On looking through some old poems tonight I came across an unfinished effort I had started to write on American Olympic legend Jesse Owens. It had some notes scribbled beside it which were key words and phrases I had taken down with the intention of adding them to the poem which was to be written on his achievements in Berlin and the subsequent mistreatment of one of America’s all time sporting greats. I noted that the inspiration for this poem was the anger I felt on watching a documentary on his life and times which was shown in the early noughties. On finding this poem and the notes I had taken to complete it I set about finishing it and have given it the title No Way To Treat A Legend. I hope you enjoy what I think will be a challenging and thought provoking read.
No Way To Treat A Legend
Dateline 1936: Berlin. Olympic Games
an athlete shattered Nazi dreams and ran his way to fame
winning four gold medals he proved he was king of the track
but Hitler wouldn’t shake his hand as Jesse Owens was black
the champion was American from from the land of Uncle Sam
and he’d met Hitler’s type before they called themselves The Klan
those good ole boys who used the lord to justify their bigotry
no matter what they put him through he won with style and dignity
by winning his Olympic crowns he captured people’s hearts
he gave them dreams to cling to at a time when days were dark
for unemployment plagued the land at a time of great depression
but Jesse Owens had now become a global sporting legend
This should have been a guarantee of national hero status
for the man who mocked the master race and left them devastated
but Jesse’s dreams would be destroyed because he dared to say
athletics was a serious game and.he should earn some pay.
Now this to those who ran the sport was regarded as a crime
they banned him from all track and field until the end of time
because he wouldn’t toe the line and wasn’t afraid to speak.
in just four months he’d been reduced from a hero to a freak
On boxing day of that same year his fall from grace completed
he faced humiliation in the way that he was treated
forced to race against a horse to see who would come out on top
a great Olympic champion had now been cruelly mocked
he never gained another chance to show his record pace
although he smashed the fantasy of the fascist master race
but in his nation’s darkest hour he was given great acclaim
he should have been rewarded and enjoyed the fruits of fame.
but this alas was not to be as Jesse’s dreams were crushed
by those who held the reins of power who trampled him to dust
though his place in history is assured by his victories in Berlin
nobody knows his tormentors names but the world remembers him
the suits who brought about his fall poured shame upon their country
they revealed the truth they couldn’t hide their hate filled hearts were ugly
when Jesse brought the glory home a brilliant future beckoned
until they destroyed a hero’s dream
that’s no way to treat a legend.
© Gayle Smith 2017