by Lowell Jaeger
taught me a game
called “scrub.” Sort of baseball
for two kids with few friends.
One on the pitcher’s mound, the other at home plate.
In an empty lot at the edge of town,
he’d call strikes and fouls, no matter which of us
stood to swing. Only he could tell
for sure which grounders singled,
which his phantom shortstop scooped for double plays.
Bottom of the ninth, he’d claim I’d popped out
to his invisible right fielder.
He was my big brother,
and we laughed about it years later
when finally I challenged his advantage.
We’d both struck out in college,
couple times each. Both divorced, stuck
in routines smaller than we’d dreamed.
He claimed I’d beat him once. I couldn’t recall
charity more than a string of wild pitches he’d overlooked
after I’d walked him a dozen runs,
and he didn’t want his game done too soon.
Those were good times, a few hours
between brotherly jabs and insults,
between the cruel pleasure
of knuckling each other in the shoulder
or deep in the gut.