Since I’ve heard your voice and seen you,
Grandpa, most of my life has passed,
and though forever out of reach,
a long-ball gone beyond the fence,
I feel your presence still, with me
like the cryptic scent of neatsfoot
leather on my glove hand, red dirt
beneath the nails of my right, grass stained
knees, and the easy feel of a clean hit.
It’s true I was afraid when you were drunk
on Early Times, shot straight in the morning,
highball glass on your TV tray at night
with me in Grandma’s lap as darkness grew,
but that is only shadow at the edge
of light that is my memory of you.
I remember how you gave my catcher’s
mitt to me. You bought it new, but I could
feel and smell you’d rubbed it up, worked it in.
I see now when you held it in your arms
like a baby just before you placed it
on my hand, and taught me the signs,
how to make a pitcher trust his pitch,
to catch a curve, and marshal the infield;
showed me heart and head of the catcher’s job,
and how you loved the game. I never saw
you catch, throw, field, or hit but I feel now
as if that mitt was yours and when
I do good things and do them well
I am finishing up the game for you.