More Than A Game

Saturdays we'd play catch in the back yard before dinner.
I was 10
standing with my back against the beige
concrete ash pit.
Toss and catch…toss and catch…toss and catch
rhythmic, relaxing
hand to glove to hand to glove
simple, silent, serene space
between throws.

Sometimes I'd sense Pop getting wound up:
narrowing eyes, subtle twist of lip,
nervous rotating of the ball,
nod to invisible catcher,
…dramatic pause…
Without asking
I'd crouch down, fist-smack
my glove, make a target,
because he always threw harder when he pitched.

Afterward he'd reminisce
about pitching semi-pro, how
to place rosined fingers just so
on the stitches, how to release the ball,
how his wrist wouldn't withstand
twisting because he played
First Violin in the orchestra, and piano.
" I had to choose," he'd say, voice trailing off,
a barely audible note bowed ever so softly.
And so he quit baseball.

Decades pass. Intermission at the symphony,
a seventh inning stretch
after a superb concerto,
Pop tells me a story

about a summer he had a chance
to play piano with
a dance combo at a Catskills resort.
"This is not music befitting my eldest son,"
his father told him sternly. Pop persisted.
"You want to play modern music?
You don't want to play violin?
Then don't."
And he
took the instrument
and smashed it against my father
who never again
touched a

A calm telling, a telling calm,
like an easy toss before a pitched battle.
Yet in the stillness -
the whoosh and crack of the bat as it swung and struck,
the sting penetrating the padded glove of time.
And I understood: from a mound of ashes
Pop would
reach back
raise rosined bow
place fingers just so on strings
nod to an invisible conductor, and
…putting a little something extra on the ball …

Copyright © 2001 by Ira Slotkin

Ira Slotkin Autobiographical Note
"I was born in Brooklyn in 1950 and thus imprinted initially to be a Dodger fan. I still am. Now I live with my 3-year-old son Luis within walking distance of the Colorado Rockies ballpark. I have worked in Social Work for more than 20 years, been a cab driver, consultant on human-animal bond and pet loss, and a freelance writer and poet. My father was born in New York in 1911 and played semi-pro baseball there against guys like Hank Greenberg. My father died in 1990. I still have the glove that he used in the 20's and 30's, and his piano."

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Ira Slotkin Poetry
Published: June 9, 2001
Copyright © 2001 by the Cosmic Baseball Association