by Jason Rawn

The top quarter of sun blazes wheat
into an iridescent field. Dazzled, a child
shades his face with his baseball mitt,
waiting for his father to pitch the ball back.
They had been chopping cornstalks since noon
and now were working on the boy's sluggish split-finger;
not talking, not laughing, just pitching
to one another.
"Goddamnit, Joe, lean into it.
You've gotta use your hips, boy," the old man yells
then burns back another one into the boy's glove.
Joe chews on his father's words as he pinches
the tight stitches with his skinny fingers, swallows
clenched sweaty tears.
He fires the ball back as best he can.
His father catches it, shakes his head quietly,
then drops the ball onto the dry dirt beneath him.
He tosses his glove into a wheel-less wheelbarrow,
points over to the barn and says in a defeated,
and disgusted voice,
"Put those shovels up before you come in."
His father disappears inside, leaving Joe alone
with his glove, torn at the thumb and fading
into a mute gray.

He sits down on a patch of parched grass,
tosses the ball against a side of the shed.
It rolls back and he picks it up, flips it back
at the wall again, then again--methodically,
calmly, Joe listens to the smacks against the shed,
the hard roll over dirt on it's way back to his glove.
The sky darkens, the air cools.
Once more, he snaps the ball back at the shed
and snatches it up from the ground,
without struggle, without expectation.

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