At the Red Bicycle

At the Red Bicycle

Ordering a bacon gorgonzola burger with fries

watching the lead singer screw his mike stand together

and the keyboardist hunch over his keys.

The mustard walls are stained on purpose to look old.

Two of the bar lamps are missing.

The waitress has five children at home.

She’s smiling at me as she lights the candle on my table.

Words fall from the ceiling: estrella, nunca, besos.

The plastic floor is revealed in long fingers of sunlight

A patron with a cane rocks across the floor to the door and out.

After waiting an hour for my family to join me here,

I’ve ordered a bacon gorgonzola burger with fries.

I’m drinking my second glass of cabernet

Waiting to get a feeling of freedom.

Could I be free?

Or am I trapped in the Amazon?

At the Red Bicycle II

Here is my bacon gorgonzola cheeseburger.

The patty glistens under the flows of cheese,

The translucent  ribbons of onion,

The  intelligent pig.

How do they get those pickles so wavy?

How can I be like that small girl next to me, twisting her striped legs under the table, picking her nose, knocking over her water with a straw between her teeth, examining the children’s menu like the Holy Bible.

At the Red Bicycle III

Wondering why my family isn’t here.

I’d have to stop writing if they were here,

So why do I care?

Chords from the keyboard overwhelm the ceiling words.

Nothing I have ever eaten is as good as these French fries,

hot and soft, with chewy salty edges.

My phone batteries are completely dead and I can’t call them any more.

Give me more food

Give me more food

for this fire

that leaps out

of its cell

free and amused.

Joanna Wiebe, June 17, 2006, Princeton, New Jersey

I wrote this poem while at a Fellowship in Prayer conference at Princeton. This event was life-changing for me. I learned to love the act of prayer, and I learned more deeply just exactly what prayer is in my life. Basically, anything I do with my body.

As I recall, by the end of the event, I felt truly educated, and liberated, and . . . hot. It was a very warm weekend at the University and the rooms were not air conditioned.  I met persons of dozens of faiths from around the world, and danced, sang, meditated, walked the labyrinth, participated in a Taize service,  chanted — and prayed in the traditional ways I learned as a child, too…”Our father…” and the blessings before meals, and more.

The photo is a shot of a redbud in the crevice of a limestone wall of a house my friend Liz rented for awhile in Lawrence, Kansas. It is said this house was lived in once by famous beat poets and writers, and before that, a Swedish immigrant farm family.  I visited Liz a couple of years ago in mid-April, and the buds opened that weekend.