An elderly Chicagoan I know, a friend of the departed Franklin Meine and Walter Blair, urges me to submit his poem to the Forum. It features the appearance of Sam Clemens, the boy and the young man of Innocents Abroad. The poem's author is the fouinder of ASS (Atheists for Sam's Satire). I am a member. Red Balloon In Grant Park her red balloon floats into the sky Unbelieving, betrayed, she reaches up and cries. "Don't cry," her father says. "We'll get you another." Raising her high on his shoulders, her legs clasping tight, He circles Buckingham Fountain whinnying like a horse She is laughing as they come to the balloon man again She feels safe on his shoulders. Trembling in bed, Sam Clemens sees lightning flash Hears thunder roar, and prays to God. He has sinned, he confesses. He vows to reform To escape the fires of everlasting Hell But God does not answer Nor does Sam ever hear from God above Though he never stops trying But within he finds fires, and on earth human love The lifelong supports to his luminous self. Years later on horseback with three genteel Pilgrims Sam rides post-haste through the Syrian oven The three pious Pilgrims, Hell-bent for Heaven, Grimly observe God's Sabbath deadline By whipping and spurring their lame weary horses 'Til the hides are raw, running red with blood And rejoicing, they reach their God-given goal-- Figia's Fountain, stagnant pool of Baalam's ass. Whenever, Sam asks, did holy self-righteousness Know the grace of earthly pity and love? Why look above for love and strong shoulders? Why not below? Why not have faith in our earthly home Instead of an absentee Landlord on High? Should we be so afraid, so cowed by life's mystery? Should we mistrust what we know that we know? Can't we joyfully circle Buckingham Fountain In place of imploring Ghost-ridden skies above? Can't we hold tight to our red balloon below?