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.