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David Cook

Last Sunday, this column focused on the magnificent Howard baseball team.

Next Sunday, I'll write about your magnificent response.

But first, poetry.

Every so often, a reader's poem will reach my desk. I hold onto them, until the time comes to share them with you.



One day, Howard Brown dropped his phone into the toilet. Like any good poet, he wrote about what happened next. Originally published in January's "Burningwood Literary Journal, Issue 81," Brown's poem is one of my recent favorites.


Standing in the bathroom,

attempting to text

and pee at the same time,

I dropped my cell phone in the toilet.

In a flash, I saw the phone's

micro-circuits signing off, one by one,

as I reached down and took hold of

the little urine-soaked rectangle.

And now,

after three days of silence,

no texts, no emails

no help from the ubiquitous Siri,

the phone still buried

in a bowl of Uncle Ben's long-grain rice,

I wonder who, in truth, has been rescued—

the cell phone or me?


Keith Landrum's poem "Push" is as much prayer as poetry. First published in December's "Holy Heretic," an underground zine from Mercy Junction's Justice and Peace Center, the poem is both social criticism and soul-work.


If you push

a shopping cart

you either have

or have


you either have

a home

or you


if you push

a shopping cart

it's either filled

with consumerism

or desperation

comfort or fear

protection or violence

life or death

if you push

a shopping cart

you are either inside

or outside

welcomed or


but nothing we fill

our carts with

will save us

we have to


each other

every day


we must


* * *

In February 1893, Alfred Blount was lynched on the Walnut Street Bridge. Then, Ed Johnson was lynched there in 1906. This haunting poem by Christian Collier reminds us of the dangers of forgetting.

A Blues for Walnut Street Bridge

For so many of us here in the city,

we are guilty of forgetting

that Ed Johnson & Alfred Blount's names

still rest on the back of the bridge's tongue,

that, after all this time, the dense weight

of their hanging bodies still haunts its broad girders

& we never stop to wonder

if it has ever rued that it was made

to bring about their brutal deaths,

that it was forced to feel the life

sift away from their flesh & muscle

or if it has ever once envied

how we, who casually walk & race across it,

claim ignorance as a shield,

how we have chosen not to be burdened

by the history that has stained it,

how we have worked ourselves

to the highest states of negligence

to avoid the loudest notes

of the blues it, alone, has had to bear.

* * *

Shortly after the Woodmore Elementary bus crash, Kemmer Anderson, a friend and colleague, wrote this poem, some of the most powerful words about the tragedy.

Villanelle for Bus 366

A yellow school bus crucified on a tree

With children scattered on Talley Road:

The mysteries of death are never free.

The mind behind the eye will always see

These memories of this tragic episode

When a school bus crucified on a tree

Ended the lives of Woodmore Elementary

Students. Who will write a new school bus code?

The mysteries of death are never free.

I drive by and stop, then read poetry

To the ghosts lingering on Talley Road

Where the bus was crucified on a tree.

Zoe in Greek is life: how could her mother foresee

Her child would not come home on the bus she rode.

The mysteries of death are never free

From the mourning and grief this city showed

Though the Saint Mary of Sorrows carries our load

For the yellow school bus crucified on a tree.

The mysteries of death are never free.

* * *

Lastly, a poem for winter, or what's left of it. It's by Alice Smith, who wrote what may be the best line about springtime — "the hope of emerald resurrection."

Winter Light

A ponderous sky

sheds minimal light on winter limbs,

twisted, misshapen, exposed,

a haunting skeleton displayed.

Dusk dissolves to black

peppered with points of light.

Yesterday's bony branches

wear early morning frost coats

as dawn gives birth to blue

streaked with pastel whimsy.

The diamond twigs shiver and creak

until the source of light

melts away the winter garments

worn for sheer protection.

A sudden breath of warmer wind

fired by noon day brilliance

whispers to the naked boughs

a promise billowing with blossom.

The leafless limbs inhale the hope

of emerald resurrection

as sunset colors wash the sky

in vivid confirmation.

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook at DavidCookTFP.