week of September 20-26, 2004
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I retired recently after 42 years as a teacher and administrator in schools in Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia and North Carolina I was born in Pennsylvania and have family ties to New England; thus I hope that my interest in what Donald Hall calls “a pleasure of place does not preclude a look at a larger landscape
I have written a History of Greensboro Day School, a chapbook of poems called New Hampshire Pond, and have had over 140 poems published or accepted by approximately 50 periodicals, including Cold Mountain Review, Elk River Review, Lonzie’s Fried Chicken, Louisiana Review, Maelstrom, Mobius, Paris/Atlantic, Red River Review and Thorny Locust.
The following work is Copyright © 2004, and owned by Robert Demaree and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Requiem in the Days Following Littleton
Shards of a waning century:
Upgrades, Internet blindness,
Biggy sizing, downsizing, managed care Gated communities, school safety:
Arm the teachers, maybe the seniors:
Who will remember the names of the towns?
E-mail, hate mail, outsourcing Motel soap, acceptable risk Budget surplus, attention deficit:
O.J , Oklahoma City, Monica, MTV Talk radio, murders at the post office,
On afternoon TV Dickens was half right You have no new messages
I went to our school library this morning I wanted to see our kids safe, working,
Finding out hopeful things Of course that’s what they had done
At Columbine that morning Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.
December 7, 2003
The post office flag is at half staff;
For a moment I can’t think why:
For us, this was my father’s birthday;
(In a child’s memory, only a radio, speaking darkly) He would be one hundred today We fix Christmas wreaths for the cemetery,
Something my mother had done I bind greenery to metal frame
And wonder idly how much more
Twenty-gauge wire I’m apt to need.
I was thinking of the parents
Of my daughters’ husbands,
Of differences born of place and time,
Ages, accents, causes espoused,
Things held tenuously in common What would they make of each other?
I tried to picture conversations, postures,
The small, awkward pleasantries of social congress What occasions would there be?
I could only think of one.
An Oklahoma native, Larry Bierman lives in Norman, Oklahoma He has published a dozen chapbooks including Pac-O-Lies, Verge, and The Right Not to Read He has a B.A in English from the University of Oklahoma
The following work is Copyright © 2004, and owned by Larry Bierman and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Pines needle the icicles murmur
from the branches bowed under
loads of cold and blowing stars
against the dark tracers Each
blue breath wrapped in cap and
muffled smooth woolen soft this
weather Leash and walker stomp
stop huffing and sniffling by post
trunk and clump of plumed grass Other must and have passed recent
heels and tows marking low drifts
and deep blanks of powdered flow Brakes do not and feet slide slick
sideways perilously edged to curb
rut Night expands Day contracts Metaphor like a fire in a glass cup
pours liquid clear hot wax over tall
tapers Lit tips outline fine lids Lips offer sips of kiss Bodies knot
loosely Arms, fingers listen, legs,
figures of speech A celebration of
seconds, milky beads and sequined
seed sift down on down on down We dream northers rush southeast
across vast unquestioned spaces If I love you will it show just like
tears chilled bright and stinging
against cheeks red as living coals?
This kind of salt tastes sweet This
kind of together before you wake
thick-finger sleep, this gentle un-
ending reach is close as you come.
South Side of Blue
Mike used to live in a midget room
with a five foot high ceiling
and twelve square feet,
including the space heater He spent seven short years there
and ten long summers hiding
and hidden behind the cornfield.
He’d listen to the oil wells pump.
He’d make the garden hose coil He watched tufts of weed grow as
he drank dollar bottles of wine He shared his ice cubes and jars
with anyone who could find him He kept his empties on the windowsill He would croon long lugubrious vowels
at slivers of broken moon
and wait for his emptiness to fill There were always seven adult cats
and a dog called That Blue Dog The cats were color coded for easy counting He counted them as he ate beans from a can Mike grew his own smoke He baked his own sand He spread his ideas as if they were jam He walked everywhere when he went He went as often as he could stand
to take a few steps He crossed the North Canadian going
and coming He felt, like the rest of us, the dangers
of being young Additionally he knew the illegality
of his mouth, his subversive thoughts He carried conspiracy in his pockets like lint He was nervous and fragile as the times None of the forms he had to fill out
had a box appropriate to the conditions
of his birth or of his race He used to tap dance in the dirt,
in his boots in the powder red earth He could kick up little tornadoes at his toes
and stomp ëem flat under his heels He knew how Virginia reels He considered one word at a time He had the time to He could deal with it A simple sentence could keep he him typing
until the ribbon grew so vague and thin
it almost whined He’d type the letter ëO’
and there’d be a hole His fingers wept sweat as he worked over
and old Smith-Corona manual portable It was elite and he felt elegant He had the urge to be urgent It kept him up for the sunrise He had the need to be understood He burned votive and rubbed unguents Necessity was another inconvenience He used paper left over from the war Everything he had was surplus,
so he always felt as if he had more than enough While many of his best friends went on
to Ph.D degrees and divorces,
he learned to sleep standing up
just like the horses He always favored small houses
especially in wide open places But where he is now, God only knows.
It’s not on the map and there aren’t any roads.
Ice hangs in the air
like silver cherries I touch my face with gloves I breathe into my hands
and hold a little cloud No more than four blocks away
a fleet of milk trucks idle
ready to deliver glasses of light
to every room in town I think I hear the cows gossip As we break the day
and the sun blues the sky
ten-thousand eggs scramble
on big black grills A hundred short-order cooks
take drags off their fags The oak shiver in stands,
a multitude of old bones Under stacks of pillows
I slept past my worst mood Today will be another straw,
and despite how it may feel,
it’s far from the last I know the more of us there are
the harder we are to out number Like the old Chinaman said,
“One who does not take the first step
has reached his destination “
All I can tell for sure is –
the milk is blue; the sky white,
and there’s nowhere but here.
Because it was winter, a bitter cold wind
whipped in from the north, the lake froze over,
and everything was layered in ice and snow Because the lake flooded part of the highway,
a new route and bridge were built, and the old road
became a convenient ramp for boats in tow Because the dam was built in the years between
the time he’d left Norman and his return flight
to put his mother in the ground,
he had no idea what was happening
as he felt the ice crack under her Buick-no idea
he wasn’t on the way out of town Because he had no living relatives, no close friends,
not steady job, no one reported him to the lost
until a decade later, the lake cleared
and an amateur scuba diver discovered the car
parked twenty feet down There was some speculation as to what
exactly happened, the circumstances not
immediately know One thing remains certain:
old maps are often wrong.