Harold Stone

Turning down Railroad Avenue, an alley in spite of its name,

I see the spinning red, white, and blue and know

there’s no need to look for another barber this time.

There will be no sign on the door: “Harold is in the hospital”

or “Harold will return from rehab as soon as possible.”

When I enter the simple, old-fashioned, three-chair shop,

the maker of those hand-written signs is the first to greet me.

“I’m glad you’re here,” she says. “He needs something to do,”

referring to her husband of 71 years reclining in the barber chair.

Harold greets me too and offers me his chair.

Harold’s been cutting hair continuously since July 5, 1928.

Even his few years in the Navy were spent cutting hair,

first on a troop transport ship that delivered five thousand at a time

and brought home some, then on a hospital ship called USS Repose,

one of several with names like Haven, Comfort, and Tranquility.

Though still within one block of where he started at age 14,

in Mechanicsburg where he now holds the key,

and even though their income can hardly have been large,

he and his wife traveled around the world, a fact

amply illustrated by their world map made pin cushion.

Every time Harold must close his shop for health reasons,

he loses a few more customers, but he’ll not lose me,

not just because he cuts my hair for five dollars,

but because I don’t want to miss this part of his life,

and I want to give him what he still wants—something to do.

Still Trying to Get Home

Early each morning, on a highway to work

that I share with thousands of others,

one old man in dark clothing rides his ordinary bicycle.

Shirt flapping, head down, legs flailing, lunch in hand,

he moves with such single-minded determination

that I look back to see if there might be

an aged extraterrestrial in his basket,

to see if he’ll rise and fly past the moon.


When I was a teenager,

we moved to New Mexico

where I climbed rocky mountains,

rode bicycle through miles of desert,

and clung bareback to palomino in the canyon.

But for some reason

(something about dairy farmers

being the only real cowboys),

my dad never allowed me

to get a cowboy hat.

Now, almost sixty

and nearly free,

I wear my hat with pride,

inhaling horsey warm leather

and smiling at my shadow.

Not Fair

I settle into the bookstore’s easy chair,

across from a beautiful blond,

determined to concentrate

on Rilke’s In Praise of Mortality.

But her foot keeps moving—

keeping time with the music,

bobbing for no reason at all,

and tracing gentle circles in the air.

It’s not fair; I’m outmatched.

Even Rilke’s elegies and sonnets

can’t compete with the imagined beauty

of a real live woman.

Truth Serum

What if pleasure made us purr?

Attractive woman while I hold the door: “Thank you.”

Me: “You’re welcome.”

Me, as a cat (purrrrr): “Thank you.”


A tiny dog, bouncing in the night,

leads an old man on a leash,

smiling uncontrollably.


Vice President

and global warming guru’s

special cadence,


of a presidential candidate

who lost by a chad,

Pace of someone

willing to travel.

Just Short of Perdition

I’m writing this at work because I can’t think of anything else to do. On previous such occasions, I did the administrative things like cleaning out my electronic folders, so I’m having a hard time finding a way to be productive. And you know how important it is for WASPs to be productive. Nearly as important as breathing. The corporation certainly has a right to ask me not to spend company time on personal matters, but can they ask me to be bored out of my mind? Another time this happened I developed some basic set theory from scratch—definitions and theorems. Then, when it was finally time to go home, I deleted it all. It had served its purpose. The thing is, as long as I’m typing away at my computer, the people next to me—we live in cubes like chickens—think I’m working. (I wonder what they’re typing.) You’ll notice that this isn’t typed in stanzas. That’s so, if someone sneaks up on me, they won’t say, “That looks like a poem.” Don’t think it hasn’t occurred to me that I’m committing a form of lying, deliberately misinforming. So now I’m stealing from the company and lying to my colleagues. What next? Murder? Adultery? Taking God’s name in vain? Having other gods before him? Coveting my neighbor’s wife? His donkey? My boss just called to ask if I have a minute. “Sure,” I said. “I’ll be right there.”



study of





Things to Remember

Be kind to yourself;

you’re the only judge that matters.

Breathe—connect with your body,

disconnect from past and future.

Be a cat: ask for what you want;

know that you’re worth it.

Relationships matter;

being is more important than doing.

Observe the thoughts

between events and emotions.

Be cautious about interpreting

other people’s behavior.

Pay attention to intuition;

trust the universe.

Hold your separateness

in your cosmic arms.

Lower your expectations

so life can be large.

Final Frontier

Perhaps the general mundaneness

of one’s life can be measured by how easy it is

to identify its high points. Here are some

that come immediately to my mind:

bouncing bareback on palomino

with my young cowboy friends

through watermelon canyons of

the rough-and-tumble Southwest,

leaning forward from the bow

of the Pioneer headed for open sea,

Neptune’s equator, Ascension Island,

South-West Africa, and Cape Town,

climbing Table Mountain bare-side and

tree-side and trailing coal-fired steam

through verdant escarpments

and prehistoric villages,

riding tandem on a bishop-borrowed Dream

across Zambia and Tanzania to another ocean

and north to Kilimanjaro’s glacier-capped volcanic peaks

and Ngorongoro’s flamingo-pink Garden of Eden,

finally, mid-life, rising kite-like above beach

and ocean to float on pillowed breath

among the birds, above the birds,

unbelievably like the birds.

So why am I happier now than ever?

Why at 67, obviously older than ever,

do I feel younger than ever, truer

than ever, freer than ever?

What’s more enchanting than New Mexico,

more spacious than the Atlantic or Indian,

more mysterious than brightest Africa,

more buoyant than hang gliding?

It’s the exploration of consciousness—mine,

yours, ours, in relationship—looking in, looking out,

inward, outward, till the two become the same,

one vast, endlessly variable open space.


The Pioneer was a South African freighter that took five of us young men in 1968 from New York City to Cape Town with a stop-over in Walvis Bay, South-West Africa. We were all headed for two years of voluntary service that was an alternative to military service. We had a Selective Service status of 1-W.

South-West Africa was a German colony from 1884 to 1919 (we enjoyed German chocolate cake when we were there) and is now the nation of Namibia.

Mount Kilimanjaro (or Kilima-Njaro, perhaps Swahili for “white mountain” or “shining mountain”) is the tallest mountain in Africa and is composed of three volcanoes, two extinct and one dormant. It has been capped by glaciers for 10,000 years, but is expected to lose its “shine” before the end of this century.

Three Coincidences:

When Carl Raser and I (the tandem duo) lived in Zambia (1968-1970), the bishop of the Brethren in Christ church in Zambia was H. Frank Kipe. His motorcycle, which my friend and I borrowed, was a Honda 300 Dream. I finished the first draft of this poem on November 27, 2013. The bishop, forever patient and good-humored, died on November 25, 2013 while this poem was in progress.

On December 4, 2013, while I was still tweaking this poem, I went horseback riding at Winsome Farm in Newville PA. Ahead of me on the trail happened (by chance or cause) to be someone (Tasha Books) whose first riding experiences were in the same canyons of the Sandia Mountains as my bareback ride. (Sandia means “watermelon” in Spanish.) She rode horses belonging to the same man (Paul Switzer) as the ones I rode. Her grandfather (Virgil Books) was pastor of the Sandia Brethren in Christ Church in Albuquerque just before my Dad. Tasha said later in her blog that she and her Israeli friend were planning to visit an Alpaca farm that day (December 4, 2013) but couldn’t find it. They then decided to go trail riding but couldn’t find the horse farm they were looking for and stumbled instead on Winsome Farm.

On December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela died at age 95. When Carl and I were in South Africa (1968), apartheid was in full swing, and Nelson Mandela was in prison on Robben Island.

One Three-Year-Old Girl to Another

(Cornerstone Coffeehouse)

If I reach for

your folded hands

like this, it means

I like you.

If we hold hands,

we‘ll find our way through

this sea of strange and smiling faces

to an open place.

If you tell me your story

in your newfound language,

I’ll tell you mine, while we look

through each other’s eyes.

And if we let the music move us,

just the way it feels, we can dance

and swing each other’s arms

and share our



Sample of Democratic Fund-raising E-mails

(September 2016)

Don’t abandon them



Re: Hillary’s lead: GONE.



Dale Bicksler IGNORED John Lewis (can this be right?)


kiss all hope goodbye

DEEP trouble


Believe it, Dale

so, let’s talk about this

No room for error

simply catastrophic (UPDATE)

If I’m being honest, in some ways, they’re outdoing us.

This is HUGE!

ActBlue tracker…(It’s not what you think)


I’ll be honest, Dale

checking in (very quick)

Nate Silver’s scariest tweet (so far)

Republicans RUINED this email.

Maddow’s team hits the panic button


Dale, this is CRITICAL:

E-X-T-E-N-D-E-D: Our Race to the Majority

Breaking records (not in a good way)

Don’t abandon them!


Here’s why we’re waiting…


Love Democrats? You’ll love this:

not pretty

meet Obama FOR FREE

This time is different

I hate to say this, Dale

Hillary’s chances PLUMMET

A Trump presidency


Poetry copyrighted by Dale Bicksler, 2017                                  Poetry Themes