CALLING ALL POETS The poetry contest is
open to Society members, published or unpublished.
Submissions must be under 40 lines and must reflect
the theme of the edition. Entry deadline for the fall
edition on information is June 20, 2016. Upcoming
themes are migration and the Earth. Email your entries
The poem featured in this issue of the Phi Kappa Phi
Forum is: Playing Mushball by James Ragan (University
of Southern California), who is the author of nine
books, two plays, and winner of the 1999 Western
Region Phi Kappa Phi Creative Artist Award. Ragan
has held three Fulbright Professorships and won the
Emerson Poetry Prize. He is the subject of the 2016
Arina Films documentary Flowers and Roots.
Come into the yard, toss the home-ball
my mother stitched, tight around a globe of socks
with glue that sweats the leather’s seams
like sap along a bark of spruce. Watch
the ball bounce through limericks of wind,
language-loose, as if it groans
in couplets, poem to ground, its weight
of bulging lungs about to burst and let out air.
And where the bat cracks the sock-ball’s hide,
a smush of innards tugging this to that,
watch it rise, half in fright, half in sky,
to reach what little height the kiss of any
stick to ball might give inspired flight.
So scuffed the grains of its face,
so bleak the eye that centers it in sight.
Comes quick a child’s gloved hand
to shag it, stab and cradle it fast
as it runs the foul line’s course through dirt
and grass, and landing fair, stops short
of understanding how it wiggled past.
Now the aging softball swing turns slow
when mush has changed to horse’s hide,
and base lines, chalked to rising poles, fence in
tight, the ball’s free spirit, in whose homerun glide
the swiftness of ascent is gone, the focus lost,
and cries are heard forever. To each tossed pitch
the century has come to play at hardball
not with an epic long ball drive but with the lyric
missed swing of the eyes half closed.
BY JAMES RAGAN