirts of men in a crowd.

A map "bleached / pale by time and weather," North American Stadiums is a collection at once resolutely unsentimental yet deeply tender, illuminating the historical forces that shape the places we inhabit and how those places, in turn, shape us.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571315045
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publication date: 06/05/2018
Pages: 112
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Grady Chambers was born and raised in Chicago. He was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, attended the MFA program at Syracuse University, and has received fellowships from the Norman Mailer Center and the New York State Summer Writers Institute. His writing has appeared in Adroit Journal; Diode Poetry Journal; Forklift, Ohio; Nashville Review; Ninth Letter; New Ohio Review; and elsewhere. He lives in Philadelphia.

Read an Excerpt

Explaining the Resurrection in Simple Words

A blessing can be the act

of invoking divine


or a favor or gift

bestowed by god,

and I don't know

how to define mercy,

but the field

is lit like the heart

of the night, gnats flitting

above the crosshatched grass,

huge shadows of the ballplayers in stadium light

whistling in signals

from the outfield.

The wind lifts and settles

our shirts against our skin,

and you ask after my day:

there'd been pinwheels

spinning on a rain-soaked lawn, pigeons

cooing and nesting in the gutters.

I'd pressed my back to the dark

damp wood of the trunk.

Yellow flowers fell on me.


Another Beauty I Remember

Somewhere in South Chicago the millwrights and welders

of US Steel are leaving their masks

to hooks and lockers and shining out

into evening still covered in dust.

Those men do not belong to me, their world of arc

and fire, but many nights I have loved them.


When I was seventeen

my friends and I rode each weekend

toward the Indiana border. One drove, another worked the dials

on the radio, and I drank gin in the back

and ordered us to slow over the toll bridge

to peer down at the barge lights roaming the Calumet River,

then up to where the smokestacks of US Steel

rose like an organ in a church. Gin, fire, the workers

coming off their shifts, light lighting up the metal-dust

spread along their shoulders like the men

had all walked through plate glass windows.


Their dust does not belong to me, but many nights I have loved them.

They do not live where I was born, north of the mammoth

glass residences of the Gold Coast

where the worst news

was soon mended: a neighbor girl's bone

broken in a fall. A garage fire sullying the air

over Broadway and Balmoral. I did not know

their sons: the Byrnes, the Walshes, the Mansekies

of Bridgeport and Fuller Park. The green parade and the green

river and the pride of the Irish. Laughter, bright

balloons over cracked asphalt, yellow hair

and sunlight, all the families singing songs

of another country.


I keep taking the long road back

to that summer because the image won't leave me:

weekend evenings, gin and driving south, smoke

blasting from the factory stacks,

the men glancing up at the flash of our passing.

We were going to spend all night drinking gin

on an Indiana beach. Dust had settled

like fragments of a hand grenade, like silver wings

across the backs of the men. We were going to tell each other

what was beautiful.


The dark water was beautiful. The fire drowning

the air with smoke, our voices

drowned by the sound.

I stood at the edge of the water

where the coastline stretched from my left

and curved enough north that the stitch

of factory lights looked like they were shining

from the far side of the lake.

We burned traces into the air with the burning

tips of sticks poked into the heart of fire.

We all said the sky was beautiful. Our bodies light

against the water.


Somewhere in South Chicago the millwrights and welders

of US Steel are leaving their masks to hooks

and they are going home. What did I know then? What did I know

of the beauty of the men? Driving past, I watched just long enough

to see them stepping out of their shifts,

believing them angelic, knowing not a thing

about their lives, each of them, perhaps, seeing what I saw: light

coming off the backs of the others as they drifted

into the lot, but knowing the light I saw was dust,

not wings, and, knowing to call it dust,

calling it dust.


The Window

This was my routine: I woke, and in the morning

carried my houseplants to the courtyard,

three small succulents

potted in a wooden box.

Each evening I returned to retrieve them.

When a neighbor inquired

I explained that I did this to give the plants sun and air.

Her manner suggested she perceived my action to be

unusual-I suspected she'd been watching for some time.

Soon after, the rains came.

What little light there was

only made visible the water

that had been falling invisibly all night.

The daily journey from the kitchen to the courtyard became unnecessary.

Here I should explain something

about the room in which I lived.

It was small, three walls and a door,

but one whole wall was a window.

The view was of the courtyard

and across it, windows into the rooms

on the yard's far side: blinds, reflections,

individual panes the width and length of coffins.

In time I became interested in a window opposite my own.

It was like the others

in most respects, except all day a curtain

was drawn across it. Light burned

from behind it all hours of the night.

Evenings I positioned my chair behind the blinds-

night came. One by one

the windows glowed

on the building opposite.

One by one they were extinguished

except the one I watched.

I recall a night-light I was given as a boy,

a moon the size of my hand

illuminated by a slim bulb.

The light shined through the moon; the moon's plastic

softened the light.

In the sky, the white moon.

In the corner of my room, the small moon appeared yellow. The window

came to seem connected: the way the curtain

held and thickened the light,

how the light made the weight of the curtain apparent.

Reading back, I see that I have omitted

certain important details-

many nights had passed; the curtain remained closed.

What I knew of the room I knew

only from the shadows cast

by the objects inside-

a headboard,


a spray of stems.

I never saw anyone.

I never saw anyone,

but I knew the room was occupied: the shade of the light

sometimes altered, bright or dim

depending on the night,

like a pulse.

I lay in bed. The rain erased the world,

then slowed,

and the world's noise returned-

trickling water; the hum

coming from the walls.

Days passed. A stain formed

on the sill's tile around the outline

of the box of plants.

The window, as I have said, often remained lit

late into the night. When I saw it, I would rise

and turn on my own. If the window darkened,

mine did too. In this way, I felt, we came to form

a kind of correspondence.

At the courtyard's center

sat a round glass table, four chairs

tilted toward it, like people conspiring.

A pool of water formed across its surface,

blue in the evening, pale in the day, the sky

moving inside it. Each night before sleep,

my eyes traveled from the window

to the table, from the table to the shape

of each vacant chair, the darkness filling

the absent forms.


Salt Lake

Noon turned everything white-


and empty-

shadows walked back

inside their trees.

You were supposed to find God here,

the signs said-

West Jordan, Zion, there

where the first Saints

were fed

into the Valley

by the Range.

Dusk drowned the canyon's gashes-

dawn brought them back-

then all that sunlight. All that

brown burnt trackside brush.

Kids by the roadside,

I remember-blue snow cones

in white paper cups.

Table of Contents

Explaining the Resurrection in Simple Words 1


Syracuse, October 5

The Life 6

Another Beauty I Remember 8

Thousand Islands 11

Sunday Morning 14

Far Rockaway 15

Jackknife 20

A Summer 26


View from Brooklyn 29

The Window 30

Pin 34

Dragons 38

The Syracuse Poem 44

Blue Handgun 49


After Psalm 17 57

A Story about the Moon 59

Dispatch: Pittsburgh 60

Picasso in Milwaukee 63

Dispatch: Canal Zone 64

Salt Lake 67

Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, 1966 68


The Leavings 73

Calaveras 78

Bands You Might Have Liked If You Were Still Alive 80

Stopping the War 82

Rainout in the Twin Cities 91

Memorial Day 92

Acknowledgments 95

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