swan 2013

Brilliant white floats
amid dusky reflections,
grays billowing above,
darkest green of lake below.
The last orange
fixes one cloud
in nature’s spotlight,
the last throbbing color of the day.
And still the swan
moves silently
with no apparent effort,
neck in a perfect curve.

A dozen geese
form a line
like an escort
and the swan swims with it,
two geese before and ten behind,
her light feathers contrasting with their dark.
Then the clouds finally
drain of color
and multitudes of gray prevail,
a surprising personal hope
pinned to that slow whiteness.

The parade disperses,
who can say why,
until the swan swims back,
the geese queue up,
and begin to glide back
along the same
invisible straight line,
but the other direction!

Who’s baton cued this?
Was all this for me,
pen and paper in hand,
so I could find
some words to share?

Now they are off
to huddle for the night
around the blackening shore,
and we all must wait
for the promise of dawn.

Who is the prey?

The shock of birds of prey came home to roost this week on our suburban lake. The still patience of the Great Blue Heron has been superceded by the instantaneous swoop of the osprey, and that a hawk that has discovered our Purple Martin house as an easy meal. Noticing that we only have seen one butterfly where last year we had swarms, and only a few fireflies, I wonder if we have already entered a changed ecosystem.


by the osprey’s talons,
the fish rises
from its watery world
into a foreign element – air.

Can it see
the strange beauty
of this unforeseen vista?

Its last moments,
pierced and choking,
carried away,
seeing sky
and grass
and trees
for the first
and last time.

No frame of reference,
no escape,
just like life
when you are blessed
by the cosmic 2×4,
transforming your precious head
into a line drive to left field.

The horror,
the shock,
the resistance,
the yearning
for the comfortable habits
of life-as-I-know-it,
of life-as-I-want-it,

I was content there
OK, maybe not
completely happy,
but it was fine enough.

And now
new pains
and restrictions
shackle me down,
as new possibilities
unfold above.

Comfort gone –
can I revel in this catastrophe?
Learn to breathe air
not fluid
and earn some relief
from this grip?

Having flown
far from my home base
by no will of my own,
can I make the best
of this unexpected reality?
Or just let go into being dinner?

Seeing in the Dark

In the 1960’s, my father would take me to visit his workplace, which, as an air traffic controller at Philadelphia International Airport, was pretty cool to a young kid. In the darkness of the Radar Room, I was fascinated by the blips representing airplanes with many passengers, which were briefly illuminated as the green line slowly rotated around the circular radar screen. Each rotation showed a glimpse of time – here is the new position since the last time around.  Paper strips were slid into holders on the side with the airline, and flight number, for in those days a blip was just a blip. Only in the spatial imagination of an air traffic controller was held the matrix of direction and speed and altitude that prevented catastrophe.

Frank in a control tower early 1950's

Frank in a control tower early 1950’s

And, I am proud to say, during my dad’s time at PHL, they had no accidents of even minor significance. And I remember when he had been promoted into middle management, during a controller’s strike, as one of the few people with the skills to work the screens, he had the entire East Coast down to the Caribbean on his radar screen. He later spoke of it as easily as walking out to check the mail – what competence! And yet, he took medical early retirement due to the stress!

A poetic answer to a question

This poem was sparked by an interviewer asking a guy beside me at the Moral Monday protest, “What is the issue that brings you here?”
Blaise Kielar, 30 June 2013

Requiem for Democracy

The forefathers did not foresee this
with such precise computer-gleaned data
that a party in power
can rig elections to remain in power,
despite the will of the people.

Winning an election grants the privilege to govern.
Winning an election by any means
does not grant the right to rule,
and certainly does not grant
the right to rule with an iron hand,
erasing constituents
by striking down
the laws of the land
and passing new laws
that favor only the favored,
only the campaign contributors,
the good old boys,
and the powerful corporations,
salivating for easy money.

When did the term “public servant” become archaic?

We must stand together.
The essence of the democratic process
is inviting all parties to the table,
honest debate
airing out all the possibilities.

When did the term “public servant” become meaningless?

Slamming the door on those who disagree,
on those who seek dialog,
on those who present an alternate view,
on those who cherish the democratic process itself –
this is the new treason,
and it is well-funded,
and rampant.

When did money become the source
and suppression the aim
of legislation?

When did the term “public servant” become a joke?

The voices of we the people, all the people,
must not be silenced.
If the leaders refuse to lead for the common good,
then the people must rise to their solemn obligation,
of, by, and for the people,
and act.

Only by choosing action
within the community
of our towns
and cities
and state
can a new consensus arise
from the ashes of destruction
to forge a new dawn.

Only then can balance be restored,
and the table will be set
for me and mine enemies.
We either pull together,
or surely
we will hang separately.

My first protest

M01I have never felt attracted to political protest. There is some feeling of tilting at windmills – lots of activity for little tangible result.  What I came to understand after the Moral Monday protest at the NC Legislature is that, just by showing up, you are sending a message of solidarity with the millions of people who are not there. Just like one vote will never determine an election, one more protester will not make a movement. But add together all those votes, or voices, and you have a power that can determine the course of a nation.

These weekly protests have focused national scrutiny on the NC government – now under complete Republican control for the first time in 100 years. After voting themselves raises, they have proceeded to gut social, unemployment and medical benefits for the working poor, cut education funds, have repealed decades of environmental regulations, and have punished NC cities with Democratic governments by privatizing water supply (Asheville) and preventing Durham from denying approval to a huge, potentially damaging development endorsed by a Republican contributor. And are now working to suppress voting rights.

This appears here not because it is a political statement, it is merely “what is now” in my home state.