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Joseph E Bird

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Life

margaritaville is not for everyone

nibbling on sponge cake
watching the sun bake

Sure, that’s one way to go.

His plan was to resign as Vice President of the largest engineering firm in the state and start his own company.

Then came the unexpected diagnosis: cancer.  The prognosis was not good.

He could have stayed put.  He had good insurance, made good money.  He would have the support of the entire company as he started his fight for life.  It would have been the easier path.  But Harvey Chapman seldom chose the easier path.

He left anyway.  He started the company from a spare bedroom in his house.

He landed a couple of projects and quickly hired some help.  It was hard, grueling work with long hours.  Add chemotherapy to the mix.

One evening he was going to an interview for another project, his young employee driving as he sat in the passenger seat going over his presentation notes.

“Pull over,” he said.

On the shoulder of the road, he opened his door and vomited.  After a couple of minutes, he put himself back in order and closed the door.

“Let’s go.”

They got the project.

It would go on like that for twelve years.  More treatments.  Bone marrow transplants.  Experimental procedures.  The company grew.  He bought a historic building and renovated it to house his thirty-some employees.  He ran 15-mile road races.  He got married.  At times he would feel great; other times he was kicking death away.   But he was always looking for the next challenge.

He pushed his employees hard.  Starting a company from the ground floor is no easy thing and he needed people to be committed.  But there was more to it than that.  He saw their potential.  He saw that they could do great things if they made the right choices.  As he had.

Not that he never made mistakes.  But the one choice he made over and over again that was always the right choice, was to live life above the common.  To choose, not necessarily the easy path, but the right path.  To sacrifice the moment’s pleasure, for the promise of a future with meaning.  He went through the Air Force flight training.  He didn’t have to.  He flew C-130s for the Air National Guard, even while he was running his company.  He didn’t have to.  He gave his employees generous bonuses and cared for their families.  He didn’t have to.

Cancer eventually won.  That was 22 years ago.  The company he started still bears his name.

I don’t know what his last thoughts were, but I know he had to be content.  It sounds cliche to say he fought to the end, but he did.  And not so he could go sip margaritas on a beach somewhere.  No, if he would have rebounded again, he would have been back at work, ready for the next challenge.

Ready to again live life above the common.

 

 

 

 

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

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

ephemeral

sunset darkened 11-2-15 for web

i could write

or watch a ballgame

or work on a project

but it’s October

and every evening

my backyard is lit

in brilliant yellows

and reds

and colors that defy description

another sunset

and another tomorrow

except that’s not true

stop

take it in

because it’s a gift

and it’s ephemeral


copyright 2016, joseph e bird

just another day

druggers dealin
thievers wheelin
no one feelin

it just another day

 

money grubbin
bangers drubbin
killers rubbin

can’t turn my head away

 

stars is skyin
skin be vyin
eyes aint lyin

they just a tired cliche

 

body slowin
days be goin
we be knowin

dem bones they will decay

 

songs we singin
ink we slingin
life we bringin

tomorrow on its way

 

can’t stop movin
still be provin
always groovin

it just another day


copyright 2016, joseph e bird

Brian Wilson

If I could write like this, I would.

Please Let Me Wonder, by Larry Ellis.

 

 

The Run

My shoes will pat the pavement,
In rhythms strong and sure,
Though miles to go and hills to climb,
I’m certain to endure.

The sun is soft, the air is cool,
And gentle on my face.
The wind blows light upon my back,
As if to speed my pace.

One mile, two miles, feels so good,
Then I start upon the climb.
The legs move slow, but steady still,
My strength is past its prime.

My breath comes hard and labored,
My body screams for air.
I pump my arms and power on,
And pray unspoken prayer.

*

Were life the flats on sunny days,
We’d run the course with ease.
As if we knew the answers, all,
To questions as we please.

There’re hills and rain and dogs that bark,
There’s worry that won’t end.
There’s snow and wind and knees that ache,
And sadness for a friend.

The body’s weak, the spirit flawed,
Ourselves we will betray.
But we’ll keep on running up the hill,
To have another day.

Rejoice, give thanks, the summit reached,
The effort strong and pure.
Though weak and tired and tested now,
I’m certain to endure.

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