Once (not that long ago, perhaps, though we likely know better)
The summers were languid, liquid things without end
Each day fully equipped with a high sky,
The blue so all-encompassing, so all consuming,
That lazy fly balls seemed to disappear
As if God had scooped them up like so many routine grounders.
We played, in a field long since abandoned to crownvetch and scrub grass
Twenty one–five points for those balls
The celestial powers had bobbled
And we were able to catch on the fly,
Three points if we took it on the hop,
One if we safely trapped it before it rolled stone dead,
And so our Julys and Augusts fluttered by,
Every bit lazy and aimless as butterflies or knuckleballs,
With the exception of the de riguer tribunals
In which the assembled debated and determined
Where bounce ended and roll began,
Where shoestring catch was reduced to single-point trap.
It all came to an end, of course;
At some point, we crossed a line
(Undelineated but firmly established nonetheless)
Where it was no longer advisable to attempt this at home,
Mere joy was no longer an acceptable substitute for proficiency.
Find something else to do, kid, we were told,
And the bats went to the back of the closet,
The gloves and balls consigned to a spot
(Where we would surely remember to find them)
Behind some canned tuna and Christmas lights,
The fastball blurring by us now,
The field a warren of subdevelopments and cul-de-sacs.
And so you’d forgotten, or perhaps just suppressed, the whole notion;
There were, after all, a gaggle of coupon books
With return addresses from an ever-changing confusion of banks,
Sales on pasta and milk, and other fees and foundations
Politely requesting ones attention,
So you couldn’t be sure
That it was really the crack of an old thick-handled Adirondack,
Or the comforting thwick of the ball landing squarely
In the pocket of a Wilson A-2000,
Yet when you wandered to the window and peered out,
There they were, looking straight up at you,
Waving their hands like childlike Prosperos
Gesturing to reveal some fairytale glen.
Come on back, they are saying, and you go down,
Powerless to resist, even if you had wanted to,
Returned instantly, seamlessly to a time and place
Where a shout of I got it! I got it!
Was all the hierarchy or vitae that was required,
And you are unable to bring even mock-edginess to your voice
When you insist I got that cleanly on the hop. That’s three points.