By X J Kennedy
Back in a yard where ringers groove a ditch,
These four in shirtsleeves congregate to pitch
Dirt-burnished iron. With appraising eye,
One sizes up a peg, hoists and lets fly—
A clang resounds as though a smith had struck
Fire from a forge. His first blow, out of luck,
Rattles in circles. Hitching up his face,
He swings, and weight once more inhabits space,
Tumbles as gently as a new-laid egg.
Extended iron arms surround their peg
Like one come home to greet a long-lost brother.
Shouts from one outpost. Mutters from the other.
Now changing sides, each withered pitcher moves
As his considered dignity behooves
Down the worn path of earth where August flies
And sheaves of air in warm distortions rise,
To stand ground, fling, kick dust with all the force
Of shoes still hammered to a living horse.
Poem copyright ©2007 by X.J. Kennedy. Poem reprinted from In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and Selected Poems, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007, by permission of X.J. Kennedy and the publisher.
Born Joseph Charles Kennedy in Dover, New Jersey, X.J. Kennedy is as well known for his light verse and children’s poetry as he is for his more serious works. His 1961 collection Nude Descending a Staircase won the Lamont Award, and in 2001 Kennedy was awarded the Aiken Taylor Award for lifetime achievement in poetry.
More By This Poet
Nude Descending a Staircase
Toe after toe, a snowing flesh,
a gold of lemon, root and rind,
she sifts in sunlight down the stairs
with nothing on. Nor on her mind.
We spy beneath the banister
a constant thresh of thigh on thigh;
her lips imprint the swinging air
For Allen Ginsberg
Ginsberg, Ginsberg, burning bright,
Taunter of the ultra right,
What blink of the Buddha’s eye
Chose the day for you to die?
Queer pied piper, howling wild,
Mantra-minded flower child,
Queen of Maytime, misrule’s lord
Bawling, Drop out! All aboard!
Finger-cymbaled, chanting Om,
Foe of fascist, bane of bomb,