By Douglas J. Lanzo

King of Clay

Sounding his pain…
playing each match like his last
defying all that say
his best days are in the past…

Coated in dirt…
thumping off layers of clay
caked on his tennis shoes,
from sprinted shots on display.

Dripping in sweat…
hyper-rotating the ball
to maximize its spin
whipping it past each rival.

Pumping his fist…
both eyes burning fire — intense,
thumping a winner past,
ripping it, ending suspense.

Sliding to reach…
a shot caroming away
diagonally off court
his stretch keeping it in play.

Closing the gap…
pouncing on a short return,
brushing over its top,
angled sharp to max heartburn.

Caressing felt…
gently slicing back the ball,
a masterful drop shot,
engineered for a soft fall.

Crushing forehand…
heavy, blasting down the line,
forcing a weak lob back,
for his overhead to shine.

Who is this man
if not Rafa, King of Clay?
Lord of Roland Garros —
May no mortal bar his way.

An Inspirational Duo: Gary Woodland and Amy Bockerstette

She transformed his philosophy and inspired his play –
a special golfer with Down’s Syndrome who brightened his day –
having failed to maintain a lead during any final PGA round,
he drew mental strength, recalling the remarkable woman he had found:

a two-time qualifier for the high school golf championship of her State,
who then added the first college sports scholarship to her incredible slate;
a woman who months earlier had made par when paired on a PGA hole,
who in that moment had unexpectedly touched his heart and nourished his soul,
who had seared into his mind the confident “I got it” phrase,
who had cheered on his golf game with joy and encouraging praise,
who in his own words “meant everything” to his mental golf game,
whom he facetimed to thank amidst all of the limelight and fame.

In holding off a strong charge from the champion of the two prior years,
Gary evinced a calm confidence and able taming of historical fears;
fielding clutch shots to par the 17th and birdie the final hole,
he demonstrated upbeat play and appreciation of Amy’s role;

Delighting Amy with a surprise appearance on the “Today” show,
sitting by her side with US Open trophy and letting her know,
that they had won America’s most prestigious golf tournament together,
With her inspiration, positivity and confidence a bellweather
of the towering heights to which Gary could soar,
ascending to the top of the PGA tour.

So on that unforgettable June Father’s Day,
after sinking the putt that ended match play,
Gary hugged his beloved father –  his mentor who molded his life,
who had literally flatlined for minutes, battling cardiac strife;
then looking up to the heavens in tribute to a daughter lost before birth,
Gary staved back bittersweet tears, with heartfelt emotion and mirth.

The Glorious Spirit of Ukraine

The images
inspire the world,
love of homeland
and flag unfurled;

Men of all age
turn out to fight,
for freedom dear,
opposed by might;

Their loved ones far
from fathers’arms,
from husbands’ hugs,
and gold wheat farms;

Each parting word
could be their last,
but they resolve
to be steadfast;

Battling for
their way of life,
to live in peace,
apart from strife;

No country thought
they had a chance,
until they saw,
their leader’s stance;

Defying calls
to flee his land,
he stood his ground
and made his stand;

Uniting all
behind Ukraine,
he called out strong
in loud refrain:

“All glory to
the heroes past,
the heroes now,
those unsurpassed,
whose spirit shines
lighting the way,
for all they love...
to win the day.”

Superlatives of the Ukrainian People

A message more powerful
than thousands of army troops
spoken by an orphaned boy
wishing that all children
will survive the war with him;

A picture more courageous
than formed by acts of soldiers
from a conquered citizen
waving blue and yellow
atop turrets of a tank;

A plea for help more cogent
than scores of lofty speeches
from a widowed grandmother
imploring arms to fight
for freedom, with more than sticks;

A story of love more real
than any romance written
from a bomb-sheltered mother
deeming three words of love
sufficient to fuel her soul;

A sacrifice more selfless
than kind acts of charity
a soldier detonating
a bomb to fell a bridge
before Russian tanks could pass;

An act more inspiring
than sidelined leaders’ speeches
Volodymyr Zelenskyy
declining help to flee
hunkering in place to lead;

A nation more heroic
than any in our witness
the Ukrainian people
fighting for every inch
of their homeland, may God bless.

We are Mahsa

Dedicated to the late 22-year old Iranian, Mahsa Amini, who, according to her grieving family, died in the hands of Iran’s “morality” police, beaten to death for not properly covering her hair with a head scarf

“We are Mahsa!  We are Mahsa!” chants the crowd.
“Liberty, freedom! Liberty, freedom!” cries abound.
Her life taken, for a hijab with hair unbound,
as her listless, body beaten, falls to ground…

Risking all to protest, thronging to the streets for liberty,
battling regime forces, brutal in disarming unity  —
firing live-round bullets, claiming to defend morality,
shrouded in pure darkness, cloaking cruel aims in security.

Its cities aflame in fires of righteous protest
their light recalled in candled vigils around the world,
Iran groans under the weight of one lost woman  —
whose thirst for freedom flags our hearts, unfurled.

“Welcome Home Captain!”

Dedicated to Captain Luis Avila, an American Hero and Recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart

You served our nation with unswerving honor, resolution and grace,
Through five combat tours of duty, constant perils of war you did face,
Battles against Hussein’s forces and  insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq,
As you championed divine-endowed virtues of freedom under ferocious attack;

Your selfless dedication to our beloved country in its hour of greatest need,
Following September 11th’s insidious attack on our motto and creed,
Will forever be something we deeply cherish and with grateful hearts remember,
Especially those of us who mourn loved ones lost that darkest day in September;

Your heroism on that fateful day, the 27th day of December, 2011,
When on a search and secure mission an IED sent three of your mens’ souls, we pray, to rest in heaven,
The fierce explosion sheered your entire vehicle in two,
Leaving three dead and three severely wounded, including you;

Your last conscious words painstakingly cried out while you remained alert,
Exemplify your character: “Accountability check! Who’s hurt?”
Rescued, they amputated your leg and fought heart attack and stroke,
While they desperately worked to save you, you neither moved, saw nor spoke;

Though completely paralyzed and twice pronounced dead,
Your wife vowed to bring you back alive in good stead,
Deep in a coma you responded to music you loved and to Claudia’s care,
As you both defied death and resisted some counsel to disconnect in despair;

God smiled upon you, rewarding your family’s faith, courage and prayer,
Welling up from within reservoirs of strength beyond those you were aware,
You have recovered wondrously and continue to traverse new streams and fords,
Regaining movement in your left arm through healing springs of the Lady of Lourdes;

We are most honored to welcome you as our neighbor and friend,
A true patriot and hero whose legend will never end,
Echoing the words of Gary Sinise spoken at the dedication of your home on Veteran’s Day,
“Welcome home my friend!”  and agree that your sacrifice for our country is a debt we can never repay.

An award-winning and featured poet and novelist, since 2020 Doug’s poetry has been published in 51 literary publications across the U.S., Canada, England, Wales, Austria, Mauritius, Australia, Japan and The Caribbean.  Doug’s New York Times bestselling author-endorsed coming of age novel, The Year of the Bear, is available for pre-order on Amazon and releasing November 1st and is being nominated for the John Newbery Medal.  Doug resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland with his wife and 13-year-old identical twin boys, fellow published poets, enjoying nature, traveling, biking, tennis and chess. His author website is located at

One thought on “King of Clay and Other Poems

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s