This poem grew out of my admiration for Donald Hall’s THE OLD PILOT and out of my affection for my grandfather.
The Old Ballplayer
He finds himself lifting it from the shelf,
turning it in his hands, when he is alone.
He wipes the dust from the oil darkened palm,
and traces the indented signature.
The cracked leather lace has untied with time.
Not knowing why it gives him such unease,
He turns the loose ends into a careful knot,
a fisherman preparing his line in the dark.
While he is bent, squinting, he smells the old rawhide,
the fresh cut grass, the dust of the basepath.
He straightens quickly out of his crouch
and gropes for the chin of his mask,
although his face bears only his spectacles.
He closes his eyes, and pops his knuckled fist
Into the hollow of the glove, then lifts the mitt
To a steady target. Slowly, he lowers
His sign with one crooked, confident finger.