By Douglas J. Lanzo

Two Leaders, One Shared Cause

Dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Two leaders of their peoples,
yearning to be free,
shattering cruel vestiges,
of tragic slavery.

The first, son of a pastor,
thundering Sundays,
the second, raised in Egypt,
kin to Hebrew slaves.

Both spoke out for true freedom,
dignity and rights,
speaking with authority
leading righteous fights.

One spoke in broken stutters,
Aaron by his side,
the other to ovations,
his words sounding far and wide.

Neither crossed the last river…
to the Promised Land,
yet both quenched their people’s thirst,
guided by God’s hand,
following Him through deserts —
parting seas and sands —
neither bullet nor Pharaoh,
could their cause disband

One Woman and One Man

One man before a tank —
defiant, pivoting — 
defending peaceful speech
in footage riveting.

One woman dared to wear
a headscarf showing hair…
skull fractured by police,
spurring protests to flair.

The man’s fate is unknown,
but even dreamers dread,
the torture that he faced,
presuming he is dead.

The woman lost her life
to thugs of a regime,
that repress liberty,
so their law reigns supreme.

The courage that they showed
outlived their fragile lives,
inspiring us to sow
great changes that survive.

Yuletide Spirit Shared

a neighbor in –
far away 
from all his kin;
with a smile,
his heart is warmed –
kindness melts
the winter storm.

a steaming tea,
scents of mint
rise merrily…
mixing with
a tale or two,
of friendship, 
steadfast and true.

Nourished by
spirits inside,
sharing joy
during yuletide,
kindred souls
count blessings known,
through a year
that most bemoan.

Thanking God 
for days of health,
treasured more,
than fleeting wealth;
each day spent
enjoying life,
rising tall
above the strife…

Toasting to
a bright new day –  
full of hope
to light the way;
showing those
who suffer pain,
they’re in our hearts…
where love does reign.

Visions in the Savannah

From atop a hill forged from 
volcanoes birthed in prehistoric times
from the wombs of the Great Rift Valley, 
a vast savannah sprawls
before my eyes as they squint into
the soft amber light of dawn;

It pours its radiant warmth into
the canopies of acacia trees,
green martinis turned upward in greeting --
imbibing the sun’s rays into its branches;

Below me, receding like a dream
into surreal realms of fantasy
stretch an oasis teaming with exotic life,
raw and primordial, unfiltered by time, 
undaunted by man;

As I gaze across the land in a near trance,
I behold herds of graceful gazelle 
with lyre-shaped horns
tranquilly grazing on green grasslands,
seeming to play a melody 
that threatens to lull me into
 a catatonic state;

Across the tree-dotted grasslands,
a cantering herd of zebras
cast guileful illusions upon my eyes,
appearing to merge magically 
into single shades of gray
before shifting into patterns of black and white;

Just as I am about to drift 
into an enchanted sleep,
I am struck by a cacophony of sound,
beholding a crazed herd of blue-sheened wildebeests
leaping desperately into the Mara River ,
forming a great curving swath as they fight
its currents, before fording its embankments 
and roaring across the savannah , 
creating an earthquake of vibrations;

An agitated trumpeting call abruptly pierces my ears, 
momentarily drowning out the steady rumbling of the wildebeest herd - -
a frantic call from a distressed mother elephant to her baby, 
who wandered off into denser brush, 
oblivious to the approaching danger camouflaging and concealing itself 
in the tall, wind-blown grass;

Suddenly, a lioness huntress emerges and
springs toward the baby elephant, 
lunging into his body and snarling as it 
viciously latches onto the head and ears of the baby elephant;

Another lioness quickly joins the attack, 
slashing the trunk of the overmatched baby elephant as it 
wails for help and writhes in pain;
 furious, the mother blares her warning as she 
charges toward the lionesses wielding deadly tusks…

I lose my balance and tumble to the ground, 
bracing myself from impact, 
jarred physically and emotionally 
by the epic battle unfolding before me;

As I clamber back to my feet, 
I hear a whirring sound 
and the hilltop seems to rotate faster and faster, 
swirling me into the unknown…

As the turning gradually slows, 
I hold out my hands,
as if bidding the world to settle before me, 
before partaking a fantastical view below,
filled with fearsome creatures never seen in modern times:

Dire wolves, giant ground sloths, huge bison and 
massive bears roam the grasslands beneath me,
a stunning backdrop to the most terrifying battle 
I have ever witnessed:

Bellowing with rage,  
a mother wooly mammoth charges 
toward two saber-toothed tigers 
as they savagely attack a baby mammoth, 
striving to clamp their foot-long incisors into its tender throat;
The mother mammoth swings her curved tusks toward a tiger, 
causing it to leap from the tiny mammoth, 
roaring its displeasure; 

Meanwhile, the other tiger knocks 
the baby mammoth to the ground, 
snarling as it readies to inflict its final blow --  
thrusting toward the tiger;

The mother strikes its flank with the blunt edge of its tusks, 
momentarily stunning the tiger
while the mother raises her massive front feet and
 mercilessly tramples the stunned creature, 
causing the other tiger to flee into the underbrush…

Adrenaline surges through my body, 
my head pounding as I reel backwards, 
before leaning my head forward to balance my body, 
lest I tumble down the rocky hill to an ignominious fate;
Momentarily steadied, I survey the landscape -- 
spotting buffalo, rhinos, impala, zebra, wildebeests,
a wounded but recovering baby elephant and its mother, 
two retreating lion huntresses and
three figures racing through the grass, 
clad in bright red robes, 
adorned with beaded necklaces, 
brandishing spears;
They encircle a fierce, maned lion as it roars, 
its eyes burning with the fires of its ancestors; 
It lunges at one of the warriors, who thrusts out his spear, 
but cannot beat back its fury, falling to the ground, 
his shoulder exposed to the ravaging beast;
Another warrior launches his spear at the lion, 
piercing its flank and 
causing it to unlock its claws 
from the shoulders of the injured Maasai; 
the third Maasai warrior approaches the lion 
with his spear poised to strike…

My vision moves in circles, slowly, 
then hastening, as I lose my bearings and 
wipe my sweated brow with 
the back of my hand,
and take a deep breath;

A hand gently taps my shoulder and
I find myself gazing 
into the concerned eyes 
of my Maasai guide.  

“Everything OK?” he asks.
I quickly look at the scene below, 
observe no death-battles for the moment, and nod.
“Good,” he answers with a smile, pointing to a waking Cape buffalo.  
“Let us enter their kingdom with joy and reverence.”   

On Veterans Day

On Veteran’s Day
as wreath was laid
I pondered deep
the price he paid;

As somber rain
fell from the sky
tears of gratitude
flowed in silent cry;

As drum roll ceased
and Taps was played
hand over heart
head bowed I prayed:

That God would bless
each soldier’s life
on earth or heaven,
husband or wife,
for the sacrifice
that each has made
for liberty,
may it never fade.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica, a land of exploration,
a golden paradise,
a lush and verdant Eden, 
perfected to entice…
a newly minted couple,
arrived from northern states,
searching for enchantment,
for elixir that elates.

In steaming springs of water,
thermally heated from above,
we did witness a volcano,
erupting gently as our love.

Hummingbirds did hover,
emerald jewels fanning the air,
beckoning us to follow,
streaming sunlight everywhere.

On rugged rocks below Fortuna,
where falls churned forcefully,
you did bedazzle and radiate,
warmth and tender raw beauty.

We journeyed through the jungle,
to the stark base of Mount Arenal,
contrasting with the landscape,
of fiery lava coming to a crawl.

As it trickled down the cone,
fiery red, with orange-tinged glow,
a drenching deluge from above,
did halt and congeal its flow.

Deep within the jungle,
howler monkeys did emit,
deafening roars of agitation,
pounding chests in enraged fit.

The pouring rain refreshed us,
breathing new life, wakening all,
a potent natural reminder,
of the shifting weather of the fall.

We forged a tight-knit bond,
zip-lining down the slopes,
after riding up the mountain,
atop horses without ropes.

We navigated rapids,
white-water rafting down the same,
braving Sarapiqui’s currents,
of crocodile-infested fame.

A bartender we befriended,
did arrange dessert for our last meal,
with a specially prepared cake,
he orchestrated with great zeal.

And so reluctantly we left,
such an endearing, magical place,
with sweet memories and experiences,
no one can take away or replace. 

An award-winning and featured poet and novelist, since 2019 Doug’s poetry has been published in 65 literary publications across the U.S., Canada, England, Wales, Austria, Mauritius, Australia, Japan and The Caribbean. Doug’s award-winning coming of age novel, The Year of the Bear, has been widely endorsed and warmly received by readers of all ages 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 internationally published poets, enjoying nature, snorkeling, biking, tennis and chess.

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