“A Poem about Baseballs,” by Denis Johnson

This poem is from The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly: Poems Collected and New, published in 1995I like how the entire poem is written in lowercase, adding to the dreamlike sensation when reading the piece.  The italicized portions add a phantasmagorical element, capturing the multitude of sensations that can take place in a brief moment of time.

*

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.

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5 Comments on ““A Poem about Baseballs,” by Denis Johnson”

  1. verdun2 says:

    the quandary of baseball. Catch it and we’re up. Miss it and I don’t have to strikeout. Glad you found this.
    v

  2. Steve Myers says:

    i’ll get to the poem in a second but first your intro to the poem What an awesome firecracker of truth!….”The italicized portions add a phantasmagorical element, capturing the multitude of sensations that can take place in a brief moment of time.”

    my goodness, this poem is wonderful, to be that mental. reminds me why i could never be a jainist and a baseball player, all the existence questioning in one walk across the grass would screw up my fielding percentage as the ball sails over or under my head.


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