Poetry Sunday: ‘Seventh-Inning Sermon,’ by Chiyuma Elliot


Seventh-Inning Sermon


His teeth will be a gate, his eye an arrow, and his wood leg
will have holes bored in to put out his cigarettes, but
be not afraid—I’ll make you the fire, I’ll make you

the hole, home plate will be big as a table.
The mound will say, There’s nothing for you here, the plate will say,
Go back where you came from. Be not afraid.

This arm will be a branch, wrist a rubber band, hand an anvil.
And come Sunday, the preacher will tell you all about David,
how his one rock knocked down the baddest man in the land,

and you will be a rock and a bird, and the preacher will tell
how God held this round world in his hand, and made the oceans
and the beasts and fish, and man, and how man made the strike zone

and named the Bee Ball, the Jump Ball, the Bat Dodger, and God
will make it all crumble and boil, and the stars
will dance through the fire like Midnight Riders,

and the world will get small as a peach, the park small as a feather.
And you’ll be small as an atom, small as a speck, small as
the smallest hole in your leather, and no-one will hit you.



“Seventh Inning Sermon” was first published in California Winter League (November 2015), which can be ordered at Unicorn Press.


Chiyuma Elliott is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. A former Stegner Fellow, Chiyuma’s poems have appeared in the African American Review, Callaloo, the Notre Dame Review, the PN Review, and other journals. She has received fellowships from the American Philosophical Society, Cave Canem, the James Irvine Foundation, and the Vermont Studio Center. Her first book of poems, California Winter League, was published by Unicorn Press in 2015.


Poet’s Notes

“Seventh Inning Sermon” happened because my grad school advisor, C. Dale Young, gave me an assignment: write a poem about a famous person on the day before his or her big break. I wrote one Satchel Paige poem, and C. Dale hated it! But I’m used to crashing and burning on early drafts, so I just kept reading everything I could find about Paige and writing these persona poems. Paige was a wordsmith as well as a remarkable athlete. I think his verbal artistry is the most important thing that gets glossed over in conventional accounts of his life. My poems don’t sound like the literal Satchel Paige, but I hope they capture the beauty and eloquence of his speech.

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  • Mary F September 25, 2016 at 7:52 am

    In 1951 the New York Giants defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers did not move to Los Angeles until the 1958 season.