The Sky is Full of Bluebirds
First published in the Wisconsin's Poets Calendar
but not everyone can see them
so they think it’s just a blue sky,
and at night, when it’s all crows –
well, you know.
And early and late
come the cardinals and tanagers,
but don’t try to explain that
to just anyone.
There are gray birds, too.
Like This Morning, Crazy with Wind
First Published in Verse Wisconsin
Or just the other day, the bad roads
Even that time, and maybe it was long ago
When we all danced in circles
Take last night, what you said
Take the fire in the ring of rock
Take sun and rain, finally
Pulling frost from earth. A garden
Like falling in and out and in, again
Since the beginning and until
We are very, very old and
Maybe falling in and out, even then
The seasons, I mean, the leaves
The greening and the turning to gold
The rush of it like the sea pulling
The ice and streams of high mountains
Think of that water in the Pacific
Or the rain in Spain if you prefer
Or the little cloud that you are, driven
Like this morning, crazy with wind
The Way the Light Shines
First Published in Verse Wisconsin
The way the light shines
on a Dutch afternoon
a girl with a pitcher
of something cool
and sweet I’ll bet
The way the boys
in the low sloop
laden with the smell of salt
look through Winslow Homer
The way the stars see
through Van Gogh in the night
The way you’d come
me painting you
in your room with red walls
The way water-lilies
make love to Monet
I will be am who was before
the am who is, who was no more
who will be then when then is now
till now is not quite here somehow.
Give me a half-twist
this band, this width
this single boundary reaching forward for that asymptote.
My eyes are pillars of books that out-stack those alpine heavens
stories flapping open-faced along this strip of verity
of dreams alive and giant
the way your dreams use to be
but now you fade from our mise-en-scène
afraid of being sliced out from that colossal film reel
and left behind on the cutting room floor.
When I was a boy I once asked if you believed in a god,
you suggested god perhaps only exists when you are thinking about him
and probably not even then.
I asked if you believed the world as myth,
you said faith is a moment and this moment is missing.
This moment is missing.
Or maybe faith, as a concept, has been turned inside-out
worn on the wrong hand.
Do I believe in a god?
I believe in light, I believe in darkness
I believe in all the love found in-between.
I believe the calmness that keeps old age from fearing death’s apparent horizon
is in knowing how this line, if continued, will meet its starting point again—
a persistence of perception.
One day you announce to us:
“Family and friends
I have cancer, I am not dying.
I have cancer, I am not dying.”
And that day you aren’t.
Neither are you the day after
but as each new terror is detected the calendar grows heavy with emptiness
our home three times its gravity
where I must sit witnessing this anti-miracle of breath to bones.
I read books about stereographic projections
with passages on how we one day translate back to our projection point
not understanding the moral to this story.
My burdens get the best of me like the anxious shepherd with his out of control flock
sheep pulling woes over our eyes as we behold you
your future history slipping away
struggles cementing into permanence, bankrupting unfinished business
slowly ripping you from us with no regard to quality
until one day I lose faith in the middle of a cold shower
drowning in every innocent tear I hear suffer
and wish a silent wish for you to die—
betraying the bonds of brotherhood, of friendship, the spirit of survival.
Forgive me, please, my friend, forgive me!
You woke from your soon-to-be-eternal sleep to tell us two things:
1. Be sure to spread happiness, move time forward.
2. I love each and every one of you.
The reel uncoils itself from the projector, lies flat
then is raised from the floor in ceremony.
It’s given a half-twist and joined start to finish.
Is this not what now is?
Is this not what faith is?
Is this what I am?
I will be am who was before
the am who was, who is no more
who will be then when then is now
yet now is not quite here somehow.
Haven’t felt like this
since I was four years old
sprawled out on my back
in summer grass
wearing bright blue overalls
arm blocking the sun
little body so light
I could fall into the sky.
relaxed, ready to refract
or magnify the light, to dip
her brush once more and keep
on painting all the birds.
Look how one already eats his seed.
Sweet Dream Ash
Sweet dream ash.
A midnight purple powder that I breathe.
She stands on a flat stone
stares out to sea
notes of Liebestraum No. 3 splashing her feet.
The sky welcomes to her
sliding its summer bright blue into night
it settles in and listens to her songs.
Songs about angels that betray our heavens
about smiles that bust at the heart
about a candle that burns alone in the dark
while a thousand loving hands can be seen
reaching at the light’s edge
but are forever out of reach
and once upon a time she built a fire on the beach
but it fell apart into sweet dream ash.
A fragrance in the air we breathe.
She tells the sky about why she laughs
about the thousand fragments of piano keys embedded in her chest
tickling her soul
about the cold punch lines of sociopaths plunged into her back
about the side-splitting wrath
of the angel that betrayed her heaven
of the smile that busted her heart
and all that she ever hoped was for a love to lead her through the dark
lead each other to the fire
rub lips with the sisterhood of psalms and flowers
crying vows with blissful anarchy until this universe explodes into the next.
So she had peeled her guts from her belly, mind from her skull, fear from her heart
took all those tissue-torn pieces she used for trusting, shoved their raw beauty forward
and this creature raped her trust
with secret lovers kept beneath its wings
with relationships on puppet strings
and two-way mirrored truths
destroying this love, this dream.
Her hopes buckle, she begins to fall apart!
That’s when the sky cries
the wind swoops in, kisses her forehead
and says, “Whooooo-
Still standing on that flat stone
she turns and stares at me
the language of Liszt licking her feet.
I tell her we can build fires together
that I don’t have wings but, baby, we can still fly
and when we fall we can fall into each other.
We can waltz, two-step, jitterbug, twist again like awesome fools
then kiss against the moon
because, darling, I have nothing I wish to sell
I will give this love to you.
and walks with me across the sand and stones
back to our little camp on the beach
where I pluck out the punch lines and piano keys
use them as tinder, make some heat
then we lie down, lacing our fingers together until we have a solid grip
and in her ear I whisper, “Sweet dreams, Ash!”
The waves yawn along the shore their faint song:
ah-ahhh ahhh ahhh
ah-ahhh ah-ahhh ah-ahhhhh-ah…
And when the sky looks down
it sees two hands holding in the light
as our fire turns to embers
as embers melt into purple powder
which the wind then blows upon us, covering our skin
blessing us with a sweet dream.
Stray Dogs on a Hill
A barren hill lies beside
a military base in Pune.
It is home to a large pack of stray dogs
Who are harmless unless provoked.
Each morning people come to the
Rocky peak –sitting in yogic positions
-tasting silence and indifference,
The strays are a motley pack with
Coats like old shoes beyond polishing,
Uneven ears, and prominent ribs,
They travel in small packs and wander
Around like a soccer team looking for a coach.
Daily, an elderly couple bring a jug of milk
And cans of table-scraps for the dogs..
When they are called they come instantly
And drink the milk and later polish off the food.
Then slowly walk away
I walk away slowly watching the dogs
As the Jackaranda tree shakes with
Its chattering birds.
The Poetry of Norb Blei
He left noiselessly
Taking his sense of poetry with him.
He sat in those words.
.For him, his cup of coffee was a poem.
The unfinished moon and the howl of the coyote, a poem.
A fallen tree and a crow complaining of his presence, a poem.
He drew stick figures and spoke sentences that dangled
and floated like fragments in the wind.
He’d call that a wind poem.
For him, sunsets, old men, ripe apples,
and old typewriters that could speak no more were poems.
He’s gone now.
The last time I saw him, he was in a bed at Scandia.
He did not speak but squeezed my hand. Jude was there.
I left without a word. The next day he died.
I suppose that was a poem too!
Looking for America
I finished medical school in India
and came to America---
a gosling taking flight 50 years ago,
to a tightly- knit hospital community,
a retired couple and a grocer’s family,
who taught me America’s values and traditions.
Wisconsin is middle-America.
Its cities, dairy farms, and orchards,
share a special character captured by
its cold beer and delicious cheese.
Overseas visitors often wish to tour
The Statue of Liberty, New York city,
The Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore.
But that is not where America is.
Her roots lie in hope and opportunity
for the dispossessed with ambition.
Caged birds that are free to fly
in a land where isolation and
scarcity co-exist with freedom.
America is a society that has committed
all the wrongs seen elsewhere—
but seeks to correct them—and eventually does.
Her energy, enterprise, ability to absorb
all cultures, ethnic groups and religions
with resulting tension that derives from
the new always jostling the old.
That’s what America is.
At its best it lifts its vision to the stars.
It’s a place where the ordinary person
Is the object of planning and policy.
A nation of immigrants, each generation
Has to relearn the meaning of being American
America has always been a work in progress--
an imperfect entity busy correcting itself.
Taken as a whole it does quite well.
That’s why we’re all here.
That’s the America I’ve found.
That’s my America.
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