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You're the One

You sit in the chiropractor's office waiting
to have your spine straightened and strengthened.
You're here because so many forces
have conspired to bring about your misalignment:
your first fall from the big Schwinn,
the accident that sent you rolling in a cornfield,
a lifetime of improper lifting,
the extra weight garnered slowly
to make up for the large girth of losses
the middle-aged mind readily conjures
before it begins its great journey of forgetting.
Perhaps you have no luck
with established therapies
and wish to ward off intentional wounds,
your scars already knit from misappropriated
cruelties, snares, and scrapes collected
on this blue, imperfect planet.
Yet here you are,
hopeful in your glorious misalignment,
still eager for healing
heading forward,
reading a recipe you might just try for dinner.
Misaligned or not, you stay the course,
despite the urn of mistakes sitting on your mantel.
My dear Misaligned, Mislocated, Misconstrued,
Mismanaged, and Mischievous,
it's You. You're the one
for whom I write these poems.

From Coal To Music
For George Ella Lyon

I rose from coal and caged canaries
singing at sunrise, and before that the shimmering sea
of the Adriatic, and the House of Seven Brothers.
I belong to long sea journeys that led to coal mines.

Then Wisconsin lakes and snow
taller than prairie grass, from "Pin the Tail
on the Donkey" to "Hail, Holy Queen,"
"Blue Suede Shoes" to "Venus in Blue Jeans."

I danced to Ricky Nelson and traded dog tags,
blessed by benevolent piano teachers and pink leotards,
carhopping and real chocolate malts,
'57 Chevies and Freddy Johnson's English Leather.

I wore candy stripes and served the sick,
ran drill presses at factory night shifts, suffered
coal black college nights and the Purple Haze of Vietnam.
I went to Woodstock and became the music.

I returned home and married a hometown guy
to "It Only Takes a Moment."
Let no man put asunder. Vows weaved magic.
Nearly forty years. No one has put us under.

I taught a hundred teenagers a day in a school thick
as a prison. Some arrived with hot coals in their fists.
"Jump. Go ahead and jump" screamed. Some did.
Yes, I rose from coal and music

to sea and mountain, true love and good work,
"Moonlight Sonata" and "California Dreamin,"
from Heartland, the City of Big Shoulders,
from coasts, dirt and dust, Lemon Pledge and diamonds.

Now when I sing "I Come to the Garden Alone"
in a small church choir of aging but fervent voices,
I can't say I understand a lick of it for sure, yet
the secret tug of destiny keeps polishing that coal.

Sparrows Falling From The Sky

The soprano, whose voice is brilliant
as fire, sings the aria from Madame Butterfly
on the radio in the Port Townsend Antique Store.

The notes build like snow before an avalanche
on Mount Baker across the bay.
This could be heaven, I am thinking,

examining the quirky Nippon vases
I have grown fond of: the ardor of their attempts
at European Baroque foiled

by the ever-graceful elongated necks
of snow geese, the calligraphy of stylized trees.
How I love this upstart marriage of East and West.

The aria reaches its zenith when I enter
booth #23, a dark cove devoted to things Nippon,
the era before Pearl Harbor,

before the high society ladies scratched off
Nippon from the bottom of tea sets,
delicate and filigreed as small, old hands.

The aria reaches its zenith, which
would have been enough to fog my glasses,
enough to flood my eyes.

There on the wall a strange painting startles me.
It is so topsy-turvy, so incongruous
I am drawn into itó

a cacophony of bird wings, helter-skelter
like a firestorm, in faded read and muddy charcoal
Birds adrift like autumn leaves!

It reads: Sparrows Falling from the Sky,
Hiroshima, Artist Unknown.
It grips me by the throatórain on my face.

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