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April 3, 2019 BASEBALL, Poetry

Past Time

Molly Brown

Past Time photo

I suppose there’s something to be said 
for the fact that I can read a box score 
as if second nature and not nature itself,

discordant data of men, their improbable, 
certain physics I practically worship, use
to fill an empty life. The knee highs

and chalked lines, throats and bats slick 
with sweat, they’re just part of it,
but few in this game care for the record 

of unrecordable things—fresh paint 
on the grandstands, its epoxied burn; leather 
meeting leather, the implication of arms 

in arc, a hand in pain. I’ve heard it called 
the Long Dark, this approach of season’s end—
familiar, expected, and yet each time not fully 

known, as when, on my walks through 
other fields, I know and do not know the strain 
of wheat grown there. It might be hard 

red spring or soft red winter. A duck snort 
plops over the second baseman’s head 
and the powers that be decide it’s an error, judge 

he could have pulled off some tumble of a leap.
The right fielder could’ve run in faster, too, 
but E4 glares on the jumbotron, crackles out 

from the PA. Just once I wish grief could be like this, 
the ease and break of a game left in the halves
between fathers and sons, songs and their silences, 

but grief has no off-season. Instead it writes 
itself large on insurance billboards, in windows,
third floor cancer wards. Smaller, too. 

Something in the pocket. The empty seat 
next to mine. I keep turning to see that thin frown, 
your gentle disapproval over the souvenir beer 

warming in your grip. Your absence is 
as inscrutable as the inscrutable alphabet of wheat—
the smallness of barely-begun grains, the path 

the wind makes for itself—and yet I keep trying 
to read it, to know it as it must be known: 
like this game, which, in the deep frost of late

fall, winter’s awful sludge-work, will be 
as if it never was. You feel that way to me
most of the time, as if you never were, 

though not with baseball, the game most haunted
by its ghosts. Maybe it’s the familiar rhythm: 
out of nothing the pitcher’s spark, his coiled body, 

grip on the ball strong, warm, until
all at once he looks up and decides it’s time.
His body lets go. His hand falls.

 

image: Molly Brown


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