Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Ella Fitzgerald was the First Lady of Song

Long before Rihanna, in 1972 Ella Fitzgerald sang Mac the Knife with trumpeter Al Hirt at Super Bowl VI in New Orleans as part of a tribute to Louis Armstrong.  Broadway star Carol Channing also performed.  They became the first celebrity artists to perform at the Super Bowl and Ella was the first Black woman.  

Ella Fitzgerald is regarded by many as the greatest female singer of the 20th Century and there is plenty of competition.  Her career spanned decades from a novelty song specialist as a teenager to the undisputed First Lady of Song.  She sang with big bands, invented scat singing, moved seamlessly to jazz improvisation in the bebop era, and reinterpreted the canon of the Great American Songbook introducing generations to popular music as an art form and preserving classics that otherwise might have faded from memory.

Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917, in Newport News, Virginia, but moved to Yonkers, New York with her mother and Portuguese-born stepfather in the early 20’s.  After her mother was killed in an auto accident when she was 15 she left her stepfather’s home quickly and moved to live with an aunt in Harlem.  Most biographers believe she had been physically or sexually abused

Despite being an excellent student in Yonkers, Fitzgerald began skipping school and hanging with a rough street crowd.  She was soon acting as a lookout for a bordello and ran numbers for a Mafia game, a common job in Harlem.  Arrested, she was placed in the Colored Orphan Asylum in the Bronx and then at the New York Training School for Girls in upstate Hudson.  She may have again been abused there and escaped four times and was sometimes homeless back in Harlem.

A virtual street urchin with all of the predatory dangers that involves, Fitzgerald began busking on the streets dancing and imitating the jazz records she heard of Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and The Boswell Sisters.  Her first break came on November 4, 1934 when she unexpectedly won one of the earliest of the Apollo Theater Amateur Nights.  She got the $25 prize—which must have seemed like a fortune—but not the promised week-long booking at the theater because of her threadbare appearance.

Young Ella with the diminutive Chick Webb at the drums in one of their famous Savoy Ballroom sets.

But the following January she did sing for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House.  Then she was picked up by drummer Chick Webbs big band despite his reservations about her “scarecrow appearance.”  She became a favorite with the band in its famous appearances at the Savoy Ballroom which were broadcast on radio.  She recorded several sides with the band and was highly regarded by her fellow musicians.

Fitzgerald already had a mid-level hit with (If You Can’t Sing It) You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini) when a ditty she co-wrote, A-Tisket, A-Tasket became a smash and introduced her for the first time to wide White audiences. That was something of a mixed blessing—all they wanted to hear from the “little girl” were novelty songs.  Eventually it got her in movies with cameo appearances like in Abbot and Costellos Ride ‘em Cowboy in 1942.

Ella singing A-Tisket, A-Tasket from the back of the bus in the Abbot and Costello flick Ride 'em Cowboy.

But Ella was working, touring, recording, and most importantly no longer hungry or tattered.  When Webb died in 1938 Fitzgerald took over the band, which was re-named Ellas Famous Orchestra—almost unheard of for a girl singer and a recognition of her serious musical chops.  With and without Webb Ella and that band laid down almost 150 sides before the band dissolved in 1942 when many members went into the service.  Ella easily established a solo career recording at Decca and gaining critical attention with her regular appearances with the prestigious Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts.

With the demise of big band swing after World War II Fitzgerald adapted seamlessly to the new bebop sound.  Working frequently with Dizzy Gillespie she was credited with inventing scat singing—nonsense syllables improvised around the melody.  It was her way of doing as a vocalist the riffs the other musicians were inventing on the spot.  “I just wanted to do what I heard the horns playing,” she said.

Ella in 1947 with then husband Ray Brown, left, and Dizzy Gillespie, right--the Queen of Scat and Bebop.

In 1955 with Bop fading in popularity, Fitzgerald shifted gears again when she signed with Verve Records produced by Jazz at the Philharmonic impresario Norman Ganz.  Beginning with Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book together they produced a string of landmark albums featuring what came to be known as The Great American Songbook.  Those highly regarded albums which have never gone out of issue are regarded by many as defining the canon of 20th Century popular song.

Ella and Marilyn Monroe were close friends.  The movie star was a longtime fan and the two also shared a bond of coming from abusive, troubled childhood.  Monroe gave Ella's career a big boost in 1955 by convincing the owner of the posh Sunset Strip Mocambo Club to book her by promising to show up stage side every night with celebrity guests.  Although the story is often told that the club would not book her because of her race, the real reason was that the owner did not think the overweight singer had sex appeal and glamourous enough for the gig.  It did prove a break out for her from singing in small jazz clubs to the country's top night clubs.

From the ’50 up to the early ‘90’s Fitzgerald toured widely in the U.S., Europe, and Asia performing solo concerts and collaborations with most of the leading bands and her singing peers as well as appearances with symphony orchestras.  She also made many television appearances as guest star or in her own specials.  She continued to record, including two Christmas albums that rate with those of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Mathis as indispensible holiday classics.

In her later years Fitzgerald was plagued by health issues—obesity, diabetes, and repertory failure—which only slowed her down a little.  When diabetes cost her amputation of both legs below the knee in 1993 and impaired her eyesight, she continued to perform from a seat on stage.

                                            Ella was commemorated on a 2007 USPS  Black Heritage stamp.

She died in her Beverly Hills home attended by her adopted son Ray Brown Jr. and granddaughter Alice on June 15, 1996 at the age of 79.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Jan Ernst Matzeliger was the Mulatto Immigrant Who Shod the Nation

                                   Jan Ernst Matzeliger. the immigrant mulatto who didn't seem to fit in anywhere.

On May 19, 1885 Jan Ernst Matzeligers revolutionary Shoe Lasting Machine was introduced into production at a Lynn, Massachusetts factory.  Within a few years American production of factory-made shoes exploded and costs per pair to consumers dropped more than 50%.  Lynn became the center of a major industry. 

Matzeliger’s road to being an inventor was anything but ordinary.  He was born in 1852 in Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana (now Surinam) in South America the son of a Dutch engineer and a local Black woman.  Matzeliger inherited his father’s talent for mechanical equipment, working with him at his machine shop from the age of 10 and mastering the repair and maintenance of complicated machinery. 

But despite his talents, his future was clouded.  As a creole or mulatto he could not be sent to Holland for a professional education and he was not well accepted either among the white colonial elite or the mostly African and native local population. 

At the age of 20 he signed on a merchant vessel and spent two years as a seaman before deciding to settle in Philadelphia.  Knowing only rudimentary English, he had a hard time finding work until connecting to the local Black population through church.  They helped him find work repairing equipment of various kinds before he got a steady job in a small shoe makers shop. 

Local shops like the one in which he worked still made most of the shoes worn by Americans.  The introduction of heavy sewing machines and cutting equipment had increased the speed at which shoemakers could produce their wares since the peg and awl days of hand construction, but building finished shoes was still a laborious hand operation.  Matzeliger took to his new trade, but recognized that tools could be improved. 

In 1877 he moved to Lynn, where nearly 50% of the nation’s shoes were being produced in local factories.  The Civil War had stimulated the need for hundreds of thousands of pairs of shoes and boots to be manufactured quickly to meet the needs of the Army.  Using the same mechanical equipment that Matzeliger found in the local Philadelphia shop, companies were able to produce more by installing many cutting and sewing machines. 

But shaping the tops and attaching them to the bottoms could not be mechanized and was done by highly skilled hand lasters who stretched and shaped leather over wood or stone molds called lasts and attached them to the soles.  Even the most skilled artisan could produce no more than 50 pair of shoes in a ten hour day.  The lasters were organized into a craft union which was able to demand high wages. 

After trying for months, Matzeliger was finally able to get work in one of the local factories and began studying how the master lasters manipulated the leather and began sketching ideas.  He knew that he had to educate himself in English to read and master technical information, so he attended night school after his ten hour shifts.  He lived a lonely, isolated life as one of the few people of color in Lynn shunned by his fellow workers.  He lived in a cramped room and found his only comfort in the fellowship of the local Congregational Church, the only one in town that accepted Black members. 

Slowly, Matzeliger began to find solutions to the complicated puzzle and began to make models of a new machine from whatever meager materials he had at hand—scrap wood, wire, a cigar box, bits of metal he laboriously hand shaped.  By the early 1880’s he knew he was onto something but needed money to get the materials to build a full scale working model. 

Word of his tinkering got out, despite his efforts at secrecy and he was pressured, if not threatened, by the skilled hand lasters to abandon his project.  But it was also attracting interested potential buyers.  He was offered first $50,000 and eventually $1.5 million for the rights to his as yet unpatented machine. 

Knowing its true value he would not sell.  He held out until he got the money to finish his model in exchange for a two-thirds share in the machine. 

Mechanical drawings for Metzliger's shoe lasting machine and another improvement to shoe production, a tack distributor.

After completing his third model in 1883 he applied for a patent.  Patent Office officials in Washington at first refused to believe that a machine could actually do all of the complicated actions of a laster as many failed patents attested.  They sent an inspector to witness the machine in action.  Astonishingly, it worked as advertised and Matzeliger’s patent was granted. 

His perfected machine held a shoe on a last, gripped and pulled the leather down around the heel, set and drove in the nails, and then discharged the completed shoe. It could produce up to 700 pairs of shoes a day. 

An operator using Matzeliger's lasting machine on a busy factory floor.  Completed shoes to his left.

After the 1885 introduction into production, demand for Matzeliger’s machines soared.  In 1889 the Consolidated Lasting Machine Company was formed with Matzeliger a substantial minority owner.  His future seemed bright.  He continued to work on other improvements for shoe production and submitted five more patent applications. 

But before reaping the benefits of his inventions, still living alone in a single room, Matzeliger died of tuberculosis the same year.  He left his models and his stock in the new company to the congregation that took him in, the First Congregational Church in Lynn.

The First Congregational Church in Lynn, Massachusetts where Matzeliger finally found welcome and refuge was the beneficiary of his patents and ownership share in the company that produced his machines after his early death.  It was a legacy so valuable that it still benefits the congregation.

Lynn and near-by communities thrived for generations as the center of the American shoe industry until the 1970s when changing fashions to rubber-soled athletic style shoes and competition from foreign manufactures decimated the industry.  By the early 21st Century the American shoe industry made possible by Matzeliger was defunct. 

                                            The 1991 United States Postal Service stamp honoring Matzeliger and his machine.

Matzeliger himself slipped into obscurity until “rediscovered” by Black history researchers.  He was honored on a postage stamp on September 15, 1991.

Take My Hand, Precious Lord—Thomas A. Dorsey and the Invention of Modern Black Gospel Music


                        Take My Hand, Precious Lord by the Rev. Thomas A, Dorsey sung by Aretha Franklyn.

As a mostly humanist Unitarian Universalist. I am skeptical of the theology behind Rev. Thomas A. Dorseys gospel song Take My Hand, Precious Lord.  I am not into anthropomorphic gods benign or otherwise who personally respond to petitionary prayer.  I am more of an unknowable spiritual Greater that reflects a harmony of all existence in the Cosmos kind of guy.  But there is no denying that millions take great comfort in a personal and loving God.  And who am I to naysay them.

Moreover, when I experience a great and soaring gospel song, I am on board with any Black Baptist congregation and for those moments reach out my hand with theirs.  I’m all in.

                         Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey and Mahalia Jackson.

Thomas A. Dorsey was a Georgia born former juke joint bluesman who once had fronted Ma Raineys Wild Cats Jazz Band.  In the mid-1920’s he began to record gospel music in addition to blues.  After his wife died in childbirth in1931 he wrote Take My Hand, Precious Lord and decided to devote himself exclusively to gospel.  The next year he became music director of Chicagos Pilgrim Baptist Church, the citys oldest and most prestigious Black church and remained in that position for more than 40 years.  He also organized his own gospel quartet, founded the first black gospel music publishing company, Dorsey House of Music, was a founder and the first President of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses.  He regularly appeared on Black radio and mentored dozens of musicians and groups including Albertina Walker, the Caravans, and Little Joey McClork.  But his greatest protégé Mahalia Jackson came out of his Pilgrim Baptist choir.

Dorsey singing and leading his Pilgrim Babtist Church gospel choir. 

Dorsey virtually invented modern Black gospel music which combined Christian praise with the rhythms of jazz and the blues and by referring explicitly to the person and his/her relation to faith and God, rather than the individual subsumed into the group by belief.  He used the call and response forms of blues and like jazz encouraged his soloists to improvise on the melody.  Female soloists like Mahalia Jackson were often the center piece of an animated choir.  He composed over 400 songs, many of them gospel praise including Take My Hand, Precious Lord—Martin Luther King’s favorite—and Peace in the Valley, Its a Highway to Heaven, and When Ive Done My Best.

Dorsey died in Chicago in 1993 at age 93.   

Many artists covered Take My Handincluding country and rock and roll artists Red Foley, Jim Reeves, Elvis Presley, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Nina Simone, Al Green, and Mavis Staples.  More recently several White contemporary Christian artists have recorded it with somewhat bland results.

One of several original or compellation Aretha Franklyn gospel albums.

When Mahalia Jackson died in 1972 at age 60 Aretha Franklyn sang Take my Hand at her funeral—the YouTube video we are sharing today.  Franklyn may have been known as the Queen of Soul but she grew up singing gospel at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father the Rev. C. L. Franklin was minister.  She continued to return to gospel music through her long and storied career.  When she died in 2019 Beyoncé sang it at her funeral.


Saturday, February 25, 2023

Nikki Giovanni A Black Poet in Rebellion

Nikki Giovanni--young, Black, and revolutionary.

Note—No new blog posts were made since Wednesday, February 22 because an ice storm in McHenry County caused a power outage here which was not restored until late Thursday afternoon.  Sorry for the inconvenience to regular readers.

Nikki Giovanni was born in 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee in a closeknit family.  She was inspired by her grandmother, a natural storyteller, to explore the use of words.  After growing up in a middle class Black suburb of Columbus, Ohio, she attended Fisk University in Nashville, one of the most prestigious of the historically Black colleges.

At Fisk not only did she find her voice as a poet and writer, but she was immersed in the Civil Rights Movement and the growing militancy of the emerging Black Power.  She served as editor of the campus literary magazine, participated in the Fisk Writers Workshop, and helped re-build the Fisk chapter of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  After graduation in turbulent 1968 Giovanni went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University in New York.

While still an undergraduate Giovanni published her first collection of poetry, Black Feeling, Black Talk in 1967 in response to the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Robert Kennedy.  A year later she followed up with Black Judgment, an exploration and appreciation of Black militancy.  The two books catapulted her into the front ranks of a new generation of poets and one who had appeal to wider audiences.  A third volume, Re: Creation published in 1970 cemented her place as a leading young Black voice.  She soon embarked on popular readings, often incorporating Black music.

Giovanni took a teaching position at Rutgers University and gave birth to her son Thomas.  She worked to help other Black writers find outlets through NikTom, Ltd., a publishing cooperative which issued Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker, Carolyn Rodgers, and Mari Evans.

                                       The birth of her son Thomas who she raised as a single mother had an enormous influence on Giovanni.

As Giovanni matured as a poet and woman her interests broadened.  She continued to write in clear, accessible language about her life and experiences, but later work was not as explicitly political as her early efforts.

She also began writing for children and young people beginning with Spin a Soft Black Song in 1971 and continuing through her Caldecott Medal winning Rosa in 2005.

Giovanni was teaching at Virginia Tech in 2007 when the tragic shooting occurred there.  She composed a memorial chant that was recited at the campus memorial service the next day.

She has written dozens of books, including two compilations, and non-fiction work.  Giovanni is among the most honored of contemporary poets having received the NAACP Image Award, the Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters, the Rosa Parks Women of Courage Award, and over twenty honorary degrees from colleges and universities around the country.

Maya Angelou and Giovanni with Joanna Gabbin, organizers for a tribute to Toni Morrison in 2012.

Poem for a Lady Whose Voice I Like


so he said: you ain’t got no talent
if you didn’t have a face
you wouldn't be nobody

and she said: god created heaven and earth
and all that’s Black within them

so he said: you ain’t really no hot shit
they tell me plenty sisters
take care better business than you

and she said: on the third day he made chitterlings
and all good things to eat
and said: “that’s good.”

so he said: if the white folks hadn’t been under
yo skirt and been giving you the big play
you'd a had to come on uptown like everybody else

and she replied: then he took a big Black greasy rib
from adam and said we will call this woeman and her
name will be sapphire and she will divide into four parts
that simone may sing a song

and he said: you pretty full of yourself ain’t chu

so she replied: show me someone not full of herself
and I’ll show you a hungry person


—Nikki Giovanni


A Historical Footnote to Consider Only When All Else Fails


(For Barbara Crosby)
While it is true
(though only in a factual sense)
That in the wake of a
Her-I-can comes a
Surely I am not
The gravitating force
that keeps this house
full of panthers

Why, LBJ has made it
quite clear to me
He doesn’t give a
Good goddamn what I think
(else why would he continue to masterbate in public?)

Rhythm and Blues is not
The downfall of a great civilization
And I expect you to
That the Temptations
have no connection with

We must move on to
the true issues of
Our time
like the mini-skirt
And perhaps take a
Closer look at
Flour power

It is for Us
to lead our people
out of the
into the streets
into the streets
(for safety reasons only)
Lord knows we don’t
Want to lose the
of our Jewish friends

So let us work
for our day of Presence
When Stokely is in
The Black House
And all will be right with
Our World


—Nikki Giovanni



Kidnap Poem


Ever been kidnapped
by a poet
if i were a poet
I’d kidnap you
put you in my phrases and meter
You to jones beach
or maybe coney island
or maybe just to my house
lyric you in lilacs
dash you in the rain
blend into the beach
to complement my see
Play the lyre for you
ode you with my love song
anything to win you
wrap you in the red Black green
show you off to mama
yeah if i were a poet I’d kid
nap you

—Nikki Giovanni




If i can’t do

what i want to do

then my job is to not

do what i don’t want

to do

It’s not the same thing

but it's the best i can



If i can’t have

what i want . . . then

my job is to want

what I’ve got

and be satisfied

that at least there

is something more to want


Since i can’t go

where i need

to go . . . then i must . . . go

where the signs point

through always understanding

parallel movement

isn’t lateral


When i can't express

what i really feel

i practice feeling

what i can express

and none of it is equal

I know

but that’s why mankind

alone among the animals

learns to cry


—Nikki Giovanni



Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Stand Up Against Hate this Saturday in Crystal Lake

McHenry County NOW has asked that the Holiday Inn Chicago NW Crystal Lake Convention Center, an IHG Hotel, to cancel the Exposing Radical’s War on Kids event scheduled for February 25 beginning at 8:30 am.

Charlie Kirk, known for his racist and anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric, is scheduled as a guest speaker along with several other speakers who follow the same agenda.  Kirk is an activist and talk radio host. He founded Turning Point USA with Bill Montgomery in 2012 and has served as its executive director since. He is the CEO of several Turing Point affiliated groups and Students for Trump. He is also a member of the radical right Council for National Policy.

Hate peddler Charlie Kirk is the star attraction at the Saturday event at the Crystal Lake Holiday Inn.

The Saturday event is organized by the McHenry County GOPAC, a local conservative political action committee, which described it as an “all-day summit on rescuing children from government-run schools that are ruining America’s future.”

The protest against the event evokes a vigil at the same Holiday Inn location in 2008 against the hate group Illinois Minuteman Project organized by the Interfaith Council for Social Justice of McHenry County, the Latino Coalition, and others.  The Minuteman Project was promoting vigilante action against suspected “illegal immigrants” in Harvard and other local communities.  McHenry County leaders went on to win seats on the County Board and the McHenry County College Board, were an important cog in the far-right takeover of the of the McHenry County Republican Party, and former Minuteman leader Diane Evertsen was elected to a term as GOP County Chairman. 

The Illinois Minuteman Project held a meeting promoting anti-immigrant vigilantism at the same venue in 2008 drawing protestors to the site.

This new manifestation of organized hate could also have far reaching consequences.

McHenry County NOW has formally asked IHG Hotels and Resorts to do the right thing and stand with our community as we commit to educational efforts that combat the adverse effects of homophobia and racism, as well as stopping the villainization of our public educators.

Please also call the Holiday Inn, 815-477-7000, and voice your opposition to the hate and intolerance that this rally would bring to our county.   People are also asked to sign a petition to hotel management here.

The Vestryman—Ash Wednesday with George With Murfin Verse

Despite this window in the Congressional Chapel in the Capitolthe popular image of Washington in reverent prayer receiving the so-called Vision of Valley Forge was invented out of thin air.

Note—For the first time since 2012 Ash Wednesday and George Washington’s Birthday coincide. 

Ash Wednesday. 

Since the entirely spurious story of the Vision at Valley Forge was reportedly made in 1859 reminiscences by 99-year-old Anthony Sherman, who was supposedly present with Continental Army at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777 and overheard Washington tell an officer that an angel had revealed a prophetic vision of America to him.  There is no other confirmation of this and the recollections or revels recounted second hand make it dubious.

It did not see print until April 1861 just at the outbreak of the Civil War by Philadelphia journalist Charles Wesley Alexander. Writing under the pseudonym Wesley Bradshaw, Alexander authored several fictional vision or dream pieces featuring historic American figures which were published as broadsheets and in various newspapers during the Civil War and were later offered for sale through advertisements in the pages of The Soldier’s Casket,  his post-war publication.  It was meant to be allegorical fiction but was swallowed hook, line, and sinker by American Evangelicals and some Catholics who would find the mystical revelation an echo of many saint tales.  It has also been cynically promoted by certain hyper-conservative elements as proof that Washington and other Founders were deep and profound Christians in refutation of the fact that many of them were rationalists, Deists, or adherents of heretical sects or theologies. 

An iconic image by artist Arnold Friberg—one of several versions created over the years—was widely used to promote this pseudo history.  The story, image, and propaganda punch got new wings during the McCarthy era Red Scare of the early ‘50’s when the original so-called prophesy—obviously meant as a metaphor for the Civil War—was retooled as an anti-Communist screed.

George Washington supposedly takes communion with his aides and officers at an outdoor service  held by the Morristown Presbyterian Church which claims that he officially joined during the period when the Continental Army was headquartered there.  The claim is boosted on right wing web sites trying to prove that Washington was a fervent evangelical Christian.  But there is no evidence that Washington actually took the communion wafer or that he ever joined the congregation.

These days it is a handy tool in the dominionist belt for asserting a claim that the U.S. is a Christian Nation and should be ruled in the name of Christ.

All of which begs the questionwhat were Washington’s actual religious beliefs?  Conservatives point out that he was a life-long Anglican and served as a Vestryman in his local parish.  True enough.  As the local squire the role of Vestryman—a lay member of a parish governing council—was an expected duty.  Washington from adolescence always was keenly aware of the duties of a gentleman and his obligation to fill them.  But in adulthood like many Virginians of his class he became influenced by the heretical philosophies of the Scottish Enlightenment, and eventually Deism.  While never a deep religious thinker like young Thomas Jefferson, he privately discarded most of the tenets of orthodox Christianity.  In his letters, writings, and public utterances he sometimes used the word God but more frequently used Deist constructions like Providence.  He virtually never referenced Jesus Christ. 

In adulthood he often skipped regular Sunday services when he could—his duties as a soldier and statesman provided ample excuses.   When he did attend, he always left after the sermon and before the call to the communion rail.

Washington’s real spiritual life was rooted in Freemasonry, to which he was devoted.  The Masonry of his era combined esoteric mystic ritual with strong Deist elements and more than a dash of republican (small r) radicalism.  Washington famously laid the cornerstone of the Capitol building wearing his Grand Master Mason apron.  The eye-in-the-pyramid on the obverse of the Great Seal of the United States, seen most commonly on the back of the one dollar bill is generally credited to the influence of the First President on its design.

Washington's true spiritual home was Freemasonry.  He laid the cornerstone of the U.S. capitol wearing his Masonic apron.

Anyway, all of that was rolling around my fevered brain and contributed to this opus.

The Vestryman

Ash Wednesday/Washington’s Birthday 2012


The Vestryman performing the duty expected of the local squire

            attended chapel when absolutely necessary

            and when no good excuse like fighting an Empire

            or Fathering a Country was handy.


He sat bolt upright on a rigid pew

            contemplated the charms of Lady Fairfax

                        or later dental misery.


            When came the altar call, he would stand up,

                        turn on his heel, and march straight out

                        as if a legion was at his back.


            No filthy priestly thumb ever grimed

                        that noble brow.


—Patrick Murfin