Tim Seibles

Playing Catch

                              for Hermann Michaeli

On the day the balls disappeared, men playing soccer
suddenly looked like crazy people chasing invisible
rabbits through the grass. Men playing baseball
became more clearly what they'd always been: bored
teenagers waiting around for something to happen.

Spectators, at home and in the stands, believed
they were being jerked around by a player
conspiracy, that this was the first whiff
of another strike that would cancel all the fun.

On the day the balls disappeared, the sun did not
smear its way up above the dew-damp rooftops
as if this were a day to keep your finger on.
And if all the refs overslept that morning,
it only meant they were a little extra tired
of instant-replay highlighting their best mistakes.

In fact, it was a warm Saturday, sunlight the color
of a canary. Almost everybody was outside!
I remember one woman in particular alone
in the schoolyard practicing lay-ups. Each time
she left the ground she balanced the basketball
like a fine dish, then let it rise from her
long white fingers toward the rim.

It had been August for more than a month and, as usual,
the televisions were jam-packed with sports: pre-season
football, WNBA playoffs, golf, baseball, rugby…
If you didn't know better changing the channels could
make you think the world was really just a zillion
fields separated by a few rivers and roads, that life
was, in essence, a chance to fall in love
with one of the many artificial spheres.

I guess they went all at once or, at least, within
the same 15 minutes. I had been watching the U.S.
Open Tennis Championships when Pete Sampras,
ready to serve, gestured to the ball-boy who quickly
pointed at the other and shrugged, hoping
not to be blamed. People in the stadium began
whistling and stomping their feet. I went
to the fridge and grabbed a plum.

                                                   But I remember
a boy and his sister across the street playing catch
in the yard half-framed by my kitchen window.
He had a new red glove. She was a lefty and
brown as coffee, and, just to show off, she
whipped the throw just above his reach.

A moment later he yelled, I can't find it—I don't
see it-it ain't out here!
She thought he just wanted
her to go get it, just to get on her nerves. She thought
he was just messin' around.


Bell Street Blues


© 2002 Electronic Poetry Review