A Poem about Baseballs

By Denis Johnson b. 1949 Denis Johnson
for years the scenes bustled   
through him as he dreamed he was   
alive. then he felt real, and slammed

awake in the wet sheets screaming   
too fast, everything moves
too fast, and the edges of things   
are gone. four blocks away

a baseball was a dot against   
the sky, and he thought, my   
glove is too big, i will

drop the ball and it will be   
a home run. the snow falls   
too fast from the clouds,   
and night is dropped and

snatched back like a huge
joke. is that the ball, or is
it just a bird, and the ball is
somewhere else, and i will
miss it? and the edges are gone, my

hands melt into the walls, my   
hands do not end where the wall   
begins. should i move
forward, or back, or will the ball

come right to me? i know i will   
miss, because i always miss when it
takes so long. the wall has no   
surface, no edge, the wall

fades into the air and the air is   
my hand, and i am the wall. my   
arm is the syringe and thus i

become the nurse, i am you,   
nurse. if he gets
around the bases before the   
ball comes down, is it a home

run, even if i catch it? if we could   
slow down, and stop, we
would be one fused mass careening   
at too great a speed through
the emptiness. if i catch

the ball, our side will
be up, and i will have to bat,   
and i might strike out.

Denis Johnson, “A Poem about Baseballs” from The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly: Poems Collected and New. Copyright © 1995 by Denis Johnson. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1995)

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Poet Denis Johnson b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Sports & Outdoor Activities, Activities

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Denis  Johnson

Biography

Denis Johnson was born in Munich, Germany where his father worked for the State Department. Johnson grew up in the Philippines, Japan, and Washington D.C. and earned an MFA from the University of Iowa. An award-winning novelist, short story writer, and playwright, Johnson published his first collection of poems, The Man Among the Seals (1969), at the age of twenty. Subsequent collections include Inner Weather (1976), The . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Sports & Outdoor Activities, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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