Elwell Smith, Scribe,
In those small midwestern cities where we played ball
the sun set slow and long There were no hills
to interrupt its journey to the round
edge of the world, the deep horizon's end.
Our shadows lengthened at the end of days,
the seventh through ninth innings
we became elongated
ghosts extending across dusty
infield and green untroubled grass.
When I played second, the ball would tend to jump
off the bat and skip through shadows
toward my glove. I'd move the mitt across
the infield dust, blind, instinctual, sure
of where the ball was headed from the crack
of wood on hide, the blunt fact of having chased
ten thousand grounders in my fading day
And often as not the damn ball would head straight
skipping across the infield grass into my mitt.
I'd squeeze, pick up and throw,
the ball would fly white through the darkening air
true as a rifle ball to Mintz at first;
and just like that, another out rung up.
We were that good, those summers that we played
barnstorming through the long midwest
against local boys who couldn't hit
a curve or dropping sinker off the plate
too eager always, like boys will be when
some blonde haired girl lifts up her dress for them:
Hell, that's baseball all around: you can't fake life
for too damn long. there's always
someone out there
better than you are. You try
but there's some pitcher on the mound.
Jeffries comes to mind, our rebel kid,
straight out of Memphis where the river widens out
and cotton sits on the docks in giant bales
music all night long and fine cat houses
All the best girls, clean as whistles with soft cunts
a man could die inside;
young Jeffries with
his fastball moving like a damn star
across the night sky a blur
that slapped into Arroyo's mitt so loud
the yahoos in the stands would look for rain;
religious folk, they tended all to take
it hard to think some mortal man, hell just a boy
like Jeffries could explode the day with thunder:
ball on mitt.