The catcher makes a sign. A counterfeit.
A feint. A shifting from haunch to haunch.
He knows the inclinations of men who hurl
the ball, men who range the outfield mute as turf.
He commands the game, but has no privilege,
only the strapping and un-strapping of gear.
The slits of the pitcher’s eyes stare down
the catcher’s crotch where everything happens.
Before each pitch, his bare hand must touch his glove.
His fingertips burn from the friction of release.
Hands, which are his fortune, hands, soaked in pickle brine,
ground in raw rice, bloody hands pissed on in the locked stall.
The batter invokes the sacrament, rosin and pine tar,
keeps it small, almost kneeling. The patience of the count,
pitch after pitch. The change-up, the doctrine:
wait for the one you want. Make the Big Guy wait for you.
This chilly night on the tail of the season, with his knuckles
lined up in supplication, he pounds one into wind, takes off,
the coach’s arm swinging like a windmill: don’t stop,
palms up: take it standing. He could crash into the fielder
or wiggle his deceitful ass, run like hell, slide
if it looks close—not gamble his hamstrings
on a long ball, just raise his hands
to heaven, take his sweet time home.