On a bleacher at Robbins Field,
July sun dropping
like a high fly to left field
it's just one more baseball game:
in the outfield a boy
picks grass off his glove,
waves to his grandma who's
leaning on the fence.
The shortstop totters between
second and third, heckles the batter,
follows the pitch that just misses
the plate. She cheers each play,
each swing, checks her watch,
She knows this game from her own
girlhood, knows everything
about him, each scraped elbow,
each bad swing. She knows the
sting of each pitch in his mitt, his
knees sore from up-down-up-down,
she knows how it feels
to steal home.
But when the coach says,
"He's getting awfully hot under there,"
she realizes she has no idea
what it's like behind the mask
and she thinks she couldn't stand it,
all caged up and sweat-locked.
Then she thinks
she's never worn a cup.
She knows the bulge of tampons and pads
but not the hard plastic
he fastens on.
When she walks him to the car
her hand loose on his shoulder,
she knows more than a game
has been lost tonight.
She knows what it feels like
not to win.
It sits in her stomach
like a hard ball,
its first stitch split,
its inevitable unraveling begun.
© 1998 Barbara Presnell
Presnell's first chapbook, Snake Dreams, published
in 1994 by Nightshade Press, won the North Carolina Poetry
Society's Zoe Kincaid Brockman Award. Her poems and short
stories appear in over fifty journals and anthologies, including
Claiming the Spirit Within: A Sourcebook of Women's Poetry
and Voices from Home: A North Carolina Prose Anthology.
A native of Asheboro, NC, she received her MFA from UNCG and
worked as an artist-in-residence for the North Carolina Arts
Council Arts Council and the Kentucky Arts Council. Presnell
lives in Lexington, North Carolina with her husband, Bill
Keesler, and son, Will. She teaches writing and literature
at Catawba College in Salisbury.