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Joseph E Bird

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Poetry

a bird lights on the ground

we sit
the two of us
at a table outside
on this warm evening

there’s not much to be said
because we’ve spent our words
and must wait for others
to come forth
and they will
because they always do

so we listen
to the birds flitting
in the trees
and the cars driving by
and to the people around us
talking

and we hear words spoken
but not sentences
and not stories
their words are simply
sounds that soften
the edges of our silence

the nothingness
is peace itself
and it holds us still
and a bird lights on the ground
next to our feet
and cocks its head

at the next table
a young girl offers the bird a crumb
and the young man who is with her smiles
and though they talk
we hear nothing
but their easy voices

and we sit
the two of us
at a table outside
on this warm evening


copyright 2018, joseph e bird

I wanna be a cowboy.

Sunset panorama in Durban

Are you a surfer or a cowboy?

What?

Are you a surfer or a cowboy?

Uh…cowboy?

Loaded question. Especially for me as a fifth grader from West Virginia, living in Houston, Texas. The wrong answer gets you in trouble. Gets you beat up.

Not really. At least not in the fifth grade. It was more of a starting point for a friendly argument. But what the heck did I know about being a cowboy or a surfer?

Cowboys are tough guys. Wear hats and boots. Eat beans by the campfire. Drink coffee in a tin cup. Ride the range on a horse.

Surfers are hip. Catch the wave and hang ten. Get all the cool girls. Tool around the beach in a dune buggy.

But in the fifth grade, I’d never ridden a surfboard.  Still haven’t. I had a cowboy hat and boots.  So yeah, I was a cowboy.

Tribalism. Even back then.

But there’s something about the cowboy lifestyle that’s still appealing to me. It’s simple.  Not a lot of flash. Lots of time for thinking things out as you do your job.  It’s the kind of life suited for someone who doesn’t mind being alone now and then. And the hats. Yeah, pull the brim down when you ride into town. And for the cowboy, love is strong and forever.

The fire had burned to coals and he lay looking up at the stars in their places and the hot belt of matter that ran the chord of the dark vault overhead and he put his hands on the ground at either side of him and pressed them against the earth and in that coldly burning canopy of black he slowly turned dead center to the world, all of it taut and trembling and moving enormous and alive under his hands.

What’s her name? said Rawlins in the darkness.

Alejandra. Her name is Alejandra.

— Cormac McCarthy, from All the Pretty Horses

photo credit: iStock Photography

this morning

fog for web

this morning the skies are gray and the air is warm and dry like a mid-summer day.

this morning i stopped at Tim Horton’s and got a cup of oatmeal and a black coffee.

this morning i sit in my office planning for a day of phone calls and emails, and too little design.

this morning when i was young i worked outside tilling the soil and tending the plants and earning callouses on my hands.

this morning the birds call out in the quiet, reminding me of the days i worked the earth and toiled in sweat.

this morning it’s quiet inside, but soon the phone will ring and my day will start and i’ll forget this thought.

this morning i want to go outside and hoe the ground and smell the richness of the compost and eat lunch in the shade.

this morning the train rumbles on the tracks two blocks away and the bus roars by and and a siren wails.

this morning, like any other morning.


copyright 2018, joseph e bird

new york morning

sunday morning
by myself
and it’s cold
in the shade
of the tall buildings
as I unlock the doors
of the parish
a full hour before
the service begins

and I know where
she’ll be sitting
her hair falling
onto her shoulders
her brown eyes
and that perfect
practiced
professional
smile

because she is an
actor
like so many are
but she really is
and she is so
nice and friendly
and unpretentious
and
perfect

so perfect
and I can
do no more than
look her way
when she lingers
afterward
by the heavy doors
reading her bulletin
waiting

she has my heart
without knowing
but she is
perfect
and I am me
and the holy
and the profane
can not
be together

but I speak
and
she smiles
and I ask
her name
and I shake
her hand
and I tell her
my name

and I ask
where she’s
from because
everybody has
come to new york
from somewhere else
in search
of
something

cincinnati, she says

now I’m smiling

I’ve seen the
reds play there
I’ve skated
on the ice
at fountain square
and looked out
over the city
from the top
of carew tower

and I turn off the lights
and lock
the heavy doors
and she waits
in the cool
sunday shadows
and we walk
together
in the new york morning


copyright 2018, joseph e bird

my friend, Chuck

The Gang
chuck, first row, far right.  me, back row, center.  so many years ago.

i’m a kid
riding my bike
near my house
and another kid
rides up and says
Hi.
I’m Chuck.

so many years ago.

i’m a teenager
riding in that
unbelievable green
GTO convertible
with Chuck driving
his father’s car
singing old Black Water.

so many years ago.

i’m in college
rooming with Chuck
and he’s up all night
recording music
on his reel-to-reel
driving me crazy
because he’s Chuck.

so many years ago.

i’m at Fat Daddy’s
Chuck is the DJ
and everyone
is dancing
and all the girls
want to dance
with Chuck.

so many years ago.

i’m standing
in the church
getting married
and Chuck is standing
with the others
and all the girls
smile at Chuck.

so many years ago.

so many years ago.

so many years ago.

i have moved
and live near the
very place on
the same street
that i rode my bike
and met Chuck.

so many years ago.

i am older
as is he
and we haven’t talked
in decades
and time
and distance
separated friends

so many years ago.

and then i hear
that Chuck
was in an accident
and his pain is great
and his recovery long
and it hurts
because he was my friend

so many years ago.

i am here
he is there
i’ll send him a note
i’ll say a prayer
and hope he will
dance again
as he did

so many years ago.

i write words
that seem shallow
and inadequate
to try to capture
the spirit that
he shared
with me

so many years ago.

so many years ago.


copyright 2018, joseph e bird

rest a little longer

do you remember
the smell of spring
and the freshly cut grass
when it’s ok
to sit in the sun
for a few minutes
without guilt?

do you remember
driving with
the windows down
and walking without
a jacket
for a few days
without worry?

do you remember
the daffodils
and the beans
and the tomatoes
growing so freely
for a few weeks
without tending?

do you remember
the windows open
and the breezes flowing
and the skies so clear
in the night and the day
for a few months
without winter?

do you remember
to everything
there is a season
and a time
to every purpose
under the heaven
without apprehension?

tomorrow will come
soon enough
so find peace
in the rest
and gain strength
for the labor
that is tomorrow.


copyright 2018, joseph e bird

monika

a photograph of monika
her reflection in the glass
of the empty train
as time passes
with the sound
of the wheels
across the steel
of the tracks

there are no conversations
and no hidden meanings
in furtive glances
and no possibility
with the man
with dark eyes
because he’s not there
and never was

a newspaper
is folded on the seat
left behind by those
who have come before
and knew of the day
and of its end
and are now
home quietly

days upon days
and nights upon nights
weeks and
months and
years upon years
the mundane
passing of time
a blessing and curse

waiting and hoping
for meaning
beyond the ordinary
until one person
sees her reflection in the glass
on the empty train
and knows loneliness
no more


copyright 2018, joseph e bird

and here comes the man

and here comes the man
with hat in his hand
and here comes the man
who can’t understand

he pleads
and he begs
and he asks for forgiveness

he’s told
to get out
it’s none of his business

go back
do your job
and leave us to dreaming

your thoughts
are of naught
don’t bother our scheming

and he was known
as he is known
and will be known
as a man
.

and here comes the girl
eyes bright in the sun
and here comes the girl
with hearts to be won

she plans
and she dreams
to be the good mother

she loves
and she cares
with no thoughts of another

they see
that she lives
a life of the old ways

no job
no career
and nothing to earn praise

and she was known
and she is known
and will be known
as a woman

.

and here comes the thief
to steal in the night
and here comes the thief
to lead us to light

we fight
and resist
and cling beyond reason

we pray
and we know
that it can’t be our season

we push
through our pain
and battle the strife

till love
overcomes
and gives us new life

and we were known
and we are known
and will be known
as we are


copyright 2018, joseph e bird

Glory

This from poet laureate of the Shelton College Review, Larry Ellis.


Psalm 57: 8

Awake up, my glory; awake psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early.


Think of David as he lies on the mountain

He looks at the night sky

Unending, unfathomable, unreachable

The diamond stars

The firmament that declares the glory of God

And he aches

His heart panting like the hart after the waterbrook

At his side are sword, spear and bow

His body is cut from oak, his skin like leather

His mind a blade itself, with razor’s edge

He breathes the open air and the day’s tension dissolves

He rests in the shadow of the wings of the Almighty

.

This man who killed the giant

And tens of thousands

Hears heaven’s choir and plays on his harp

Songs that soothe the savage breast of Saul

His poems are those very psalms

That have charmed and inspired

Over millennia

And he aches

.

At first light, at first rustling of dawn

He turns and shakes away sleep

Here is a new day

He rises, believing the promise

“Awake up, my glory”

.

What is his glory?

One more win in bloody combat?

Or is it that unknowable thing

That all men share with him

That desire beneath all desires

That lesser men have long since forgotten

And forfeited to the unrelenting fates

That lesser men are afraid to confess

.

Does David wake early

Expecting glory in bloodshed

Or does he crave

That his righteousness will shine like the dawn

And the justice of his cause like the noonday sun?

Does he crave that gift, that grace, that dispensation

That is his and his alone?

That unspeakable grace promised to him

When he first came to know himself?

.

Is the difference between him and me

That he believes it will happen

And maybe this very day

And so he wakes early

And takes in hand

Psaltery and harp


Copyright 2017, Larry Ellis

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