Foul Ball

- 1949-
The river was off-limits, but occasionally a foul ball would fly back
 
over the press box, over the narrow drive
and down the hill,
 
and there we were—where what we called the ballpark rock
jutted into the Etowah.
 
On hot nights the stench would make us gag.
 
Two miles below the rendering plant
and chicken parts still flooded up in the pool beyond the rock—
clots of dirty feathers, feet,
 
an occasional head with glazed eyes wide.
We’d hold our noses and try to breathe through our mouths.
 
Once though, the smell was too much
and we had to give it up.
 
Listen, it wasn’t what you think. It was only Little League,
and they gave us free ice cream
 
for retrieving a foul. No, we weren’t overcome
by thoughts of filth, disease,
or fish kills. We were running down a long hill, dodging
 
trees and undergrowth, trying
to find a ball before it found the river.

More by David Bottoms

Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump

Loaded on beer and whiskey, we ride 
to the dump in carloads
to turn our headlights across the wasted field, 
freeze the startled eyes of rats against mounds of rubbish.

Shot in the head, they jump only once, lie still 
like dead beer cans.
Shot in the gut or rump, they writhe and try to burrow 
into garbage, hide in old truck tires, 
rusty oil drums, cardboard boxes scattered across the mounds,
or else drag themselves on forelegs across our beams of light 
toward the darkness at the edge of the dump.

It's the light they believe kills. 
We drink and load again, let them crawl
for all they're worth into the darkness we're headed for.

Kelly Sleeping

Sometimes when she sleeps, her face against the pillow (or sheet)
almost achieves an otherworldly peace.

Sometimes when the traffic and bother of the day dissolve
and her deeper self eases out, when sunlight edges 

through curtains and drapes the bed, I know she’s in another place, 
a purer place, which perhaps doesn’t include me,

though certainly includes love, which may include the possibility of me.
Sometimes then her face against the sheet (or pillow)

achieves (almost) an otherworldly calm, (do I dare say that?)
and glows (almost) as it glowed years ago

just after our daughter’s head slipped through the birth canal.

I remember that wet sticky swirl of hair
turning slightly so the slick body might follow more easily,

and how the midwife or nurse or doctor (or someone)
laid an firm open hand under that head

and guided our child into the world.
When that hand laid our daughter on her mother’s breast,

such a sigh followed, a long 

exhausted breath, and (stunned) I saw in my wife’s face 
an ecstasy I knew I’d never (quite) see again.