We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For

Mill rat, hard hat

I used to pour steel down by the river

Working double shifts, having family rifts

Burnt skin

Meant the rent would be paid

 

I was standing in a ring of fire

When my fifteen minutes of fame came to call

 

I wrote a book on sports

Controversial

But not enough to end up in the courts

I had to work it

When I wasn’t working

Every time I got a day off

I was on a plane

Like James Brown’s “Night Train”

Atlanta, Birmingham, Philly and DC

LA, Kansas City, Chicago, Houston too

What’s an Ohio boy to do?

 

Do interviews

Be on the news

Get up early for TV shows

Stay up late for guest DJ flows

 

I even wrote two guest pieces

For the New York Times

All the news that’s fit to print

Now included me

 

Yes, the welcome mat was out

But at an angle

The editor there said

Right to my face

“I had no idea a steelworker could write so well”

 

He asked me where I went to college

Where did  I get my knowledge?

When I said I didn’t finish high school

That I had no cherished “my school”

He thought I was lying

He suddenly stopped trying

To connect with me

 

Back in the mill

It was another story

 

A tap on the shoulder

“Someone’s here to see you”

Over from the furnace

Down from the crane

Working the rails

Now in from the rain

They came up to my platform

Awkward

Uncomfortable

“You’re the guy I saw on TV

I thought you might understand”

They put a poem or a tape or a drawing

In my burned, calloused hand

 

Come out, come out wherever you are

We were made for life’s journey

We were born to go far

 

My friend Cristina

Was filled with music inside

Four kids, two jobs

She never got to take it for a ride

 

So it fell a generation

And landed with a thud

Her son Hector

Was the living, breathing incarnation

Of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode

 

Hector could play a guitar like ringing a bell

Had perfect time

A knack for rhyme

His songs could beautify hell

But….

His pants were so low

His bald head so mean

He got a gang jacket

At the age of fourteen

Kept doing time

Nowhere to be seen

 

So Hector’s gift was tested

From below and above

Bands fell apart, he put ‘em back together

To play the songs that he loved

 

One night in the IE

He had a party for his new CD

I danced with Cristina

So I could hold her

While I told her:

“When Hector starts to play

I love to watch you sway

In front of your creation”

 

Come out, come out wherever you are

We were made for life’s journey

We were born to go far

 

I was in an airport

Waiting out delay

The lady sitting next to me

Looked so familiar

But I just couldn’t place her

 

Then…

There she was

On the front page of the paper on my lap

An Enron executive who’d lost it all

 

“I feel like a victim”

The article said

“A victim of economic terrorism!”

That’s what I read

 

I lost my pension

Not to mention

“I almost lost my mind”

 

I tapped her on the shoulder

The words they just rushed out

 

“I always thought that everyone on an upper floor

Was just a whore”

 

Her head snapped back

Her anger flashed

She turned my other cheek and slapped it with her voice

“Just a whore?”

 Then a sigh, volume down

“Just a whore?”

“Not any more.”

 

She turned away 
But I couldn’t miss what she’d been doing

With sketch pad and colored pencils

Deep, dark, and dripping

Bent low but spirit strong

 

Come out, come out wherever you are

We were made for life’s journey

We were born to go far

 

So many of us just accept our place

We listen to the voices who say that just a few

Are worthy of a critic’s taste

 

Who are these gatekeepers

Who claim we got nothing to say?

These grant givers

High livers

 

Why do we seek their approval?

Instead we should seek their removal

Because our dreams can’t come true

Tucked away in unread pages

Or nestled in the notes

Of silent, stillborn rages

 

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for

The next voice you hear will be your own

 

 

Poem / 2006