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Foster Dickson

Those Who Don’t Amount to Much

She told me that I wasn’t going to amount to much,
and she was right. I’ve amounted only to as much as
the other few billion people I’ve never heard of and don’t know.
She sure was right. I guess I haven’t amounted to much.
I simply stand on a par with the mass of men. I’ve
never passed any legislation,
never brought peace to a warring country,
never spent the night in the palace at Versailles,
never been to the White House to read my poetry,
never started a new religion.
No, I haven’t amounted to much. Just as much as
the other few billion people who haven’t either.

The trees turn green every spring no matter what we do.
The bulbs under the ground sprout when the air gets warm,
and the dogs shed their winter coats when they don’t need them.
I’ve never heard of
a tree stealing the leaves from one that’s more full,
nor have I ever heard of
a yellow dog wishing he had spots.
We somehow don’t do as well with our superior minds,
which often don’t amount to much, at perpetuating goodness.

“A simple separate person,” wrote Henry Thoreau.
I write little poems, and I wear boots, not suits.
No one stops and looks when I walk by,
my name is not spoken in high circles.
My hair gets kind of messy, when I don’t get it cut,
and I smell like coffee during the first hours of the day.
Some people mistake my kindness for weakness,
thinking I don’t amount to much.
Some people don’t like me, but some do.
I doubt if anyone envies me, because
I didn’t amount to much.

Happy old Ryokan played with children everyday
and begged for his little bit of food.
He once wrote, “The thief left it, the moon at my window.”
when he came home to find his hut empty.
People thought he was a fool. They said
he didn’t amount to much.
He didn’t waste his time contradicting them.

After cutting in the new garden in the fall,
I watched all winter as Time did the rest,
turning dead earth that wouldn’t even grow grass
into soil that would produce food:
tomatoes, squash . . . or maybe flowers instead.
Compared to the power in God’s green Earth,
I haven’t amounted to much

The best way to see the poetry in something is to
forget about poetry, which doesn’t amount to much.
Just words on a page, some rhyme, some are cute,
some incomprehensible, but no poems are so
elegant as poetry.

However, I have many great accomplishments.
I walk to get where I’m going when a car isn’t necessary,
and I don’t put my grass clippings inside plastic bags.
I open doors for children, ladies, and men alike,
I respect the opinions of other people, and
I don’t pray in public just so people will see me doing it.
I once nursed a squirrel back to health,
after I found it near dead in a gutter.
I named it Velcro, because it hung on my shirt.
To some people, those kinds of things
don’t amount to much.

Kindness is the way of the lamb,
which doesn’t amount to much,
and the lion eats its prey, to be King of Jungle.
But the worms, which don’t amount to much,
eat the lion, because Time always prevails on the things
which truly don’t amount to much.

I have
never wielded enough power to really hurt anyone,
never had the clout to have someone removed,
never sought out positions that could get me favor.
I guess I never amounted to much.



Ashamed of Me - January 24, 2004

Consciously aware that, when I was walking my dog,
and I saw a man walking up the sidewalk behind us,
I wanted to hurry the dog up, so that I would not have
to deal with the man. I was relieved when he turned off
on a side street before he reached the dog and me.

We live in an old house near downtown, near the interstate,
and we profess to love our home, but there are things
that we don’t like so much. Panhandling, petty theft, and
threatening looks from people in cars passing by. The part
of town people avoid begins one block away from our house.

Feeling sad that I would make moves to avoid someone, possibly my neighbor, before I even knew what he was doing or who he was, but it came naturally to do it. What he might have thought if he knew what I thought about him, before I even knew him, before he was even close enough to tell if he was white or black or whatever.

But it’s the way life is, living here, choosing to remain here.
Refusing to let pettiness and low behavior run my wife and me
away from these beautiful homes in this old neighborhood.
Everything is locked down, put up, just so we don’t have to
live in a cardboard house, shop at Wal-mart, or anything like it.


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