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November 19, 2013 / johnoliversimon

3 Baseball Poems

3 Baseball Poems

High and Outside

I spent years heaving a baseball high and wild

into the August sky. Easy, easy my

dad cautioned me but still I threw my arm out

in a vain attempt to beat gravity and make

that baseball dangle long-limbed and light above

the monotony of Sunday afternoons

and the well intentioned whispers saying that

my time was up, that a growing girl had no

reason to feel the singular ache of a

curveball or spin impossible dreams about

major leagues and baseballs that would cheat the air

landing beyond sunflower seeds and logic

straining the hand with the promise that maybe

the next throw would spiral above all their heads

rise and rise against every law of physics

taunting the sky in an open rebellion.

—Audrey Larkin

Stelae

There are stelae at Palenque

that are nothing but names and numbers.

Home runs, strikeouts and stolen bases

for Hunahpú and Hunahpú

who played the sacred game back when

you had to claw for every run

not like today. The losing manager

got disembowelled on the mound

by the knife of the morning star.

I grow older, hombre, or the beardless

mozos striding to the plate grow young.

At 41 I played in Jalatlaco,

place-name meaning “sandy ballcourt.”

The Zapotec lefty decked me.

¿Cómo se dice beanball en español?

And then for once in my mortal

vagabond middle-infielder’s career

I got good wood on the pelota,

it sailed toward the sacred ring,

reached the ancient wall on one bounce.

Hunahpú and Hunahpú

played ball against the gods

in Xibalbá. They lost.

They got their heads cut off

and turned them into baseballs

and stuck them on a tree.

A girl ate them. She had babies:

Hunahpú and Hunahpú.

They finished second two years running.

They smoked the candles of the underworld,

came back to challenge in the playoffs.

They used a mosquito in center field

to steal signs. They stole them blind.

They sacrificed, they had the long ball,

they had defensive magic. They threw

the change, they threw the split-finger.

You remember the sequence from Game Six.

The Mayans carved the standings

into limestone. Learn to interpret

the statistics of heaven,

these cyclic fractals of the endless game.

—John Oliver Simon

Twins

Jefferson practices a big windup
from the pitcher’s mound,
Giants cap flopping over eyes
as he deals a southpaw
sidearm fastball into
my old
gray glove.

Gwydion swings an imaginary bat > at home,
momentum whirling him
laughing into a
batter’s box heap.

Jefferson continues pitching
despite the prostrate body
next to the plate

While I crouch
spearing
Jefferson’s often errant fastballs,
Gwydion crosses his hands behind > his head,
lying there gazing skyward,
“Dad, did you know
clouds are like castles?”

Ball into glove
Pitch punctuation,
“Dad, was that a strike?”

“If the wind changes their shape, > even dragons
can’t see them.”

—Jeff Brain

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