Stoop Ball
John Smith

My fingers and thumb
don’t forget the squeaky
grip and hard rubber give
or the hours spent bouncing
a Pinky Ball off the front stoop.
My arm remembers the wind up,
the spin, the snap of the wrist,
the release and release
until it got so I could stand
on my sidewalk, facing
the street, twirl and whip
the ball, spike the corner
edge of the front steps
and catch the rebound
behind my back.
I played alone, thaw
to frost, the bases
often loaded. The traffic
held its breath. Maria
peeked from between
the curtains next door.
I threw my heart out
for years. How many pitches
is that? How many balls
and strikes? How many hits
given up, runs scored?
All of the losses
and perfect games
don’t add up to anything.
It’s always been about the ball
in hand and the man
at the plate, twisting
his cleats in the dirt,
cocking back the bat,
swinging with all he’s got.

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