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Right Field Siberia
Charlotte Mandel

If his arms didn’t hang
like dead eels in oversized
little league sleeves
dangling from shoulders
compressed by the weight of
the whole town’s name on his back
then my chest wouldn’t hurt
as I shiver in raw
spring season
braced against wind
like a fisherman’s rasp
scaling my skin,
a woman in sandals,
praying for an out, already, a final
He’s light on his feet
could run if ever
he hit a ball
could throw if ever
he stopped one in the air.
Everybody knows right field’s
the Siberian slot—not even
a lefthanded nine year old
bats it to there.
Two fathers next to me
smoke and grin and cheer—
the score is 26 to 23—
27 now—I think we’re ahead
watching four or five
crack-run-fumble-bases-loaded innings.
Oh, son, wave your chilblained hands,
peel off that duckbill and run—
forgive us and come
with your Dad to his lab, to me in my studio
between us there wasn’t a single
athletic gene to send
sliding into your blood’s home base.
This poem first appeared in the Jewish Women’s Literary Annual.
Used here with the author’s permission.


Charlotte Mandel is winner of the 2012 New Jersey Poets Prize, and was featured reader at the Journal of New Jersey Poets presentation at County College of Morris in April, 2012. As a suburban wife and mother, she wrote no poetry until her true poetic self came to the fore in midlife. That self has now accomplished the publication of seven books of poetry, including two poem-novellas of feminist biblical revision; literary articles; essays on the role of cinema in the life and work of poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle); publishing and editing Saturday’s Women, the Eileen W. Barnes Award Anthology; teaching—she recently retired after several years teaching poetry writing at Barnard College Center for Research on Women; and earning awards that include more than a dozen fellowships and residencies. Learn more about Charlotte at

Post New Comment:
Joe Sottile:
Yes, I spend my youth in Siberia, but I still loved the game. This poem has Grand Slam written all over it!
Posted 04/07/2013 06:53 AM
I love this! My husband does, too. I was the Siberia kid, and so was my kid (but boy, can he play a stand-up bass!). This poem bats it out of the park!
Posted 04/06/2013 12:48 AM
She had me from the title. Fun.
Posted 04/05/2013 10:21 PM
Any parent who has had a child "in Siberia" can relate to this heart-felt poem... but oh, how I wish I could go back to those days...however bittersweet. Judy
Posted 04/05/2013 05:22 PM
A homerun poem for sure!
Posted 04/05/2013 10:59 AM
Nicely done--I love the way the first stanza moves into the second one--the weight of the town on his back, the mother's chest hurting. I also like the sudden appearance of the fathers (smoke and grin and cheer)--Thanks--
Posted 04/05/2013 10:32 AM
Heartbreaking and fabulous!!
Posted 04/05/2013 09:47 AM
lisa honecker:
Oh, this is so poignant and charming. One althetic gene. My girls did so many sports, softball, soccer and basketball, things a dancer never does and this special poem made me remember those bleacher moments. Terrific!
Posted 04/05/2013 09:23 AM
Very nice! My daughter was a diver and we spent our springs poolside. Love the smell of chlorine, though. Wonderful memories! Thanks for letting me remember.
Posted 04/05/2013 08:27 AM
Glen Sorestad:
Beautifully done, Charlotte -- so many wonderful images.
Posted 04/05/2013 08:27 AM
Very nice impression of observance of a youngster. I have none of my own but, I do watch live Little League in a park nearby. Someone donated that part to the Little League and the Managers do wonders with the kids.
Posted 04/05/2013 08:08 AM
Motherhood is never exactly what we expected (!)--I skipped the ball park for the municipal soccer fields, but know EXACTLY what's going on here! Lovely work.
Posted 04/05/2013 08:02 AM
Ah, Charlotte, what a sweet poem! Brings back memories of my own youth (always the last one chosen in gym for softball teams), and then raising my son who also was not athletic, and my daughter who played soccer. And now I watch my grandson and granddaughter on the soccer team
Posted 04/05/2013 07:13 AM
Sweet and so tender! I raised two sons, one of whom spent time in Siberia, so I can so relate to these feelings. A mother's love can be boundless.
Posted 04/05/2013 07:08 AM
The things parents do to/for their kids because that's what kids are "supposed to do/like!"
Posted 04/05/2013 04:56 AM

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