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
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.