The Umpire
At the last ballgame, the umpire sweeps off home plate
with his brush. A batter steps into the box, and the dust
blows up and around in the summer wind. The pitch is
sizzling, a planet heading for the eye of its birth.
The batter swings his stick,
small tornadoes spin around his feet. The umpire calls a
strike. The second pitch comes, a slow cold meteor, drifting
through an era, disappearing in the pocket of death.
Strike. Catcalls twist in the air.
The third pitch is a bird with black feathers and a gold
tongue, whistling in anguish. The batter connects, and the
bird heads fluttering and bleeding into the arms
of a 12-year-old girl, where its wounds are healed.
The game is over, ninth inning, the bottom. The umpire
takes off his mask. His gray hair blows. His belly hangs
under the padding. His loose pants are dusty.
From the empty stands a voice is heard:
“You are too old to be an umpire.”

This poem appears in When the Arms of Our Dreams Embrace by Judy Katz-Levine (Saru Press International, 3 Pine Terrace, 559 Jordan Road, Sedona, AZ 86336).