Poetry II

The Borderland

As we zig zag the

US and Canada border

from Maine to Seattle

and into Alaska

We travel through Native lands

families and friends separated

long lines of cars and trucks

on land and bridges

close communities


Passports to be shown

sunglasses off

those with a DUI

cannot cross over

even as passengers

or ever again

I heard it said

Sometimes it's a long trek

other times not

Reservations and Reserves

two separate lands

on one border

or another

Veteran Elders come

to participate

at Eagle Staff gatherings

some well into their 90's

Regalia and bundles

inside the car

the border patrol

depending who you get

know better now

to not go through them

Officers with good training

have learned to respect

the ways and traditions

different from theirs

Indigenous men

women and children

come to participate

in a pow wow

a celebration

a sacred circle

on the other side

First Nations go south

Native Americans go north

First Alaskans go east

Northern First Nations go west

To participate and celebrate

to give thanks for each other

the earth

the land and waters

animals and trees

stories from another time

Everything done in a circle

intricately sewn regalia

headdresses, jingle dresses

made with feathers, beads

and the hide of buffalo

caribou, deer, and seal

Songs and traditions

from long ago

to say we are one

in a circle

with no borders

Verses not written

I think of the verses

I tried to recite but they flew off

my tongue and got carried away

by some wild wind,

into the night like a firefly

who knows what "jar" means.

One summer, I retrieved a poem

I had imagined months earlier and

found it hanging on the clothesline

basking under the sun

with the sheets and towels

it knew what "paper" meant.

I let it be. So many good ones

have gotten away from me.

The Dream Catcher Restaurant

Sault Ste Marie, Michigan

July 2019

An elder seated across the aisle from us

is having brunch with a girlfriend

her jacket draped over a chair.

On it are a moose, deer and eagle overhead

on a clear blue lake cries the loon.

I am back in the North Lakes Woods region.

I hear faint background music of the seventies:

Bob Dylan, Maria Muldaur, Gordon Lightfoot

Buffy Sainte Marie, Johnny Cash.

Our waitress pours refills while

my husband makes travel arrangements

on his smart phone.

I think back to waking up 

at a cabin in northern Minnesota

sitting at the dock with a cup of hot chocolate

reading second-hand ear-marked paper backs,

while listening to the loon 

after a morning swim.

A late teen, care-free dreamer

I wondered about that big world out there 

of infinite possibilities

will I go to college, if so what will I study,

where will I live, will I get married and have children,

will I be a drifter?

The road of my childhood, not a straight line

my studies and jobs took me far from the land of lakes

to places of no return.

I was brave and foolish then

it is a small miracle, I am not dead.

What happened to the care-free teen at the lake?

The elder across the aisle

stood up and put her jacket on —

the jacket with the moose, deer, eagle and loon

She turned and gave me a familiar smile

and walked away

I Knew a Man at Twenty

I knew a man at twenty

and now he is sixty

his life is like an old LP

On the first track 

there is a groove where

the needle gets stuck

He doesn't bother

to lift the needle

to hear the other tracks

he plays the same song

over and over again

up to that point. 

It's best to let it be at that

and blame it on the track

He Brings My Poems to the Grocery Store

Before he gets out of the car will he look over the

grocery list and notice my attempted poem on the

back page, the one about Second Chances.

Will he spot it in the produce section while

turning the page to see if I had written strawberries

to then discover the poem. Will he take pause,

read it and smile, or will he look at it as scrap

paper, being used wisely, turning it over quickly

not to lose frame of thought, or be discovered.

Maybe he'll read the back page while in the long

check-out line, fold it in half, land leave at the bottom

of the cart outside, and let blow in the wind

with all the other lists, or perhaps he'll unfold it

read it twice, and put it in his shirt pocket close to his heart.

The Crucifix

on 332 West 23rd Street

room 311

in a single bed

hotel room

on west 23rd street


doors slam into the night

a muzzled conversation

on a phone from

the room next door

our beds between a

thin wall

I hear his

gentle breathing

cigarette smoke wafting

out of the bathroom vent

toilets flushing

showers running from

a communal washroom

across the hall

water drips 

voices and whispers

in foreign languages

in the night

faint background noises

traffic and sirens 

hotel soap rug shampoo

cigarette smoke

New York smells

mixed with my daughter's

lily of the valley

hand lotion 

I put on before I left

her tiny room

on w. 21st Street


I walked over to her tiny

apartment in room 4c

to help her pack up

before graduation

for the final move

it all was nice and neat

until it came out of

the drawers

and onto the bed

it was like

a tsunami hit

we sorted her things

marked what went in

all the different boxes

what to keep

what to discard

back in my room

reading in bed

I look over and

see an ordinary crucifix

on the wall across

from me

arms stretched out wide

head tilted to the side

I hear it say

in a New York accent:

hey you over there

yeah you

come over here

and give me a hug

it made me smile

then laugh

I went back to sleep

the next morning

I woke up to hear it


hey you over there

yeah you

come over here and

give me a hug

I went to it

gently ran my finger

over the figurine

with mortal wounds

sadness of face

crown of thorns

best not to see 

things up close

I pack my bag

and say goodbye 

to room 311

on west 23rd street

Across The Creek, There

In between the pines is a creek

I should not yearn to be there

when I am here

In between the pines is a creek

I should not yearn to be here

when I am there

I'll be there soon enough

On Foreign Ground

Lying under four Poplar trees

on a Persian tapestry

in Hiroshima, Nagasaki Park

in Köln, Germany

with my daughter

on a warm afternoon

late May

She found love here

but not an occupation

nor is she in the right location

for finding one

A breeze runs through her tears

as we lie together and look up

pink and white petals 

swirl and swoon around us

these are blossoms not bombs

a blessing

In silence I pray 

to our Grandmothers

Thank you, Miigwetch

Danke, Merci

We open our mouths to

the rain

The Stink Bug

what a bad rap

a silent and slow


not known 

for its speed or

flying capabilities

when killed

it stinks and it

carries a heavy weight

it opened up about

the holocaust


the American Indian


dandelions and


and told me

he was just the

same and that

his name had

saved him


our neighbors travel far and wide

to see their friends and loved ones

their friends and loved ones travel far

and wide to see our neighbors

and to think we see them every day

except for when they go away


my son's affection

is like no other

it's not like my husband's

or daughter's

he can comfort me

like no other 

I never want

to misuse or need it

it's a beautiful thing

to know that it is there

like finding fresh cedar

on folded white linens in a

drawer you never go in to

all poems © P. LeBon Herb

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