Robert Nordstrom was raised in Toledo, Ohio, where as a child he climbed trees in suburbia to gain a view of the way out. After a stint in Viet Nam, a couple of years in Florida sweating in front of kitchen broilers, a year in Paris with his wife Linda, he finally found his way to Wisconsin—home at last. A MA graduate of the Creative Writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he worked as an editor/writer for various trade and scholarly publications for over 30 years. A Pushcart Prize nominee, he has published poetry, fiction and essays in numerous publications, including Upstreet, Main Street Rag, The Comstock Review, Naugatuck River Review, Blue Heron Review, Verse Wisconsin, Stoneboat, Rosebud and others. His poetry has taken second place and honorable mention in WFOP’s Triad Contest, and his poem "Old Lovers" won the 2014 Hal Prize. His poetry collection The Sacred Monotony of Breath was published by Prolific Press in 2015.
The Sacred Monotony of Breath (Prolific Press, 2015)
The night I peed out the cabin window
from the top bunk at Camp Miakonda,
my scoutmaster, as pissed off as I was pissed out,
dropped me and my sleeping bag
like a recalcitrant puppy
next to the newly wet upon leaves.
The 1950s—little protection from a scoutmaster
with little patience for a little shit
with the temerity to interrupt his intimate moment
with a Camel at the fire pit.
Or, for that matter, from a clueless mother who
figured her son needed a new kind of scouting experience,
so dropped him like sin
into a Good News Club basement to
sing songs, memorize scriptures,
work through exciting Bible lessons
using colorful materials,
the flyer said.
Don’t remember a thing about Good News
other than the bad news of having to go.
Puberty has its own lesson plans:
like peeking out the dining room window,
peanut butter and jelly sandwich in hand,
to watch my older brother seduce
the next door babysitter,
or standing in a dark hallway as Mother
cupped and lifted her naked breasts to the mirror
one night when I got up for a glass of water,
or appraising my Good News den mother’s family
in a front row pew at church,
father, mother, unmarried knocked-up daughter
still and straight as pitchforks
in my newly artful eye.
In The Sacred Monotony of Breath (Prolific Press, 2015). First published in The Comstock Review.
Two lovers lie in bed, air thin
between them, ceiling a black cloud
absorbing their dreams.
Their hands touch,
and in silence they begin
their climb to gain a view,
see where they have been
where they might yet go.
Over there, one says, no,
over there, the other responds,
but neither sees what the other sees.
The cynic says, see, there is no there
there, only breath at whose peaks and valleys
we die and are resurrected again.
Ah, but these old lovers know better,
eyes closed now to open the view, calling
without you I never would have gone there.
In The Sacred Monotony of Breath (Prolific Press, 2015). Winner of 2014 Hal Prize.