A Short Poem for a Good Man


One night at the monthly meeting of my Knights of Columbus council, a prominent, recently retired local sportswriter gave a short, engaging speech. Ken Burger had been the quintessential sportswriter for the Charleston Post and Courier for decades. He developed cancer towards the end of his career and changed his focus from mundane sports to a blend of gratitude for the memories he had and the blessings he found around him. Because he had to spend painful and seemingly endless hours at the cancer research center, he decided to volunteer to be there at other times in case there was someone who was alone.

He gave a fine speech that night. He asked for questions and there were many. Finally, I got up and said I didn’t have a question but I wanted to thank him. I paraphrased a column I recalled where he had told a simple story of being a boy scout on a camping trip where the highlight was laying down near the railroad tracks waiting for the train to roar by. He had ended the column by saying that you had to be there to understand.

I told him how much I enjoyed that column but he was wrong that you had to be there to understand. He had described it so well that I was there.

I think he was taken aback and almost embarrassed by my praise. Ken died in 2015. During the Great Lockdowns, I thought of him and wrote this:

We lay there on the ground

Late at night

Darkness all around

A few paces removed

From the rails we knew

Were soon to be alive.

A small distant tremble

Sparked great anticipation.

Explosive thunder

And lingering rumble

Filled our bones.

To understand

You had to be there

I suppose.

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There are 4 comments.

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  1. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp

    Good stuff. Thanks, SP.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Lovely, SP. Thanks for sharing him with us.

    • #2
  3. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Makes me think of being a kid and putting a penny on the tracks before the freight train roared by.

    • #3
  4. PeterParisi Coolidge

    Thank you for the anecdote and the poem, both beautiful. It is great to watch someone appreciating excellence because that appreciation is itself a form of excellence.

    • #4
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