Three Poems by Jeff Burt

by: Jeff Burt

Jeff Burt’s baseball poems sing with the singular dynamism of the game itself, where a gesture as small as a slight nod or as grand as a home run combine to echo the intricate and unpredictable cadences of our everyday lives. 

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Baseball Cards, Circa 1960

Screwball

C. Phillip Burt, 1962-65, R/SW

The Briggsville scroogie
lived four summers,
a whirring whiffle ball
our father threw
with twisted wrist
and elbow janked toward
third, counter-curveball,
the strikeout pitch.
Sliders, knucklers,
country hardballs,
those we could crush
like thin soda cans,
but if we whiffed he claimed
it was always the screwball.
It became a kind of perfection
in the sacred backyard ballpark,
a secret we never wanted
to find out, the bat gone silent
in its arc, the ball as if holy
grooved toward our ribs,
insubstantial, spirit, ghost.

 

Tater

Phyllis Fahlgren Burt, 1961, R/R

She could hit, flat out, dead pull.
In ’61 near the shores of Lake Superior
she hit a ball off the brick wall
of an elementary school from a plate
positioned by the hydrant near the street.
It was not a shot, nor a towering drive.
This was a tater, one of those balls
that looks like an out
but starts escaping gravity
roundabout shortstop
and goes until mass can catch up
to energy and square up time.
When it hit the brick
dust just flew, as if a plow
had scattered a bank
of new-fallen snow.

 

Sunday Semi-Pro

Ralph Spann, 1965, R/R

He vaguely heard the preacher
tell about spiritual fruits
but in dusty clay
in the Omaha infield
he felt the preternatural,
because the double-play
had been averted
and he’d slid hard
and dirty, spikes high,
and knocked the second-sacker
ass over teakettle
and stood on the bag
nursing a strawberry
on his pin-striped thigh
and a chorus of raspberries
ringing in his ears—
he knew that if Jesus
had been shortstop
God himself
would have told him
he’d get his wish,
all right, get one more up.

 

Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California with his wife, and works in mental health. He has work in The Nervous Breakdown, Atticus Review, and Amarillo Bay.

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