Saturday, March 31, 2012

When Walt Whitman Played for the Philadelphia Eagles

A Excerpt from SCONTO WALAA, a novel by Stephen Poleskie, published in November 2012

THE NEXT YEAR the Eagles' number one receiver had demanded too much money when his contract was up for renewal so was sent packing. Whitman was moved up to the regular squad. He rode the bench and covered kickoffs, until the third game, when the former number two receiver, now number one, broke his ankle. Given his chance Walt made the most of it, even making a spectacular catch in the last seconds of the home game against the Eagles hated rivals the New York Giants. He hadn’t scored the game winning touchdown, but Walt Whitman’s grab had set up the three yard run that did.
About midseason some local sports pundit, remembering a famous writer with the same name who had lived just across the river in Camden, New Jersey had given our Walt Whitman the tag “The Poet.” Sconto now got to fume at headlines that read: The Poet snags six balls as Eagles trounce Skins. Wala did get to shout at his television set, and cheer, even spilling his beer, when The Poet had his bell rung and was driven off the field on a golf cart in the final game of the season. The Eagles made the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Poet, however, was suffering from a concussion and did not play. The Eagles were blown away in the first game, and the TV announcers kept speculating how much the offense missed Walt Whitman, with the camera frequently panning to him standing next to the player’s bench wearing mufti, his face a blank expression, as if he was attending a séance or some such thing.
Maybe it was the crack on the head, but Walt Whitman now believed he was a poet, or perhaps it was the tidy advance a “book producer” agent had garnered for him from a big-name publisher. Walter, who had to repeat the Freshman Writing Seminar at Wilbender College twice, sat down at this computer, which he had previously used mainly for viewing porn and playing video games, and, pecking away with two fingers and the help of a ghostwriter, shortly came away with a collection of poems he called Eagle Claws. This could kindly be described as free-verse doggerel about the joys of playing wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles football team.
Greased by large sums of publisher’s money, distinguished literary critics for major newspapers and magazines, who normally ignored first books of poetry, indeed any book of poetry, spit all over themselves slathering Eagle Claws with praise. Walt Whitman appeared on all the talk shows, including Oprah, and for nine weeks the book hovered near the top of the New York Times bestseller list.
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STEPHEN (STEVE) POLESKIE is an artist and writer. His artwork is in the collections of numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York: and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Tate Gallery in London, and the Museum Sztuki in Lodz. His writing, fiction and art criticism, has appeared in many journals both here and abroad. Among these are American Writing, Leonardo, Lightworks, Many Mountains Moving, Satire, SN Review, and Sulphur River Literary Review in the USA; D'Ars, and Spazio Umano, in Italy, Himmelschrieber in Germany, and Imago in Australia. He also has a story in the anthology The Book of Love, from W. W. Norton, and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Poleskie has published five novels and has taught, or been a visiting professor at twenty-seven colleges and art schools throughout the world, including: MIT, Rhode Island School of Design, the School of Visual Art in New York and the University of California, Berkeley. He has also been a resident at the American Academy in Rome. Poleskie is currently a professor emeritus at Cornell University. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife, the novelist, Jeanne Mackin. Additional information can be found on his web site: