steeped for who knows how many unseasonable seasons
under a parkside bush,
two tiny snails are tracing
fingerings: fast ball, slider, split finger, curve,
a patient rehearsal
over horsehide so putrefied
the regulation pressure-wound muscular core beneath
is dissolving like newsprint.
This is something you want
to drop, not throw: the old flirtation with gravity
has gone sour, there’s too much
dirt and scuff and sweat and smell,
the delicate infinite swell of the hand-stitched seams
protrudes from its flayed skin
like a skeleton, a bone of hope.
This thing is meant for the heavy hands of the dead.
So I tuck it back in the dark
as the snails polish their trail,
a couple of umpires searching for whatever it was
that made this ball jump once.