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The Batting Cage
by Ed Bennett

The arm comes up, goes "thunk!'
and the ball comes at me
dropping low and inside.
I follow it, step into it,
swing as the ball strikes
the link fence behind me.

No longer on the company team,
my joints won't let me run,
my eyes are too myopic‐
alternative phrases implying
that I'm too fat and too old
to pretend athleticism any longer.

But I love this game of constant trying,
a game of failure more times than not;
every inning fresh with the hope
that you'll feel that wooden crack,
the ball flying to oblivion
or maybe, deep center.

The arm comes up, goes 'thunk!"
and below my concentration
is a dream of Sunday afternoons,
a slap on the back for an extra base
until my reverie is broken by
the ball against a chain link fence.

They say this game is like life
but that, I'm sure, is a fable
written by those who never played.
Life does not forgive nor
extend another chance after
a third strike or a foul out.

The game is immutable:
three strikes, three outs, nine innings,
a ninety foot walk from pitch to plate;
a hit, a swung on miss, an error
calculated every time you swing,
appended to your story in the record.

Alone here with this machine,
a duel with shadows and noises
never heard on a diamond.
I found luck this time, a hit
with all of my shoulder in the swing
yet the ball sails in a tepid arc.

I cannot see the bottom of the ninth
nor call this game for final darkness.
This is the time where I try
to reach the upper deck
once more in the solitary hours,
no longer a game, but a soliloquy.

The arm comes up, goes "thunk!".


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