When he returned his heart was more at rest.
He was either weary of, or had outgrown,
his past. None of it was worth what it cost.
He had taught himself to write about sports.
Then he played one year of football, baseball.
He pitched a no-hitter for seven innings
and hit a home run he waited too long to start
running out, watching the ball sail through the air
and over the heads of the outfielders, and then
he pitched at Mabton against Mel Stottlemeyer,
later the ace of the New York Yankees’ staff,
more than once a twenty-game winner, but not
then what he would be anymore than this one
inside would become him, or so he believed, once.
During his childhood labor and sports, the twin
poles of his growth, he read novels and wrote
what he saw on the gridiron and diamond,
comparing it to the strength a workday required.
He and two close friends played pickup baseball
with makeshift rules of their own, but nothing
compared to what he observed and remembered
when time came, suited up, entering the game.
He had learned to play by watching others
and writing of what he learned. It was words,
not prowess on the fields, he valued more
and more, as he began to live in his own skin.
That was what the city was for. A fit subject
for poetry and story. Where women dazzled.
He knew he must stay in the city longer now.
He knew the country and was a part of it.
Maybe he would come back but not now, no.
His shoulders had lifted enough heavy loads.
He could see what was coming, what arrived.
The rush of events was slow but deadly.
Here brutality came from all corners at once
and so he learned quickly to keep his distance.
After football and baseball were dredged out
through nerve endings and other ganglia,
the city became his study, its women too.
Here they were never so kind as Irene.
They were tougher than her, but not stronger.
She was more woman than any other might be
in the way she loved, never regretting.
(20 November 2012)
copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander