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,
catch a curve, marshal the infield, showed me
the 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 old and yours, that when
I nail the runner stealing second base
or snag a wild pitch to save a run
or block the plate and tag the runner out—
sweat the work between the lines of life
on the last road trip to end the season—
I am finishing up the game for you.