Sharp Shin

By John Bargowski

Featured art: brittle decay by Zero Jansen

I found it grounded on the road edge
near the town ball fields where my old man

hit pop-ups to me in my little league years.
The bird hopping through snakeroot

and catchfly, dragging a skewed wing
maybe busted by a low dive into a pickup

headed into our burg on the county two-lane.
That hawk always a few steps ahead of me,

raised the hackles on its cocked neck,
turned a pain-crazed dark eye, then clicked

its beak and snissed, flexing talon-spiked
claws whenever I came close enough

to grab it from behind and clamp my hands
over both wings, the way my old man did

the times he slow-climbed the ladder
up to the loft after his shift at the D&J Bar

and culled his prized flock of homers.
Sometimes reaching inside the wire coop

at twilight for a blue ribbon winner
that wouldn’t leave home to wheel over

the ball fields and D&J with the rest
of the team on the day’s last stretch.

An old favorite, whose inner compass
age had scrambled, clutched in those nimble

calloused hands that taught me the gift
of the sacrifice, the grip of the curve.


John Bargowski is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA and New Jersey Council on the Arts. His second book, American Chestnut, is due out later this year from Stephen F. Austin University Press. His first book Driving West on the Pulaski Skyway, selected by Paul Mariani for the Bordighera Prize, was published in 2012. His work has appeared on Poetry Daily, and in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Gettysburg Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, New Letters, among others.

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