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.

Let’s play!

As I sleep, come to me and

we’ll pretend everything, we’ll eat

mushrooms and fly, we’ll see winged horses,

ride them singing. Will you be open to me?

I want to be:

two streams flowing together

over a grassy plain, into one;

the happy grass, so green;

the rabbits leaping in the birches,

the honeysuckle and the rose,

the grey gull resting on the shore,

the sighing tides,

the trees like God’s legs,

tall, strong and dark,

the soft grey sky,

like a comfortable blanket.

Everything plays, naturally, today.

Joanna Wiebe, June 21, 1989

Loving me means being here now with me

You’re always with me, night and day,

even when we’re in different houses

doing different things,

even when we think we’ve fallen apart,

shattered by our ignorance and poverty of spirit,

broken by each other and crying for

some other love than this difficult mating.

Fueled by light and power from

mysterious sources, driven by a need to

create something new:  so new

we have only a faint image of what it is.

But that image shimmers before us and

behind us, pulling, pushing, adjusting nature

and events until we meet again, eye-to-eye.

My heart is new again,

tender, open strong.

My mind examines the attachment.

My soul prays for a clear view of

that bright thing that glistens all around us,

melting the frosty feelings, casting rainbows

over everything, making it known as sacred.

I take small steps into that light.

I feel the love, like God dreaming, making life.

Balanced, drawing on every source of

energy, breathing slowly for strength,

I touch you again.

Joanna Wiebe, November 15, 1988


…flying, I’m immune to poisons. Found
skulled bottles at mother’s cave and
devised cocktails.

I’ve scarcely had my feet on the ground

since dropped by this woman, my mother.

I’m in pain if I don’t follow custom, or
awkward desire, but I don’t see roses,
forget my name, it’s such a distinction.

…want to be a vacant blue like the edge of skim milk
in a cup without a saucer,
clean curve the memory of a handle,
balanced on the back of my hand,

“HOPE” spelled out on the china in gold letters
half washed away.

Joanna Wiebe, 1984

Internal wave

Dense dark blood dies here,
lacking impulse toward a door.
A busy flood to compress, chattering:
Where’s the exit? breath? light? fuel?

Could someone touch the place
where the heart begins? One beat.

The sea layers itself into currents
of thick denial and open need.
Towering surges travel the boundaries
of those currents; diastole, systole:
kiss clean air.

Joanna Wiebe, 1984