365 Degrees

Tom Johnson
Poetry Editor

Ludy Speaks
(A Found Poem)

       I shall always think of you
  with pleasure     love     thanks
       you raised money enough to send me to     N.Y., 
  to take part in a "try-out" track meet
       you raised the     money for my trip 
  to Paris
       in New York about a week     to Newark
  every day to practice     thirteen girls in the
  American team
       August 1     sailed     on the Aquitania 
  six days     we hated to leave the ship     up 
  every morning before breakfast     practiced on deck 
  To practice the 1,000 meter run I had to go  round the 
  deck three times
       August 7     Cherbourg
       rail     to Paris     Every morning to Colombes
       we practiced          two hours each day     saw everything
       worth seeing     a heap that wasn't     battlefields
       cemeteries     Quentin Roosevelt's grave
       Versailles     the palace     flower gardens 
  all the beautiful things in Paris     cathedrals, Notre
  Dame, the Louvre
       The Meet was held in Pershing Stadium     early
  morning     August 20     ten in each preliminary 
  down to the four best     I placed in the shot put, 
  javelin throw     300 meter run     1,000 meter run 
  Everything      announced in French
       lunch     Meet     right afterwards     each 
  team marched around the field     I was chosen to carry 
  Old Glory     proud to lead that     team around the 
  track     about 20,000 people to see us
       My first event     shot put     all keyed up 
  I was taller than the French woman, but she was husky as 
  an ox     I was scared     Everybody knew she would win 
       I stepped into the circle     our coach     shouted, 
  "Now, ol' South Carolina Mountaineer, show  em what the 
  South can do!"          I put the pill     I broke the world's 
  record     put it at twenty meters and more, twenty-two 
  with both hands     that is sixty-six feet     beat the
  French women's record more than six feet, six inches 
  looked as though somebody had pulled a chair out from under 
  her kind of sudden-like     she was a good sport, shook 
  hands     congratulated me     American flag was run up 
  band played the "Star Spangled Banner" twice     happy 
       those Americans yelling     opened their mouths so wide 
  I was scared     for fear the sun would warp their ribs or 
  blister their tonsils
       shut in by a circle of men with cameras, about four 
  million of them     almost cast a fit     grinned like a 
  lunatic     tried to make believe I was used to it
       next event     the 300 meter run     coach told me
   just     trot around the track     that would give me 
  fourth place     wanted to save me for the 1,000 meter race 
  That     was the hardest thing I ever did in my life 
  anybody slower than Balaam's donkey could have gone 
  faster than I did      don't believe the judge knew whether 
  I was last in that race or first in the next
       In the javelin throw I came third      Near the 
  finish      the girl just in front of me fell      I was 
  going pretty fast      Leaped over her      and in the leap 
  measured my length on that track      thought I was through 
  with this world      dragged my carcass to an upright 
  position, coaxed my bruised bones to work      took third
       fun at the      banquet that night     five countries 
  speaking five different languages      Did I drink wine? 
  Can a fish swim?      French pastry
       the medals were awarded. I got six, three more than 
  anybody else
       next morning      train to Cherbourg      sailed 
  August 21 on the Saxonia
       what I did was done      for you      my share in helping 
  the U.S.A. win all she could in the first international 
  meet for women      that's what counts      knowing 
  there are people who want you to win      whatever
       This piece of cheese      has sworn to take gym 
  morning & night from now till Wednesday to make up cuts.
       Will you please see that she takes it till she sweats, 
  and oblige your adorable gym teacher?
                      Girls, did you know 
            that Roosevelt was going to get on a 
            boat at Charleston and go on a cruise? 
                      if Roosevelt wants
            to see me, he can come up here.
            Go back and apologize. 
            Go back and apologize. 
            Go back and apologize.
       Mine was a simple medal 
       the records didn't last very long 
       athletes      today wouldn't think
            it was very far 
  My gosh, they've already written 
       my epitaph.
  Look at what the young men do in wartime 
  new records are being broken all the time 
       by men and women.      All you have to do 
       is look at them to watch them prove 
  I'm tired of reading about me in the paper. 
  You play your best, and then if you win or lose, 
  it doesn't matter.
  My greatest satisfaction in teaching physical education 
       is not necessarily trying to turn out a few top winners
   it's what you do for that girl who is never going to get 
       anywhere along that line
  I've had girls who never had a racket in their hands 
       that have finished and were good
  I tell my girls      you've got to want to win, but that 
       doesn't mean that's all there is
  I was so embarrassed at not doing 
  what I knew I could do in that race, 
  I skipped to the finish line.      My 
  teammates met me with a bouquet 
  of weeds!
                 Late 1970's
  You're in no man's land! 
  Mind if I hit a few with you? 
  I can hit the ball      it's just 
  that it takes me longer to get to it!
                 Sometime or Other
  Tell him what's bothering you 
  Tell him      that you're crying 
  because      you're scared you'll fail. 
  That's one of the reasons I bought 
  this house      for the view.

Lucite Ellerbe Godbold (1900-1981) born in Marion, reared in Estill, educated at Winthrop and Columbia College was the first South Carolinian, man or woman, to qualify for the Olympiad. Selected to participate in the Olympic games held in Paris in August, 1922, the first year that they were open to women, she won six medals more than anyone else. These included two gold: for the shot put and the hop, step and jump. She went on to teach physical education for more than 50 years at Columbia College, where her Olympic medals are on display in the library. USC's South Caroliniana Library is also featuring an exhibit on her during August.

    This poem was assembled from "Miss Ludy's" words as found in various manuscrips, books and periodicals located at Columbia College and the South Caroliniana Library.

© Copyright by POINT, 1996
Last modified 8/13/96