The Vacant Sky

How many oceans can we cross,
before we can live with ourselves?
Holy wars are not born of holy words.
We see the same vacant sky.

We saw the same sky fill and fall
while cruel TV screens intensified
the cuts in heaven and rumble on shore.
Into the burning tower a legion of fragments
marched like fire fighters. And desperate
cell phones reached through the unforgiving space.

Souls escaped unnoticed. Others moved more loudly.
The ashen coast paused heavy.
In a wink, pain can fill a too full sky
that if only tears could touch that place
then we might be able to shed them
…or wipe them away.

But…I fear…
no free verse can ease
the beat of your widowed heart
as it dumps salt water into your lonely broken breath.

Our chipper Midwest morning fell into dead blue silence.
How long we wanted our sky untie-dyed
of metal noise and jet stream plaid.
Watch what you wish for.

We called home. We went home.
We tried to unextend the family,
make our own oceans holy again,
sleep though our children tossed in our beds.

Every day, during an entire year after the crowded past crowds the present
Springfield CWLP towers play a morning tribute
on my travel east from Hazel Dell Road
round the bend to Heritage House.
They remind me of New York. Those two sturdy studs,
they puff proud above our young horizon
like wise guys smoking
cigarettes looking so bad, they look good.

How odd they make me feel. They remind me of what I was and what I am.
The street kid. The educated, cultured citizen.
The public parts I give during a reading. The private parts I left in PA.
The future part that has no father for my children.

I hear three Johns’ words through my crackled window
as I sing down the road. Love is all there is…Let it be.
Validate, communicate.

Let us pray now that this sky breeze may cradle any good
words afloat in it today
and carry them east
through a vacant sky.

Anita Stienstra
d Sept. 11, 2002 Illinois Arts Council Artist on the Square 911 Memorial Tribute   



Fall trees...are spitting
leaves...and I...
sit on a branch my mind,
fall asleep and breathe...
as fall trees...spit more
leaves...eating sky...and I,
twirl breathe...
and leave...a seed.

Anita Stienstra


When we love to read—
letters on a white page flicker
as if the author plucked stars from a night sky
painted them the opposite color
and placed them in fantastic order—

as if she with loving hand
captured a flock of bird specks
from the branches of day’s horizon
and arranged them like notes
on a musical staff—

where we can affectionately resonate
like the Northern Mockingbird—
rest upon paragraphs— upon the
Moon— fly between the lines and
Kathmandu— where dreams
and wishes really do come true.

Anita Stienstra