A Poem by Andrea Heiberg

In loving memory of my dear friend Andrea Heiberg, a poem she wrote for/about the United States after the 2016 election.  Posted here posthumously, with prior permission granted by Andrea.

Declaration of Independence II

Who’s the lady with the torch
Boko Haram hates to see?
Who’d bid me welcome
if it should be?

She’s my independent friend who
voices freedom
loving
care.

She’s still standing
sending out hope
to me
and
my sisters in
Afghanistan,
Nepal,
Nigeria,
Syria
and elsewhere
everywhere
when not grabbed by her pussy.

So go
Pearl,
go.

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Landslide

One would think
awareness of the moment you lost it all
doesn’t just come
while sitting in a thick cloud of illusion that suddenly clears.
Is it not usually hindsight whose job it is
to spotlight err and laugh,
pleased with herself with a raise of her martini, pinky in the air?
Too dramatic of course,
to consider the littlest of things actually are the beginning.
Pebbles and slippage of sand always come
before the landslide and breaking glass at the end,
and if we’re always looking up at that damn mountain,
waiting for it to fall on our heads,
“Well, self fulfilling prophecy!” they said.
And what of the ever present sense of dread?
Just a twitch, a fast heartbeat away from becoming
the truth
about us.
Before we know it,
it’s just a story we tell
about how we lost our way.

Letter to Emily Dickinson

Trapped in a white world
by nothing but choice

a space not universal
grown and cultivated

by your breath on the candle flame

music that rose up from the cellos
of the earth and called us

in our night clothes
in the midst of the Sun God’s

eternal night

words born of the silence
in the Sistine Chapel

sparkle of the sun flecked meadow
mist of the velvet forest

I pluck and bestow my heart

a pink petal on a white rose
speaking only to you

like the sound of the rain
typing this epistle to you

After the Rain

It rained in the desert
the night before you left this world.
I should have known.
We all should have known.
When the heavens open up like that,
they’re taking something back in return for the blessing.
Something or someone larger than this life
with a spirit that could not be contained.

Little did we know,
your handstands
were really just you, holding up the world
for the rest of us to taste.
You did not belong to us.
You gave us back ourselves–our yearning,
our determination, and grit—you lifted us up
to meet our own challenges face-to-face.

When the rain stopped in the desert,
you were gone. In the time it took
a shooting star to fall to earth.
Gone, but not without leaving
your imprint across the world.
It is within us.

When we sing, when we dance in the moonlight or
run on the beach, when we smell fresh linen,
or wear it soft on a hot day,
when we write a poem for the person
who inspired us more than most.
Thank you friend, for opening up a window
to the words and a world in need of poetry.

Can you see from that view,
your growing legacy in the flame
of every candle lit in your name?
For you, who brings us to life over and over again
even when this part of yours has come to an end
too soon. I give you a poem. You gave me
the rain.

Gratitude

Pale peonies are open

as were my arms to the sky in winter

in a field, in a twirl, as the snow brushed autumn

from my face, leaving fresh pink cheeks, a sign

of something that blooms in winter.

During these moments of silence and peace,

I find gratitude.  A poem taped to the wall

of my heart, the peonies, the snow,

a call from a friend

from long ago.

Tiny Voices

She stares out from the kitchen
searching for words that only form
in the silences between here and there
little valleys of space while driving
cannot be captured

She sees mountains
laundry, toys, artwork, books
television singing away all the words
light like snowflakes on the tongue
quickly melt away

reverberating chaos swirls ’round
moves with her from room to room
until the noise becomes a deafening block
of nothing and time slows to a still

for only the opening of a sweet little brown
feminine hand reaches through, touches her lips
like the last slice of ripe mango–
only this can break through the tornado of lost
thoughts, words, stories, and jumbled pieces of her

tiny voice inside, quiet again
listening to the tiny voice outside,
smiling, always smiling, at her mother
since the day she came home

 

Mark of a Dove

(for Ella)

Hiding your heartbeat behind mine
wishing to remain our secret
curled in the winter’s den of our love
until the spring thaw

You emerged from hibernation
a tentative spring tulip
questioning the world
seeking the butterfly and the rain

On your soft brown root
the pink mark of a dove, a stamp
from the lovebirds nesting on the windowsill
confirming you as our gift

A baby we will call Shai
still connected to both worlds
passing in dreams between the two
like the flutter of angel’s wings

When in your mother’s arms
on your fourth day,
you laughed out loud, some secret jest
I will never know

And when you are one
and the trees are to you like shooting stars
I know you have come from that other world
spirit of a dove

On the Road

Sooner or later

she’s got to realize,
1969 at two and a half,
blonde pig tails, and
embroidered bell bottoms
was a banner year.
The best of ’em.

When she said,
“I a hippie.”
She really had a good idea
of self–
back then.

These days, it’s just a run
for the money.
Watch your words, your back, and your
bank account. Forget those new
running shoes, I’ve decided. No shoes
will do just fine for this next part of the road.

What I want to be when I grow up
is everything I ever knew in the
sparkle of dandelions growing in
my backyard. I a hippie.
Not workin’ for the man or
the woman in his suit.

No, this jungle animal is breaking
free of this food chain. Dean and
Marylou would dig it. Time
for me to hit that high note too.

Island Exposed

I am an island
and you are the sea

Only you.  Surrounding me
under me, lapping gently over

smoothing my edges
until one day I feel exposed

and realize you are adrift.
Nature out of balance,

a tide out too long.
“I am the ocean.”

you want to say
but don’t

“I am tired of gazing at your weathered trees,
your stony beaches.

There are hundreds of islands,
new, different, in love with me like you.”

You say none of that.
You silently retreat.

“But, I love you,”
I say.

There is no ripple to that
whisper.

Only blowing dust in a desert
that was once the sea.

Namaste

Yesterday, when going through an old email in-box, I came across one from In Our Books, the blog that my Danish friend Andrea Heiberg and her friend Ina started together.  It isn’t very often that they post, and Andrea hasn’t posted in a long time, so I thought I would check it out.  Ina posted about a free poem-a-day service that Poets.org offers if you subscribe.  She receives a poem in her in-box everyday, and yesterday was one by David Kirby.  

What was so meaningful about getting this poem sent via In Our Books, is that it is about touching the feet of our elders to tell them that they are like a god to us.  There is a line in the poem about wishing to have your elders that have passed with you again so that you can touch their feet and say,  “Namaste,” “I bow to the God within you”, or “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you.”
 
It was extremely touching to me, because my father passed away almost two months ago, and yesterday was his birthday.  I was really missing him.  I did wish that I had him back in front of me so that I could say Namaste to him.  But, it was even more special because before he passed away, when I visited him, I rubbed his feet for the first time.  I am so glad to know that there is another meaning to touching the feet of your elders and that I had a chance to do this for my dad before he was gone.  Even though I did not say those words out loud, my actions had another meaning.  This is incredibly special to me, and I will be sure to hold onto that idea and to the poem.  
 
Thank you Ina and Andrea for leading me to that place when I needed it yesterday.
 

Get Up, Please

  by David Kirby
The two musicians pour forth their souls abroad
                         in such an ecstasy as to charm the audience
             like none I’ve ever seen before, and when
they finish, they rise and hug each other, 
                         and then the tabla player bends down
and touches the feet of the santoor player in an obvious gesture

of respect, but what does it mean? I don’t find out
                          until the next day at the Econolodge in Tifton, GA,
             where I stop on my way home after the concert
and ask Mrs. Patel, the owner, if she has ever heard
                         of these two musicians or knows
anything about the tabla and the santoor and especially the latter, 

which looks like the love child of a typewriter
                          and a hammered dulcimer only with a lot of extra wires
             and tuning posts, and she doesn’t seem to understand
my questions, though when I ask her about one person touching
                         the other’s feet and then bend down
to show her, she lights up and says, “It means he thinks the other

is a god. My children do this before they go off
                          to school in the morning, as though to say, ‘Mummy, 
             you are a god to us,’” and I look at her
for a second and then surprise us both when I say, “Oh, Mrs. Patel!”
                         and burst into tears, because I think,
first, of my own dead parents and then of little Lakshmi and Padma

Patel going off to their classes in Tift County schools,
                          the one a second-grader who is studying homophones
             (“I see the sea”) and the other of whom is in the fourth
grade, where she must master long division with
                          its cruel insistence on numbers lined
up under one another with exacting precision and then crawling

toward the page’s bottom as you, the divider, subtract
                         and divide again and again, all the while recording
             on the top line an answer that grows increasingly
lengthy as you fret and chew the tip of your pencil
                         and persevere, though before they grab
their books and lunch boxes and pile onto the bus, they take time

to touch Mrs. Patel’s feet and Mr. Patel’s as well,
                          assuming there is such a person. Later my friend
             Avni tells me you touch the feet of your elders
to respect the distance they have traveled
                          and the earth they have touched, and you
say “namaste”not because you take yoga at that little place

on the truck route between the t-shirt store
                          and the strip club but because it means “I bow
             to the light within you,” and often the people being
bowed to will stoop down and collect you as if to say
                         “You too are made of the same light!” 
Reader, if your parents are alive, think of them now, of all the gods

whose feet you never touched or touched enough. 
                          And if not your parents, then someone else.
             You know someone like this, right? Someone who belongs
to the “mighty dead,” as Keats called them.
                          Don’t you wish that person were here now
so you could touch their feet and whisper, “You are my god”?

I can’t imagine Keats saying, “You too are made
                          of the same light,” though I can see him saying,
             as he did to Fanny Brawne, “I have been astonished
that Men could die Martyrs for religion—I have
                          shudder’d at it—I shudder no more—I could
be martyr’d for my Religion—Love is my religion—I could die for that—

I could die for you.” My own feet have touched
                          the earth nearly three times as long as Keats’s did,
             and I’m hardly the oldest person
I know. So let this poem brush across the feet of anyone
                          who reads it. Poetry is
my religion—well, I wouldn’t die for it. I’d live for it, though.

About this poem:
“Anybody can stitch a bunch of parts together to make a creature – the secret is to know when to apply the current. In this case, the limbs and torso of my poem were just lying there when a stranger slipped them the juice. So here’s to music, poetry, and chance encounters that give you exactly what you need, especially when you don’t know it’s coming your way.” 

—David Kirby

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23692#sthash.ItLBxOr2.dpuf