IN THE HEYDAYS OF HIS EYES
(taut jeans dancing)

An Anthology of Poetry about Being Young and Growing Up
 
 
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BALLAD OF BIRMINGHAM

Dudley Randall

(On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963) "Mother dear, may I go downtown Instead of out to play, And march the streets of Birmingham In a Freedom March today?" "No, baby, no, you may not go, For the dogs are fierce and wild, And clubs and hoses, guns and jails Aren't good for a little child." "But, mother, I won't be alone. Other children will go with me, And march the streets of Birmingham To make our country free." "No, baby, no, you may not go, For I fear those guns will fire. But you may go to church instead And sing in the children's choir." She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair, And bathed rose petal sweet, And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands, And white shoes on her feet. The mother smiled to know her child Was in the sacred place, But that smile was the last smile To come upon her face. For when she heard the explosion, Her eyes grew wet and wild. She raced through the streets of Birmingham Calling for her child. She clawed through bits of glass and brick, Then lifted out a shoe. "O, here's the shoe my baby wore, But, baby, where are you?"


GEORGE

Dudley Randall

When I was a boy desiring the title of man And toiling to earn it In the inferno of the foundry knockout, I watched and admired you working by my side, As, goggled, with mask on your mouth and shoulders bright with sweat, You mastered the monstrous, lumpish cylinder blocks, And when they clotted the line and plunged to the floor With force enough to tear your foot in two, You calmly stepped aside. One day when the line broke down and the blocks reared up Groaning, grinding, and mounted like an ocean wave And then rushed thundering down like an avalanche, And we frantically dodged, then braced our heads together To form an arch to life and stack them, You gave me your highest accolade: You said: "You not afraid of sweat. You strong as a mule." Now, here, in the hospital, In a ward where old men wait to die. You sit, and watch time go by. You cannot read the books I bring, not even Those that are only picture books As you sit among the senile wrecks, The psychopaths, the incontinent. One day when you fell from your chair and stared at the air With the look of fright which sight of death inspires, I lifted you like a cylinder block, and said, "Don't be afraid Of a little fall, for you'll be here A long time yet, because you're strong as a mule."

 
 
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