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Gloria Jean Burgess

Website
Years: 2000, 2001, 2003

Biography

Poet, author, mother, daughter, sister, consultant, and executive coach; 33 years in a legacy marriage. Faculty: University of Washington, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center (Leadership Institute), and Bainbridge Graduate Institute. Three books of poetry, including The Open Door and Journey of the Rose. Best-selling non-fiction: Dare to Wear Your Soul on the Outside (Jossey-Bass/Wiley) and Legacy Living. Distinguished Scholar in Theater - Performance and Direction, University of Michigan. Other scholarship includes leadership, intercultural competence, and community building.

Poem

Sanctuary

for William Faulkner* and my father, Earnest McEwen, Jr.

  

Between the brush of angels’ wings

and furious hooves of hell, two mortal men

fell down. How you must have looked—

white shirt stained, khakis fatigued,

smelling of sweat and smoke,

hair at odds with itself and the world.

At the threshold among your restless dead

in echo and shadow of ancient oaks,

providing sanctuary, offering shade,

you had many worlds behind you,

few yet to be born: stories of insurgence,

scorn, decay—theme and variations

of a vanquished South.

 

Leaning against a jamb

of antebellum brass, you watched, waited,

raised weary arm and hand, saluted

the familiar stranger. Come. Enter. Sit. Sing.

 

You reached each other across the grate.

What you two must have known of heaven and hell.

* William Faulkner, Nobel Peace Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, was my father’s benefactor. Faulkner paid for my father to attend college at a time when he had few prospects of earning enough money to pay for it himself. This was Faulkner’s way of dismantling institutionalized racism long before desegregation was mandated in the South; it was my father’s way of freeing himself and his family from the strictures of apartheid.