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Night Baseball by Michael Blumenthal

Night Baseball

by Michael Blumenthal

(and printed here, as well as in his book Days We Would Rather Know)

[I] retrace by moonlight the roads where I used to play in the sun.

                                                 — Marcel Proust

At night, when I go out to the field

to listen to the birds sleep, the stars

hover like old umpires over the diamond,

and I think back upon the convergences

of bats and balls, of cowhide and the whacked

thumping of cork into its oiled pockets,

and I realize again that our lives pass

like the phased signals of that old coach,

the moon, passing over the pitcher's mound,

like the slowed stride of an aging shortstop

as he lopes over the infield or the stilled echo

of crowds in a wintered stadium. I see again

how all the old heroes have passed on to their

ranches and dealerships, that each new season

ushers in its crop of the promised and promising,

the highly touted and the sudden phenoms of the

unexpected, as if the hailed dispensation of gifts

had realigned itself into a new constellation,

as if the old passages of decrepitude and promise

had been altered into a new seeming. I remember

how once, sliding into second during a steal,

I watched the sun rest like a diadem against the

head of some spectator, and thought to myself

in the neat preutterance of all true feeling,

how even our thieveries, well-done, are blessed

with a certain luminousness, how a man rising

from a pilfered sanctity might still upright himself

and return, like Odysseus, to some plenitude

of feast and fidelity. It is why, even then, I loved

baseball: the fierce legitimacy of the neatly stolen,

the calm and illicit recklessness of the coaches

with their wet palms and arcane tongues of mimicry

and motion. It is why, even now, I steal away

from my wife's warm arms to watch the moon sail

like a well-hit fly over the stadium, then hump

my back high over the pitcher's mound and throw

that old curve of memory toward the plate

where I run for a swing at it—the moon

and the stars approving my middle-aged bravado,

that boy still rising from his theft to find the light.

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