Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry: Ball Smacks Mouth, Splits Lip

Edited and introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate

Mark Twain once remarked that the source of humor is sorrow. This observation helps to explain today?s poem, in which Bob MacLaughlin of Warren remembers the influence of Marietta Mansfield on his early baseball career.

Ball Smacks Mouth, Splits Lip by Bob MacLaughlin

Marietta Mansfield came walking up the driveway while I was playing catch with her brother on the grass, so I, who had it bad for Marietta Mansfield, looked over at her an instant before the ball smacked me in the mouth, splitting my upper lip.
Their mother took me to Dr. Waddle, who stitched
the pieces back together well enough
for Marietta Mansfield to kiss me on that mouth
a month later in a dark ping-pong room.
The next morning I went away to summer camp,
where I played on the baseball team
and wrote letters to Marietta Mansfield
every day, and she to me, until hers stopped,
whereupon I fell into a terrible batting slump.
After camp I went off to high school in the next town,
but Marietta Mansfield was still in eighth grade
so I hardly ever saw her, ignored her when I did,
said snide things she could overhear
so she would feel as bad as I felt.
Years later, when I found out our letters 
had been shortstopped by her mother,
I felt even worse.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2011 by Bob MacLaughlin. Reprinted from Faulty Wiring: the Alzheimer?s poems and other memories, Moon Pie Press, 2001, by permission of Bob MacLaughlin. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to David Turner, Special Assistant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at poetlaureate@mainewriters.org or 207-228-8263.