Perfect, Wet with Poison

At Edwards’ Field, near the marsh, ours was the blood 
the mosquitoes in their gangly stealth sought. At dusk 
the city sent a truck, its sprinkler spraying 
a cascade of malathion, foul line to foul line, 
from out past the chain-link fence. Time called, 

we spread our arms and turned like we’d been told, 
spinning slow circles, left field to right 
and across the infield dirt, the chemical mist  
wafting over us, its sting 
like sharp dew settling into the corners of our eyes. 

The umpire tossed a dry ball to the tall boy on the hill, 
who rubbed it slowly between bare hands 
as he peered up at the crowd. The drumming in his ears 
dulling to a drone, he stepped to the rubber 
and leaned in. No runners to check, hadn’t been all game. 

Where but here was perfect even possible 
for a gawky boy with elbows thicker than his arms?  
Glove to chest, fingers to four seams, blow out. 
Fielders pounding their mitts, chanting and swaying. 
The gloam falling across the mound. And in the stands 

his mother done with her cursing of the city and its truck. 
Chapped hands over her stung eyes, she didn’t see 
her boy kick high and hurl one 
sharp-eyed home. Only heard the hush before 
the leather popped and those around her rose. 

Her husband roared with all the rest 
before he dropped a hand 
to her bent back and with the other waved. 
Caught his long son’s gaze, clenched a fist 
and beamed before their boy was swarmed.

Then sat down, leaned in, angled for her ear. 
His right hand at her elbow, she lifted 
her eyes at last to gather in 
the ruckus their son’s left arm had wrought. 
Worry later, Mary Lou. Stand up and let him see you proud.

From Filched (Dos Madres Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by James Tolan. Used with the permission of Holly Messitt.