Baseball and Polio

With summer came the two things
Robbie feared the most:
baseball and polio.
He hit like a girl, ran like a duck.
On his watch, fly balls
disappeared in the sun.
Grounders bounced
tauntingly between his legs.

He prayed, not for polio exactly,
but for a slight limp which would
excuse him from the game.
It was rugged captain Bill
who got sick instead
and spent the season
with a brace clamped to his leg.

The other players vowed
they would win one for the gimp
and on Robbie’s red-letter day
they were close to sewing it up.
Bottom of the ninth, up 8 to 7,
two strikeouts for the other side,
the smell of victory
as pungent as a Jersey landful.
Then three successive singles
loaded the bases
and the chanting began:
“Sock it to the retard. Sock it to the retard”

All Robbie remembered later
was the crack of the bat,
the soaring sensation as
his feet left the ground,
and the dull thud he made
as he fell back to earth,
rolling over and over,
the ball still nestled deep in his glove
like a baby sparrow in its nest.

(originally published in Storyacious)

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