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This poem was submitted for the "Poetry for the Mind's Joy" project and is reproduced here with permission from the author. All rights reserved. Poetry for the Mind's Joy is Poet Laureate Kay Ryan's project that includes a community college poetry contest administered by the Community College Humanities Association and a lively videoconference.

There’s something about being
nine and hitting golf balls with
an aluminum baseball bat in the
orchards behind the house that
can’t be held onto – like a blue
belly lizard that slips between
your fingers, detaching its tail
to escape among the weeds and
tall grass.  You realize years later
that it wasn’t lost then, when
you hit that ball just right,
sending it clear over the treetops
and into the fields beyond.  You
knew that ball would never be
found, yet you combed the high
grasses anyway, only to happen
upon a pale streak of green
fleeing from your hands.  It
could only be held for a moment,
its glass eyes staring back,
casting a trance over you so that
just then, it may dart for the
safety of some marbled shrub.
But it was not gone then, when
you stopped to dust your sneakers
on the back porch and examine
your hands to prove to her that
just this once, you would not
need to wash up before dinner.
Your hands were marked with
smudges of brown that looked
like hazy clouds, and your
fingernails were lined with dark
crescents.  It was not lost entirely
until, on a Sunday in April,
you could not look at her
slender coffin at the front of
the room, but instead stared at
your hands, white and clean
fingernails like slender moons.

Modesto Junior College, Manteca, CA
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