High school afternoons I’d go out back
and pitch into a tent-shaped net,
hoping if I could get my arm in shape
I could try out for the school team
in spite of my size. Back then I thought
any dream could drop in
to my solitary life like a fly ball to left,
and in this way I wasn’t so different
from my sister, a decade younger,
world’s premiere make-believer,
especially fond those cold gray afternoons
of a game she called
“Men and Women in the Fire,” a reenactment
of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
starring her, though I could never tell
which part she played.
In the garden was a weathered white plaster statue
of a man pouring wine from a big jug.
This was the idol. And my pitching net,
which she would crawl in
as I was trying to get the hang of a changeup,
was the fiery furnace
—until I’d yell at her and run her off
so as not to clobber her.
I guess that made me the angel
who kept the men from harm
or the king who finally busted them out.
Both our lives then were still smoldering
from our parents’ divorce, our big move up north,
new schools, new anxieties
that would go undiagnosed for years.
Really I couldn’t save her from anything—
got out of summer visitations with Dad
and left her to burn alone in the Deep South,
got out of the house at eighteen and off to college
and left her, eight, in that furnace
of blasting voices and TVs.
If St. Michael had shattered his sword in battle,
if Gabriel, my namesake and my sister’s,
had dropped his horn on the golden streets and bent it,
that’s the kind of angel I’d be—
sure, a ballplayer like everyone in heaven,
but a minor virtue, too small
for the mound, little spirit haunting left-center,
hot sun melting off my feathers.
T. Dallas Saylor is a PhD student in poetry at Florida State University, and he holds an MFA from the University of Houston. His work often meditates on the body, especially gender and sexuality, against physical, spiritual, and digital landscapes.