He was Noble, White-haired, and somewhat Tall;
His Voice betrayed a Louisiana Drawl.
His Voice so soft; he seemed quite Meek,
But don’t misunderstand, not one Ounce was weak.
He talked with his Mouth, but spoke with his eyes.
Every Word rang True: not one Word a Lie.
He told of a Room that Years ago he’d been shown;
The more he spoke, the more we seemed alone.
His Eyes spoke to me and mine spoke back.
I was White, and he was Black
* * *
I WAS SHOWN A ROOM,
BOTH DRAB AND DANK,
WHERE SLAVES WERE SOLD.
MY SPIRIT SANK.
A GREASY RING, ABOUT WAIST-HIGH,
ENCIRCLED THE ROOM. MY HEART DID SIGH.
I COULD SEE MY PEOPLE KNEELING, HEADS AGAINST THE WALL,
WAITING FOR THE TRADER, THEIR NUMBER TO CALL.
* * *
THE INFIRMED FIRST; THE ELDERLY NEXT.
IT MADE NO DIFFERENCE WHAT AGE, WHAT SEX.
THE LAST TO BE CALLED, PARADED, AND SOLD,
WERE THE HEALTHY, THE HARD WORKERS FOR, COINS OF GOLD.
I SPIED A DARK MAIDEN, TAWNY AND STRONG.
EYES COLD AND ANGRY FROM ALL OF THE WRONG.
HER TIME HAD COME; SHE WAS CALLED TO THE BLOCK.
HUNDREDS OF GREEDY EYES LUSTFULLY GAWKED.
WHISPERS! GIGGLES! THE WHISTLES SWELLED.
“WHAT’LL YOU GIVE FOR THIS DARKlE,” HE YELLED.
“I’LL GIVE YOU FIVE”; “TEN”; “I’LL BID A SCORE!”
“THIRTY.” “FIFTY.” “SIXTY AND NO MORE!”
* * *
THE SLAVER STRIPPED THE RAGS FROM HER FLESH.
THE BIDDING LEAPED UPWARD WITH INTEREST AFRESH.
“ONE HUNDRED!” “TWO!” “TWO AND A HALF!” “FOUR!”
A VOICE, CALM AND CLEAR, CAME FROM NEAR THE DOOR.
’TWAS A PREACHER; A VOICE NOBLE AND FIRM.
A VOICE SO PURE, IT MADE THE OTHERS SQUIRM.
THE HAGGLING CONTINUED TILL THEY’D FINISHED THE GAME.
THE PREACHER NOW OWNED THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME.
SHE WATCHED THIS MAN CAREFULLY, AS THE OTHERS CURSED,
AND SHE LOOKED INTO HIS EYES, EXPECTING THE WORST.
“DO AS YOU WILL; I BELONG TO THEE.”
“I BOUGHT YOU, YOUNG LADY, TO SET YOU FREE.”
* * *
I STOOD IN THIS ROOM; MY FEELINGS WENT WILD.
I WAS CALM; I WAS SAD; MOST TIMES, I WAS RILED.
BUT AS I THOUGHT OF THAT EBONY MAID,
I DWELT ON MY LIFE AND WONDERED MY FATE.
I FOCUSED ON THE BLOCK BELOW.
WITH THE AGE-WORN PLACES WHERE MY FEET SHOULD GO,
I STEPPED UPON THE BLOCK OF SHAME;
I NOW WAS A BLACK MAN WITHOUT A NAME.
* * *
I PICTURED MYSELF IN RAGS AND TATTERS,
WHAT WOULD I SELL FOR? BUT THAT DIDN’T MATTER.
THE AUCTIONEER SCREAMED, “WHAT’S YOUR FIRST BID?”
ADULTERY YELLED FORTH, “I’LL START WITH A QUID.”
THE SELLER GROWLED BACK, “YE MUST BE DAFT!
WHAT A PITTANCE FOR SUCH A SPECIMEN AS THAT.”
PREVARICATOR SAID HE’D DOUBLE THE PRICE.
ENVY AND HATE UPPED IT THRICE.
THIEVERY, ARROGANCE, DISSENTION, AND LUST
DESIRED THE POSSESSION; IT JUST WAS A MUST.
* * *
AND AS THE BIDDING DREW TO A CLOSE,
SATAN LAUGHINGLY RIPPED OFF THE REST OF MY CLOTHES.
EVERY SIN, EVERY DESIRE, EVERY GUILT THAT I BORE
MADE ME MORE VULNERABLE. AND MUCH MORE THE SCORE.
THEN A VOICE BOOMED FROM THE REAR,
LIKE PEALS OF THUNDER, YET PLEASING TO THE EAR.
IT WAS JESUS, THE CHRIST, THAT HAD COME TO BUY
THIS POOR, WRETCHED BLACK MAN. WHY, OH, WHY?
THE PRICE RACED SKYWARD; UP IT SOARED.
“SOLD TO THAT MAN!” THE AUCTIONEER ROARED.
“THE SLAVE’S WORTH IS ONLY HIS PRICE.
COME, SIR, REDEEM YOUR MERCHANDISE.”
AND AS HE CAME AND PAID THE BILL,
I SAID, “MASTER, I’M YOURS. DO AS YOU WILL.”
“I BOUGHT YOU, BROTHER, FOR FREEDOM’S NEED.
BY LOVE I HAVE FREED YOU; YOU ARE FREE INDEED.”
Let There Be Spring
Awaken, ye forces of nature. Awake
From your long silent doze through the freeze.
The noiseless alarm of April’s warm sun
Shouts aloud, Come, awaken, spring breeze.
Young grasses, wake up! Lift your tiny green heads
Through your grandfathers’ brown grassy tombs.
Weave threads of soft green into blankets of life
With the aid of spring showers’ new looms.
Brown branches of wood, shatter forth into life!
Twigs, be covered with buds of new green.
Burst forth into whiteness of bloom, cherry boughs.
Blossom, redbuds, in colors serene.
Be crowned, ye drab shrubs, with magnolia pink.
Forsythias, swell into gold.
Low shrubs, be ye covered with rose-colored blooms.
Flower forth into beauty untold.
Wild violets, spring forth and adorn grassy fields.
Sprinkle royal-blue purple around.
Fair tulips, lift skyward your ruby-red heads.
Let grape-scented iris abound.
Ye heralds of cheer, cardinals, shout it aloud.
Robins, echo the praises of spring.
Let sparrows and starlings, grackles and jays
Join the colorful chorus on wing.
Come, ye woodpeckers, too. Beat the rhythm in tune.
Let the laughter of young children ring.
The Master Creator of all nature’s art
Commanded it: “Let there be spring!”
I wanted a beautiful little girl with eyes of deepest blue
And ringlets in her golden hair—she’d be a dream come true.
Or a healthy bouncing baby boy, so cuddly, cute and sweet,
And everyone would admire him as we walked down the street.
I went to an orphanage and thought I’d look around,
But the child I was looking for was nowhere to be found.
I loved children so very much I hoped I could find many,
But I was shown only defective ones, so I did not take any.
First I was shown a pretty baby, but he was totally blind.
I said, “I’m sorry, that’s not the child I had in mind.
How could he be normal if he could never see?
I can’t accept this little guy—too much responsibility.”
They brought in another lad, who looked cheerful and bright,
Then I realized he couldn’t walk—his legs did not work right.
So I said, “I wanted a son who would be my pride and joy,
So how could I take this poor, crippled little boy?”
There was a pretty little girl, except that she was bald.
When I found she had cancer, I didn’t want her at all.
She would be in the hospital so much and always getting sick.
It would be too much trouble—another child I’d better pick.
They brought in a laughing little boy and placed him on my lap,
But no way would I accept this pathetic little chap.
I knew he had Down syndrome—his shirt was wet with drool.
I knew if I took this child I’d really be a fool.
Then I saw a tiny baby, so very, very small
He would not eat, just slept a lot—was not thriving at all.
He only needed someone to give him lots of care,
But that would be too much work for me—I’d better look elsewhere.
Here is another precious girl, who looked perfect at first glance.
Then they said she had heart trouble, and I cannot take the chance
Of growing to love her deeply—and then what if she should die?
I’d be left alone again, so I had to pass her by.
Next I was shown a tiny lass with curly, reddish hair,
Then she began to cough so hard I was filled with despair.
I guessed before they told me: cystic fibrosis was her disease.
When they asked if I would take her, I said, “You must excuse me, please.”
They showed me all the children, but not one did I choose.
Each child had a flaw or two I used as an excuse.
They said I was too critical and did I realize,
God created all these children and they’re beautiful in His eyes.
Third PlaceIn reciting “the Lord is my Shepherd”
The Cathedral Window
From the twenty-third psalm . . .
Do we just mouth the words,
or know the Shepherd and His balm . . .
In cathedrals expensive,
a form stone-carved in vain . . .
for stained-glass portraits
never help broken-glass pain.
Damaged lives He empowers
to pick up the pieces . . .
fragmented hopes, dream shards,
and broken life leases
But picturesque saviors in windows
—classic or plain—
are just colored-glass portraits
not healing broken-glass pain.