Two MLB Poems
About the Writer
Jacob Collins-Wilson, a high school English teacher, has had poetry published or forthcoming in Crack The Spine, Barely South Review, The Finger Literary Magazine, Spillway, Rathalla, Poetry Quarterly and Burningword Literary Journal among others. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of the Net series. He can be reached by everyone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everything in baseball is measurable:
Men stand sixty-feet-six-inches from the pitching rubber
with pine-tarred bats & dirty palms.
When my father gave up drinking,
it was too late. It was after
he'd broken my brother's nose.
I don't know if my brother fought back,
or if it makes a difference,
but the thought of my father pummeling
a thirteen-year-old seems too much like a movie
for me to fear. I would have fought.
If I were my brother, I would have fought so hard.
Would've stop passing the mashed potatoes.
Ninety-feet from the back corner of home to first-base.
Sometimes redemption is drinking
alone in a new apartment while your wife
and sons stare at that empty chair during supper.
It's buying extra Christmas gifts,
splurging on birthdays. It's finally playing whiffle ball,
though your back hurts like hell; your right knee,
the one you had surgery on at thirty,
buckles. It's buckling down. It's stop pretending
you at least return the cans for change.
It's trying to balance the scale between victory and loss.
127' & 3 3/8'' to second.
This is a poem for my brother
who found himself by working as a cashier
at the grocery store; my brother
who turned the grocery business into love.
The same people come through his line
and he smiles. It's the grin always plastered on his face
for his new wife as if she were the aisles
he discovered hope in, as if he had just seen
the dentist, as if fistfights, forgetting, running
away––the drug, alcohol, physical abuse––and remembering
childhood trips to the beach were all secondary
to being alive. My brother learned to measure happiness
by how wide he could smile.
Home-run fences vary in distance.
This poem is for me
because I have always been envious.
This poem is for the Green Monster
This poem is for those of you
who don't have a local grocer willing to hire
lost teenagers. This poem is for the soccer player
whose father's father was a quarterback.
For doctors who diagnose boxers schizophrenic
because they just want to destroy:
Please remember my brother,
remember my father.
Remember no matter how long the struggle is
to make a fist,
to throw it through a face or a pillow, you never will.
Force is an equation
you can't ignore the reality of.
This is for mothers who don't breastfeed,
for Oprah because she's the only human I hate,
for people who hate, for those who don't fall in love
because they care too much for the world, for employees
sleeping with their bosses, for those of us who don't
Remember my brother and father.
Soon they will die. Perhaps after me.
Everything in baseball is measurable,
and that makes living hard.
But how do we try? We build tree-houses
in every forest no matter how small.
Create nests for children, give them secrets
to keep. Teach them to think of infinity,
to wear leaves and wave pieces of bark
at birds and cars. Make up stories
to teach them about people. Let them fail.
Tell your children that I'm their godfather
even though they'll never know me. Tell them
I won't give them a single fucking piece of candy unless they earn it.
He's just a guy in the middle of a diamond
with the ball in his hand
until he addresses the rubber.
He is a body divided among eight. His limbs are autonomous.
He is only as alive as the ball––thread & hide
making it's way around, governed by force.
Once the ball finds a new force
from a bat, the pitcher is all back-up,
passive, a stand-in at best but never considered
a position player, like a friend's little brother
is only 'if necessary.'
But when he addresses the rubber,
his face turns from skin to mud:
it's just him, the rubber & the slope of the mound.
When he looks, he doesn't see the backstop, batter or catcher––
only space & the trail the ball will follow: guided, touched
with sweat, passion and a little spit & spin. We love
the potential of the pitcher, his otherness alone on a field
filled with his own body parts. He bears down on batters,
arm dangling like a chainsaw accident, thinking,
Just one more out
strike-outs are fascist
he's two-for-three against me
rain's slicked the skin
he's crowding me
I wonder if Tatiana is here
where's my dad sitting?