The mistress of ceremonies, in her excitement, walked the blind man smack into a wall. The audience tittered, unknowing; within seconds they realized their mistake, but it was too late: Ron Morgan had reached the microphone and claimed them for his own.
"Buffalo Soldiers." "Duck Tail Hair Cuts and High Water Pants." "Jock Story." "Schwartz's Drug Store." "Patman." "Patman" did it. Patman was the nickname of a slain Atlanta black youth. "Patman" brought the applause. Momma, why they ring bells for Pat? Her face moved across the darkness of his question, Why, Momma? They ringin bells for Patman; Because they knew he growed too big.
Silence. Silence. It allowed the ghosts of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to slink from the Folger Shakespeare Library's Globe Theatre while Morgan, 38-year-old D.C. native, spoke of Patman. High school students, mostly white, applauded as if they understood that a muse is a muse is a muse.
They seemed to understand the lines in "Coming of a Fig Leaf." My ears hear storm clouds gathering Music blocks my eyes.
Unwinding later over an eclair at his favorite restaurant, the Trio at 17th and Q streets NW, Morgan, chubby person and poet, sang sweetly: "I had command. I loved it. I loved them."
A goal met. Being part of the Midday Muse series at the Folger. A headiness to savor after weeks and weeks of trudging through streets alone, cane tapping, to sell his books of poetry to area bookstores.
"I'm a local poet, with a small book, would you take five or six?"
Several bookstores did. Bookstores he could see 17 years ago. Operated on for a brain tumor in 1964, he lost the vision that showed him the way through many solitary walks, all around the town, every day, every night.
"When I lost my eyes, I understood what the world is about."
Morgan's great-grandmother, who helped raise him, was blinded by an accident while a young woman. His grandmother, also close to him, suffered the same fate.
They were there to give strength during his crisis, between high school and college; but it was the same strength they had always given him.
"There was no clucking," said Morgan, "this was a situation the family knew about; they dealt with life, and as soon as I got over my anger, so would I."
A sighted graduate of Archbishop John Carroll High School, 4300 Harewood Rd. NE, he tackled Quincy College and George Washington University blind -- emerging with a master's degree in political science in 1975.
Morgan applied for a teaching position with the D.C. school system, was told to take same additional courses, did so and then immediately lost interest as he refocused on "a different way to get involved"; merging a long-nurtured passion with political awareness. Poetry. In this, he was supported and encouraged by his two sisters and his parents -- with whom he still lives in Northwest Washington.
In addition to weekly readings at area coffeehouses, Morgan works as a writer-researcher for Black Arts Review, a bimonthly that features, along with the entertainment columns, articles that advise minorities about their rights, under federal statutes, regarding the arts. Morgan was placed there by Arts D.C., an organization that operates a CETA-funded program designed to provide local artists with internships that lead to permanent employment.
Using a regular typewriter without effort, Morgan recently tapped out a column for Black Arts Review pleading for the inclusion of more handicapped people in the arts. He wrote: "A greater awareness of the handicapped and the arts will bring about dances which offer new forms of movement; painting and photography that show a new way of "seeing" and sculpture that reaches out to be touched." Mrs. Reagan, that's a chinch. The old black woman her face proud and strong like she was sitting in the thank you Jesus corner at a college graduation Hmmmm-pphh!!
Unabashedly savoring the image, Morgan erupts with laughter when he recites this poem. His belly shakes. His shoulders jiggle. And, to spice the moment, he does something quite unusual. He closes his eyes.