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Clearing the Fence by Michael Catherwood
published in Volume 8, Issue 1 on July 1st, 2001

Playing 500 baseballs were
lost to weeds
in the sand & gravel lot.
                Out of the sky
we fielded grounders for 25,
hoppers 75,  fly balls 100.

That summer we closed
in on the fence, lengthened our swats,
split balls like zippers--
            the red seams
unraveled into wounds.

It was the summer
Joe's brother
went to war;
the summer
Joe cleared the chain link fence,
cleared the street
into Old Man Rock's yard.

Soon we all cleared
the fence, filled the sky
                       with baseballs.
One by one Rock took our balls.

This was the July we broke
into our old grade school,
stole equipment--
a few bats,
an entire case of fresh
Rawlings baseballs.
They sat in their case
white as eggs,
entire solar systems
wound inside.  We
bruised them dizzy cracking 500.

When our crime
made the Sun Newspaper,
we wore guilt and played little
500. 

But break-ins continued
all over North O:
Minne Lusa Tavern,
Blessed Sacrament,
Miller Park Pool.

We all had suspicions,
but no one squealed,
being more frightened than loyal.

Joe bought a car, a turquoise blue
57 Chevy, disappeared
into a filament of pot, girls, music,
things baseball couldn't reveal.

Soon we were back
banging 500
against Old Man Rock's
house. In the scrunch and grind
of sand & gravel, our hands
were quicker than feet.
Joe never played again,
just vanished that late fall.
Never came back.

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