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On the Avenue
By Manly Johnson

The boy in the field
was catching flies.

He wanted a fungo bat
with his name burned in
to knock the ball into the air
and catch it himself before it fell.

That was more difficult
than seeing his face
in profile.

He wanted to pitch the ball
and hit his own slider
over the fence.

He would collect a little sweat
from his cap and grip the ball
with thumb and two fingers.

He would lean back
lift a foot higher than his head
swing the arm through
and let go with a wrist snap.

As the spinning spheroid cut
the corner of the plate
his bat would meet it
with a solid crack.

That was harder than flying
off the garage roof.

He would like to be the umpire
calling himself safe at home
as he slid in a tick ahead
of the ball.

He would snag his own line drive
over third with a backhand stab
and catch himself off first.

He wants a glove and a bat
he wants a ball
and cleats.

He wants to give himself
these things.



MANLY JOHNSON, poetry editor of Nimrod, formerly associate editor of The Hopkins Review, has published poems and translations in a variety of journals and little magazines. He has taught at Johns Hopkins, Williams, Michigan, and Tulsa Universities. He lives in Tulsa with his wife, Francine Leffler Ringold.

© 2001 Manly Johnson


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