- A Game in Late August
Seeded last, our boys expect defeat.Ninety-five degrees. No shade at all.It's a bad mix: long odds, the brutal heat . . .The umpire's here and ready, though. Play ball.
Number 8 bends down to tie his cleats.He's not afraid of a line drive his way,as are his parents, quiet in their seats.His brother joined the Army yesterday.
One little cloud in all the glaring sky,not even drifting, sticks and hangs up therelike gauze over a cut. And a pop flyjust past the fielder's outstretched glove lands fair.
Another error. The cicadas' soundgrows louder as our pitcher comes unglued.The catcher walks out slowly to the mound.I guess he speaks of hope and fortitude.
The inning just won't end. They bat around.Time backs up and idles overhead.The boy in left is kneeling on the ground.A change is made. The pitcher's arm is dead.
The new guy walks the next two, then a third,and there's a portent in the air, a vibethat says the unavoidable's occurred:some kid just wished the wish, betrayed the tribe— [End Page 585]
he didn't keep the faith, he snuffed the fire,he left the narrow path and caused the fall—admitting to the one taboo desire:that summer not be endless after all.
The words, once spoken, cannot be recanted;the field turns reddish-brown. There and thenthe sorcery's complete, the wish is granted.The game looks more like work; the boys, like men.
And still there are the innings left to play.The mercy rule does not apply, and onecan't simply toss the glove and walk away,give up his turn at bat. It isn't done.
Behind the backstop there's a garden hosethe players use to soak their heads. They're downfive runs. Wherever optimism goesit's gone. The on-deck hitter acts the clown—
he pulls a length of hose up through his crotch,lets fly a mighty, arcing, god-like piss.The count is full. The diehards stand to watchour last faint hope swing from the heels and miss. [End Page 586]
Alfred Nicol received the 2004 Richard Wilbur Award for his first book of poems, Winter Light. He edited The Powow River Anthology, published in 2006. His new book of poems, Elegy for Everyone, was chosen for the first Anita Dorn Memorial Prize and will be published in October 2009.