a dozen baseballs in a bucket
[ This image is in the public domain. ]

An Ode: To Catching

At fourteen, to my delight, I discover I
bear a sudden and rambunctious skill:
catching. Soon I learn to like it back there,

down in the powdery dust, the chalked-out
encampment behind the batter’s box. I find with my left-hand
fingers the soul of an expressionless black mitt,

get some greaves, wear pounds of buckled plastic
hitched tight by black nylon straps. My game face looks
inscrutable behind its padded mask. Dad approves.

Judicator of homeplate! Venerable anchor of the infield!
Knelt in awe with one hand clenched behind the back!
Let the ricochet of foul tips begin! Lash every site of

my body, turn this skin into a comedy of welts! (Why must my
newfound love be here, in sport’s back-breakingest
of positions?) Baseball, seriously, can you rescue me,

please? Deliver me from these air-conditioned summers: a
quadrillion video games a day, musty
reruns til midnight, onanistic oblivion after. Absolve me my

shoplifting (paperbacks, Baby Ruths, playing cards) and
tawdry girlfriendlessness. I could play this game forever.
Unless the other boys get bigger somehow, faster, bronzed in

virility and grace, I’ll never lose.
What could go wrong? Some nights, the pitcher’s fastball
explodes just right, the curve ball says yes,

yes, call on me, call the changeups and sliders, the strike
zone grows fat, it starts to glow, every pitch takes a piece.