Viola Weinberg is the former poet laureate of Sacramento, California.
The pitcher stood like an angle iron-
Bent forward, legs spread, fist in mitt, squinting
Cap low against the afternoon sun.
He scuffed the mound with his feet.
Puffs of dust rose like wings on his heels.
Turning in a sly half-revolution
He checked the barbarian on First,
And forced him back, back to the bag
Like a wayward ram against the crook.
The pitch, like a poem, took time to make,
Years of wild throws from a small hand,
Decades of watching the sky or the far horizon.
It was made of everything: of his mother's laugh,
And his father's touch, transmitted through the ball
Thrown against the early summer evening stars
That hung on the blushing hem of night
With the frogs croaking their nocturnal serenade
Until the darkness covered his arm and he went in.
Then, it was finally time to come even
With the batter, who was younger and faster,
And leaner and much more hungry
For the mouth and lungs of the crowd.
The two stood against each other
And bared their teeth, their arms twitching.
Already, the pitcher had delivered chin music
And a backdoor slider that fooled the catcher.
It was time to throw his whole life across the Plate.
He lifted his leg, and drew the ball against his chest
And sent it home from the hill with an angry snap.
It came in a great tornado wheel, a Tibetan prayer wheel,
A crackling circular barn-burner
With deadly white, quiet weather at the eye of the eddy
And spirals of leather and stitch that came round and round.
Suddenly released from fingers slippery with spit
The little knot of burning hide flew across the wheelhouse
In a corkscrew curl from a sidearm, hot
As the devil's dangerous breath on the dish