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By Stuart Dybek

I once hit clothespins   

for the Chicago Cubs.   

I’d go out after supper   

when the wash was in   

and collect clothespins   

from under four stories   

of clothesline.   

A swing-and-a-miss   

was a strike-out;   

the garage roof, Willie Mays,   

pounding his mitt   

under a pop fly.   

Bushes, a double,   

off the fence, triple,   

and over, home run.   

The bleachers roared.   

I was all they ever needed for the flag.   

New records every game—

once, 10 homers in a row!   

But sometimes I’d tag them   

so hard they’d explode,   

legs flying apart in midair,   

pieces spinning crazily   

in all directions.   

Foul Ball! What else   

could I call it?   

The bat was real.   


“Clothespins” from BRASS KNUCKLES. Copyright (c) 2004 by Stuart Dybek. Used by permission of the author and Carnegie Mellon Press.

Source: Brass Knuckles (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1979)

Poet Bio

Stuart Dybek is a masterful short story writer as well as poet. The qualities that distinguish his fiction—a strong connection to place, particularly his native Chicago, childhood nostalgia tinged with irony, a meandering narrative pace, and an ability to find beauty amid urban blight—also characterize much of his poetry. Few writers have captured street life as movingly as Dybek. The son of a Polish immigrant, he has published two critically acclaimed books of short stories, The Coast of Chicago and Childhood and Other Neighborhoods, as well as a collection of linked stories: I Sailed with Magellan. He teaches at Western Michigan University and lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

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