By Richard Fein
I was never so inventive as I was at ten or eleven when
I retrieved an old broom from where it leaned among the garbage cans
along the curb, left for pickup, poking above the uneasy lids,
the broom no longer able to sweep the entranceway, the stoop, the pavement.
I took it with me down to the basement where I snatched
the superís long saw with the finger grips on the wooden handle
and I sawed off the bottom of the broom, several inches above
the wiry collar that clamped a hard knob of straw that then shouldered
down into the sweeping-bristles themselves, those fibers no longer
held in place by three rings of nodular scarlet thread, saggy now,
the end of those bristles worn down to a dirty, rough, aslant edge
as if the straw, so clumped and warped, had been hacked by a machete.
After I made my bat, I returned the leftover to the garbage,
that remnant broom idling on the unsettled garbage can cover,
a kind of amputee, with its few inches of handle, its newly made stub
a shining grainy testimonial to its uselessness, although that wiry metal collar
was still holding, still clamping, its ridged rings reminding me
of the screw threads inside a socket gripping and gripping a bulb until
it lights up,
and then that stump-broom, varied fetish, suddenly turned into
a huge worn whisk broom a Gargantua might have used for brushing a suit.
I the bat-maker practiced my new swings as if I were really at bat—
I the new-born slugger smashing the ball with the bat I just made,
grasping it at or near or slightly up from the edge, testing
my various grips in the swings, the tips of my fingers
gingerly gauging the muscle of the bat where the wood would meet the ball.
In real games I got hits, scored runs, or fouled the ball off, or missed
the pitch altogether.
I have athletic memories of the difference in the bounce between
the spaldeen and the tennis ball and the difference in their textures
and the way my fingers could impinge on the spaldeen but not on the tennis ball,
those differences affecting my batting and my catching and my pitching
and the very sound of the ball on the bat,
the expectancies of skip and bounce and roll depending on the type of ball
we threw, hit and caught on any given day,
any given day when I took my swings at home plate with that bat I made,
and I have memories of the stone-drawn bases and the fish-skeleton
scoreboard we scratched on the street.
Copyright © 2020 by Richard Fein.