Saturday, November 28, 2020

 

Dealer's Choice


Then I could

     have said

          yes ma'am

Attitude was all

     I had to

          change

Today's sign

     hope wanted

          apply within

Heroically

     embrace

          hopelessness

Search

     backward from

          the dark

Wear a

     mask to show

          our strength

Dream and fall in

     love as long

          as it takes

Reset the

     holy in

          turbulent times




Saturday, November 7, 2020

 

Move


They said it

     would be hard to

          leave

Warm strength

     of principled

          notions

Stuff and

     the chance to

          assemble hope

With those

      who think

          and feel alike

Well tried

     useful

          pragmatics

Well ordered

     efforts to

          succeed

Still

     hemmed in

          soul stifled

Pretending no hurt

     beyond

          frescoed walls

Spirit worn down

     by cultivated

          uncaring

Fatigue complicit

     eroding essence

          of compassion

Lest imperative

     dissolve to

          suffocation

Better rootless than

     wingless vision

          hoarded

Go now

     shift the

          paradigm

A

     risk dial

          to hope

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

The Day Auburn Was Integrated

Auburn was just never going to be kind or even fair to Harold Franklin, Jr. in 1964. The faculty had been warned by Governor George Wallace and by the President of the University to make it as difficult as possible for Auburn's first ever African American student to succeed. His professors were complicit. When Harold and I reminisced thirty years later about his historic entrance into the University, he talked little of his pain and anger or of the blatant discrimination that finally forced him out without a degree. But I knew. And I knew it was all the more painful because the injustice of it all had yet to be addressed.

Then in 2001 the University gave him an honorary doctorate. Fourteen years later a historical marker commemorated the integration of 1964. But still there was no attempt to address the racism Franklin endured. He had to wonder if anyone really wanted to hear his story.

This year, over a half century later, Harold Franklin, Jr, now 86 years old, was invited back to defend his Masters thesis, which he still had. He claimed the time to tell his story. The usual committee of four faculty members was joined by the entire faculty, including the dean of the graduate school who listened, thanked him, and awarded him his Masters Degree in History.

 I didn't see any mention of an official apology in the news release.



 

 

Friday, August 28, 2020

 

No One Left Behind


Grace under siege

overheating rage

Combustible fear

refueled

Counterfeit lawful

order recycling 

 Evil impulses escaping

their cages

Scabs pulled off

scars sighted

Masses unhuddled

yearning still

Weakened by

enfeebled hope

Diluted by archaic

sanctimony

Across widening chasm

buddy system

Reciprocal respect

fueled by caring

Together lifted from

the sorrowing

Manage the rage for

the arduous trek

Threatened with

hope

We twist and turn to

find the light


 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Wanted, a Safe Place

*

Mask Covid's spread
Uncover denial
Recall for duty
Hope's spirit bearers
                                     Max

Friday, April 24, 2020


Unforced Hope

Deflect panic
consecrate the good
convert pain
Hear the evil see the
good feel the pain
hope translates
Despair alone
mimics
transformation
For God's sake which
is to say our
neighbor's
The smiling spirit
transparent beneath
the mask
Leave breathing space
for heart piercing
suffering
Challenge the spread
of contagious
nonchalance
Filter the fog
of bureaucratic
betrayal
On guard for placebos
that trivialize
the grief
Prepare to be
startled by unrestrained
giggles
Act with loving
presence to
reshape the pain
Pray into the presence
of a God whose habit
it is to walk with us
Face the world
boldly with
tragic optimism


The last line of the poem are the words of Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning. Simply put, tragic optimism is the ability to say yes to the no of even the deepest suffering. It does not mean that we ignore reality or that we don't do everything we can to stop the suffering. Case in point: to withhold or mismanage resources we have presently to combat Covid-19 is inexcusable if not criminal. And not to pay attention to the science is dangerously shortsighted. But tragic optimism also means we go deep in our soul to find the hopeful strength to triumph.



Tuesday, April 7, 2020


 A Walk in the Woods

Mid December
     rain slowed to
         a slow drizzle
Time for a ten-year
old and his
                long absent father
Slow quiet heart-filled walk
in south
                   Alabama woods
Over a carpet of rain soaked
leaves birds and small
          animals the only sound
Carrying shot guns
          just in case a squirrel
         or two for supper
See that hickory
the one with a
                hole 'bout 12 feet up
I could see it coming
          a story but I had to give
       him time to tell it
When I was a kid on a day like today
my Dad and I saw a tall dead tree
 with a hole half-way up
We never thought
about a snake
          being in the hole
Went home got the wagon and
a crosscut saw came
                back and cut if for firewood
Threw all the pieces onto
              the wagon never thought the
                     one with the hole had a snake
Stacked all the pieces out
              back of the house including
               the one with the hole in it
Burned that wood all winter
            and come early spring threw
                       the one with the hole on the fire
He quit talking I waited
             as long as I could was there
     a snake in the hole
I don't know
I never
                      thought about it


     One year when I was nine, going on ten, my grandmother died and my mother and I moved down to stay with my grandfather in south Alabama for a couple of years to help out. My dad, who had been teaching for some twenty years with a two year teaching certificate took that time to go back to college and get his degree. Money was tight and I don't remember seeing much of my Dad during that time. The one time I do remember was when he came home for Christmas the year I turned ten and we went squirrel hunting, just the two of us. That was when he told me this story. I tell it now with no overarching purpose except to offer a diversion for these trying times. I don't know, can snakes climb trees? I suppose I could google it.
     Are you still there? Got another minute? I have another take on I never thought about it.
     The morning after I composed this poem, I had a video appointment with my cardiologist. At the end of the visit, he said, "Just be sure to wear a mask whenever you leave the house."
A couple of days after the call I went outside to set the sprinklers. From a comfortable distance I watched a neighbor visiting with the mail man, neither of whom wore a mask. After he got his mail he came over to see what I was wearing around my neck and we visited. A few minutes later as I was making my way to the backyard sprinklers, I met another neighbor, who also was not wearing his mask, getting his mail and we visited for a few minutes in my driveway. I finished my work with the sprinklers and came inside. That evening my wife asked, "Why weren't you wearing your mask?"
     My answer? I never thought about it.
     All this in the midst of the Covid19 virus pandemic. Think about it. I certainly will, from now on.
          Be smart, stay safe
          Max