Darren Daulton crouched behind

the plate, ligaments in his knees

crackling like campfires

in a primordial forest.


he’d been pulled from the shadowed alleys

of Philadelphia and pushed

squinting into the Miami sun,

like a broken nose on a mannequin,

like glass on the beach.


warming up he caught without a mask, spitting black

through splintered teeth.  at bat


he ground down like an old man

fighting with a rusted lugnut

on a tractor wheel, muscling

the ball

into the right field stands.


whyn’t you do that in the game, asked the gawky kid, the

million-dollar kid, the kid

just back from the

All-Star game.


that ain’t my job, he said, looking

like a tree stump in a coastal forest.


looking like a man-shaped patch

of forest.


like molded loam and ligneous

clusters and the moving shadows

of living things.


like a man who the woods

had eaten—a frog

in the throat

of the woods.


what is your job asked

the kid, looking back to the other kids,

the kids

who knew enough

to look away,

to fiddle with the laces on their mitts.


my job, said he, and the sky went black, my job, he said, and the blackness

bulged, like bulbous eyes…


my job is

now or never.


and the kids, their eyes

like coins, for the first time then

they saw


the thousand dawns

like burrs

in your eyes.


like handfuls

of your hair.


like a thousand

staggering dawns staggering

up off the beach at midnight.


do this now

said Dutch Daulton.  do this now

or die.  you will die.  you will

do this, do this now, and/or

you will die.


and those boys, these

pretty pretty boys grew teeth and took

the field with hearts and eyes


already punctured in their minds.