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Do you have untethered snippets of novels and poems floating around in your brain? I do. They drive me to distraction.

I was a seriously geeky kid. Part of that involved competing on my high school’s National Forensic League team in prose/poetry reading and debate. One year I recited an excerpt from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which scarred my brain forever. The year before, I recited a poem that I only ever knew as Lump of Clay. I performed the poem every few weeks for a year, then never encountered it again. That poem has been niggling at me every since.

About ten years ago, I started looking for a copy of the poem hoping to get it out of my head. Every few months, I would google “I am a lump of clay” and never found the poem – until this week. A high school in Iowa posted the poem on their English department website. Beyond the text, I can’t find anything out about it. I would like to know more about the poem and its author. I have pasted the text of the poem below. If you recognize it, please tell me whatever you know.

“The Plea”

by Josef Rodriguez

          I’m just a lump of clay

         Scooped out of the riverbank

         And molded to the shape of a natural man.

         I’m just a lump of clay

         A handful of water and a fistful of sand

         And a warm exhalation from

         God.

         Fifty per cent

         God

         And fifty percent just plain old river mud,

         That’s me ….

         Sometimes I wonder if maybe

         God

         Isn’t beginning to wonder

         If it wasn’t all just a waste of breathe on

         His part ….

         Mud being Mud

         And

         God being God ….

         I’m just a lump of clay ….

         A seething bundle of great aspirations

         And expectations

         A juxtaposition of countries and nations

         And their innovations …

         A shifting kaleidoscope

         Of religions and races ….

         Changing chameleon-like their color of skin

         With each shift of terrain;

         And with gentle irreverence,

         With innocent and collossal conceit,

         Changing the color of their ….

         God ….

         For

         Man must Worship a

         God

         In his own image it seems ….

         I’m just a lump of clay

         And I’ve been fooled and tricked

         And taken again and again ….

         Through all the long dying ….

         Through all the long howling and crying of war …

         I’m just a lump of clay …

         And I’m cornered at last in a time

         Where the sky threatens to fall on me

         For all of eternity …

         Cornered …. Holding in my hands and heart

         One last desperate simple plea ….

         For peace.

         I’m just a lump of clay

         And I’m alone and afraid …. Do I have to be?

         Listen to me …. I don’t have to be!!

         Not while I can reach out to you

         And cry ….

         “Neighbor, neighbor, you and I

         Were born together beneath the same sky:

         Chinaman, African, Russian

         We’ll hold up the sky and it won’t fall

         Yes, I’m just a lump of clay,

         But put me together in a mass

         And there is weight there enough

         To level a forest, drain a sea

         Change the course of a universe

         Or of a war ….

         And so

         Kings, Dictators, and rulers of nations

         Don’t tell me my world’s going to end !!!!

         Why, I haven’t seen enough ranibows

         Reached for enough stars

         Or kissed enough pretty young girls

         Under the smoked silver sliver of the moon;

         So don’t you scream at me

         About killing and dying

         When I haven’t even begun to live yet!!!

         Listen, Tender, Sparkers who ignite

         The fire of war ….

         I, the lump of clay …

         Am a stubborn, song and sinew thing and I won’t step out

         Of your way

         Not while I have hands to plead

         And a voice to cry …

         For peace!

         Peace …

         That is my plea …

         I ask it humbly …

         After all,

         I’m just a lump of clay …

         Scooped out of the river bank

         And molded to the shape

         Of a natural man …

         I’m just a lump of clay …

         A handful of water and a fistful of sand

         And a warm exhalation from God …

         Fifty per cent  God

         And fifty per cent

         Just plain old river mud, that’s me …

         Sometimes I wonder if maybe

         God

         Isn’t beginning to wonder

         If it wasn’t all just a waste of breath on His part

         Mud being Mud

         God being God.

         I’m just a lump of clay …

         And I’m cornered

         And alone and afraid,

         But if you’ve listened to me

         If you’ll answer my plea …

         Do I have to be?

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