By Douglas J. Lanzo

Uplifting a City with Each Stroke

Dedicated to Arshay Cooper, Preston Grandberry, Malcolm Hawkins, Ray “Pookie” Hawkins and Alvin Ross, members of the Manley High School Rowing Team and Chicago Sprint Silver Medalists

Plying through the river,
stroke by stroke they row,
sleek above the surface,
avoiding undertow;

Four men reunited,
teammates long ago,
survivors of the West side
of their hometown Chicago;

In high school they assembled
as the first-black rowing team
boys from rival gangs,
now brothers with a dream;

With moms and children watching
loved ones cheering from the shore,
racing with Chicago PD
they were taught to abhor;

Former children of the hood,
now family with police,
rowing in the same boat,
in harmony and peace;

Overcoming broken families,
some with scars of serving time,
successful business founders,
rising up from life’s grime;

Garnering silver medals
in Chicago’s rowing sprints,
paving hope to worthy goals,
to inspired living, testaments.

Racing with Honor

Dedicated to Olympic Marathoner and 10,000 meter Olympic runner, John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania

“My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race.  They sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.” John Stephen Akhwari, explaining why he never gave up

Cramping from the altitude,
many miles left to run,
one marathoner persevered,
through pain and summer sun;

Tangled in Olympic pack,
jockeying for position,
falling hard to asphalt road,
but never losing sight of mission;

With dislocated knee,
bloody gashes and shoulder pain,
he battled in last place,
one goal left to attain;

More than an hour
after Ethiopia proudly claimed gold,
hobbling into Mexico City’s stadium,
a remarkable site to behold;

Limping with each step,
bandage flapping in the breeze,
he circled the fabled track,
despite badly injured knees;

The few thousand spectators
remaining past stadium sunset,
witnessed the grittiest performance
that Olympics had seen yet;

Cheering John Stephen Akhwari
boisterously to the finish line,
they recognized the Olympic Spirit
his heroic example would enshrine,
bringing honor to Tanzania,
with love of country he did shine.

A Lesson in Life from an 8-Year Old Champion

Dedicated to Tanitoluwa (Tani) Adewumi

Your Christian family fled Nigeria to save their lives,
Escaping hateful terrorists wielding machetes and knives,
You sought asylum in New York City as a persecuted refugee,
Living in a homeless shelter, but grateful to be safe and free;

Learning chess on a cold floor without table or chair,
Never griping that the playing field was stacked or unfair,
Mastering chess puzzles and exuding sheer love of the game,
An eight-year old, achieving unsought stardom and fame;

Vanquishing players rated hundreds of points higher,
You beat seasoned champions, lighting the tour on fire,
Crowned winner of New York’s championship category,
Undefeated, you won gold, giving voice to your story,

That of a destitute boy without means to play chess,
Who overcame all odds to achieve stunning success
Appearing on talk shows and meeting a former President,
Transformed from bullied kid to famous Big Apple resident;

Your family stunned the world, eschewing heartfelt donations,
Retaining not a cent despite multiple job obligations,
Instead tithing ten percent, the rest seeding a foundation,
To offer new African immigrants hope and salvation.

Pausing to Give Thanks

During this most trying time of the year
with death at our doorstep, its breath in our ear,
with thousands of countrymen falling each day
from invisible contagion that does ruthlessly slay,
felling visions and dreams before they are formed,
leaving would-be acts of love wholly unperformed,
separating family from loved ones suffering in fear,
without touch of a hand or wiping back of a tear;

We send thanks to each responder, doctor and nurse,
trapped in this nightmare without time to rehearse,
working to exhaustion in this real life tragedy,
to stave off the Grim Reaper, using every remedy,
risking their own lives to provide saving breaths,
resuscitating patients from their darkest depths,
unable to take more than a moment to grieve
the patient who dies with only them to bereave;

Yes, while lighting a candle or a Christmas tree,
let us pause for a moment, so our children can see,
and offer a prayer for those who safeguard our lives;
healing our mothers, husbands and wives.

A  Remarkable Man Who Saved Thousands

Dedicated to Doctor Charles Mulli, founder, philanthropist and human being extraordinaire

Born into extreme poverty in rural Kenya,
abandoned by his family at six years of age,
a rudderless boy begged and stole to survive,
filling his tormented heart with rage;

Despairing of continuing his misery,
considering ending it one fateful day,
a Christian teenager timely intervened,
inviting him to Church, offering another way;

Transformed by a message of hope and love,
Charles Mulli gave his heart and soul to Christ, 
and embarked for a better life in Nairobi,
overjoyed a blameless lamb for him was sacrificed;

Hired by a wealthy urban family,
he worked in their house and on their land,
earning promotion to manage hundreds
working to plant and harvest vast farmland;

There he met a sweet and lovely woman,
whom he wooed and made his wife,
a devout, caring family woman,
and proud apple of his life;

With creativity and grit,
coupled with heart-warming smile,
he founded many successful companies,
and, with that, great fortune he did compile;

Moved by the suffering of orphans
abandoned like his former self,
he felt a divine calling
to help them with his great wealth;

Selling all his business assets
to house, clothe and feed each rescued kid
he raised them as his own family,
by sharing God’s love, their torments rid;
Ridiculed, called crazy,
disowned by his own Church,
he relied on God for donations,
when friends left him in the lurch;

Never losing faith in God,
dearly loving his own kids and loyal spouse,
seeing each orphan as a blessing,
a soul to save and precious member of his house;

Building homes, schools and bridges,
digging wells and planting trees,
his program grew to hundreds,
then thousands freed from miseries;

Revered in Kenya, now a doctor,
his work honored around the globe,
Doctor Mulli points to heaven
citing his Savior’s healing robe.

Poetic Toast to The Flying Scotsman

Dedicated to Scottish Biking Legend, Graeme Obree, overcoming external obstacles and internal demons

A Scotsman did roar round the track
head forward, never looking back,
unveiling form dubbed “Superman,”
invincible, ‘til unfair ban;

World records he did shatter cold,
on home-made bike, whose parts were old,
with flouting of tired convention,
while touting bold re-invention;

A model of efficiency,
hands tucked under chest, riding free,
inspired by downhill skier’s form,
he took the cycling world by storm;

At Norway’s famed Hamar velodrome,
he gave his all before going home,
coming back from his defeat,
to next morning earn the feat:
as fastest cyclist on planet earth,
one hour giving all he was worth;

So raise your glass to defying odds,
to thwarting will of the cycling “gods”,
to bike courier rising to the top,
despite bullying and failed biking shop;
and hail Scotland’s Sports Hall of Famer
with deep drink and without disclaimer.

Douglas J. Lanzo is an American poet honored to have had 88 of his poems find homes in 2020 and 2021 in 31 literary publications across the United States, England, Wales, Canada, Australia, Mauritius and The Caribbean, including publication in the Academy of the Heart and Mind on November 9, 2020 and poetry placements in Akitsu QuarterlyAncient Paths Online, The Bamboo Hut, Bear Creek Haiku, Better Than StarbucksThe Caribbean WriterCurrent Accounts,  The Drabble (highest poem likes for 2021),  Failed Haiku, Frogpond Grand Little Things (including as featured poet), Haiku Journal, Haikuniverse, Literary Yard, Lyrical Passion Poetry E-Zine, Pennsylvania Literary JournalPlum Tree Tavern, Poetry PeaThe Pangolin ReviewPresence Haiku JournalRed Eft ReviewScarlet Leaf ReviewThe Society of Classical Poets Journal, Studio, Time of Singing, Three Line Poetry, Vita Brevis’ 2021 Poetry Anthology, Wales Haiku Journal, WestWard Quarterly, Wild Violet (including as featured poet) and The Zen Space (in its Summer 2020 Showcase).  He is also honored to be the Featured Author in the 2021 Winter Edition of WestWard Quarterly and to have been awarded runner-up status in a Best of 2020 Haiku Competition this past summer.  

Although Lanzo has never relinquished the lawyer’s quill and serve as the General Counsel of a small business in McLean, Virginia, USA, his passion is composing inspirational poetry that powerfully connects with readers.  He currently resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland, USA, with his wife and eleven-year old identical twin boys, fellow published haiku poets, who likewise enjoy nature, biking, tennis, chess and creative writing.

5 thoughts on “Uplifting a City with Each Stroke and Other Poems

  1. I think Douglas Lanzo writes the most moving and loving from the heart poems. I really enjoy his work and am privileged to be able to read his work


  2. Doug’s poems are truly exceptional displaying the elements of creativity, passion and beauty.


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