Last year, I volunteered on a series of events to help the Town of Selma, North Carolina commemorate its 150th year. I am honored to have a poem I wrote, “Selma at the Crossroads,” included in the town’s time capsule. The capsule will be sealed for the next 100 years with other items, like copies of Johnston Now magazine, The Selma News, essays written by middle and elementary school children, and hundreds of photos taken by local photographers. For those who didn’t see my earlier “street poetry” post, here is the poem I read at Vick Park on Selma’s Founders Day, May 1, 2017 (look for the video on the S’Uptown Selma Facebook page):
Selma at the Crossroads
Weekday morning, Selma stirs
With railcars rumbling from the feed mill.
Gates descend; Amtrak slows into Union Station.
Commuters wait as each train
Rolls out past farmers turning the gray soil.
We are Selma at the crossroads
Measuring the past in wars;
From land parcels sold at Civil War’s end
To the blast of munitions at Catch Me Eye
That smashed 900 window panes three miles away.
Every fall we march a pageant of what we hold dear
Down Raiford Street, waving at pretty girls
In their sparkling crowns
Praying our children grow up and stay here
To raise families, own homes, run businesses.
We are Selma at the crossroads, between those
Hungry for knowledge and those for food;
Between the hard choice to pay bills or buy medicine.
It takes courage to smash apathy like a glass jar
Of “Selmalaise” from the shelf of the market store.
To do more than just pass each other
On Pollock, Anderson or Webb.
To mentor young leaders. Revive our faith,
To reach down to the tangled roots
And aerate the soil with reconciliation.
To pull weeds of despair and doubt.
Prune dead branches of pessimism
And let new growth have room to flourish.
Don’t just hum that lingering Sunday hymn
Join the choir. Take part in outreach.
We are Selma at the crossroads,
Between what was and what we will become,
Between labors ended and labors begun.
Between buildings vacant and those awakening
To fresh paint, new lumber, nail gun to shingle.
Stand at the cornerstone laid 150 years ago
See the Selma that rises beyond
Linear tracks and street grids
With a vibrancy that moves in panorama
And soars spread-winged like an eagle above.
See Selma as if you had to leave her tomorrow
And carry her in your heart.
What would you take?
Would you come back?
We are Selma at the crossroads.
Town of Selma Sesquicentennial
Founders Day, May 1, 2017