Seaver and Stargell

The pull is strongest late mornings in the Summer.
The sun brings up the light on a sky
Whose promise reaches across decades.
Heat builds outside the plate-glass window,
And I'm ready for hours of sweat-soaked baseball,
Though the schedule says it's an air-conditioned office day.

Since I cannot return, I merely remember:

Two 12-year-old boys, each sharp-boned and scabby-legged,
Face each other from opposite ends
Of the three treeless yards, fed by Artesian wells,
At the crook of their horseshoe street.
One is the league's premier power pitcher,
The other its most feared slugger.

Props are few: Wooden bat, not yet cracked,
An outfielder's glove, almost broken in,
And the remnant of a hardball wrapped in electrical tape.
The breeze off the Atlantic, a mile away, blows in.
The sun spectates, changing position for a better view.
A neighbor's dog umpires from the shade.

The two fall into a pattern they did not create
But infuse with theatrics all their own.
Hit. Field. Throw. Count to three. Count to nine.
Try to stay clear of the cactus and Spanish Bayonet.
Watch out for bad hops on the driveways.
Keep track of the baserunners, stay up on the score.

Game over, they pause to hose off and drink
In long gulps that make their bellies ache.
They bask in the sun's approval of their deeds:
Another 10-strikeout win for one,
Two doubles and a homer for the other.
What you would expect of the league's top players.

In time, the pain in their guts subsides.
They rise slowly, and the sun roars
As they walk back onto the field.

Grapefruit League Report

I played as a child,
Each sport in its season,
Marking time by transition
One to another.

I thought as a child,
Making idols of grown boys
Whose magnitude was measured
In mathematical fluctuations.

When less a child I contrived
To make their deeds my work,
Thinking proximity
Not too great a compromise.

Wholly a man I have turned
Full face into years without seasons
And am pricked by regret
Only in the Spring.

Copyright © 2000 by Glen Gifford

GLEN GIFFORD is an attorney in a public defender's office and a former sportswriter who lives with his wife, Tana, and son, Phillip, one block from a city baseball field in Tallahassee, FL. He grew up in the suburbs of St. Augustine, FL, where he became aware of the larger world in 1969, making him a lifelong New York Mets fan. His last brush with the Bigs was in the late 80s when he bummed a chew off Astros reliever Juan Agosto during a Spring game in Kissimmee, FL. These days, Tana's work with a local Shakespeare festival has Glen thinking more of "The Tempest" than of rain delays.

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Glen Gifford Poetry
Published: May 21, 2000
Copyright © 2000 by the Cosmic Baseball Association