CHRIS RICE COOPER is a newspaper writer, feature stories writer, poet, fiction writer, photographer, and painter. She maintains a blog at https://chrisricecooper.blogspot.com. She has a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice and completed all of her poetry and fiction workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry. She, her husband Wayne, sons Nicholas and Caleb, cats Nation and Alaska reside in the St. Louis area.
Christal Ann Rice Cooper on June 6, 2019
"I worship Jesus - not a celebrity, political person, political party, philosophy, or spiritual leader -Only Jesus Christ." Christal Ann Rice Cooper Speaks!
In March of 2014 Dr. Allison Joseph
received a welcoming phone call from RHINO editor Ralph Hamilton.
Hamilton informed her via the phone
that she was the recipient of the Paladin Award from the literary journal Rhino
Poetry (http://rhinopoetry.org), awarded to Allison Joseph
for being a teacher, editor, poet, innovator, mentor and for her extraordinary
long-term contribution to poetry in Illinois.
On April 25, 2014 Dr. Allison Joseph
attended a ceremony where she was awarded the Paladin Award from the literary
journal Rhino Poetry.
Joseph prefers to write the normal lengthy poetry collections, but she is also a fan
I like chapbooks a lot.I loved Tim
Seible’s chapbook Kerosene.”
Joseph has written six poetry
collections and two chapbooks (including Trace Particles).
When asked if there was a difference between
writing poems from a chapbook collection than a normal length poetry
collection, Joseph responded:“Nothing really--I wrote the poems as they
came, so there wasn't really anything about their composition I'd not
Joseph wrote Trace Particles the same
way she writes all of her poems – in total silence and with a pen in longhand on
legal pads or notebooks, and with no limit to environment or place.
write anywhere I happen to have an idea strike me.”
One would think a chapbook would lack the compelling
power and artistic poetic art form of the longer, more typical length book of
poetry, but Joseph feels otherwise.
chapbook allows you to send a concentrated dose of poems, so it’s good for a
lot of the poems of social concern I was working with at the time.”
Trace Particles consists of poems
giving voices to black women slaves, women who have been abused or raped, girls
who have been molested, or denied their basic human right because of their tiny
vaginas, or the color of their skin.
In the continent of Asia alone, over 4000 cases
of rape, half of them girls under the age of 16, have been reported to the
authorities in the past year.This does
not include the unreported rapes; nor does it include the rape atrocities
occurring throughout Africa, Ireland, the Middle East, and even the United
Trace Particles is more than a chapbook
of poetry but a powerful tool that every women and girl should have.It’s like a pill one could take – but with no
Joseph arranged the poems in Trace
Particles according to darkness of theme:the humorous poems are first and the darker
poems are at the end.
The most emotional poem for Joseph to
write was “31 Shirts” because of its difficult topic of domestic violence,
which is evident in most of the poems in this small collection.Joseph was inspired to write “31 Shirts” when
she observed a clotheslines project exhibit. (http://www.clotheslineproject.org)
this reviewer now has a voice and a comrade in Joseph, who admits to having the
urge of violence toward the perpetrator who targeted women at Southern Illinois
University of Carbondale; but at the same time, she has the maturity and
compassion to abstain from that violence.
I would love to strangle
with his clothesline,
make him see colors
of a different kind,
but that sort of anger
only makes me bitter,
does no bit of harm
to an old man in a
jail cell too eager to plead
Excerpt from “31 Shirts” from Trace
granted by Allison Joseph.
“31 Shirts” Joseph recognizes all the women and girl victims based on the color
of their t-shirts, worn to spread awareness and to prevent the violence from
signifying a woman killed for loving another
woman.Yellow or beige mean rape, though
if a woman should
live, her shirt can be red,
or pink, perhaps
orange.Blue or green
for surviving incest,
black if you’re attacked for
In “31 Shirts” Joseph makes an
observation that huge populations of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale
students wear the t-shirts; but then she makes a plea both men and women:
I wonder if they stop
at all to think
what their own shirts might say
what these colors mean,
The last line of “31 Shirts” leaves no
excuse for anyone not to be concerned about violence – not only violence toward
women, but toward anyone, and it also make the political statements that there
should be more strict laws about guns.
hands can do around a
leg or throat or gun.
The poem that Joseph did the most
research on was “Snow White”, in which Joseph depicts a would be victim as Snow
White, and Walt Disney as a possible future perpetrator when Walt Disney
insisted the Snow White caricature be that of a fourteen year old girl.
Thank goodness his
animators talked sense to
Him or their first
full length animated feature
Would have been
nothing more than an advert
For pedophilia, that
eager Prince swooning for a girl
Less than half his
“Snow White” at first glance escapes
being a victim by simply appearing older in the film.But then, later in the poem, Joseph delves
deeper into who is responsible for the victimization towards women; and what
victim entails.In order to be a victim,
does a woman/girl have to be sexually violated?Or could a woman/girl be a victim by false advertisement; not being
given their due share of the just dollar?
Joseph credits Snow White with opening
the doors to other Walt Disney characters but no “snow white” is given the hard
earned penny; only given to white men.
artists drew you
and those dopey
dwarfs by hand, frame by frame,
two million images to
save Walt’s studio
from bankruptcy, but
you never got a cent,
your dulcet singing
by some Hollywood
singing teacher’s daughter.
“Snow White” has political undertones
of the media’s misrepresentation of women, and due to those misrepresentations
women such as “Snow White” are coerced into being an image that is impossible to
maintain or hold, further victimizing women and especially young girls.
In all, it’s an
acceptable life, and if you
Have to down a few
pills before bedtime,
Who’s to know?You’re eternally delightful, heroine
To millions of pink-clothed
Ordinary little girls,
their rotund mothers
Who were once little
girls took all of them
Paying more for your
likeness than they
Would for their own,
the Magic Kingdom
They seek nowhere in
What all the picture
Joseph in her poem “Aunt Jemina’s
Revenge” gives poetic justice a whole new meaning with humor, justification,
and the sweetest revenge ever, starting with changing Aunt Jemima’s name to
“Aunt Jemina’s Revenge”.
In the poem, Joseph responds to an article
byline of the Quaker Oats Company having to recall Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix
due to possible salmonella contamination.Here the victim pool of possible salmonella contamination is no longer
women and girls, but men and women, and more than likely white men and women.
Has you right where
she wants you: feverish
And glassy-eyes, head
in the toilet, pleading
For redemption from
your own evil.
Soon, the perpetrator is not the slaveholder
or the conservative white but individuals who box in what it means to be black,
the media being one.The perpetrator
becomes the advertisers and those who fall for the advertisement – and we are
not talking about syrup nor are we necessarily talking about contamination but the
misconceptions of what it means to be black.
Joseph adds biographical unknown
elements to the poem “Aunt Jemina’s Revenge” by revealing the face for the Aunt
Jemima was actually a white woman.
A white woman with an
sooty-faced in burnt cork.
Joseph further offers an important
typically unknown biographical fact about the real Aunt Jemina.
Late, you learned the
first black Aunt
Jemina came straight
off a Kentucky
Plantation, hired to
bring the World’s Fair
1893’s most startling
hotcakes in a box to a grateful, hungry
The last stanza is perhaps the most humorous
that bleeds sweet revenge for all the Aunt Jemina’s everywhere – all the
housewives black and white and every other color that are never paid and never thanked
for their labors in the kitchen.
The grin of a woman
a lifetime making
without you ever once
offering to make hers.
There is a bit of pop culture in these poems –
Aunt Jemima, Snow White, soap star actress Shell Kepler, General Hospital’s
Luke and Laura.
There is a persona poem of Tennessee Williams
walking in Times Square in 1984; and, of course, the powerhouse of a poem Trace
Particles, also the titled of the chapbook, about the dangers of contaminated
water and its effects.
One could spend hours discussing
Joseph’s individual poems, their artistic poetic power, their compelling ability,
and the versatile meanings.The poems
are magic – it is understood what the poet’s meaning is; and yet, the reader is
able to read these poems and see clearly his or her on individual meaning at
the same time.The poems themselves
become the living embodiment of what it means to be Muse and Poet and Poem. And,
also, what it means to be victim and perpetrator.
Photo Description and
Copyright granted by Allison Joseph.
cover of RHINO 2014 issue
granted by Allison Joseph.
Joseph holding the 2014 Paladin Award from Rhino in her right hand at the
Brothers K Rhino Reads! Open Mic and Featured Readers night on April 25, 2014.
granted by Allison Joseph
Press web logo
5P (two photos)
Seibles Copyright granted by Tim Seibles
cover of Kerosene
of Allison Joseph’s six book collections and one chapbook collection.
Copyright granted by Allison Joseph.
cover of the chapbook Voice: Poems Photo 8N Jacket cover of Trace Particles
Joseph reading from Trace Particles
Press .com rape prevention logo
logo for the clothesline project website.
Killer Timothy Krajcir.Department of
Illinois Corrections.Pubic Domain.
for the clothesline project
Trailor of Walt Disney introducing the dwarfs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Movie Poster of Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs by Walt Disney.
Caselotti, the voice of Snow White on October 10, 1932.
Music Cover of Jemima’s Wedding-Day Cake Walk
by Martin Saxx
famous Welsh woman and heroine Jemima Nicholas also known as Jemima Fawr.
for Nicholas/Fawr at the St. Mary’s Church Fishguard
Green as Aunt Jemima.Nancy Green was
born into slavery in 1834 in Montgomery County, Kentucky.She died in a car accident in 1923.
Luke Spencer (Anthony Gearey) and Larua Webbar (Genie Francis) on their wedding
day November 17, 1981.
Use Under The United States Copyright Law.
Williams walking to the funeral services of Dylan Thomas in 1953.
to Walter Labertin – New York World Telegram and Sun Staff Photographer.
is part of my DNA. There are things about it, at least the version I grew
up with, that I can no longer accept, but there are also parts that can’t let
past April of 2014 Robert Gray’s poetry collection, JESUS WALKS THE
SOUTHLAND, was published by negative capability press (www.negativecapabilitypress.org).
previous poetry collections are I Wish That I Were Langston Hughes
and DREW: Poems from Blue Water.
JWTS is more than a poetry collection, but a prayer to a higher
power, an attempt to rescue Jesus from Christianity, an apologetic to the
African American race for his responsibility of racism by simply being white,
and a cry for social justice in an America that is still ravaged with racism,
especially amongst black and white in Alabama’s south.
was raised, along with his brother Drew, in a devout Methodist family who held
to the traditional and conservative views of religion and politics. Even
still, in his small hometown of Sylacauga, Alabama, he attended the integrated
Main Avenue Elementary School, in 1970.
first grade year was the first year the school system was fully integrated, so
for me, all of that was invisible. I wasn’t aware of anything being
different, and for that I am lucky.”
a choirboy in the Methodist Church, held the standard view of Jesus that most
of the white south had: a tall white male with golden brown hair and warm
was one (picture) in the room I usually slept in at my grandmother’s
house. It was the standard handsome white guy with light brown hair and a
halo, the immaculately conceived only Son of God, the Savior of the World, the
only key to the kingdom of heaven.”
inherited his mother’s sense of power and wonder of religion. He also
inherited from his father permission to doubt and think against the norm, which
he exercised when he took a lecture course on William Blake, and as a result,
experienced the beginnings of spiritual awakening and fulfillment that were
absent in his conservative and religious upbringing.
was first introduced to me through the words of lectures
in the error and blindness that is the theme of
his work but I’ve since found the maker of the lamb and tyger is
from our restrained eyes so that we can finally see at albion’s
that all deities do indeed reside within the human beast.
from “A POEM FOR WILLIAM BLAKE” Page 35
thought they were brilliant when I was listening to them. When I studied
Blake in much more detail later on (and I owe much of my understanding to my
dear friend and mentor, Vic Paananen, who died of cancer last year), I realized
that you can’t really understand the earlier stuff that everybody reads (e.g., The
Songs of Innocence and of Experience and The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)
until you’ve read the later prophecies that almost nobody reads (e.g., Milton
and Jerusalem) because they’re almost incomprehensible. But the Songs
and Marriage take on entirely different levels of signification through the
frames of the prophecies.”
started writing poetry in his college years when he was a member of a rock
band, and given the sole responsibility of writing the band’s lyrics, but he
did not start writing poetry seriously until he took a
British Literature survey course and fell in love with Romanticism and the poet
natural world wordsworth wrote of long ago
harmony wrought in the style of church hymns
flowing lines of tintern abbey and the ode
harmony and beauty we no longer see
world’s a poem that doesn’t rhyme
lacks a certain metric or sense of time.
from “RHYMING LANDSCAPES” page 70
I was about fifteen, I went to England with my church choir. We visited
the house of some guy named Wordsworth. I had no idea who he was, but I
loved the beauty of his Lake District. Several years later, I took a
British Lit survey course and read his work. After reading his poems and
connecting them to my memories of those landscapes, I was hooked.”
taking the British Literature survey course, Gray made the decision to become
an English major, earning his B.A. and M.A. in English and a Ph.D. in
Instructional Technology, all from the University of Alabama.
encountered other books and writers during his college years at the University
of Alabama and Michigan State’s doctoral program that he mentions in his poetry
collection JWTS: some of which are Maya Angelou’s I
Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Harper Lee’s To Kill A
Mockingbird, and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. His
reading of these books, especially Moby Dick, made an impact on
him while studying for his Master’s comps.
long must we believe
biology shapes behavior
blaming our own oppression
from “OF SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLMASTERS” Page
got up one day, started reading Moby Dick, and put it down when I
finished it and went to bed: long day, but a good day. That poem
was written as part of the Remaking Moby Dick Project, which was curated
by Trish Harris. There was a museum installation in Norway and a book
published. She put out a call for responses to individual chapters.
I drew that chapter (88). It was actually a part and aspect of the book
that I couldn’t remember, so it was a neat experience.”
took his first poetry writing class while in graduate school, which was not a
pleasant experience for Gray, even though, in the long term, it made him a
fell in love with poetry because I fell in love with Romanticism and was
studying and primarily reading the English Romantics, so when I started writing
poems, I sounded like I was in England in the 1810s. In fact, my teacher
told me I sounded like John Clare. It took me several years to figure out
how not to do that, how to move my voice up a couple of centuries.”
Gray’s most autobiographical and most fictional poem from the collection is “THE
ROAD TO DEMOPOLIS”, whereGray is the symbolic blind unbelieving
Paul until he is visited by the real Jesus/ the real truth, and finally, in the
end, his eyes are open to what is truth and what is right.
was on the road to demopolis
meet an old friend
a barbecue joint
a light flashed from above
a voice called my name
the din of daydream
know why you persecute me
making sure I was still
and on the road
is that you
voice more like jackie mason
I am paul the apostle
one you’ve been persecuting
your poems but let us fix
eyes on me the real me
from “THE ROAD TO DEMOPOLIS” page 37
Gray’s own personal life, it took poetry, the works of great storyteller
masters, and his own witness and observation of injustice and racial inequality
in the south for him to finally see the truth, and thus, he is a new creature.
don’t know if it was anything I studied in particular so much as intellectual
maturation and growth. It wasn’t until much later that I realized the
concepts of English Romanticism circa 1800 had seemed radical to me because the
worldview I grew up in was the same one the Romantics were speaking out
As a result, Gray is no longer a Methodist, but a member of his local Episcopal
Church, not necessarily because of its dogma, but its celebration of
questioning and doubting of typical brands of Christianity, and this is felt
and expressed through his poetry in JWTS.
his blurb on my new book, JWTS, Hank Lazer said I was trying to save
Christ from Christianity, and in some ways, while many would probably find my
book offensive or even blasphemous (at least in a couple of poems), taken as a
whole, it is a kind of testimony to a Christianity that is about justice, about
fighting oppression, about granting dignity to all human beings.”
Gray, through his own conversion experience, has changed his views on
Christianity and Jesus, though he will not go into great detail, which is the
ethical duty of a poet: a poet and a poem are two separate entities and
poems belong to the reader as much as to the poet.
the crucifixion and resurrection literally happened or not has no effect on the
“truth” of the story. I still see Jesus as the archetype of humanity and
still greatly value the example he gave us for how to live.
me, the Gospels are about how to live in this world (and) about how we are to
sacrifice our selves. We are literally to be consumed by the world in our
fight against injustice and oppression so that every human being can stand with
dignity. That, in my reading, is the "way" of Christ.
would logically follow that if you are a Christian merely so that you will go
to heaven, you're doing it wrong. Heaven may or may not enter into it,
but that’s not something I am going to concern myself with. This world is
a heaven that we have turned into a hell for the vast majority of its
inhabitants. The only thing keeping it from being a heaven is our lack of
will to make it so, mostly because we are more concerned with maintaining our
place and stake in that world than with elevating others. And the role
that historical and contemporary Christianity has played in making sure the
haves feel “blessed” and the have-nots feel comforted by the world to come is
as great an evil as the world has ever known.
not only has revolutionary ideas about Christianity, but poetry as well, and
like some Christian circles, there are poetry circles that consider him a rule
breaker as well: poet Gray refuses to use capitalization and punctuation
in any of his poetry.
was just writing a poem one day and would come up with several lines at once,
but when I would get to an end of a line, I would struggle to decide what
punctuation to put there (a period? a dash? a semicolon? etc.). So
I just stopped using punctuation and soon figured that capitalization should go
didn’t feel like he had the right to call himself poet until after his second
poetry collection DREW: Poems From Blue Water was
published. DREW: PFBW is dedicated and focused on his
brother Drew, his brain cancer, and his death.
took me a long time to make that recognition. I thought of myself as
someone who wrote (or at least had the capacity to write) pretty good poems as
early as the late 1990s, but I wasn’t really comfortable with calling myself a
poet until my second book came out.”
describes JWTS as a poetry collection on religion and politics
divided into three sections: Politics (ONE: IT’S DIFFERENT GROWING UP
IN THE SOUTH); Religion (TWO: JESUS WALKS THE SOUTHLAND); and
Metaphysical Observation Poems/Meaning of Life Poems, which are neither
political nor religious (THREE: AND THE WORLD WAS GOD).
originally had the religion section first, but both Lorna Dee Cervantes and Sue
Walker recommended I put the political ones first because of the danger of the
religion poems putting some readers off too early. The placement or order
of the poems in each section was just by feel. A few of them bounced
between sections before finding their permanent home. I also felt
strongly that each section should have the same number of poems, I guess so
that one wouldn’t be privileged over the others.”
of these poems may be disturbing, particularly to those who are white,
conservative, and evangelical Christian. In “I WISH THAT I WERE
LANGSTON HUGHES” Gray makes an argument of what is black poetry and what is
white poetry and the difference between the two.
have long found
fundamental difference between white poetry
I have often envied it
while I am certainly
guilty as anyone and
never wish to oversimplify
seems to me that white poetry
often soared on the ethereal
of imagination and philosophy african american poetry
the other hand
preferred to labor
its hands in the earth
had on its work
*Excerpt from “I WISH
THAT I WERE LANGSTON HUGES” pages 5 and 6.
“I don’t think I would say
that Black poets are “labor poets,”
That implies a kind of class distinction that I wasn’t going for. If I
were to restate or explain it here, I would say that white poets, especially
pre-20th-century ones, tend to be more concerned about the meaning
of life, while Black poets tend to be more concerned with life itself.
But again, there are many exceptions to this.”
is also the hint of being ashamed of being white or being held responsible for
the racial atrocities happening to the African Americans based on one simply
matter how much
read or think or discuss
no matter how enlightened I may feel
i can never understand
as a white poet
privileged by nothing else
but my own whiteness
how the truth in their words
see so well into the life of things
so I am damned
that same whiteness
from “I WISH THAT I WERE LANGSTON
wouldn’t say that I am (or have been) ashamed to be white. And I don’t
think I can be anything but a white poet, but hopefully one that has learned to
push against my limitations. Sure, there are many, many things that white
people have done that I’m not proud of, but I’m not aware of any ethic or
racial group that has a history free of such things (although, I must say,
white people undoubtedly have more than our share).
one should be ashamed of their identity.Shame is such an unproductive and
crippling emotion. But if shame enters into it anywhere, I suppose it
should be in regards to how you respond to your identity. So, if you are
a white person who professes to be a Christian and have all of this residual
evidence of the violence and oppression that whiteness continues to express in
our society, and you choose simply to go on with your life, re-inscribing and
perpetuating those expressions, as well as benefitting from the advantages and
privileges that previous injustices have provided, instead of doing something
to work against them, then at that point, shame does have a place in all of
might argue that poetry
be above the baseness
politics and there may well be
richness to those arguments
there is also a whiteness
blinding us to the life of things.
Excerpt from “I WISH THAT I WERE LANGSOTN HUGHES”
fully realize the limitations of the binary I set up in “I WISH THAT I WERE
LANGSTON HUGHES,” but the deconstruction bit at the end was intended to undermine
that binary. I originally had a line or two that talked about not wanting
to oversimplify, but it just sounded too coldly academic so I took it
out. I’m still not sure if that was the right decision. There are
certainly many, many examples of exceptions to these generalizations, but as
generalizations, I think they do tend to hold.
mocks the historic lines
what is supposed
constinute our national greatness
htose who cry out for the
the tired the tempest-tossed
who cry out against the madness
cast aside as madmen crying out
from “OUR COUNTRY IS BROKEN” page 22.
“OUR COUNTRY BROKEN”, a fair interpretation could the be condemnation of
republicans and evangelical Christians, but Gray insists that’s not the main
point he is trying to make in the poem.
I think of it as a condemnation of the willful ignorance that pervades our
culture. I suppose you could say, then, that it’s a condemnation of how
the Republican party works to perpetuate and manipulate that ignorance and how
the fundamentalists fall right for it. Primarily, though, I think it’s
about how deceptive political discourses are and how important it is in a
democracy for the people to be smart enough to not be duped and how we are
failing miserably at being smart enough.”
“GOOD LITTLE GIRL” Gray describes, in his view, the political views that
a true Christian should never have. In the poem he describes a good
little girl who is supposedly a Christian who reads her red Gideon Bible every
day, and how she loves the color red because it reminds her
of the blood of jesus
and how it
perfectly the roses
on her laura
from “GOOD LITTLE GIRL” page 12.
description can apply to all Christians, who, according to Jesus, are called to
love their neighbors and their enemies as their own selves, which involves
turning the other cheek, and giving one his or her last coat during the coldest
of seasons. Unfortunately, in today’s world, even the Christian world,
this is not always the case.
was just trying to point out that the current political views publicly held by
“conservative Christians” seem, at least to me, a bit antithetical to the
teachings of Christ. There is part of me that wanted to go a lot further
with that depiction, but I held back.”
insists that he is not writing poems that express a blanket commentary about
Christianity or even to all Christians, but is expressing disappointment in certain
segments of Christians and Christianity who exhibit behaviors that are cruel to
individuals or groups of individuals.
are a lot of good and bad Christians, good and
white people, and good and bad Black people. I play with the stereotypes of
the political views of conservative whites that are perpetuated in the media
and verified daily in my Facebook feed and email inbox, but I hope my poems
don’t suggest that all white people are like that. I can’t think of where
he may not claim the title, he is a civil rights activist and is constantly and
consistently seeking out the rights for minorities, LGBT groups, and
specifically African Americans, which are ever present in Alabama and in his
personal and professional life.
“Besides writing books and making movies for racial equality, I am currently
working with the mayor’s staff in Mobile to organize a series of events an
programs to address racial divisions in the city.”
Gray resides in Mobile with his wife of 24 years Kim and their two children
Liam and Emily in an integrated neighborhood, but not integrated enough for
“Our street is about two blocks long, and currently, everyone who lives on
it is white. There are African Americans who live at each end and on the
streets on each side of it and on the one that intersects it in the
middle. So, in a way, yes, it is integrated, but I would like for it to
be a little better integrated.”
believes more integration is part of the answer to our racial issues in America
today, but that it is not the sole answer, and in order for it to work properly
both sides of the equation must to do it voluntarily, willingly and
thing about integration, however, is that it’s very much like the theorizing I
do on interaction in my instructional technology day job: both sides have to
change for it to happen. If it is truly going to work, then the (now
almost lost) virtues of the African American schools that constituted the heart
of many communities of color have to be incorporated fully and respectably into
the majority schools. And the children of people with power, influence,
and wealth can’t flee to private schools. The same has to happen in
neighborhoods and workplaces. We can’t just make people of color
transform themselves to fit white spaces; the spaces have to cease being
couple of weeks after I moved to Mobile, I went home to visit my wife and kids
for the weekend, who were back in Birmingham trying to sell our house. I
was driving back that Sunday evening and reached Montgomery right at
dusk. There was a lot of construction going on at that time on I-65, and
traffic was pretty heavy. All of a sudden, a bum literally stumbled out
of the traffic in front of me, and as I passed by him, I looked in my rearview
mirror. It was like he was staring right into my soul through my rearview
mirror. It was really strange.
although he was balding on top and didn’t have much hair and only a scraggly
beard, his face and eyes looked just like Jesus, or at least just like that
shared image we all have of Jesus. And even though I was well past him
and traffic was horrible, I felt a strong impulse to pull over and give him a ride,
primarily because of that superstitious belief most Southerners are raised with
that such figures could be angels sent to test us. I immediately scoffed
at such an impulse but also immediately looked over into my passenger seat and
remembered that I was moving a lot of stuff from home to my new apartment, so
there were boxes in the front seat and a book case in the back. There
literally wasn’t room in my car. Even if it was Jesus!
then started thinking about the richness of that experience and how it could be
interpreted in so many ways. So as soon as I got out of town and traffic
lightened up a bit, I pulled over on the shoulder of the exit ramp to Pintlala,
grabbed my laptop, which was on the floor in front of the passenger seat, and typed
it out. When I got to my apartment a couple of hours later, I played with
it for a few minutes and called it done.
year or two later, I was teaching Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” and thought
how the message in that poem about suffering always going on in the margins
aligned very nicely with my poem, so I added the “somewhere to get to” as an
allusion/homage to Auden.”
WALKS THE SOUTHLAND
I saw jesus
my rearview mirror
was on the side
the road in montgomery
looked just like
that he was
bit thinner on top
a lot dirtier
I guess was
from the shit
couldn’t really tell
if he was hitchhiking
just walking along
all happened too fast
it wouldn’t have mattered
because I wasn’t looking
for him besides
had somewhere to get to
didn’t have room in my car.
Poem “JESUS WALKS THE SOUTHLAND” from JWTS. page 27.
cover of I WISH THAT I WERE LANGSTON HUGHES
cover of DREW: Poems from Blue Water
Gray (far left) and older brother Drew (far right in red)
granted by Robert Gray
Gray’s 1975-1976 class, middle row, sixth from left
granted by Robert Gray
*(number 39) and his family
granted by Robert Gray
(back left) and his family
by Robert Gray
of William Blake, engraved by William Bell Scott 1811-90" oil on Canvas,
location: Fitzwilliam Museum - University of Cambridge.
Domain Photo Jb Vic Paananen
cover of SONGS OF INNOCENSE AND OF EXPERIENCE
cover of THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN AND HELL
Gray’s rock band. Robert Gray is in the very back.
granted by Robert Gray.
Wordsworth about the time he began writing The Prelude at age 28 in 1798
2 × 3 segment panorama of the town of Keswick, nestled between the
fells of Skiddaw and Derwent Water in the Lake District,
Cumbria, England. Taken from about 3/4 of the way to the summit of Walla Crag.