“Spring Training,” by Philip Raisor

There’s a lot of great imagery in this poem. It’s also quite nostalgic, full of memories expressed by the narrator. This piece was published in Philip Raisor’s poetry collection, Headhunting and Other Sports Poems.

*

I carry my spikes and step on the field an hour
ahead of the others. Last day of March with April
offering tickets for the new season. I’m full of sun
on wet grass, in love with blistered benches.

A sparrow sits on the backstop, watching, ready
to dart if I catch its eye. I drop my bag on home plate
and swirl my foot in the dust the way my cousin does
with his fingers on the skin of a drum head. Next year

he’ll be released with the others who spent mornings
breaking windows and trashing vacation homes
like drunks in the right field bleachers. Here, I’m alone
with a sparrow and the smell of a baseball morning

settling around me like a comforter. I start trotting
to first base, the ankles loosening, then the knees,
as the dust begins to lift into the breaking light.
Around second and third I stretch my arms

in a rotary motion ready to fly. A hand waves back
from a passing car, someone who knows me
or remembers rising one morning when the game
of who you are is played out in your mind,

and around you a stadium full of fans begs you
to do what you usually do in the clutch. The bat I pull
from the bag for the first time is my father’s
Louisville Slugger, thirty-three inches, wood barrel.

I thought enough time had passed, the attic dust
hard in the grooves. I stroke it slowly like a weapon
you love to touch but would never use. He hit .304
at Omaha the season he was drafted, all-star

rookie-of-the-year. He said we’d join him soon.
Then that other draft. He would have been here.
I swear he would. The silence feels oppressive now.
I dig for a scuffed ball and throw it up, shoulder high,

but let it fall. A natural hitter, my father said, holding
my hands. I grip the tar-stained handle. Tears blur
the wall that’s so far away it looks warped. I aim
for marrow deep inside, April hungry for the kill.



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