Davidson College

Davidson College
Chambers Building, Davidson College, by Dacoslett at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain

Sunday, November 28, 2021

To My Davidson Class of ‘71

The Summer of Love was coming undone 

when we, the groomed and vetted, primed 

and ready, settled in freshman dorms. 

Recall their Old World boarding-school ‘charm’ –

communal bathroom down the hall 

with open showers, doorless stalls. 

Now picture your buttoned-down selves, 


trudging to chapel in Davidson beanies. 

Consider the privilege of cloistered life 

where you leave your rooms unlocked 

and take exams unproctored, 

and feel the pride of big-time teams 

whose athletes are classmates 

who’d come to be friends.

Banish the fear you don’t belong

while you fight the tide of assignments 

that will blight your dreams for life.

Suppress the anxious waves of fatigue 

as you catnap and cram 

for your first round of reviews. 

Relax in the grip of a gentle daze 

after another all-nighter 

eking out essays longhand. 

Then savor once more the textures of youth –

the sticky floors of dance halls, 

the stink of stale beer out back of Hattie’s; 

the squeak of sneakers in Johnston Gym, 

the spin of a frisbee against the sky, 

the arc of a toss on a flickerball field; 

or late-night talks with new-found friends,

the taste of shakes at the M & M 

and burgers in the Wildcat Den. 

I still smell the tea-olive sweetness 

cutting across the quad on autumn afternoons 

to tend my empty mailbox. 

It was a time before I knew Quixote, 

before I crewed the Pequod

or wrestled in the wilds with Enkidu. 

I came to campus listening to soul, 

slow dancing to Otis. The Righteous Brothers 

harmonized my heartbreaks.

I left listening to Leonard Cohen, 

lit up by the late Beatles, decoding secrets 

between the tracks of the Magical Mystery Tour

I would come to fight my faith 

as I marked up my boyhood Bible 

till the pages frayed and the binding broke. 

Outside, our country was coming apart. 

War peaked and cities burned, 

but a tender spirit was stirring inside. 

In ROTC I bore an old M-1, 

but wore a covert peace button 

on my jacket collar for marching drills. 

I joined that ironic boycott 

of the whites-only Black-owned barbershop 

and tutored a townie across the tracks. 

I picked up litter on Earth Day.

Turned on to Thoreau, I found a conviction – 

to save the world would be my career. 

The time had arrived when cloister 

became cell. I broke out early. 

My degree came in the mail 

while I backpacked across Europe. 

I’m happy to have it, 

wherever it is. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

To Maggie When Grandpa is Gone

Make it April when you and your mumma 
come back to explore her childhood home 
searching for solace when Grandpa is gone. 

Enjoy the glory of Georgia in spring 
as you poke around the garden paths 
but don’t look for me in the roses 

or the showy whites of viburnum. 
I’m not in a swath of azaleas 
or a perfect row of tulips. 

But rise before the sun first lights 
the clouds behind the crest of trees 
that shadow our stretch of Oconee. 

Bundle yourself and set a brisk pace 
through the chilly end of an April night 
immersed in the chorus of morning. 

The gates of my heaven are guarded 
by a sentinel brown thrasher 
belting a medley of bird-psalms 

from the tip of a tender-leafed tree. 
We’ll meet in the way the new world glows 
with clean glimmers of predawn light. 

My spirit will sing its peace to you 
in the whistling trill of a waterthrush song 
and the sweet of a chickadee call. 

We’ll share the wonder of street-side weeds 
where scattered arcs of Dove’s-foot flowers 
are lavender starbursts tangled in green. 

You’ll bound like the yearling trailing a doe,  
you and your mumma, but girl when you go 
I’ll be the still spring in your soul.