Poem of the Week: A Poem About Baseballs

The title of this week’s poem by National Book Award winner Denis Johnson is meant to be ironic. It’s not a poem about baseballs, but a poem about hanging on and finding meaning and hell, sometimes the only thing for a guy to grasp is a baseball. Sometimes the only way to make sense of big problems is through the scope of balls, strikes, fly balls, grounders. At least that’s what he seems to be going for in this very dark, affecting poem. (via Poetry Foundation).

for years the scenes bustled
through him as he dreamed he was
alive. then he felt real, and slammed

awake in the wet sheets screaming
too fast, everything moves
too fast, and the edges of things
are gone. four blocks away

a baseball was a dot against
the sky, and he thought, my
glove is too big, i will

drop the ball and it will be
a home run. the snow falls
too fast from the clouds,
and night is dropped and

snatched back like a huge
joke. is that the ball, or is
it just a bird, and the ball is
somewhere else, and i will
miss it? and the edges are gone, my

hands melt into the walls, my
hands do not end where the wall
begins. should i move
forward, or back, or will the ball

come right to me? i know i will
miss, because i always miss when it
takes so long. the wall has no
surface, no edge, the wall

fades into the air and the air is
my hand, and i am the wall. my
arm is the syringe and thus i

become the nurse, i am you,
nurse. if he gets
around the bases before the
ball comes down, is it a home

run, even if i catch it? if we could
slow down, and stop, we
would be one fused mass careening
at too great a speed through
the emptiness. if i catch

the ball, our side will
be up, and i will have to bat,
and i might strike out.

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