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Make a Difference! a Poem by D.R. James

—a villanelle to commencement speakers everywhere

Tonight, fatigue’s grim flower unfurls,

but Gandhi, gunned down, had this to say:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Oh? Even when casting before swine my pearls,

every action seems absurd, and all the day—

and tonight—fatigue’s grim flower unfurls?

Even though, in my disgust, I’d hurl

the grenades myself, I should, anyway,

be the change I wish to see in the world?

What about how resolve just sways and swirls?

What about colleagues countering, “Let’s pray”?

Especially then fatigue’s grim flower unfurls,

failure feels relentless, all fervor whirls.

But still I’m to spin—on these feet of clay—

this Be the change you wish to see in the world?

The global Bottom Line confirms I’m the churl,

binds me with a twist to the old cliché:

tonight, fatigue’s grim flower’s unfurled

by the change I’d wished to see in the world.

—first published in Tuck


Recently retired from nearly 40 years of teaching college writing, literature, and peace studies, D. R. James lives, writes, bird-watches, and cycles with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. His latest of ten collections are Mobius Trip and Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press, 2021, 2020), and his prose and poems have appeared internationally in a wide variety of print and online anthologies and journals. Visit his page at:


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