JACQUELINE JULES - THE GREATEST
Jacqueline Jules is a Northern Virginia author and poet who writes for children and adults. Her books for young readers include the Zapato Power series, the Sofia Martinez series, and Never Say a Mean Word Again. Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications including The Broome Review, Sow's Ear Poetry Review, Christian Science Monitor, OffCourse, Hospital Drive, and Imitation Fruit. She is the author of two chapbooks, Field Trip to the Museum andStronger Than Cleopatra. Visit www.jacquelinejules.com
Jaws dropped to see a young Black man,
one who had grown up in Kentucky,
son of a sign painter and a maid,
stand in the ring with boxing gloves raised,
shouting at the top of his lungs, boasting
his own beauty, his own strength,
his own speed—his inalienable right
to win in a country slowly relenting
to serve everyone at the lunch counter.
“I am the greatest!” Muhammad Ali
told us, over and over, until
the echoing words questioned
our own timid minds. Could we?
Be the greatest, too?
over career? Proclaim
unpopular faith in public?
And could we? In later years,
battle infirmity, stand
at the Olympic podium
still holding our torch
proudly, with no apologies.