Friday 5 May 2023

4 Poems by Steve Nebel

The Tree

I heard the tree speak to me.

It must have been a dream.

We all know plants don’t speak.

It spoke in a deep, rich voice,

calm, with it a feeling of deep understanding.

I could hear the chainsaws ringing

in the background as the tree spoke.

“You know”, he said, “to quote the old song,

‘You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone’.

“Hell, I already miss me and I’m still standing

here.” On this day though the chainsaws

are a little too close for comfort.

“Just a little word to the wise.

I’ve been here for a long time,

or it would be a long time if I were human.

I’ve been standing here drinking in the sun,

carbon dioxide, sweet, sweet water.

It has been so beautiful here on this hill

especially as I grew taller, could get up

where the air tastes better.

I’ve been able to see, taste, hear a lot

from my vantage point.

I can tell you that the CO2 levels are

rising. Not a bad thing if you’re a tree

mind you, but you mammals? You’re

going to be in a pretty mess

in not too long a time.”

I could hear the chainsaws getting closer.

I was starting to like the tree.

His voice was so otherworldly.

I guess it was otherworldly.

What I mean is, I haven’t been to another

world. I don’t have another world.

He started talking again, “I’ve seen my fellow

trees cut before. I don’t think it hurts too

much. As I see the houses getting closer to

me, the air getting dirtier, the noise,

oh, the noise. Maybe I’ve just run my course,

had enough, time to check out.

you mammals though, thinking you’re making

things better for yourselves.

I’ve heard the ocean whisper, heard

the glaciers scream. You’re in a bad

place getting worse. You had better run.

Where are you going to go though?

Do you have another world you can go to?

If you do are you just going to mess it up

like you’ve done to this one?”

He was asking me a question.

I told him that I know I don’t have

another world. I apologized for the

chainsaws. I told him that if I could I

would stop them. Of course, that was

a lie. Of course, I might think about

stopping them, but even if I could

Would I?

Remembering the 21st Century

I hear the 21st Century.

Whispers of Taliban, Nine, One, One

We never used to hear about Iraq.

Well. There was that one time back in the 90s.

We were hoping that was all done.

It seems like you never hear about

Al Qaeda anymore.

What happened to those guys?

I guess they are sitting on

their front porches

polishing their shoes

telling stories about old Osama,

how dad was part of the original Jihad,

running from the Americans,

hiding in caves.

Those were the days.

George Bush.

Remember him?

I think Barack Obama

stole his thunder.

Now every day all we ever hear about

is Donald Trump.

Some people like him.

A lot of people don’t.

Whether you like him or

not - Trump is in the headlines every day.

He is always leaking


revenge on someone.

I used to believe Barack Obama.

at least he had good intentions.

You don’t hear about New York

the way you used to.

Now they talk about


What a foreign place

that is.

On TV you see the



Everyone knows what Puget Sound is,

Mount Rainier like there weren’t any other mountains

near Seattle?

I heard yesterday

the ice caps are melting faster.

They keep saying the ocean

is getting deeper.

I’m not.

When I go to the beach

It looks about the same.

It didn’t snow as much.

Maybe that’s why this new bug

cropped up?

What do they call it?

Covid 19?

Someone is going to make a movie

called Covid 19.

Maybe it will have witches in it?

The Word Vandal

You said it was a place

You had already been to.

It was a place you did not care

To revisit.

It was my place.

I had scrawled my name

All over this place,

Had written notes that were tacked

Into the air.

You said that the letters in the notes

Were badly written.

You put on a show of not caring.

I had spent a lifetime

Scrawling the words onto paper,

Framing them neatly,

Hanging them in the air

Everywhere I went.

You knocked them down

Wherever you could find them.

A word vandal,

A note breaker,

Even now I see a line of words

Hanging crooked in the garden

Where you have been

Sitting, weeping, laughing

Knowing all last night.

The Black Hole

I am falling down a black hole.

The gravity squeezes my internal organs.

I see my favorite stars disappearing

as I fall deeper.

My head feels like a too ripe tomato.

I just saw an asteroid

whiz by me.

My fourth-grade teacher flies by,

a paddle in her hand,

frown on her shriveled face,

words hunkered down on

a chalk board in back of her.

Speed is picking up now.

I narrowly miss the Milky Way,

The Big Dipper, Orion.

I begin to weep.

The tears brush my face

Hot with regret.

There is a baseball mit,

A hardball, a bat that I could

Never hit the ball with.

Down I fly, into darkness

A gravity greater than I have

Ever experienced.

My father is there.

He wonders why I never hit the ball,

Why it always slips from the mit

His face is kind

Takes his genetic responsibility


Saturn is slipping away in my memory

While Jupiter dances

Past my athlete brother.

He stands tall in the black hole

While I am compressed until

I cannot be seen.

I am falling down a black hole.

Can you see me?

I am sobbing now, cannot stop

Falling down.


Steve Nebel is a poet, and songwriter who lives in Tacoma, Washington. He has been called an "environmental" poet, referring to his early work. His poem, "Chelsea Manning, Wikileaks Heroine" was published in 2015 in "Heart Online". In 2014 his reading of his poem, "Cityscape", was featured in the Laureate Listening Project, a poetry project initiated by Tacoma's then poet laureate, Luca Smiraldo.
He was educated in the "Bohemian Arts" at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. He also writes songs, and sings them with his wife Kristi, and the Americana band, "Cosmo's Dream" which includes Kristi, and his friend, guitarist, mandolinist, vocalist and songwriter, Gen Obata. His latest project is a chapbook, "Remembering the 21st Century".

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