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For the Game
By Craig Paulenich

I Prometheus in Foul Ground

The World has regained its orbit,
the spiral tightened.
Persephone emerges in right field,
shading her eyes.
The lineup of holy seasons past
remains unbroken.
The gods are remembered,
gloves restrung.
They cross the on-deck circle,
Osiris and Shoeless Joe,
Pete Gray and Mordecai Brown,
Gil Hodges and Gilgamesh.
The vultures of winter
are driven away.
My new heart is
the size of a baseball.


II Playing Ball

Sportsman's Park

Five Points
New Virginia
Frogtown Road

Finger the bat neck
like a rosary. It will
raise blisters like roses.
Oil the glove. This cowhide
is not dead. See it
drink, grow supple
and dark?

This is my first season without my father.
The diamond seems more oblique, askew,
the game quieter, the space
between second and third
more crowded, claustrophobic.
The infield is slower, grass taller.
The pitches break in on my wrists,
there isn't time enough
to bring the bat head around.

And so we sacrifice,
moving others up,
bringing them home.
It is, after all, the game which matters.
These small martyrdoms kill the self,
bind us with the dead who have
raised dust on these base paths.



CRAIG PAULENICH is an associate professor of English at Kent State University­Salem Campus, a baseball junkie, and editor of Beneath a Single Moon: Buddhism in Contemporary American Poetry (Shambhala Press, Boston, 1991).

© 2001 Craig Paulenich


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