At the stadium: Nationals-Padres game, 7/18/21

Night fell on us broiling, dense clouds, deep rout
from the other team, beer haze, roasted snacks.
You could say we were ready to come out
to the ballgame, the crowds, the Cracker Jacks.

Baseball had always been like that, scorching
but friendly, sticky kids, dads screaming “Com’on!”
Sometimes you wished for some rain— according
to the score…if ahead, getting run on.

It felt like America, storms looming,
sideline carnival on the field, home runs
cracking the hot air. Sound system booming
chants and songs. We somehow missed the omens.

Until five shots, sharp, the sudden stampede
on the concourse— and we were newsworthy.
On the street after, nothing guaranteed.
You can’t tell your youngest not to worry.

On the ride home, we felt hollow, lucky.
Tried not to connect baseball and bloody.

About the Poem

We attended our first baseball game since the pandemic with our youngest daughter and her boyfriend who lived outside D.C. There was a storm brewing. As we got up to leave in the middle of the fifth inning, we heard what we thought were early fireworks. Instead, it was a shooting just outside the stadium. We did not know where the shots came from and as we escaped with the surging crowd, we suddenly knew what it felt like to be part of the gun violence culture in America.

About the Author

Ellen Stone taught special education in public schools in Kansas and Michigan for over 30 years. She advises a poetry club at Community High School and co-hosts a monthly poetry series in Ann Arbor, Michigan where she raised three daughters with her husband. Ellen is the author of What Is in the Blood (Mayapple Press, 2020) and The Solid Living World (Michigan Writers’ Cooperative Press, 2013). Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Contact Ellen at

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