She’s a Mariner in the Pony League. Next year balls and strikes, but this season T-ball. Her father sets her up at the plate, adjusting her stance and helmet. He stands behind his daughter in a kind of embrace, his hands enfolding hers on the handle of the bat, a gentle emphasis that calms her. As one they slowly bring the sweet spot to the ball then draw it back, again and again, shoulders and hips turning in tandem. He steps back. She makes contact and the ball goes like a skipped stone across the skinned infield, gets by the shortstop, and dies safely in the long grass. The helmet’s turned sideways from the swing and she carries the bat halfway to first. The next one up is a boy she likes. He looks at her and she slowly swings an imaginary bat level and true, shoulders and hips turning. Then he makes contact too and she’s away. Home now after the game—no winner and loser—she has a surprise for her father: the skull of a bird she pocketed in right field. She gently opens her hands. [End Page 575]
Thomas Reiter’s most recent book of poems is Catchment. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Georgia Review, and The Sewanee Review.