Perfect, Wet With Poison

By James Tolan

At Edwards’ Field, near the marsh, ours was the blood
the mosquitoes in their gangly stealth sought. At dusk
the city sent a truck, its sprinkler spraying
a cascade of malathion, foul line to foul line,
from out past the chain-link fence. Time called,

we spread our arms and turned like we’d been told,
spinning slow circles, left field to right
and across the infield dirt, the chemical mist
wafting over us, its sting
like sharp dew settling into the corners of our eyes.

The umpire tossed a dry ball to the tall boy on the hill,
who rubbed it slowly between bare hands
as he peered up at the crowd. The drumming in his ears
dulling to a drone, he stepped to the rubber
and leaned in. No runners to check, hadn’t been all game.

Where but here was perfect even possible
for a gawky boy with elbows thicker than his arms?
Glove to chest, fingers to four seams, blow out.
Fielders pounding their mitts, chanting and swaying.
The gloam falling across the mound. And in the stands

his mother done with her cursing of the city and its truck.
Chapped hands over her stung eyes, she didn’t see
her boy kick high and hurl one
sharp-eyed home. Only heard the hush before
the leather popped and those around her rose.

Her husband roared with all the rest
before he dropped a hand
to her bent back and with the other waved.
Caught his long son’s gaze, clenched a fist
and beamed before their boy was swarmed.

Then sat down, leaned in, angled for her ear.
His right hand at her elbow, she lifted
her eyes at last to gather in
the ruckus their son’s left arm had wrought.
Worry later, Mary Lou. Stand up and let him see you proud.

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