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 www.douglaslanzo.com.
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