Boys of Summer
for my uncle, Weston Morrow (1956-1972)
The boys lean forward, almost swaying
with the breeze, eager, if the ball should come
their way, to scrape their palms for it, to bleed.
They signal to each other—heads up, eyes open—
two fingers in the air, it's almost over.
Soon, there will be nothing left
but dirt, a little mound of earth
eroding, smothered in Scotch broom.
Fifty years go by, I find myself
standing, playing catch with my dad
on that same familiar plot, Douglas firs
skirting the outfield wall, stratocumulus
clouds unfurling like ink blots above
the flat gray roofs of Interlake High School.
Eventually, then, a boy returned—same name
but not the same body, that first one dead
in a Bellevue cancer ward and buried
in a cemetery I never saw. I came too late
to change all that. But still, at night his memories
come roaring back to me: how he burned
his way around the base paths, cursed
at every booted grounder, every fly ball
dying on the warning track. There was a time
he too would leap into the sky unhurt to catch
the fading light. I walk the diamond, then
scraping my shoe against the mound, begin to dig
as the day before my own surgeon did.
The line, four inches from my heart,
will scar, I hope, and hair will grow
above it, and like this place, the jagged
name my toe traces here in dirt, will fade.
Uncle Weston, I'm afraid that when I'm gone
no one will care. Will my whole life—
like yours—be reduced to words and buried
on an inside page of newsprint?
I tried to write my way to something lasting,
but I failed. I tried to win a game
that can't be won. Of all the things I touch,
only this patch of dirt, flecked with sun, remains.
Tomorrow, at a bar, I'll carve our name into a brick.
Weston Morrow is a poet and former print journalist with an MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His recent poems have appeared in Adroit, Meridian, The Journal, and elsewhere. His essays and criticism have appeared in venues such as Poetry Northwest, Blackbird, and Western Humanities Review. His visual art has appeared in Ninth Letter. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, and can be found online at www.westonmorrow.com.