On his way back to the dugout he lets go of it, carelessly,
as if it had never meant a thing...

The bat spins upright on its barrel once, twice:
has a slow wobble put into it by the gravitational pull of Arcturus
or some other barely visible twilight star,
dips left, right,
further left, further right,
suddenly lunges and draws a tight donut in the dry earth—
 and then begins to fall.

A third of the way to ground, the handle encounters a length of dark green string
which chatters quickly along the grain of the knob, then another which lodges below the lip
and draws back tightly, pulling the grid along with it.
There is a moment when the drop of the wood and the tug of the string equal each other precisely,
and at that moment time has been known to stop.

There is a tidal roar of stillness there, a pause that is ending just before it begins,
every gear in the universe suddenly reversing with a clang

when the deep heart of the bat's wood
 threatens to absorb the coiled rush of 97 mph heat
when the shortstop gone beyond goes deep inside himself
 to fingertip a screamer that even God thought went through
when the foot cuffs the canvas of first base
 a millisecond this or that side of the flam-bang punch of the throw
when the crowd hangs kicking on the breath yanked out from under them
 just before the ump's call...

All these details at all these moments when time has been known to stop,
a flood of ephemera rushing away,
gone before we can know which are important and which not.
We let go of them, carelessly, as if they had never meant a thing.

Would he not place in his memory's book
these insignificant details of each and every game,
if he knew that each and every game might be his last?

©1998 Rick Lopez (text) & Art Becker (images)