– for Ry

Eighth inning, bases loaded, no one out, your team
leading, seven-six. I sit in this box seat remembering
how I danced in a Dublin pub one night with a man
who said his job was saving Catholics. A priest?
I thought, as the Irish band’s rendition of “Satisfaction” –
a concept second-cousin to relief – filled the smokey air.
I’m in the Dublin Fire Brigade, he said, and I laughed in relief.
I’m not laughing now, and I swear I can smell the acrid smoke
as the starter sees his win go down in flames. Now the manager
walks slowly to the mound, his right hand palm up to receive
the ball as his left rises like an angel toward the sky, where there’s
no trace of salvation in the form of rain, and the bullpen gate
swings open. Halfway through the season, thirty innings pitched,
your ERA just two-twenty-one, and thirty-five struck out despite
their praying, there’s no doubt you’ll be the southpaw jogging out.
I watch you take the mound, gauge, with a mother’s practiced eye,
your every warm-up pitch, and now your first batter steps up,
his average in the program three-o-eight and already risen some
tonight, and as you watch for signs, glare in toward the plate,
I unconsciously lean forward in my seat, ready to believe,
in relief, there isn’t anything that can’t be saved.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: the author’s son played professional baseball.)