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Working the Wood.

Working the Wood

   Standing tall, I grip the bat, legacy of pale grains
   pressing into palms, fingers. I can feel home-
   plate, earth pulver--orange clay smoothing wood
   in my hands, strong white ash that once stood
   in Pennsylvania.

      Dad lumbered the dense heart
   of straight trees, Grandpa sawmilled logs. I helped

   during the Great Depression, my schoolhouse world
   filled with two-by-fours, planks of oak, maple and ash,
   the buzz of saws, wood dust flying. I could smell
   damp oak, the pine in heavy air from early rain.

   The straight-grained, the knot-free rolled to the splitting
   wedge hammering blows with each vent of steam.
   Split trunks turned, the slow lathe shaving rough edges
   before their coating: preservation against the fray, the rot.

   We'd bundle the billets, truck them to the lumberyard.
   Let air dry the sap and gum before shaping, sanding
   replicas of Babe Ruth bats ubiquitous with pin knots
   in the barrel.

   I smell the damp oak, the pine in heavy air
   and early morning rain breezing from the stands.

      The pitcher winds. Hard thrown slider
   slices air. My bat arcs to intercept. I feel the ball
   press, wood flex in that split-second recoil, rattling
   the bones in my fingers all the way to elbows,
   pinging nerves. Shear thrust of arms, pivot of hips,
   rockets the ball--line drive sluggered past center fielder.

   The crowd's roar echoes the sound
   of falling timber. Dad's voice cracking.
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Author:Mannone, John
Publication:Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 22, 2009
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