Matthew Lutt

October handshakes with Mantle

after the shelling, our board bats basked

below an Indian summer sun

as we ham squatted and handle sanded

behind the grain elevator barn.

when wood was velvet

and pine tar treated,

father refreshed the rules

for the new season.

crib side singles,

ground rules main roof,

elevator planks three baggers,

round trippers clean over.

as my slugger slumbered

upon an overalled shoulder

before the opening day toss,

I marveled at the over-forty,

city champion,

softball shortstop,

purring dewed corncobs

over the Elysian dome.

my under-ten,

tenderfoot frame floundered futilely

for singles and fluke doubles

bestowed by the whitewashed monster.

scores of stranded shadow runners

cursed me from imaginary base paths

as I listened once again

to the country kid chronicle

of the October handshake

with Mantle

at the Series

with grandfather.

black-and-white heroes

bearing romantic recollections

settled softly about us

with fine shelling dust,

and cracking cobs

composed a courtship ballad

between the harvest eve

and the prairie night.