An unhelpful guide to breaking in a baseball glove for those who have forsaken oral tradition

The new baseball glove comes to us as firm and
Determined as the cherrystone clam that 
Doesn’t open even after steaming. 

We were once told what to do about this, 
When we were the age of the child who, 
Against all evidence, expects that we 

Can do anything. Instead, we must 
Suss it out by what passes for instinct. 
The way to temper and shape the glove in 

Our hands is among the things our fathers and 
Mothers taught us that we ignored or that 
We failed to write down or to tell others about. 

How to clear a clogged p-trap is another, 
As is how to grow scallions from a 
Kitchen water glass. That, too, is gone. 

Nevertheless, we imagine entrusting this 
First baseball glove to the child in a 
Perfectly worn state, surely heralded by 

Museum smells. The tassels have been pulled 
Tight with our teeth, as prescribed by an 
Eleven-minute YouTube video, which 

Ensures the need for dentures in another 
Sixteen years or so. When we give it to the 
Child – bestow upon, is the phrasing in our heads – 

We shall say, May you be better at this than I.
Yes, we are talking about baseball, but you see 
We are also talking about life and the

Living of it because we are heavy-handed 
And as subtle with metaphor as the 
Spring squalls above that will cancel the first 

Nine games of the season. Were the child at least 
Fourteen, he or she would’ve rolled the eyes 
As though they were dice from the board game they 

No longer wish to play with us and muttered, 
“Fucking seriously?” while snatching it from us. 
First, though, we must figure out how to do this. 

A woman in Scarsdale runs over it with a 
Lawnmower. When this destroys the glove, 
She buys another one – this one thirty dollars 

More thanks to diminished inventory.
This time she removes the blades and runs over it 
Again. This does not work, so she asks the child if 

He’s sure he wants to play baseball. Under 
The weight of prompting, he offers that, no, 
He’s not quite sure he wants to play baseball. 

Very good, the mother says and then tells 
The boy to put the lawnmower blades back on.
A man outside Birmingham grapples the glove 

Into an unnatural state and parks the 
Rear tire of the family’s SUV 
On top of it to set the mold. Alas/alack, 

They buy a new one – SUV, not a glove – 
And he forgets about the entire thing. 
The abandoned SUV, unacceptably 

Two years old, still sits atop the glove. The child is 
Pulled from the league because she has no glove. 
A man in Nebraska sets the glove on his lawn

And leaves it there naked to the Great Plains, 
Which shall assail the leather with the wrath 
And caprice of its numberless seasons.

He then remembers that he has no children. 
A woman in Chicago puts a can of 
Tomato soup in her daughter’s glove and 

Binds it with butcher’s twine. This is not such a 
Bad idea, but it sows in her an urge for 
Tomato soup that she can fend off for only 

So long. This can of tomato soup is surely 
The last can of tomato soup in the city, 
She thinks, unaccountably, and perhaps 

The world. It is tasty, if gelatinous. 
Someone in suburban Dallas applies a light 
Coating of tallow and saddle soap to the 

New glove. A fine start, but then he buries it
So that scavenging beetles will hasten 
The process. He digs it up each Tuesday to find 

Such methods are as slow as the erosion of 
Dolomite cliffs. Time is meant to pass, which it does. 
Decades later as he lingers in assisted 

Living (note that all living is assisted), 
He tells his middle-aged son to carry on and 
Exhume his glove each Tuesday. He may be able 

To play baseball soon. However, the son 
Doesn’t know what his father is talking about 
And blames his words on the madness of dying. 

A man in Michigan places the glove upon a 
Cottonwood stump and beats it with the blunt side of 
An ax until he becomes stupefied by 

Angina pains, at which point he retrieves 
His .45 ACP from the shoebox on 
The top shelf of the closet in the spare bedroom. 

Wait, his seven-year-old daughter says as he 
Chambers a round and levels the barrel at her
New baseball glove. Maybe I should just play with it. 

You’re too young, he says. No, not the gun, she says, 
The glove. After a moment, he uncoils his 
Finger from around the trigger and blinks into 

The middle distance. He turns and walks back 
Inside, still aiming, still finding the sights.
She bounces grounders to herself off the 

Stone retaining wall. She lofts pop-ups to 
Herself and heaves the ball onto the roof of her 
House and lets it roll back. Soon she learns to 

Toss it more gently – underhand, as though 
Playing with horseshoes or beanbags– so that the 
Ball caroms off the lip of the gutter and tests 

Her impulses. When it rains out, she sits on the 
Edge of her bed, head bowed like a penitent, and 
Fires the ball into the glove. By the time the 

Games begin and early summer has turned her 
Towheaded, the heel is buttery and 
Welcoming grandfather lines cross the pocket.

It worked, she tells her father in the backyard, 
But he doesn’t hear her because he is firing 
Rounds into a chainsaw that has run out of 

Oil-gas mixture. Instead, at the next practice 
She tells her teammates whose fathers and mothers have 
Tried things like sitting on the glove for multiple 

Seasons of prestige television or 
Mailing it in an unpadded envelope to 
Various bureaucracies of Eastern 

European countries that they imagine 
Craggy and beautiless and requesting its 
Ritual torture and return via 

SASE or praying over the glove to 
The gods they know of and finally – at great 
Spiritual peril – to arch-demons atop 

The infernal hierarchies they know of. 
These things of course did not work, which left the girl’s 
Teammates with gloves as stiff as the undiscovered 

Corpse in the woods behind the left-field fence. 
He died after trying to feed wild mushrooms to 
His son’s new glove and then tasting some himself. 

Just use your glove, the girl told them. Just play baseball 
With it. That will fix it. They listen to her. 
They remember what to do for years until they 

Forget and then take their own children’s gloves and 
Toss them between the bars of the jungle cat 
Enclosure at the zoo or boil them in wine.

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