Contents | April 2002

In This Issue (Contributors)

More on poetry from The Atlantic Monthly.

Also by J. T. Barbarese:
Fossils (2000)

The Atlantic Monthly | April 2002
Teaching the Slider

by J. T. Barbarese
audioear pictureHear J. T. Barbarese read this poem (in RealAudio)

[Note: There are minor differences between the edition of this poem published here and the edition read aloud by the author.]

In the middle of life's road, which I notice
keeps getting wider,

he asks me to show him a slider.
Bankrupt, filled with rage, and now caught

on the phone with a merciful woman who isn't his mother,
I slam the phone down,

order him to the back yard,
and pitch. Don't push off, separate,

because it's how you separate yourself from the mound,
it's all in the follow-through.

I come straight over the top.
They break smoothly, cleanly,

as I broke them off once, like knives outlining my victims.
He tries, is all legs and arms. His hands

half the span of mine, sneaks untied,
he's a present coming unwrapped. No,

you're not coming all the way through.
You need to fall through your body

as if it weren't there. You need to plunge
down the steps your legs and back make

and then the ball will break
and fall off the end of the world

no matter what and after that
your body can burst into flames

for all I care
and I come through
and the ball cracks his glove, knocks it off.

He picks up my hand, turns my fingers,
touches my face, horrified.

He says he wants me to show him again
how to fall through your body

and burst into flames.

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Copyright © 2002 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; April 2002; Teaching the Slider; Volume 289, No. 4; 48.