Death in the Afternoon

Sun scowls and throws down heat like brazen spears
From steel blue sky, through liquid quaking air
Onto a field spread like a table cloth.

And in the centre stands a nervous boy:
Staunch, lonely Jim against the universe,
With narrowed eyes, in spotless cricket gear.

He wipes his forehead, tenses, concentrates.
The bowler paws the ground, then starts his run.
Jim's whole identity is fixed on that

Red speck that rushes from the bowler's arm:
It is the enemy who must be killed,
The cat's prey, world's end, final destiny.

Full toss. Jim shifts his stance, hits out, connects
      S P L A T T !
                              One large tomato meets its fate,
Explodes, and Jim's white clothes are spattered red.

© Peter Howard

from Low Probability of Racoons