(Fast pitch softball game in Coldwater Michigan)

The pitcher glances here then there
restless, ever moving
ever rubbing, kneading the ball.
Habitual hands:
to the the the ball
and again...
Ritual motions for the batter to peer at,
to be lulled and bewildered.

Then bending
uncoiling, coming up and fast
bare-handed from the ground
it looms...zooms
past and gone freely
gone by without effort by batter
( or thrower, it seems ).

"One", says a voice
(unseen by the dazzled)
"Atta boy,Bobby!"
"Chucker in 'ere baby"
Back goes the softball
and all eyes are on it:
that magic ball
the Maestro just threw...

The man with the stick feels
the quiet, the awe;
Steps out to regain some perspective,
some calm
some time
His chest heaves twice...
settles, back in.

Habituals...rituals... On the mound,
Bob rubs, stares.
Sets and delivers:

Easy floating slowing. . . .

The slugger is early, wasted, fooled.
Off-balance, falling,
his ears flame "STEEE-rike TWO".

(from a fan watching from behind the wire mesh:)
"This boy's a good hitter,ol' Bob sure is HOT!"
(from the batter:) "PHEW !"
Bonnie the catcher winks and
flips the ball back cocky:
"One more like that, Bob..."
"... and we can go home."

Returning the wink, the Maestro
fingers the ball
again gripping and rubbing
magic life to the missile.
And before the man with the bat can
get his feet planted,
lets go without flourish:
A ripping flashing blinding
fast-ball spinning like mad
o'er the plate down the middle
then hooking a mile--SPLAT!

The ump can't be heard in the roar of
the crowd, but the hitter,
and everyone in the park
knows it was in there
tho' they got but a glance.

They watched the Old Maestro
walk off the field;
A grin on his ruddy face and working
on a big chaw of spearmint gum.
"Another no-hitter, by Gawd!"
"And him thirty-nine!"
"Boy oh boy!"
"See ya next game,Bob"

Arby O'Keefe