Volume 31, Number 1


The first time we meet, at our sons’ baseball practice,
she machine-pitches half a dozen hardballs at me:
her “good” husband who only cheated once,
her dad who once slammed her face into the table,
her mom who’s back on crystal meth, 
her truck whose muffler “needs fixed”—
all while feeding her fussy baby M&Ms.

I don’t want to know any of this.
Don’t want to smell her vape pen,
hear her stories, see the bruises;
don’t want to watch her eight-year-old son 
repeatedly push her phone out of her hand 
as she tries to get a deal, ordering pizza online.

Next practice, I’ll park a dozen spaces away, 
sit in my CR-V with a book. I’ll pull the visor down, 
hang a hoodie over the window—
makeshift shield from hardballs and hoverflies; 
small-town wounds I can’t fix, or won’t.

Today, though, I’ll listen. Watch her give juice boxes
to another mom’s fussing boys, her widow’s mite.
Consider, however briefly, putting her number 
in my phone, in case she needs something.

—Bethany Bowman