April 9th: On this day in 1859, a 23-year-old Missouri youth named Samuel Langhorne Clemens received his steamboat pilot’s license. In 1861, working for the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, he wrote a humorous travel letter signed by “Mark Twain” (a boatman’s call noting that the river was only two fathoms deep, the minimum depth for safe navigation) and continued to use the pseudonym for nearly 50 years.
Trustworthy, at the Helm
Would there were a man not of his time
but of all time, of stature and conscience.
Would there were a woman, not of this age,
but ageless, crossing the great divide.
Would there were a speaker, not fork-tongued,
but straight-talking, advocating peace.
Would there were a leader, not self-serving,
but of the people, for the people.
Would there were a diplomat, not hide-bound,
but free thinking and peace-making.
Would there were a tomorrow, not mirrored,
but free from yesterday’s shadows.
Would there were a way forward, not doubted,
but assured, safe and believable.
Would there a course to run, not shallow,
but deep and clear and unhindered.
Would there were a consensus, not mandated,
but heartfelt in universal love.
But the river runs narrow and the depth is unsure
and the powers that be speak their pay-master’s words
and no beacon shines, no light guides us true.
Two fathoms too little and ever shallower still,
when the call of “Mark Twain” rings loud,
’tis already too late and hope is abandoned,
along with the ship. Let the rats that steer it
perish on the rocks. Let us build a new world,
let us find a new order, let us offer once more,
hope to our children. Save the people, save the planet,
and when the cry is “Oh, the humanity!”…
…would there were a saviour.