The Kids from Chandler’s Hollow

The kids from Chandler’s Hollow didn’t wear shoes upon their feet;
They always tried to start a fight with us every time we were to meet;
Their homes had no indoor plumbing; their toilets were out back;
The things we took for granted, were the same things that they lacked.

The kids from Chandler’s Hollow were always late for starting school;
The teachers were kind’a tough on them, sometimes bordering on being cruel;
They were slow in learning lessons; they couldn’t add, write or read,
They stopped showing up after the sixth grade – for books and figure’n they had no need.

From our house on Summit Drive, high atop a Charleston hill,
We looked down upon the Hollow to a desperate and foreign world;
From my bedroom window, I could see smoke rising from their shacks
Often I would wonder about those kids in school who never had a snack.

One day I went down into the Hollow, through the woods behind our house,
On an early Saturday morning, sneaking out the back door quietly as a mouse;
The descent was rather steep, with no path the entire mile,
I had taken some Hostess Ho-Ho’s, I was traveling in style.

When I neared a row of houses, hardly larger than a garage,
I stared in awestruck wonder as if seeing a mirage;
Yards were littered with rusted vehicles, none of them had any wheels;
Backseats removed and on the front porch – not sure just how that made me feel.

A few roosters started crowing; a few chickens scattered about;
A few pigs were wallowing in the mud; the sun was peeking out.
I knew right then and there, I should go back up the hill,
When I turned around to do so, I was face to face with a snarling girl.

“Hey, whach’ya do’n? You come look’n for a fight?
My brothers would oblige ya – but first, I think that I just might.”
I didn’t know just what to say; my tongue was tied in knots,
I extended the box of Ho-Ho’s saying, “This is all I’ve got.”

She looked around very cautiously, then grabbed me by the arm,
I ran with her past the row of broken shacks to the back of a forgotten barn;
She looked deep into my eyes with anticipation on her face,
She said, “We’ll be safe back here, this is my secret hiding place.”

“Ain’t you that boy named, Joe? Ain’t you in my first grade class?
Ain’t you the one who’s the teacher’s pet? Ain’t you just moved here this month past?”
“I know you, you’re Sarah Mae and, yes, my name is Joe.
I don’t know if I’m the teacher’s pet – we just moved here from Chicago.”

I handed her a Ho-Ho; she unwrapped it with pure delight;
She didn’t offer me a “Thank You”; she gobbled it down in just one bite.
She smiled at me with chocolate covered teeth, asking, “Could I just have one more?”
I ain’t never had one of these fancy treats in all my life before.”

I handed her another and watched her slowly enjoy this one,
I never knew watching a girl eating a snack could ever be this much fun.
She asked, “What’r you do’n down here? You can’t possibly live nearby.
If you come look’n for some trouble – why, that ain’t someth’n ya oughta try.”

I said, “I live on top of the mountain, I was just walking through the woods.
In Chicago there are no places like this; just thought I’d go exploring, if I could.
I’m not looking for no trouble, just thought maybe I’d find a friend,
If you’d like, it would be easy for me to come down here again.”

She played with the foil from the Ho-Ho’s that she rolled into a ball,
Then looked at me real seriously and said, “Naw, we can’t be friends with y’all.
I’m from Chandler’s Hollow, you’re from some place nice,
I won’t be mean to ya at school, but this just can’t suffice.”

She said, “Now you go back up that hill and never say that you was here,
And if ever you go exploring agin, from Chandler’s Hollow ya must stay clear.
But, if’n I say it’s okay, just this once and never agin,
You can give me just a little kiss and secretly we will be friends.”

My faced turned all red as she kissed me then ran away;
My walk back up that hill again took the better part of the day.
For the next two months of school, Sarah Mae ignored me really good,
I often snuck a Hostess Ho-Ho into her desk on the days that I could.

Our parents then enrolled us in St. Anthony’s where no Hollow kids did go;
A Catholic School was better for the way they wanted their kids to grow;
I often looked down on the Hollow and wondered about Sarah Mae
But I never did return to her, never hiked again that way.

After the fifth grade we moved to Ohio – leaving all Hollows far behind;
Poverty to match what West Virginia offered wasn’t easy for me to find;
I grew up never wanting; I grew up in luxury;
But I grew up with the memory of Chandler’s Hollow deep inside of me.

The kids from Chandler’s Hollow didn’t wear shoes upon their feet;
I’ll never forget that one among them, on that Saturday that I did meet.

When Do You Shout?

When do you shout?
When do you yell, scream and carry on about?

When do you stop being politely quiet,
When do you no longer keep your thoughts to yourself,
When do you pierce the veil of silence,
Let your voice be heard and roar the roar of the majestic lion?

When your family is in danger?
When someone is about to be hurt?
When a horrible injustice is about to occur?
When you fear the world you know is about to end?

When do you shout?
Is the question that now I shout?

The Victor’s Song

I extend my hand to the other side,
Holding a handkerchief for the tears you’ve cried,
Knowing the victory is shallow if we lose the losers.
To move ahead we must unite;
Divided we all lose the fight,
And the victors simply end up becoming the abusers.

Let’s patch our wounds and right our wrongs;
Let’s vow to make each other strong;
Let’s plan for peace instead of the next ugly encounter.
Let’s come together on common ground;
Let empathy be the lesson found;
Let not civility be a victim of one’s surrender.

We fought long and we fought hard;
On the battle ground we all got scarred;
But death was never the intended conclusion.
We always knew together was our next step,
Even though animosity inside had crept;
Going forward we must embrace a policy of inclusion.

The Voice I’ve Found

You may choose to extinguish my light
But I will not go quietly into the night
You may choose to turn my volume down
But the voice I have is the voice I’ve found

You can ignore all the words I write
You can walk away from the fight I fight
You can argue mine is a worthless plight
But my resolve will never dare take flight

You can ask me to please step in line
You can ask me to just give it time
You can ask me to compliance find
But you cannot slip poison into my mind

If wrong, I will admit it so
Mistakes, I’ve made, I surely know
But of my moral compass I won’t let go
I will stay the course, you’ve got to know

So, you may choose to extinguish my light
You may choose to turn my volume down
You may choose to ignore the words I write
But you cannot hide the truths I’ve found

My Personal Independence Day (The Silver Lining I Was Looking For)

Today, I have gained my independence.

I am no longer the worshipper of a false idol I have known my entire life as the President of the United States of America. I am no longer enslaved by the shackles of an arrogant patriotism. I am no longer imprisoned by the imaginary walls of ideologically defined country borders and will not allow future, physical walls to block my path towards helping my earthly brothers or their paths to me. Today, I no longer allow citizenship to define my community or my extended family. I no longer limit my values to the subset of values included in the American Way. Today, I have gained the freedom to be a citizen of the world and no longer allow my government or the power brokers within the country of my birth to define who I am. Today, I am free.

Today, I will no longer shed my responsibility of making life better for those around me, complacent in the false belief that the government will do that for me. Today, I will no longer look up to an elected master to tell me who to love or who to hate; who to embrace as an ally or fear as an enemy. Today, I am free to decide those things on my own.

Although I fear the country within I live is not a better place than it was yesterday, I am consoled by the confidence that I am a better man today than I was yesterday, because today is my personal Independence Day.

I Turn to Rhyme

I have no words to express the emotions I feel;
No description for thoughts racing through my mind;
Phrases inadequately reflect my inner ordeal,
And so, I just turn to rhyme.

My future is difficult to contemplate;
Slivers of hope are hard to find;
A positive spin, I simply cannot create,
And so, I just turn to rhyme.

Spirit and pride have taken leave of my soul;
Disbelief has suspended all time;
I am unable to adjust my targeted goal,
And so, I just turn to rhyme.

Rhyme has always comforted me;
Rhyme is my compassionate friend;
Rhyme is a self-healing remedy
To help me accept this new end.