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by J.D. Schraffenberger

Unlace the baseball’s red seams peel its soft leather shell back

Unwind the dark speckled yarn until it pools at your feet

Like black froth we are walking the shallows at night

Understand what I’m getting at is the tiny pink soul inside

I have ten five-gallon buckets of yellowed baseballs the skin

Nicked and shedding like sunburned shoulders they smell

Of rain and muddy white chalk the dust of orange clay

I pitch a tent on the pitcher’s mound pry the rubber loose

Dig a hole for my campfire and hang my cleats to dry

In the morning I’ll wander the outer wilds of left field

I’ll swim the deep unhunted grasses of foul territory

Civilization will finish itself off for good it’ll go faster

Than you want it to a sudden memory of the child you were

A teammate posing with gloves and aluminum bats

What’s it called when you can’t remember the right word

What do you call the boy who grew up to become a stranger

My second self once removed I could play catch with him

Here are the words I know balk steal slide strike out safe

Home is another word tap its edges with the tip of your tongue

Dig yourself into the box take a couple of good swings

Blue winds wake the flags the catcher pops his floppy mitt

The loudspeaker anthem thins out over low gray clouds

Symbols crashing everywhere coach spits chew into the dirt

Causes of death are always the same the outfield turned fallow

New animals come to build their nests in the stands


J. D. Schraffenberger is editor of the North American Review and a professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa. He is the author of two books of poems, The Waxen Poor and Saint Joe's Passion, and his other work has appeared in Best of Brevity, Best Creative Nonfiction, Mid-American Review, Notre Dame Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. He lives in Iowa with his wife, the novelist Adrianne Finlay, and their two young daughters.


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