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Balk/Change Up/Intentional Walk/Rehab Assignment/The Off Day photo


1. Balk


Just that instant

when thinking becomes

too much

and go becomes maybe

becomes not becomes



and the umpire

like a saint parting

the greenest sea

throws his arms

like he’s scaring birds

like he cannot believe

what just happened

points and points

and points and points

moving the pieces

both into scoring position.


2.  Change up


Like kabuki: the drama

of the stretch: the wind

up: the hard throw masking

like theatrical paints:


that cut, that slide

that off-speed drop

that buckles the batter’s knees.


3.  Intentional walk, or how to ruin the fun


And now

no chance

of the pitch that barely

catches the almost

plate and the batter

lunging a swing

that bat head clips

the ball just enough

to shoot it

opposite field

over the head of

the first baseman     

who has relaxed

before the ball

is lobbed.


4.  Middle Relief


Messenger with arthritis and stoop

ex-catcher’s knees

my manager slows halfway there

raises his right arm

taps that wrist twice

a sign for me.


My job is another’s failure:

two men on, a run already in

nobody out


a screen that stops foul balls.


I want to tell people

that I have thrown this ball

until my shoulder is a hollow socket,

is a grey tar tatter paper house

a skincracked oak tree

blank fields

the steepest drainage ditch

along the roadway.


I do not think of finishing

nor was I meant to.


Now my stretch:

my wrist, my fingers, my right arm

strange hieroglyphs of bird’s legs


this  leather rubbed to complacency

a fist, an iodinestained moon.


My job is pretending:

the spot is not the spot,

the speed is not the speed

the spin stutters

and disintegrates some promise

that drops like munitions.



5.  Rehab assignment      


After a couple months away

after all that sitting and waiting

now that the doctor says

now that the orthopedist says


and the motion of my deliver

feels awkward but painfree.


I’ve thrown a short outing

three innings of gentle fastballs

of nothing that breaks too much

no whipsnap elbow wrist shoulder

a simple toss to find

mechanics, rhythm, supple precision

again and again.


I know where I want to throw the ball

I just don’t remember exactly how

to place it where I’ve always known

how to place it.


5. The Off Day


On the off day you rest

your arm: tendon torque

shoulder ache: unless

the game, the series

the inning, the out

means more.



image: Aubrey Hirsch