The Fourth Nor’easter of March by Robert Wexelblatt

The Fourth Nor’easter of March

Indignant neighbors all complain
that snow’s still falling and not rain
or sunshine flecking pale green hills
with pools of yellow daffodils.
They whine that winter won’t let go.
Weighed down with wet, belated snow
snapped branches mar the noiseless night.
Though dawn serves up a dazzling light
all value springs from scarcity;
snow’s pretty when a rarity.
No matter if the statue’s Greek
or if the storm’s a thrilling freak,
they’ve wearied of the ceaseless sight
of beauty that’s become antique.

by Robert Wexelblatt

Editor’s Note: This sonnet is a delightful lesson on the futility of complaints about the weather.

On the Road near Chiangling… by Robert Wexelblatt

On the Road near Chiangling the Poet Chen Hsi-wei
Encounters a Young Musician, Summer, 597 A.D.

Tallow leaves hang low, grass is brittle underfoot.
Birds spiral lazily then flutter down in the shade.
Prickly lettuce and withered jasmine
lie flat, like bing cakes baking on the dirt.
Paving tiles burn right through straw sandals.

Her eyes are so alert, it’s as if she just found them.
The heat barely touches her, this devotee of song.
She’s not the sort to compromise, not yet.
She asks me about music, what I’ve heard and whom.
Did I hear the great Zhang Chu in the capital?

Her reverence for her art exalts them both. She’s
sure a celestial melody floats just above her head;
if only she could tug it down and play it then
the world would certainly change for the good.
The sun wouldn’t scorch, perhaps taxes would drop.

She is small, delicate, nearly a child, though
if you look closely, you’ll see that’s half true,
that she’s a soft soul in a hard cocoon.
Her faith is as unspoiled as her smooth skin.
Who would dare to scoff? Not me.

She asks my name and when I give it
I’m startled. She bows low, calls me Master,
can hardly believe it, tells me how much she
loves my old poem about Lake Weishan.
Her face is fervent as a praying monk’s.

Taking up her liuqin, she begins to sing
and it’s like running water by a dusty road.
I feel my forgotten poem surfacing from
Lake Weishan itself transformed, summoned
by the sudden beauty of this butterfly.

by Robert Wexelblatt

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem imagines an encounter between an old master and young woman, yet even though it is set within the distant past, the emotional story still resonates.

Waiting Rooms by Robert Wexelblatt

Waiting Rooms

Aren’t they all the same?
Everyone together, yet not;
everybody wanting in, or out?

Can to wait be an active verb
when it’s so crushingly passive?
Is it more like to be or to scream?

Some waiting to be taken, others for them
to be sprung so they can hightail it.
Anticipation’s braised to incarceration.

Televisions you can’t turn off.
Magazines you can’t read.
Germy toys in the Kiddie Korner.

At the vet’s the schnauzer whimpers,
getting a big whiff of euthanasia.
In the dentist’s you worry what they’ll find.

At the lawyer’s it’s the price of time
plus the sadness of settlements and her
joke sign: How Much Justice Can You Afford?

The DMV’s all waiting room, all the time.
In the Social Security Office nothing gets
cleared up and sugared children test limits.

Waiting for the principal, the loan officer,
the auto repairman, the HR hatchet,
the end of the endoscopy, the biopsy result.

After four hours of bearing witness even
the Emergency Room traumas turn routine.
Waiting for help, waiting for the bad news.

Walls with corporate art, models sprawled across
Harleys, misty landscapes that never soothe,
all the horrid, hard, but matching chairs,

the empty water coolers, coffeemakers
on the fritz, the impregnable receptionists,
the psychiatrists’ overthought décor

and the still air, thickened by anxiety,
rotting into rancid ennui where life feels
suspended but could be in the balance.

Dante thought up a vestibule neither in nor out
of Hell, a space set apart for those who
lose their intellect’s good, who take no sides,

earning no infamy and meriting no praise.
Beside these, eternally stranded in that infernal
salla d’attesa, even a sinner might feel proud.

by Robert Wexelblatt

Editor’s Note: Just when you think this poem can’t find another example of interminable waiting, it does. The form functions as a sort of waiting room, too—tercets of time, not quite stretching into Hell.