Home > Collected Poems > Flies on the Ceiling
Flies on the Ceiling
by Alan Harris
1999


God? Even this fly
     walking across the ceiling
          stops often and prays.




Free PDF download of this entire book:
Flies on the Ceiling in Adobe Acrobat PDF format
(18 formatted pages including color photos)
Free Adobe Acrobat Reader is required.

Contents

(Click on any divider between poems to return here.)

Angels of the Sunset
Briefing
A Christmas Light
An Evening Question
Gathering
Graduation
A Haiku Quilt for Y2K
Meeting
A Millennial Date
A New Beatitude
Shopping Cheap
Watching No Baseball
What Lies Ahead





A Haiku Quilt for Y2K
My house is burning--
     a neighbor has brought coffee
          which tastes excellent.

Hill of snowy pines--
     has anyone let you know
          about Y2K?

A falling red leaf
     lightly taps my left shoulder.
          Yes, I say--I've heard.

Orange maple leaves,
     why can't I prolong your lives?
          "We're the clock for yours."

Sitting by flowers--
     silence--until a petal
          falls upon a stone.

Spring rain is falling
     on a fountain shooting high--
          not a drop confused.

Water drop forming
     on this tree leaf tip--how does
          it know when to fall?

Open, empty truck
     parked beneath a star-filled sky--
          what is there to haul?

The sun rises red
     and fifty more pedants are
          experts on haiku.

Desert sun cooling
     hotly down the western sky--
          lizards blink, stir, wait.

Lazy snow circles,
     crystals landing like light planes
          on brown grass runways.

Tulip buds in rows
     bloom by bloom become cannons
          shooting at the sun.

War in your closet
     hangs somewhere behind your clothes
          needing awful love.

New snow -- old snowman
     leaning in the yard next door,
          one coal for a wink.


PDF for printing





A Millennial Date

(Written in 1999)
I'm so glad we know of
this magical forest--
don't the clear waters here
make us look younger?

End of the what?
Oh, that.
Here, let me pour you a Coke
from our picnic cooler.

Diet or regular?
With or without ice?

Of course, a toast--
here's to this endless earth
we've made and are made of.
May our one-triple-nined
planet contrive to survive
this year of broadcast hysteria,
and may the Christian
clickover of 2000 somehow
transform trumpeting holiness
into selfless silence.

Magic tricks?
No, I have none.
There's so much magic
here in this forest,
here on this earth,
here in our hearts,
that any more
would be less.

Safe this year, are we?
As safe as we feel, I'd say--
and as safe as we love,
as safe as we give,
as safe as everything
we don't understand.

We are flies on a ceiling
which is also the floor
of a marvelous room above.
Count that room's years base 10
and it's a third millennium.
Count them base God
and oneness is far enough.

Another Coke?
Yes, thank you.
A toast to all the magic
that keeps us safe
and all the daring
that keeps us magic.

PDF for printing




Briefing

Here is who you will be:
I. M. Ego
#1 My Place
Selfville, Body

Remember your address
and don't neglect
to decorate your walls and
keep your place unsoiled.

You need to live here, yes,
because your past exertions
somehow built this place
according to your own design.

Here you'll be safe,
with one catch--
you may not think
you are.

"Ego" has grown to be
an ugly word,
you'll notice, but it
only means your walls.

How could you reach
a later hatching into light
if forced to learn and grow
unsheltered by these walls?

Now go, be, love, talk,
laugh, err, create, teach,
glimpse and lose and
glimpse the light again.

Anything is permissible but
everything is accountable
while living in this dwelling
that restrains while it protects--

until the day you hatch
into the waiting sunlight
with a realized reaping
and a grateful weeping.

PDF for printing




Watching No Baseball

We are sitting behind left field,
you and I, alone in the stadium.
We watch home plate where
no batter swings at no ball
that no pitcher has pitched.

Intently we follow no action anywhere.

The scoreboard contains no numbers
about forgotten innings.

Behind home plate
no umpire fiddles with
his protective pad
or runs the game with
shouts and gestures.

We are very much here.

No catcher signals for
crafty pitches to be hurled
from the vacant mound.

We sit here
safely upheld by bleachers
empty of roaring rabble.

Undwarfed by
an immense space
entirely eventless,
we inhale silence.

No need for talk.

After just enough
emptying of minds,
seeing everything that is
and isn't here
from arbitrary seats,
we know that it's over.

Down the winding exit stairs
we climb without a word
behind no crowds
to the busy sidewalk.

We exchange glances
but don't need to say
who won.

PDF for printing




What Lies Ahead*

What lies ahead no human mind can know--
     Tomorrow may bring happiness or woe.
          We cannot carry charts
     Save the Faith that's in our hearts
As down the Unknown Way we blindly go.

*Note: The above poem was not written by me, nor
have I been able to discover the name of its author.
I found it handwritten on the opening page of a 1941
wartime scrapbook kept by my grandmother, Theda
M. Harris. I was strangely moved by this poem and
felt it to be worth preserving and sharing. I'd be grateful
to anyone who can e-mail me the name of its author.
(To do so, click
--Alan Harris       

PDF for printing




An Evening Question

To a Guest Reading by Paul Meier

Blackbirds crackle random
sonic pepper under fading skies
at end of day when silence
brings more pain to birds
than sounds held in can bear.

Up west, three backlit
afterclouds, blue-gray,
suggest a breathless blessing,
outer sky to inner eye.

Two robins try antiphony
positioned fence to fence
and trade their choruses
across a subtlety of dew.

Overhead, a helicopter's growl
subdues the singing birds
who observe a silent minute
waiting for the bully to be gone.

Next door, the dog
barks out his being
at something heard or felt
and with each bark
a girl shouts "Shut up!"
until he does.

A cat comes walking by,
surprised at me,
too close,
but quickly taking care
to show no fear.

Quietly alert,
I stare across
this outdoor table--
top all strewn with
wings of maple seeds
delayed from
reaching earth--
and I bow within.

My breath amazed
at simple dusk,
I fold in half,
and half, and half,
until there's hardly any I.

This enigmatic sky
now closing day
with fake finality
while straddling
yin and yang
abstains from answering
my wordless
evening question.

PDF for printing




Graduation

Our ride
slows
to a halt

and the man says
"Everybody off."

We don't
quite know
where
we've been

and we're a
little dizzy
as we step

down into
the future.


PDF for printing




Shopping Cheap

To a Guest Reading by Paul Meier

Empty-feeling in this full-discount store,
I notice others trancing by, glaze-eyed,
behind their clinking lop-wheeled carts.
Lured, are they, by the hook of free?
Hypnotized by the hype of cheap?
I wander hapless and mapless
through thingful, clerkless aisles
and chafe inside at where things aren't.

PA speakers storewide
announce who-cares specials,
demand urgent price checks,
summon somebodies to the front, then
resume happy snippets of syrupy sambas.

Ah! A rare tagged homo employus--
I'll catch him and be out of here.
"Where are the reading glasses?" I ask
his back before he can escape.

He gives robotic directions to Aisle 5,
cinched with a "Can't miss 'em."

Remember when store clerks
would ask if they could help you,
and lead you to your product,
then stick around to make sure
it was really what you needed?

Remember customers? Service?

Within this barn of bargains
harried service-counter girls refund
to waiting lines for slipshod quality,
murmuring memorized apologies
to jaded ears, then "Step up, please."

Remember quality? Cordiality?

Absent is any quality counter
to make up for poor service
at the service counter.

Employees hired here
for ho-hum per hour
evade frazzled shoppers who,
from all different wealths,
squander the numbered
heartbeats of their lives
to search for bargains
planted cleverly near
high-margin impulse racks.

Remember joy? Hilarity?

Blindly, the free market (an
oxymoron to the credit-card poor)
ratchets money up to our
finely-computered investors
who downwardly squeeze
more work for equal pay
out of fewer desperates who
hate the jobs they have
which earn the scratch they need
to take out bigger loans.

Remember philanthropy? Altruism?

No reading glasses found in Aisle 5.
Did miss 'em.

Aimless now in Aisle 7,
I stop my cart to ask within:
How might people market goods
with love instead of greed?
Is selfishness the ultimate?

As if an angel had the mike,
the PA system broadcasts
"Follow the blue light...",
crackles, and goes silent.

PDF for printing

Above poem is included in the Christmas Reflections PDF book
Holiday poems to print for gifts or for keeps
Free PDF Download - 2.0 MB, 18 pages
Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader (also free)





Angels of the Sunset

For Those with Open Hearts
Photographic Version
Some lucky ones have claimed
to see and even hear an angel
or a host of them presiding in
resplendence over countrysides
or busy city neighborhoods.

Most angels seem to hover just where
bright meets dim, and rarely show
themselves to televisioned eyes
or eyes that scan stock tickers
for the best bonanza yet.

Some people yearn lifelong to see
an angel near their morning porch
or, ill, pray earnest prayers
for healing angels who will
touch them and dispel disease.

Anyone who has a western sky
and something of an inner eye
may sometimes notice sunset angels
in their dance of shifting veils
above the darkening ground.

Concealed and yet revealed
in colors you can see between,
these angels bless in silent bigness
all whose eyes are listening
and all with openness of heart.

So subtle are the wings of angels
that you may not realize
they've come and gone, except
that innerly remains a glowing
which seems just as good as knowing.

PDF for printing




Meeting

To a Reading by Alan Harris

Letters to mail
and a twilit beckon
from the dimming sky
tempted tonight
my walk to the mailbox
that never seems
to come to me.

At my first turn
the fat, lop-lit moon
shouldered me
and whispered,

"I'm here with you,
never not here.
Turn you to dust
or turn you to ash,
I will be here."

I mailed my letters
and walked for home.

So simply it came to be--
my ageless friend and me
slipping past tree and tree.

PDF for printing




A Christmas Light

To a Reading by Alan Harris

At Christmas some will doubt--
they'd rather see first-hand
the legendary holy child
than hear fine stories told.

Some legends place a star
above the manger scene
to be a beacon guide
to men who had wise gifts--

but if a body of heaven
were wanted to remind folks
nowadays of this child
who was gifted and gave,

why not the unassuming moon,
whose quiet beaming gives
us all an inner warmth
akin to Yuletide happiness?

Humbly shines this second light,
relaying solar guiding rays
to people lost within a night
who wish to find a path.

Who hasn't sometimes wished
to thank the moon for glowing
above a ride back home
from church on Christmas Eve?

The lowly moon a Christmas light?
How daily seem its rays to us--
no special star sent from afar
that never will be seen again.

If peace and softness were
required, the moon has both.
If mystery were needed,
where could more be found?

Perhaps someone is in the moon,
as nursery rhymes suggest--
let's grant this may be true,
and this man or woman is you.

The moon inside you is
your inner manger birth,
and you inside the moon
shine gifts upon the earth.

PDF for printing

Above poem is included in the Christmas Reflections PDF book
Holiday poems to print for gifts or for keeps
Free PDF Download - 2.0 MB, 18 pages
Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader (also free)





A New Beatitude

Blessed are the shrinks
who'll listen to you hollah
for just a hundred dollah
when life completely stinks.

PDF for printing




Gathering

To a Reading by Alan Harris

A hush around the dying
lacks nothing for no words--

     forgiveness by default,
     love river-big,
     faltering philosophies,
     robbed expectations.

The air inside the air
seems ready to receive.

PDF for printing


Previous Poetry Collection:
Knocking on the Sky (1997-98)
Poetry Home Page Next Poetry Collection:
Just Below Now (2000)