Summer of heartache: ode to Ali and friends

A confluence of badness hit Louisville this summer with the common theme of more. More heroin, made all the worse by a resurgence of HIV and hotshots laden with deadly fentanyl. More homicides, driven by heroin and rising gang warfare, now acknowledged publicly by city officials. More unusually wet and hot weather, perhaps caused by climate change (we are not scientists, but…). More heartache, with the death of Muhammad Ali, our hometown hero nonparallel, and friends from heroin. And more hate, stock in trade of a new, activist governor whose Twitter and selfie addictions are eclipsed only by his arrogance and tone-deaf politics. And then we had a sucky backyard-growing summer, producing a harvest of angry tomatoes.

2016, you blazing summer of death

summer of bullets, season of smack

your burning months of murder and hate

you’ve taken so many that we want back

Most famed of these, Louisville’s son

the man Ali both free and wild

not the least of those to whose

loss we must be reconciled

Rising from the clay to be the best

disciple of X, man of God

boxer and driven activist

he took the name of the prophet, Muhammad


Hero and outlaw, he refused to fight

a war he found to be obscene

losing what he’d won by doing right

standing against the war machine

Banned for years, he rose again

taking up the champion’s crown

but each career must have an end

and Parkinson’s would bring him down

Louisville, he was your King

a man and flawed, like everyone

but he fought his life in a larger ring

be proud, that you had such a mighty son.