Jeff, the babe, sprang forth June 11, 1942, in Vicksburg, Mississippi
Four score years later with ambitions of his twenty-year young self
He supports respect for North American indigenous folk
Jeff muses about changing United States of America
To United States of Mississippi watershed or something better
And his father called him “Jefe” as he studied Spanish and mastered it
Truly the Jefe of his fate like the time when a thief stole all his money,
Ticket, passport, and all on the beach near Mombasa while he swam
And he decided not to let it ruin his day or his life and went back
Into the ocean, then found his way in spite of the cruel crook.
Had more of an adventure than if he had all his papers in order.
All that a man can be and span two centuries and walk many continents
All Jeff is friend, soldier, son, brother, husband, father, lover, writer
Artist, journalist, prankster, joker, playful curious independent free fellow
With the entire national forest as his backyard in Colorado when
He was nine-years-old so he wandered freely, climbing up to see
All the tiny people like ants embroiled in worrisome business of some sort
All the perspective of getting up off alone, self-reliant, learning
All the life lessons at Wolf Creek Pass where snow kept him from school
But not from the truth of life and wildness and open free space.
First girlfriend had a dress with gingerbread boys and girls holding hands.
Later on in college he did battle with abusive administrators
With his Sword of Damocles newspaper barely escaping libel suit.
Trudging the streets wearing rented Navy Pea Coat with holes
In his shoes in knee deep snow leaning against the wind.
The student, the artist, the journalist dauntless against winds of fate
The spirit of the warrior joined military intelligence and off to Vietnam
To face the fearsome demons of adrenalin streets of war.
Then great freedom of release from war and the beginning of his travels.
Magical time in India seeing things he thought he must have imagined.
Then marriage to strong-willed woman worthy of descriptions by Whitman
About fate of the land from the loins of such mothers and birth of precious son
With bald head and dimpled chin in N.Y. City, then off they go in green truck
With yellow camper along Pan American Highway daring cliff-hanging roads
And Jeff remembers the road to work in Brazil with lovely women
Along Copacabana Beach where he believes he will return and write
And off to Africa and more journalism and there he must return and write
All that has not yet been said; and whenever he can Jeff flies off to lands
Where the people struggle to create great change for themselves
Then he comes home smelling of tear gas and the thrill of it.
He was there at the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.
He was there when the educators demonstrated in Quito, Ecuador.
He was there in Peru when there were riots in the streets for new government
He was there in So. Africa as racism transformed to Peace and Reconciliation
He was there with activists to stop radioactive waste truck headed to WIPP
from Los Alamos on remote highway in New Mexico south of Clines Corners
He was there in East Africa in the Ugandan situation and the violence
And all the anti-apartheid passions. He was there.
He was there at the first Climate Summit in Rio; then in Paris and Glasgow
He was there amid death squads meting out vigilante justice in Brazil.
One old journalist said he would retire someday and run a village newspaper;
That’s what Jeff has done in Corrales, New Mexico, for half his life so far
Attending over 1,000 village council meetings for forty years to date.
Doing battle with government agencies, battle with ignorant corporations
Ever believing the strength of Democracy is in the wisdom of the people
Informed in truth about what’s going on; there’s jeff at his computer station
Reporting the news as if Democracy matters; persistent, patient with integrity
Every two weeks putting out the paper, pages and pages telling folks
Enough to make their own decisions; so many battles to be fought still
So many truths to be told. So many jokes to be played.
Before his head becomes a skull on his son’s desk like it says in his will
What news, what insight will spring forth from under his wizard eyebrows?
What fresh new joust will he engage in? How many more countries
And revolutionary crowds will he witness? As many as possible no doubt.
Jeff, Everyman of 20th and 21st centuries and so much more.
What new invention or turn of words will he put in print?
This man is a man who makes his own rules, his own way,
His way is that of a gentle man so humble once he skipped his own birthday.
This poem is not done yet, just like Jeff—a work in progress.
June 1, 2022
Jeff Radford Day in Corrales, NM