I worked in John Allen Adams’ bookstore while a student at Henderson State University. John was a remarkable man. He was quadriplegic from a high school football injury, but he built his own business and was a central figure of learning in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Dr. Charles Hughes has written his story in a wonderful book, A Fortune Teller’s Blessing.
I have a copy of John’s book of poems, I Walk Toward the Sound of My Days, first published in 1979. Dr. Hughes was instrumental in making this book available again. In rereading his poems, I’m struck by their continued relevance and timeless quality. Below is one poem that captures what motivates me to occasionally escape the frantic trappings of society and “give equal time to joy.”
Ten O’Clock News
by John Allen Adams
Must I keep tuned to the world’s ill?
Who condemned me to watch
the ten o’clock news for sixty years?
I know, I know – the world’s close-knit,
and a heart must be more than four fingers wide
to pump what the world needs;
but still, should I feel truant for a holiday?
What if I push the button and clamor
no longer rings through these vaults;
and then in the silence
still, small voices come healing the spirit –
cicadas, and crickets, and mockingbirds?
The mockingbird singing in a summer night –
this draft of joy would cheer even a Saul!
Tomorrow and tomorrow I shall be prompt,
tuned to the latest news;
but tonight I give equal time to joy.
John Allen Adams died in 1984, but his words live on and continue to bless my life. His grave marker inscription summarizes his life well with the words, “A BOOKSELLER AND POET.”
John Allen Adams gave me a cassette tape of some of his poetry. Breathing was a struggle for him so he made this tape to use when he spoke to school groups.