A cement mason, working near our house,
taught me more about hitting a ball than any
coach I ever had at any level.
A curious kid, I watched the old Swede work
the surface of a wet patch fresh-poured
for a sidewalk at the Lindseys’ down the street.
“How do you get it so smooth?” I asked, resisting
the urge to scratch my initials into the surface.
The old man grumbled something that sounded
to me like this: “ta vait uff ta drowel.”
Hitting a ball, it came to me years later,
connecting solidly and with consistency,
required that I, just as the mason said,
enable the “vait” of the tool in hand.
The bat, practice revealed, would do the work
if I had the patience and humility to allow it.
Time after time – if I could resist the urge
to control, alter or otherwise empower it –
the mass of the wood, so precisely lathed,
would cut the same perfect radius through space
as the mason’s blade skimming the pliant wetness.
There are differences, you say, between
a sluggish patch of new-poured ooze and
darting spheres purposed to elude.
But the letting go of urge, the movement
of the arm, always the same, the radial
sweep so perfect in its avoidance of
conscious intervention – the willingness
to let “the weight of the trowel” do its work –
were then and will ever be the same.