Billy Graham

Billy Graham
by Billy Edd Wheeler

(The Prophet)
Eyes like an eagle’s move in his head
Scorching the ground in a neon blaze.
I am a sinner, a field mouse pinned
By blinding love in the force of his gaze.

(The neighbor)
He’s good people, Billy is,
Living up there at the head of our valley.
He can’t help it being a celebrity
(They say number one in the world!)
He’s just good at what he does.
Men respect that. And with God behind him. . .
He calls a spade a spade.
Men respect that too.
He could be rich, we all know that,
But he ain’t. His hands are clean.

He moves among mighty men
Clever and rich, kings and rulers
Presidents, powers and corporation heads.
Ain’t it something that one of our valley folk
Is that big and important. It’s something, now!

Those dogs at Billy’s fence don’t mean nothing.
They ain’t to keep neighbors out, but tourists,
Stone chippers, souvenir grabbers, mad men.
     (I heard one made it through the dogs once,
     Held Billy at gun point, meant to kill him
     Til Billy’s eagle eyes nailed him down,
     Converted him and he went off home a-weeping.
     You can’t believe what you hear but it’s a good story.)

I spied him once through hickory leaves
Jogging around his hill road shouting
At naked air. “Ha!” he said, and “Yes! Yes, Lord.!”
He works at his trade, you see, like an athlete
Training for a match. This was before Korea
Where he spoke to a million a day.

We like old Billy around here, mister. We do.
If you’re one of them that tear him down
For being in “Show Biz,” don’t talk it out loud.
Not in Swannanoa. Or Asheville or Black Mountain.
To me he’s John The Baptist in jogging pants.
Or Joseph of Old. (He was an entertainer, wasn’t he?)
The Lord works in queer and wondrous ways
And our Billy is a pure natural wonder.

His high-up-ness don’t bother me none.
I know in my heart his head’s ok.
Why, except for his dogs and his big high fence
And his busy-ness going on God’s great errands
I wouldn’t mind knocking on his door
And borrowing a cup of sugar.

     Travis and other Poems of the Swannanoa Valley
     Wild Goose, Inc., 1977

1977_Billy Graham_Burns.jpg

Ralph Burns, Billy Graham #1, Asheville, N.C., 1977.
Courtesy of the Artist.

Billy Graham