Against the Use of the Bullpen Josh Lefkowitz
Eighth grade, final game of the season
and I’m starting on the mound.
Little time passes
before the shellacking begins: I’m giving up
double digit runs, so much so the yips appear
and now I can’t find the plate.
The other team smirks as I walk the full side
but still Coach won’t relieve me.
I step off the rubber. Cry to the bench,
“Please. Take me out.”
After the game, my brother, who had never hit me,
did not hit me.
Captain of the high school team,
All-Division starting pitcher,
kept track of his strikeouts with pen-marked Ks
on the inside brim of his cap.
(For every hit batter,
a tiny R.I.P. tombstone).
We ride in silence from ballfield to driveway.
His no-words worse than any punch or body slam.
Up the hill, and then, the car powered down,
before I’ve opened the door to flee, he says,
“Don’t ever do that.
Don’t ever ask to be taken out of a game.”
Even through the terrible times –
The breakups, the layoffs, the booze, and pills –
I somehow kept it close.
When grief and regret were my sun and moon,
and loneliness felt like a life sentence.
When I couldn’t be bothered to shower or shave.
When I couldn’t leave the house.
(True story: I stood at the lip of a bridge).
(Epilogue: I stepped back).