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Tokley
James E. Tokley Sr. delivers his poem.

 

Mayor Iorio and Tokley

Over 1,000 well-wishers crowded into a Tampa Convention Center ballroom to watch Tampa City Council members and Mayor Pam Iorio take their oaths of office. Mayor Iorio was sworn in for a second four-year term as Tampa's 55th Mayor. At the event, James E. Tokley Sr., the city's official poet laureate, recited a poem he wrote for the ceremony, "A Second Chance at Destiny."


A Second Chance at Destiny

What fills us with excitement here, today
as we contemplate the will to be renewed
To pledge once more, what once we strove to say
To do, at last, what we set out to do
To see across what seems an endless sea
and say the words that few thus far could say
To stand here, in the face of History
And say to all the world, "This is Our Day!"

II

We claim this day, with all our heart and soul
The yet unborn, the yet-forever young
Committing still-forever to be bold
And to do what others swore could not be done!

III

The dreamers who have waited long to speak
The passioned hearts refusing to grow cold
The searchers who have pledged their hearts to seek
A Tampa where their children could grow old!

IV

We are Tampa, for the world to see
A working-class community
where men and women dare to dream
of a living-spot, a patch of green,
a dog, a cat and a live oak tree…
a front porch to sit quietly
and watch the racing world run by
underneath a clear-blue Tampa sky!

V

For, we are Tampa, cigar-proud
The ones who stand out in a crowd
Who know the secrets of this place
Who know that Tampa is its own race
with its own language,
its own ways,
its own recollection of the days
when streetcars once ran to the shores
and Central Avenue was the core
of a place called “Harlem of the South”
and Ybor City was the mouth
that sang the songs Jose Marti
took back to Cuba, gallantly!

VI

For, we are Tampa, winding ‘round
the upward spires of Downtown
The Hillsborough River is our friend
The Bay that shimmers like a string
of diamonds wraps around our neck
Our life is Art, without neglect!

VII

We man the speeding firetrucks/ We’re
the ones who toil from dawn to dusk
Who keep this city neat and clean
The hands who guarantee the gleam
of city-lights will always shine
along our streets that stretch and wind!

VIII

We are the nameless ones whose ranks –
unrecognized and without thanks –
do that which no one else would do
to keep our way of life renewed!

IX

For, we are Tampa – from the bright
and rainbow dazzle of Downtown lights,
to the soft and subtle backyard glow
of patio lights we’ve grown to know!

X

Yes, we are Tampa, Life and Soul/ The
English speakers, Español/ We
parle Francais! We, who employ
our mother-tongue to say, “Manhgio!”
Regardless of gender, stand or faith,
we claim this, our ancestral place
And eat from our ancestral bowl
with the elders of the Seminole,
For, we are Tampa, place of peace
Your daughters and sons from the Middle East
From all around the world, we come
to claim your name and live as one!

XI

And this is what we pledge to keep:
A city with wide and well-kept streets
A place where children come to play
Where they who’ve given their best, can stay
and live in peace, their final years,
without the shadows of harm or fear
Where children can go off to school
content to learn the Golden Rule,
while Mom and Dad maintain the trust
that where they live is safe and just!

XII

What fills us with excitement here, today
What makes us feel this moment, to the top,
is that we’ve reached a point where we must say,
“As one, we strike the iron, while it is hot!”

XIII

We’ll do these next four years what must be done
An Art Museum for the world to see
A Riverwalk, endowed for everyone
A Streetcar Line like once there used to be!
And Central Avenue shall live again
And down its avenue, so wide and bold,
will, in the future days, as they did then,
parade the colors of Maroon and Gold!

XIV

And Ybor City shall be world-renowned
Much like the Vieux Carre’ of New Orleans
And Downtown Tampa – from both sight and sound –
will be the finest place we’ve ever seen!

XV

And on that day for all the world to see,
The spirit of this place shall be set free!

XVI

We celebrate that day, somehow
For, we believe that day is now!
A second chance for us to be
As-one, at last, with Destiny!

###
Copyright © 2007, James E. Tokley, Sr. All Rights Reserved for the City of Tampa, Florida.

 

April 1, 2003
A New Beginning