The Fifth Inning

by Keith Moul

Yes, I once ached for the national game,
baseball then, a pedagogical ritual for me,
a calling to rational beauty, physical love.

I arrived to watch the groundsman’s love
too, his affection for his hose, chalk and all.

The starter would warm in the bullpen, arms,
legs, some sweat, with a familiar zip to the mitt.
A fan says “This guys throws out of his sleeve;
he stokes the heater, oils the slurve. Bring on
their kitchens, throw open their wheelhouses,
he’ll saw them off to the knuckle, exploding
bat splinters under their nails!” We can all sing
an inherited anthem to baseball’s revered idiom.

But from the start, the game fails its hyperbole:

first: our pitcher misses the black, four wide ones
to four batters for a run, but five before it ends;
second: could it be worse? wild in the middle
of the plate; settle in with long relief: two more
runs, an error, nary a hit; oh those bases on balls!

The plate doesn’t jump, but Wiley Joe says “Take!”

Third: our lower third misses signs, whiffs into
a run and hit double play, an ignoble waste of sun!
Fourth: long relief succumbs to Baltimore chops,
bull pen committee shelled; hail to the Browns!

Fifth: line drives leave seam scars on timid psyches;
hurl pitches in their kitchens, more jam jobs; more
slides, spikes up; no loud outs at the wall; we need
ol’ ‘mo’ to shift, bat around, take the extra base, cut
‘em with seeds to any base, an unassisted triple play.

Humiliated, I leave to a peaceful evening, innings 6
-9 missing from my scorecard, therefore too painful,
one of many summers of fruitless hopes, languishing
with jargon in the second division, unsanitary hosiery.

Seek other affections, more promising, not so haunted
by age and mediocrity: perhaps the arousal of tennis.