In the bleak, bleacherless corner
of my rightfield American youth,
I killed time with bubble gum
and baseball cards and read the stats
and saw a sign: your birthday was mine.
And so I dreamed: to rise far
from Kansas skies and fenceless outfields
where flies vanished in the summer sun.
To wake up black in Brooklyn,
to be a Bum and have folks call me Junior
and almost errorless hit .280 every year
and on the field, like you, dance double plays,
make flawless moves, amaze the baseball masses.
You would turn, take the toss from Reese,
lean back and, leaping past the runner's cleats,
wing the ball along a line reeled out
from home and suddenly drawn taut
with a soft pop in Hodges' crablike glove.
And we went wild in Kansas living rooms.
The inning's over. You're in the shadows now.
But summers past you taught us how to play
the pivot (or how to dream of it).
And when one day they put me in at second,
I dropped four easy ones behind your ghost,
who plays a perfect game.