The Middle Innings

“Let your heart slow down and follow your pitches.”
Vern Ruhle, Houston Astros pitching coach

A better tribute would be scraping the trim, wire brushing
the storms, sanding the clapboards down to bare wood
and mixing terps, not paint thinner for the primer, keeping
a spare brush in my back pocket for dusting the sills, the tops

of all the double-hung windows . . . not planting grass. “When’s
the best time to paint?”
from your corny repertoire—“When
they have the money.”
Boom. Sweep the snow off the stairs
and lay on the Battleship Gray, or Green Porch & Deck Enamel.

You didn’t make all hundred-and-sixty-two games this year,
missing the end of Ripkin’s streak and Big Mac’s home run
total by twelve. Irresistible to us: statistics and nicknames:
Splendid Splinter, The Kid, Teddy Ballgame hitting .388 at 39,

.344 lifetime batting average, Triple Crown winner three times.
Our cherished pursuit of official accomplishments. You had
the stroke the year the Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta
(“Lou Burdette—he’d make coffee nervous.”) at an age when

most men, rich or not, begin to lean back. The man you made
assistant took your job away, the State of Connecticut your license,
and at fifty-four, you couldn’t check your tears as the Sox ripped
single after single off Yankee pitching, Fenway ablaze in adulation.

This lawn’s a mess, uneven spots at home, first base, first base
line, and the pitcher’s mound; and a worn yellow patch where we
dumped cloudy water after boiling lobsters for a birthday. Every
thing’s a chance, a time-at-bat, but I’m out here morning, noon,

and night, as you’d say, watching, waiting for the first glimpses
of grass, watering this limed and fertilized soil, spraying in long arcs
as a groundskeeper would, wetting the base paths, solicitous
of the blessed infield. I should be up on a ladder

with a paint hook and white paint pants, cutting in sash with one
of your inch-and-a-half China bristle brushes . . . But I’m out here
on the new topsoil, amended loam, under a full moon, watching
the ALCS through the window, with perfect reception of the stars,

taking advantage of the slow second season.