Good Life

Praise Song for William Lee Welch, Jr.

Where does your realm begin, Beloved Mayor,

and where does it end?

We wanted you everywhere, and you came,

to every wedding, every student welcome,

every community meeting, every commitment ceremony.





Where does your realm begin, Beloved Mayor,

and where does it end?

In the generations of student you treated as though

each one mattered, as though

each one could lead

the small revolutions of kindness that you did,

You talked with them over lunch, the Turkish students, the Russian students, the African students, the Jewish students, the Muslim students,

everyone welcome and everyone equal in your eyes.

You respected them, foreseeing their great futures

before they even apprehended them.





Looking over your realm, Beloved Mayor,

in every Fall's collection of leaves,

in each poster in a downtown shop advertising the arts,

in every poised and trembling idea that is welcomed and rooted here,

you are here.





In each student journalist you inspired with stories of the golden era of newspapers,

you are here,

saying privately, who knew back then we were living through a golden age?

In these stories, were you already teaching us

how to bear the world without you?





Where does your realm begin, Beloved Mayor,

and where does it end?

You were brave so often, you made courage

seem necessary and beautifully ordinary.

You did not flinch in asserting the equality of everyone’s love,

and after September 11th, you spent the night

at the Islamic Center of Central Pennsylvania.

Walking down College Avenue, with you having walked there,

we will look into each window and see your face in the glass.

Our path ahead resounds with your presence.





Philosopher Prince, you wrote a 60-year archive of verse,

of essays, of news, of columns and editorials,

and a brilliant opening chapter of a detective novel -

all of these, your 60-year archive, unfinished, unfinished,

only the first chapter.





William Lee Welch Jr, I will remember

your telephone calls proposing spontaneous dinners,

including the night before you left for Hershey

and the long drive to the best doctors in the state,

whose best this time could not keep you with us.





Where does your realm begin, Beloved Mayor,

and where does it end?

William Lee Welch Jr, this last story of yours also is incomplete,

only a first chapter.

Somewhere you must be waiting for us

to continue the great conversation.

Until we get there, Beloved friend,

hear us praise your name.

Until we get there, William Lee Welch Jr,

Hear us praise your name.

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