Saturday Poem

Breaking Pitch

My father raises his hand to signal “enough,”
but I’m still pitching, and the ball spins
off my fingertips—a breaking pitch
with so much stuff on it my imaginary batter
is too baffled to swing, so much stuff
the angels whistle, the crows near
the garbage cans take off in a flurry
of caws, and the mosquitoes burst in midair,
so much stuff my father, fear
in his eyes, hits the pavement,
behind him glass shattering.

Above the garage, Mrs. Golub, who runs
a vacuum cleaner over her wood floors every two hours,
yells out the window,“I told you something
bad would happen if you let that kid play here.”
And Miss Lamar pushes her long
nose into the screen, “See if my car
has any glass on it,” and Mr. Gorelick,
who sells silk ties to posh men’s shops,
shouts, “Clean up the mess, boy.”

I hear the cars on Clayton Road,
their tinny horns, the wind shaking
down leaves, the sound of the breaking
pitch trembling the wires that cross
from neighborhood to neighborhood, echoing
in shells strung from my best friend’s
doorway, the white horsehide glinting
in the sun, a flash of light,
a prophecy of greatness.

Shaking his head, my father comes toward me,
his tightened fists warning me that I’ll be sorry.
“Helluva curve,” he mutters, “helluva curve.”

by Jeff Friedman
from Working in Flour
Carnegie University Press