Barbara Bush and Ima Hogg: Two Texas Matriarchs, One Common Vision

 

Miss Barbara Bush = Miss Ima Hogg = Two Texas matriarchs and kindred spirits with one common goal, purpose and vision.

Miss Ima was a very influential Texas philanthropist and was, among many other things, an arts magnate, one of its fiercest advocates and most prolific patrons of the 20th century. She was an early champion of racial equality and believed that one of the ways it could be achieved was through equal access to and immersion in the arts, and was the architect of programs for children of color to achieve that very end, programs that would serve as a model for others like it for years to come.

She was also a passionate voice for mental health, especially in children, and as you may have guessed, was an architect for programs and institutions to bring about its end. As it happens, she was the founder of Mental Health America, one of the oldest and largest mental health advocacy organizations in the country, and certainly in the state and my city (Houston). It is the first mental health advocacy organization I have partnered with, and the one with which I remain the most intimately connected.

As most of us perhaps already know, Miss Barbara was a perennial champion of literacy, especially child literacy. Perhaps her most salient and tangible legacy is her literacy foundation, with chapters all over the country, and the “flagship” chapter in Houston. Like Miss Irma, she was a firm adherent of the philosophy that literacy and equal access to books and other forms of reading material was the key to fomenting positive social/economic change, leading to the achievement of true and lasting social equality.

Both women are true American heroines, shining embodiments of a lifetime dedication to serving humanity, whose respective life’s purposes were informed very early on by an unbridled appreciation for reading, writing and the arts, the very human elements indispensable to the construction, management and furthering of any civilized and progressive society, and I am personally thankful and deeply indebted to them for their universe-altering and universe-expanding quest for profound social change, the microcosmic counterparts of which having demonstrated their precious fruits and gifts in my own life many times over, enriching it beyond all expectation. God bless them both, and while I am reasonably certain that they have crossed paths in life in some capacity or context, I am positive they are back together, leading the collective collaboration to continue advancing some of the noblest aspects and aptitudes of the human spirit, wherever they are.

 

For Barbara: Martin Luther King reflecting on my favorite poem, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (No Man is an Island). by John Donne

For Ima: “Heroic” Polonaise befitting her consummate heroism from my favorite composer, F Chopin, and played by my favorite pianist, Evgeny Kissin

 

Public Poetry Reading!

My first “official” public poetry reading at Unity Church of Houston Thursday, March 22nd 2018. Part of Assemble for Action, a series of motivational gatherings with candid discussions, personal reflections, musical incantations and poetic recitations all leading up to the monumental March for our Lives demonstration this coming Saturday, March 24th, in downtown Houston. I briefly discuss my perspective on gun violence as a military veteran and mental health advocate, followed by three poems on the respective themes of war/violence/destruction, grief and loss, and redemption through a commitment to lasting peace. Enjoy.

She Arrived Bearing Leaflets

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She arrived bearing leaflets
gathered hastily from a tree
that once made its home
along the bluff that bowed
in the direction of All Saint’s Creek,

Where the flightless seraphs would
traverse from time to time
to retrace the melody
that escaped somewhere between
celestial monuments immemorial

And the hallowed confluence of
electric mists and vernal shadows
that marked the beginning
and the end of a journey’s refrain,
just beyond the bend.

One leaf was given to a man of great wisdom
who preferred the wistful caress
of remote breezes emanating from
solitude sweetened with age
and fortified with crystalline shells of Faith.

Another was given to the golden-haired urchin
who painted the meadows with colors
birthed out of fond remembrances of
tender passages from lullabies
that dared to trace their lineage back to Blue.

Several more were given to
the animals that dutifully roamed
the forgotten stretch of the forest
in which visions of sunrise trickled down
like nervous rain on its journey beneath the surface.

The last leaf was given to me
as I wondered into the chestnut stream
that flowed from her eyes.
I held it to my heart and promised her
that I would awaken each morning hereafter

Bearing lavender periwinkles for her silken hair
extending in every direction, culminating into
tightly-woven star steps leading back
to the beginning of the Creek
where there were dreams of flight, patient and graceful.

I promised her that when the leaf crumbles,
my heart will divide the pieces among
every meandering soul in search of her lament,
and legions of despondent youth
will arise and build spatial arias from her maiden cry.

And the galaxies will awaken, changing form
with each resolution, presaging the moment
when each star will descend upon the horizon
and illuminate the spot where the leaflets once
graced her outstretched hand.

I sit and mark the journey
of lost stars that find their way down the bluff
and into my bosom, where I inscribe her smile on them,
and turn them into wings that glow in the dark
for the angels who plant trees at night.

 

Art by Matt Wisniewski

Poetry Collection Debut!

book
I am happy to announce the availability of my debut collection of poetry for purchase. Please follow the link below to access the title from my Create Space page. It is also available on Amazon and Kindle, and in about a month look for it at a bookstore near you! Enjoy and thank you so much for your support.

https://www.createspace.com/6510512

And There I Stood…

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And there I stood
at the threshold of infinity,
wondering when
the tides would cease to swerve,
when the moon would
turn to face me and weep,

when the lighthouse
would become darkened
by the sempiternal emptiness
of unanswered questions.
And then I chose a star to hold,
to cherish and protect as the path takes on new direction.
I speak to a destiny that radiates possibility,
that dissipates the tribulations of yore
and casts them into the pond
where I once thought the answers awaited me.
And here I sing robust melodies
bejeweled with red stones,
warm and smooth to the touch,
filled with a luscious silence, a knowing.
The future reveals an exploding genesis,
its particulates raining upon my head
down my face, attached to my song,
christened by the scintillations

emanating from my bosom.

Art: “Blue”
Wassily Kandinsky

Nestled by the Fireside

Nestled by the fireside,
listening.
The temperate caress
of an errant flicker
awakens the latent
serenade of the season,
carrying expectant smiles
to their place beyond the sphere.

Everything exists
in this series of nows and forevers,
in the way your hand

Lies untroubled in mine,
redolent of the halcyon’s
repose after her flight
through celestial reveries
interconnected by the vestal melodies
of winged seraphs
perched atop the star that sits aloof
bearing our likeness.

I’ve Heard the Echoes

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I’ve heard the echoes,
chased the shadows,
danced with the reveries
of phantom caresses.

Retreat with me
to a safe space
‘neath the snow-laden burrows
behind the curtain of remembrances

where we will carve out
the annals
of innocence and mirth,
and ascend the smoky hills by night’s end.

Art: “The Road in front of Saint-Siméon Farm in Winter”
Claude Monet