(for Satchel Paige)

California Winter League

poetry-wikimedia_cc
Wikimedia/Creative Commons

(1934)

If I were your mother, I’d say you were resting your eyes

as we roll out of Kansas, resting from the stubby fields

of wheat, from the “White” and “Colored” signs

on gas station bathrooms and the look on my face.

You’re dreaming like a rookie: silk shirts, girls, late model cars.

But things can get lost in the sun. I’ve left my suitcase

on the team bus, and come back to find it gone.

I’ve left my heart with a girl and come back to find her

staring down into a cup of coffee, and too grown-up

to pay me any mind. The road grows like a weed,

it grows and your house grows too quiet—

like a baby, you need a car ride to fall asleep,

and you start dreaming like a veteran: vinyl seats, stolen bases,

reasons to play when your shoulder’s sore—

on those nights, the bus window is your long-lost love.

Out this window, three small boys are playing stickball

with an old tin can, and a woman’s sweeping her porch

with a homemade broom, and a jackrabbit’s running away.

And I want to wake you up so you can see it go by:

fast as an eye-blink, fast as pitch.

Chiyuma Elliot is a professor in the African American Studies department at UC Berkeley. The poem “for Satchel Paige” has been previously published in Elliot’s book of poems, “California Winter League.”