L. Ward Abel

The Tao of Barbour County

          I’d like you to pray for me. – George Wallace to Jesse Jackson, 1987

Barbour County roads all led down to the river
past bad times at both ends. Two catastrophes plus
the boll weevil and revenge would later ricochet blowback
firing weapons with uses beyond the then present
technology, when scars ran wet and black smoke obscured
the noose the poplar the walnut the water oak of Chattahoochee Valley.

Revolution always has a scapegoat. Still, defeat carries a responsibility
because the defeated often direct the conversation for good or not.
Abject poverty was on both sides of the issue because everyone lost
his ass, and some never recovered except darkly, through ideology
straight lines and victims in rooms; those same victims,
though much transformed, who by equal hatred, unforgiveness,
used night against the other.

It was into such a world of the defeated and easy targets that Wallace was born.
Vicarified memories of foreign occupation, a nation, a culture fallen,
recharging its wrath like old batteries to inflict retribution where woods begin,
where it’s hard if not impossible to see after sundown. 
That’s why people look for fires after dark. Sometimes it’s for survival.

Lake Eufaula at night proves it. Proves that peace is something
separate from people. As George passed by the fields
the woods ripe for breeze, or seeing muddy roads or broken rocks,
there was a storm in his mind, an out-of-focus broil with glad-handed
self-evidence, logic in loops.  The lake was calm many a night
while he raged and screamed to Yahweh. But God chooses sides.

Maltreatment begets equal opposite causes if born in vengeance,
compromises the Christian way, as up is down and right is not.
Yet, like blue sky in a rainstorm, there’s always the firefly:
millions combined can light up fields together;  a solitary one can
give a point of reference for those without due process, hope,
confused by the facts, disappointed by ideals, who wrongly
dismiss the healing properties of light.

So eras begin. Damaged ones like his. Yes, revenge times. They start from  
ruin received, grow in the womb of blood like spinal cord bullets,
live among putrefied soldiers lying along fence lines.
But they always end with a come-to-Jesus moment,
when clarity and wisdom coincide even if for a nanosecond,
and the parted clouds allow the model for all music to transcend.
When a man like George Wallace, the Tzu Lao of sinners,
is forced to greet his wounded opposite on the fall line. 
And in that radiance they finally pray together.



The Stealth Center

You passed over the mile-wide river
like a dandelion bird
lighter than weather and longer lived.
I decided to follow along.
No one even noticed us.
Just think, I thought,
here we are the center of everything
but through without a stir.
Before then I was sure I could elevate
the conversation.  Later though
I grew more accustomed to listening.


L. Ward Abel, poet, composer and performer of music (Abel, Rawls & Hayes), teacher, retired lawyer, lives in rural Georgia, has been published hundreds of times in print and online, and is the author of Peach Box and Verge (Little Poem Press, 2003), Jonesing For Byzantium (UK Authors Press, 2006), The Heat of Blooming (Pudding House Press, 2008), Torn Sky Bleeding Blue (erbacce-Press, 2010), American Bruise (Parallel Press, 2012), Cousins Over Colder Fields (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and Roseorange(Flutter Press, 2013).