No Hitter

May 1, 2003

Poetry of the Times

Sun on the grass, the flawless field
is clipped and shaped
to frame a perfect diamond.
I wear my uniform-green cap and socks,
pin-striped pants and shirt,
"GARDEN STATE" lettered on my back.
The perfect white ball feels too large
for my hand, its red stitching a necklace
on white leather stamped "Official American League."

Beyond the fence, in that other world,
people buzz in the stands
and line up at the ice cream truck.
A railroad track parallels the first base line
where diesel engines thunder and fume
to haul my father's commuter train to the city
where he cuts leather skins in his factory.
But today he is at the game.

I know one pitch,
the heave-back, full strength fast ball.
Infielders chatter "easy out, easy out,"
tense parents in the stands screaming
at the ump, my father on his feet
when the collision of bat and ball
announce the possibility of loss,
leaned back against my mother
when my teammates make the play.

By inning seven I have a no hitter,
as close to perfection as I can come,
my attention split between the batter
and my father whose gaze adds speed
to each pitch. The crowd is on its feet,
even the ice cream man at the fence,
the applause constant, rising with my delivery,
rising with each out, until the final play,
when cheers echo against a passing train,
and I hear his voice, distant
yet finally clear, shouting my name.