When Taylor’s Cancer Resistance Movement Rose in Support of G.L.#29

(The Death of a Prom King, Spring 2012)


On maple tree branch remote from Pagnotti Park,
a robin guarded nest bearing blue eggs.
Occasionally, the robin
watched foul balls descend gray cloud,
come its way, threaten for moment, then fall.
A baseball coach cried,
“Straighten-out your swing, Joe!”

P.A. System played National Anthem,
the robin feared foul balls “burst in air.”
I looked to Riverside H.S. team bench,
players stared at rivals, Old Forge Blue Devils.
Nested uneasily upon dugout bench end,
hands beneath keister, I saw Chet Lukasiewicz.

Like Rodin’s Thinker, gone paralytic numb,
Chet’s big black eyes, weary red whites,
they closed momentarily as I passed by dugout.
Fifty year old triceps propped strong body,
it appeared Chet wanted to take shot for team,
dive (for no apparent reason) at shots down 3rd base.

Taylor Borough, a small town,
and only animals were unaware that
Chet’s 18-year old son, Gary, (only child),
nested at home, a hospice care bed.
A rare form of stomach cancer,
Gary wound down from chemo-infection,
his opposition cells on hit streak,
they gained unfair edge.

How could Chet stay and watch game?
(Ah) Whatever girds such inner strength
must fortify Cancer Ward corridors.
I hoped for rain, dispatch him home.
Might Chet recover Red Sox baseball cards
tucked away in Gary’s closet?
I am flyweight gorilla in the stands,
I wanted to frighten Chet home,
make him mourn like me.

Geese overhead, graceful like Yastrzemski.
Far behind, one cackled as if forgotten,
and an umpire called “strike three!”
I could not stay in shell any longer, said,
“O Chet – how can you stay here?”

“God gives strength during misfortune,
Chuck, and Gary #29 wants me here today!”

My fists tightened on chain-link fence.
Gary cannot play and Chet here to pray?
On chopping block, little Isaac looked skyward,
he saw Abraham’s Louisville Slugger aloft,
heard a fallen theologian cry.
“Gastric Lymphoma, I realize you’re alive,
have ‘right to life, but I want to kill you!”

Gary at home, supplied oxygen tube
fell from nose, mother Cheryl reattached.
I strolled 3rd base line, cancer cells load bases.
Can not D.O.D. cut check to General Dynamics,
stop cancer’s killer rally?

Chet upon team bench, robin upon branch.
I bit tongue, kept spectator silence.
Suddenly, its May 18, 2012 –
Gary persuaded parents to allow
him to attend Riverside High Senior Prom.
That night, a friend bought Gary white tuxedo,
another rented a wheel-chair equipped van,
and on that beautiful Spring night,
Gary # 29 crowned King of Prom.

Classmate joy and tears, 90 pounds,
a shriveling tux, cameras flashed,
Gary smiled like Ken Griffey Jr.,
struggled to uphold head.
A teacher kissed cheek, lost composure,
all cried, “Keep Fighting Gary!”
and the van carried him home.

Next morning, Feast Day of St. Joseph,
The Times-Tribune front-page,
Gary Lukasiewicz passed away, 10:30 A.M.
Million prayers suspended in morning dew,
the unbeatable Cancer Cell closer got final out,
and maybe, just maybe…,
Gary’s spirit rounded bases without fence,
slid Nike cleats into incomprehensible home.

Baby robins emerge from shell,
one game over, another begins.
Outside Semian Funeral Home,
I watched victorious cancer cells assemble,
in dark hoods, no one recognized them.
Lymphoma must celebrate, forever run in blood
of those who run Race Against Cancer.
I watched family console hundreds,
stand for Rilke Book of Hours.
Later parents crossed Union Street, held hands.
And I cried, “O, Chet and Cheryl, will you please
come play catch with me?”

Sunday evening, June 10, 2012.
Faraway, perched upon rooftop “nose bleed” seats,
a spectator, I secretly watched
new life at Lukasiewicz’s Taylor home.
Cheryl poured milk into gray cat’s bowl.
She carefully placed Gary’s dusty spikes
in shoe box, destined for a pair of size 10 feet.
Confetti in Fenway Park bleachers,
only ¼ mile away, St. Mary’s Cemetery mound.
Breeze passed through Prom King’s crown,
a robin stood upon colorful grave, picked at fern.
Chet sat upright on back porch bench, drank beer,
tears welled in my eyes, “O God #29,
please give me strength?”

Charles Orloski lives in Taylor, Pa. He can be reached at: ChucktheZek@aol.com. . Read other articles by Charles.