Jackie Robinson, Poetry in Motion

Jackie Robinson steals homeJackie Robinson steals home 

Sports Saturday

In the memorial service held at St. Mary’s College for Lucille Clifton two weeks ago, I learned that she had three special heroes: Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, and Jackie Robinson. Robinson, of course, was the African American player who broke the baseball color line in 1947, which he did with a combination of grace and talent. Despite non-stop heckling from fans and opposing players, he went on to become an all-star second baseman and is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I love Lucille’s description of him as “brave as a hit” and running “against walls/without breaking,” which gets at his hitting prowess, his speed on the base paths, and his propensity to play with reckless abandon. (Robinson stealing home against the New York Yankees in 1955, something that is almost never done, is one of the great plays in World Series history.) “Walls” and “fences” stand in for the obstacles that Robinson had to overcome.Night games” points to the hostile terrain that he, with his black skin, chose to enter. But, by the end, he himself became “the conquering dark.”

ran against walls
without breaking.
in night games
was not foul
but, brave as a hit
over whitestone fences,
entered the conquering dark.

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