To Be Twenty Again

For Debbie Rand, Volunteer, Mississippi Summer Project, 1964

To be twenty again,
believing with such fervor,
sure of the way,
committed unto death if need be.
Willing to offer myself without reservation,
to share my talents and hopes
without equivocation.

To be twenty again,
believing change is possible
because I have changed,
believing barriers can be lifted,
distrust transcended
because I have known friendship
across the color line, deep friendship.

To be twenty again
and to know the power
of a social movement
that transforms its participants
as well as the world,
to know I’ve found a place, a way of life that allows love of God
and commitment to justice
to flourish side by side.

To fall in love again and again
with life and idealism as it manifests
first in one and then another
young man’s eyes.
I lived so intensely,
believed so absolutely,
felt so acutely.
I had the energy to do so
and lacked the experience
to feel afraid or use caution.

I grew outside the bounds
of my white, middle class upbringing.
I grew outside the experience
of my professors at college.
There were times of connection
and transcendence,
times of anger
and fear of losing all we’d worked for.
There were times of trust
and times the trust shriveled
in the light of a sharp afternoon.

Oh, to be twenty again
and refuse compromise.
To believe justice is attainable.
That love will replace greed.
To believe people can live
and work in mutual respect for one another.

To be twenty again
and believe it is all possible.

[I wrote this poem after seeing Debbie Rand at the 1994 reunion in Jackson Mississippi. Debbie spoke of missing the fervor and idealism we had in 1964.]

Copyright © Chude Allen, 1994, all rights reserved.

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