Two Baseball Poems
(for Chris Tillman)
I pitch and then
your memory rises high above the house to bounce
upon the roof, careen across the shingles
and then begin to roll back down to earth.
I dash beyond the porch
on backyard, left field grass to warning track
beneath the eaves and overhang
calculating hit to carom to catch
last moment stride to blind belief
see it all bounce off the gutter once
reach up and try to hold it
but it falls beyond my grasp
then lies there still, a ground-rule double.
Your ghost man lopes toward second base
but turns, pulls up then kicks the bag
and stays there. You laugh
and then, too late, I kneel
and grab the ball. It is
empty, white, weighs almost nothing.
One side is cracked, and full of holes.
BEFORE THE FALL
This slow start this spring
could mean there are holes, dead spots
in the order, weakness
up the middle, and at each corner
Age. Some of us
are in the wrong position
and with each stretch
the muscles pop and tear.
There is no defense
no great depth on which we can depend.
Our speed is suspect
and power, at best, sporadic.
From the cellar the sky is far away
and possibly false, the mound so high
who can help from falling awkward off?
The arms and hands have no control
and the eye wanders, unfocused
anywhere but home.
Each day we greet the earth, but circle
back between the lines
Alone. The night brings
no relief but tomorrow
and the place where we stand
printed on paper
black and white.
Help is at least a year away
and we are closer to hell than that.
We are stepping in for the last time
going out across the fields.
It is a long season
and we are out of our league.
What can we do
but keep playing, playing
look to the sky, to the sun, a white blur
and pray that the rain comes, that summer is wrong?
Among other things, Glenn Stout majored in softball and poetry at Bard College. His poem "Notes Toward an Obituary in the St. Louis Sporting News" was recently published in the inaugural edition of 108 Magazine. He is the author or editor of more than sixty books and lives in Vermont.