ALI

There was a man named Cassius
A fighter in this land
He was so full of brashness
A wordsmith truly grand

But he spoke best nonverbal
With jab and hook and dance
On top the rocking canvas
Us in hypnotic trance

He plied his craft uniquely
From mortals set apart
Far more than just a fighter
A moving work of art

But all his matchless prowess
To him not love did bring
Some only saw his color
The black sheen of his skin

From these poured out their hatred
Their bitter enmity
They dreamed of future lynching
Black Clay hung from a tree

Their hate grew more intensely
When he became Ali
Their rage surceasing vision
Their blindness all that be

They saw not man of courage
Of strength and dignity
They saw not grace and beauty
And deep humility

They saw not my perception
Knew not his gift to me
A gift of something timeless
From God’s eternity

I see him in the jungle
A lasting memory
Seared in my cortex deeply
So fixed, indelibly

If you saw but a contest
‘Tween Foreman and Ali
I will not fault nor blame you
No criticality

But I saw more than punches
Saw more than fighters 2
I saw the pure quintessence
Of what true men can do

He showed me something vital
Not thing of ring or gym
He showed what I could be like
If I lived life like him

If aliens come to visit
And ask that we arrange
A meeting of discov’ry
A ‘who we are’ exchange

They might ask us to bring there
The ones we deem the best
The ones we praise as heroes
To be their honored guests

They’ll say that what they’re seeking
Is not who heroes be
They’ll say that what they’ll witness
Is us, reflectively

And if Ali does go there
And shakes the alien’s hands
They’ll see beyond the puffed face
The trembling, damaged man

They’ll peer past his appearance
Beyond his tired, limp eyes
And gauge the soul inside him
With judgment sure and wise

And when they do uncover
The essence of the man
They then will know who we are
It’s us they’ll understand

They’ll stay there but a moment
Grip firm his black, weak hand
Say "Very pleased to meet you
Please stay here if you can"

Then turn to face we fearing
The worst we know portends
They’ll say with gentle earnest
"We’d like to be your friends"