Cold snap in March

    For James

    He wakes up on his back in the pre-dawn

    before the alarm, with minutes to spare,

    a pile of quilts pulled up over his chin;

    so he preempts the clock – he swats it down

    with his hand, tanned and brown as oiled leather.

    He rises like the temperature will do,

    Soon, he thinks, with March coming around:

    Slowly at first, but once he’s on his feet,

    it’ll be a while before he’s back down.

    In white slacks over layers to restrain

    his muscles, to hold his heat down on them,

    he laces up his cleats, frosted with earth.

    It’s that particular sort of red earth

    that marks the square that he will run around

    three times in a game, or maybe four times,

    if he’s lucky and the wind’s at his back.

    Driving his father’s truck, he looks so much

    older than sixteen years, he looks so much

    more like the old man he tried not to wake.

    It’s nearing dawn. The sky looks like a shell

    on the inside – all pink, fading to white

    around the half-formed pearl of rising sun.

    It’s nearing dawn and he is running late,

    but somehow he’s the first one in the lot

    despite the fact the day is almost dawned.

    The wind nips at his fingers like a dog

    as he hauls his equipment from the truck

    and toes the winter mess in the dugout –

    the husks and shells of seeds beneath the dust

    tracked through with paw-prints from small animals.

    He looks out on the diamond, sees that spring

    is pressing its way up through the red earth,

    the budding leaves of grass, like any plant,

    will clap their hands and sing before the sun –

    just so long as there’s not a late-spring freeze.

    These things are hard to tell out on the plains.

    He spits and watches spring beneath the dirt

    uncurl into a season that he knows

    could bear him through the air like a baseball,

    or snatch him like a cold-snap at the fence.


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