Tilting at windmills can be a fruitless endeavor,
a noble enterprise that may yield nothing more
than witnesses’ glazed eyes and gaping yawns.

Convincing one’s unwilling army the enemy is real is
the first step in vanquishing one’s adversary.
Even when loss is certain, each battle is for hope.

Belief in a cause is a dangerous avocation,
a thrilling engagement that can leave a person
weary and impotent, dejected and alone.

Attempting the impossible can crush one’s spirit, yet
it can spark renewal of fiery passion—fueling
life-changing ardor that alters the course of history.

Fighting against the odds can lead from a lonely path
to a thoroughfare of like-minded warriors who share
their weapons and galvanize their followers.

The honor of trying and the majesty of refusing to surrender
may be the only guaranteed outcomes of the engagement,
yet tilting at windmills can snare one’s soul.

Defeat is possible only if surrender holds some appeal,
only if giving up in the face of overwhelming odds is an option,
only by refusing to fight an imaginary enemy that is real.


It has been several years since I last visited Kontiki African Restaurant in Little Rock. An article on the BBC website, lauding the bold flavors of the foods of Sierra Leone, sparked my memory of the place. Kontiki is the only west African restaurant I’ve ever visited. West African cuisine is markedly different from the other African cuisines I’ve tried: Ethiopian, Moroccan/northern African, and South African. West African cuisine, while not my favorite, offers some standout dishes I would love to have again: pepper soup, jollof rice/stew, and roasted meats marinated in a spicy peanut butter concoction. As I think about the relatively few African dishes I’ve eaten, it occurs to me that I’ve probably missed an enormous swath of cuisines. Africa is, after all, a huge continent. I suspect the ingredients and methods of preparation vary widely across the continent, just like they vary widely between Ethiopian and west African and Moroccan dishes. I should make it a mission to explore other African cuisines; not necessarily to prepare them myself, but to taste them as prepared by people who are intimately familiar with the foods. Finding those people, though, may be just as much of a challenge as finding restaurants that serve the cuisines. Arkansas probably is not be the place to find them. Oh, well. Just a little dream.


I listened to and watched “the hearings.” Riveting, frightening, and motivating. But also a little annoying. The opening statement by the officer who waxed poetic about her grandfather’s love of country and her own…it seemed so utterly staged. That bothered me. But the rest of the presentations were riveting. Illuminating. I wish the rest of the world, at least the Trump-loving universe, would watch and listen and force themselves to realize their hero is, in fact, a psychopath unlike any others.  Well, we’ll see. I am afraid that universe is, like its hero, unable to differentiate truth from sick, deluded fiction.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Refusal

  1. Thanks, Meg, for your very nice comment; I appreciate your assessment of what I wrote. But I’m sorry to learn that AR PBS opted to ignore such an important event as the January 6 hearing; I wonder whether they succumbed to pressure from hyper-conservative financial supporters?

  2. Meg Koziar says:

    John. Each of the stanzas of your poem could stand alone. And each be food for thought. Thank you. Very appropriate to my thoughts on the hearing last night. I am angry that AR PBS aired some nonsense on dairy bars instead of the PBS coverage of ythe hearings. I am calling them today to cancel my monthly donations. Grrr.

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