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Joseph E Bird

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Poetry

when you’re here

when you’re here
the world becomes so quiet
and we just can’t deny it
we’re meant for evermore

your voice
sounds like an angel choir
and takes me so much higher
than i ever could before

since you
found me
on that day

,

your touch
sends my heart to racing
when we are embracing
my feelings i can’t hide

please smile
and i’ll know that together
no storm we can not weather
if you’ll be by my side

since you
found me
on that day
,

so stay
we’ll laugh beneath the moonlight
and dance until the daylight
falls gently on your smile

we’ll live
and think not of tomorrow
when parting brings our sorrow
let’s love a little while

,

since you
found me
on that day

your love
is with me
every day


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

Between Us

There is distance
Between us
And no distance
Between us
When I see you
And you see me

And there are no words
Between us
But there are volumes
Between us
When your glance
Meets mine

Our hearts beat
Between us
And breathless
Between us
I know you
And you know me

There are feelings
Between us
And emptiness
Between us
Because I don’t know you
And you don’t know me

There is loveliness
Between us
And loneliness
Between us
Because our time
Was only a moment


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

talkin’ trouble

Hey, boy.
I ain’t no boy.
Hey, boy.
What?
Where ya’ goin?
Get some coffee.
Is that all?
It’s all I want.
You sure?
Don’t play with me.
Who says I’m playin?
That’s the problem.
No problem, boy.
I ain’t no boy.
I know that.
You want coffee?
I’m a lady.
Ladies don’t drink coffee?
Chamomile.
Whatever.
Can I walk with you?
To get some coffee?
Tea.
Come on.
And a biscuit.
See. Right there.
What?
That smile.
So?
Trouble. Deep trouble.

Candles in the Sky

It’s a cool evening.
The sky is clear.
We sit together
watching stars.
No words.
Just the sounds of the night.
Crickets.
Tree frogs.
Cars.

No mountaintop,
just our driveway.
No plush recliner,
just lawn chairs.
No obsidian sky,
just pale gray.
No telescope,
just our aging eyes
to see.

Antares.
Cassiopeia.
Orion.
I know the names,
but not the stars.
Doesn’t matter.
They’re just
candles in the sky
for me and you.

Body shaming in the 19th century.

tida
My great-grandmother, Tida, with my sister, Adele.

When I was born, my great-grandmother, Tida, was 72. By the time I was old enough to form any memories about her, she was well into her 80s. I’m sure she had the usual trouble remembering things that older people have, but she had no problem performing at least one amazing feat of memory.

When she was a child in the late 1800s, she learned many things by simple repetition, what they used to call rote. When she was in her 90s, she would sit on her porch swing on a hot summer day and, recalling her lessons of decades earlier, entertain her great-grandchildren with the story of Nanny, a poor girl who ate too much.  In today’s culture, we are more sensitive to eating disorders and those who struggle with controlling their weight. And really, the story of Nanny is more about greed than it is about being overweight.  Nonetheless, my apologies to anyone who may be offended by this old school-house poem.  My presentation of this is not intended to be any kind of commentary about eating or obesity.  It’s about my great-grandmother’s amazing mind.

Again, she was in her 90s when she would recite this entire frightening poem by memory.  Thanks to Adele for transcribing the poem.

Greedy Nan

Nanny was a glutton,
not a pretty word, oh well.
But the actions of a glutton
are even worse to tell.

Perhaps there are some children
who know the meaning not.
Well, a glutton is a person
who eats an awful lot.

Nan was fat and chubby
as folks should be who eat.
Her cheeks were like big apples
and she had fat hands and feet.

At the table Nanny always
ate up her own large share.
Then she would eat her brother’s
and hang around his chair.

If anything was left,
twas eaten up by Nan.
All her family said of her,
We don’t see how she can.

She’ll make herself quite sick some day,
her family all said.
She eats of every kind of food,
rather than wholesome bread.

One day some guests her mother had.
She cooked a supper good.
Then she set the table,
and placed on it the food.

But ere the guests should sit them down,
in ran greedy Nan.
She gathered all the nice food up,
and put it in a pan.

Then to the barn she ran away
and hid behind the gate.
She put the big pan in her lap,
and ate, and ate, and ate.

Her mother came and found her,
and sent her off to bed.
“I would not care if shadowbees
came after you,” she said.

As silent on the bed
lay greedy, greedy Nan.
She heard a voice say loudly,
“Get up now, if you can.”

She looked around,
her room was full of many shadowbees.
She wondered much what she could do,
their anger to appease.

“We’ll have to stop you. Hurry up!
This greed we cannot stand!
You are the greediest girl
there is in all the land.”

They put her in a towering room,
and filled it up with food.
“Stay here until you eat it all,”
cried they in language rude.

Now Nan was nothing loath to eat,
so straightway she began
to nibble doughnuts, cakes, and cheese,
and bread bespread with jam.

Till all at once the sight of food
made her so very ill.
“I never can eat all this up.
I never, never will.”

“Go on and eat!” cried shadowbees.
“You must eat more and more.
You haven’t made a passage yet,
but halfway to the door.”

“If I eat more, I’ll surely die.”
“Eat on!” cried shadowbees.
“While you’re eating your way out,
we’ll dance beside the sea.”

So Nan was forced to eat and eat.
She grew so very stout.
That when she reached the little door,
she hardly could get out.

“The time has come,” cried shadowbees.
“To roll her out like dough.
We cannot leave her as she is,
she’s much too fat, you know.”

So off they hurried luckless Nan
and down upon the plain.
They laid her like a heap of dough
to be rolled flat again.

They took a huge, huge rolling pin.
They rolled this way and that.
They rolled her up, the rolled her down,
til she was smooth and flat.

“We’ll round her off about the size
she really ought to be!”
The King said, “I’ll attend to that.
Please leave it all to me.”

So he rounded Nanny off, nice and trim and clean.
She jumped up with a scream,
and found that all this wretched tale,
was just a horrid dream.

“Oh, shadowbees, oh shadowbess,
I will, I wll give heed
to this dream that you have sent me,
I will stop this horrid greed!”

— Author Unknown

The Ballad of the Boy from Quincy

Quincy RR yard-1917 adjusted
Railyard at Quincy, WV, circa 1917

He hopped a train out Quincy way
Rode with his brothers, to earn the pay
Stayed in the city, and worked all day

That’s how it was back then
And he’d do it all again

Just to spend his life with her.

.

She lived a ways on down the road
But went to town, to pay what’s owed
Ate lunch with pie, a la mode

At the big department store
She left there wanting more

Hoping he would come her way.

.

One day he rode the train past town
Jumped off the car when it slowed down
Hurt his leg when he hit the ground

And limped across the street
Saw a bench and had seat

And waited for the pain to fade.

.

The people gave him looks of scorn
His shirt was dirty, his pants were torn
They didn’t like him, he could have sworn

He held his eyes down low
Hoping it wouldn’t show

That he was just a kid from the sticks.

.

Down the way was the streetcar stop
Next to a tiny soda shop
He thought he just might get a pop

And then be on his way
Forget this maddening day

And go back to his home in the hills.

.

She was standing on the other side
Asking what he had in mind
He knew right then she’d be his bride

As crazy as it was
That’s just what true love does

Because their story had just begun.

.

What happened to you, you fall off the train?
You look to be in quite some pain
You kinda slow? Don’t have much brains?

At that he simply smiled
You’re wrong a country mile

I’m the sharpest man you’ll ever meet, today.

.

He bought a drink to quench his thirst
Not sure which was best, or which was worst
His bold approach was unrehearsed

He’d never met a girl like her
His mind was such a blur

But somehow, he’d make it work.

.

He found his wit, they were matched so well
He had fallen, to her spell
Her beauty, he couldn’t wait to tell

To all his friends back home
And he’d never be alone

It was just a matter of time.

.

They were wed for sixty years
Through the laughter and the tears
And then his greatest fear

She was gone in dawn’s first light
And lonely was the night

And his heart would never heal.

.

Now he’s left, he’s gone back home
Not to Quincy, not to be alone
No more trains, no more to roam

They’re walking side by side
Their love again his pride

Together evermore.


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

ninety-nine miles

cropped-mountains-for-web.jpg

Not quite dawn.
Early morning drive
to get to where i’m going.
Which is where?
Doesn’t matter.
Just another destination

The gray skies start to lighten.
No dramatic sunrise.
Just light, and a little more.
Ninety nine miles down the road.
Around the bend.
Down the valley.
Up the hill.

Then the golden streaks
shining on the brilliant greens.
Bright highlights and deep shadows
and fog nestled
in the forest.
For a moment
maybe two.
.
A meeting.
Just business.
Keep the project moving.
What city?
Doesn’t matter.
Just another job.

They go their way.
I go mine.
Looking for lunch.
Walking the streets.
A pawn shop.
Liquor store.
Check cashing.

The next block is different.
A coffee shop.
A Mediterranean restaurant.
Great food and friendly server.
It doesn’t get any better.
For a moment.
Maybe two.
.
Day is dimming.
The tires are humming.
Got to get back home.
Where?
Doesn’t matter.
Home is home.

The radio is droning.
Two hours of talk
numbs the mind.
Even the music
that always brings relief
has been playing
much too long.

Then Scott sings.
Salina,
I’m as nowhere as I can be.
The most beautiful music.
And all is well.
For a moment.
Maybe two.


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

Gliding over the miles.

Along the road, on the shoulder.
Her strides are even
Her pace is steady
She is young, in her prime,
and I envy her energy.

Along the road, on the shoulder.
Her hair bundled together
bounces from one side to the other.
Of course she catches my eye.
She’s a confident athlete.

Along the road, on the shoulder.
She dodges a pothole with a stutter step
and then she’s running again.
She’s so relaxed
And makes it all seem effortless.

Along the road, on the shoulder.
She’s a runner, not a jogger.
She’ll get taunts and catcalls
But she’ll keep running.
Because it’s all about the running.

My prime is a memory as I run
along the road, on the shoulder.
yet there are those days when my
strides are long
and my pace is quick
and time is a myth
and I run as she runs
gliding over the miles
as if
I could run
forever.


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

Probably not.

He came to me, this poor man.
Poor in the sense of having nothing.
He was dirty.
His pants were ripped.
He was ashamed of his appearance.
He was ashamed of his life.
I wish I could say he was rich in other ways.
But no. Probably not.

Another stopped me on the elevator.
He studied my face, as if he knew me.
His mind had betrayed him.
It was why he was there, in this hospital.
Reality had left him long ago.
Then he knew. I was Stevie Ray Vaughn.
You might think that such folly is liberating.
But no. Probably not.

A woman on the sidewalk
Said she needed some money.
Fifteen dollars for the bus pass.
Not just the spare change pitch.
She seemed sincere, if a little desperate.
She got her fifteen dollars.
And fifteen minutes in prayer.
It could just be another con job.
But no. Probably not.

Do my pennies make me rich?
Do your dollars make you poor?
Who is wise and who is foolish?
Do we know the way of truth?
Are you righteous in your mind?
Does evil stain your thoughts?
One could say that all is vanity.
But no. Probably not.


copyright 2017, joseph e bird


Note:  These are true stories, and it pleases me to tell of the kindness that others have shown to those in need.

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