St. Rita of the Baseball Fields
Long before you listened to a middle-aged man pray
for a young pitcher’s arm, you were the saint
for abused wives, for those aching from illness,
even for the Texan nuns who wanted oil to spray
from a bone-dry, sick well. But now, fans
have christened you the Patron Saint of Baseball,
where you soothe bruised major league catchers
and sore baserunners, cheer for little boys who long
to be the next Mike Trout or Kris Bryant.
They say you guided Willie Mays to his famous
over-the-shoulder catch and that you helped a nun
catch Bobby Thomson’s Polo Grounds homerun.
Now you wander through muddy little league fields
and World Series ball parks. They say you are present
for every lucky catch or slide or stolen home base.
In answer to pleas made with rally caps and to prayers
recited with fists pushed deep into worn palms
of gloves, you love every impossible cause.
Spring Melt at the Little League Field
Winter here retreats slowly, edging away from the outfield, faded base lines, a weathered home plate covered in slush. The pitcher’s mound, smoothed flat from heavy snow, is little more than a muddy circle, the chain-link fence, warped by wind and freezing rain, surrounds the field, sways and waves, hinges creaking. Someone last season lost a glove near the bleachers, the web torn, heel and palm smooth from hundreds of catches. Someone left baseballs in the outfield, every one sinking in the tangled grass and winter debris, every stitch slowly unraveling. But here, I can also find a dead doe resting near third base, its body bloated, stiff fur gray and thawing, its nose buried in what is left of the snow, but one ear perked forward, as if listening for cheers, for an umpire’s strike call, for the sharp crack of a ball against bat.
Alone in Right Field
Because at every practice,
I closed my eyes and threw out
my arms in defensive reflexes,
balls bouncing off the tips
of my gloved fingers,
I ended up in right field,
ponytail eschew, cap falling
to the bridge of my nose,
shadowing my freckled cheeks.
From there, I could watch
the game without fear of
left-handed swingers, so I
counted strikes, sometimes
cheered my teammates’ catches,
but mostly shielded by tufts
of tall grass and dandelions,
I made up stories about
the rusty pickup parked
behind the blue Porta Potty
abandoned by bank robbers
long ago, the culprits and cash
still missing or how squirrels
and rabbits flocked to the creek
trickling behind me,
its shallow banks sanctuaries
from hunters and little boys
with slingshots and small stones.
So wrapped up in my imagination,
that one day, when we played
our biggest rivals, I missed the crack
of the bat. Everyone said that
when the ball flew in my direction,
that I danced backwards, right glove
above me. When I caught the ball, there
were cheers. But all I remember was
a snake that slid across my shoe,
its body tangled in grass and shoelaces.
It was an anaconda I said, to anyone
who would listen. Or maybe a python