Strange, the flare of envy
to watch them play, old
enough to be their mother,
though the outcropping
of parents clustered along
the sagging chainlink
knows I am not one of them,
though one might think it
want, the small part of me that fills
in this and other obligatory desires.
The boys’ shirts, emblazoned
with the local tire shop
in place of their names, almost neon
in the glare of the tall lights,
bunch and balloon at their waists,
small wrists bending under
the weight of gloves, their little hands,
small shoes, overly-Velcroed
hats. Their catalogue of smallness.
How exhausting those gloves must be.
The tree frogs swell and bats chirp
their metal joy through the air.
The parents swap secrets,
how often they’ve fished
out gum and seeds, little twists
of tape from pockets, saved things.
They are wiser than I’ll ever be.
This team, these friends enshrined
in the carwash lobby, over the deli counter—
how much the world will take from them.
Another ball lops off into the night,
clouds of mosquitos moth-thick,
and another round of ribbing peppers
pitcher, then batter, then volunteer ump.
Back in the dark house the same game,
announcers’ low voices, silences warm
and alive with the ballpark’s background,
and I am standing here, stranger to these
mothers and fathers and boys, watching
another endless game join the endless
families and coaches, dogs both rowdy
and old, all the patient siblings
more interested in the dirt, whatever’s on
the screen, benevolent, beatific gift of glow
bracelets. I’ve watched it all from here outside
the fence; farther back among the irises, heavy
hydrangeas like ghosts in the dusk; farther still,
the porch threshold, ducking
wildly around the wren house
as it comes upon me in the dark.
I’ve watched it all, known them all
in this faraway way, loved them even
for their littleness and all their lives hold.
Once I thought my life could hold so much.
How can it be that I’m still standing here?