Pitcher

Stained with grass and goose shit,
a baseball is a perfect thing.

If you ever felt the difference
between the ball in a bare grip
and the numb wing of the glove
you understand the game.

This pale pill,
stitched skin, Frankenstein monster
wrapping wool, a motley
redeemed by weight,
falls homing in the hand.
Even a statue wants
to make it move,
deliver from its scars
a quiet arc.

Young, I used to throw the ball,
a thing they hit.
Now I throw my love for it.

Sewing a Kayak

The best kayaks
in the world
were sewn by the wives
of Inuit hunters,
because a single bad stitch
meant the loss
of husband and hunter and food
and warmth and simple honor.

But what does it mean for a poet
to write a bad poem?

Do we sit with our children
at the dinner table,
wife sullen, the kids,
their eyes burning shame,
because they know
there was a poor word.
Everyone was talking about it.
A dull metaphor sank the boat.
The house melted.
For want of a syllable
we lay on the ice.

And in the drawer,
as though we could hide it,
a stinking
sunk poem.

Poetics, Advice

You will learn that words
will survive nuclear winter
by eating cockroaches
but that your best idea is frost
on a warm finger:
it never loved you.

From Patrick Lane
you learn to raise words
like sticks and bright embers,
from Maya Angelou you learn
cadence.
You learn humility and rage
from Mary Oliver and Adrienne Rich,
balls-out bold from Whitman and Ginsberg.

You will learn that you have cataracts
where Annie Dillard has eyes,
that you come to speak poem
the way you found your physical voice:
imitate, emulate, absorb,

until your pores sweat words like garlic,
until your head hums a chorus
of sanskrit crickets,
leaf-blade swords, chariot whispers,
parrots the color of pomegranates
and lime.

You will learn
that syllables eat like cats:
rarely when you want them to
and never what you have.

They want to eat doubt
and wild moss pink from your hands;
when you have fresh mangoes
they will want the salt and dead skin
from the corners of your mouth,

and when you have given up,
drained and dry,
they will run their
sandpaper tongues along the edges
of your sleeping thoughts.