William Norine

Email: drumlaw75@gmail.com

I studied law and music. I have been a professional jazz drummer and composer, a college music teacher, a Boston cab driver, a Wall Street lawyer, and served 10 years as a District Attorney.  My poems have appeared in The Kansas Quarterly, the Lyric, The Coe Review, the GW Review, Aileron, The Mankato Review, The Midwest Poetry Review, The William and Mary Review, The Pacific Review (wherein I was featured poet), Red Cedar, The Amherst Review, The Cape Rock, and numerous other journals.  I won the Nassau Review’s “Best Poem of the Year” award in 2005, and have been featured poet in other journals. I hope to spend what’s left of my life reading, writing, playing music, and, most importantly, helping others.


Listening to Christmas Carols on
Interstate 94 Mid-Winter

“The Holly has a blossom, as white as any star...”

White freeway. I’m watching how
the floating snow makes patterns
on the windshield glass; watching how
the large, exquisite flakes jewel
to melting almost with regret;

so slow to go--they blend together in a wash
of mist to wipe away with another
dwindling year. (They tell us nothing’s
lost; it only changes form.
Why then do we miss things so?)
Dad is that your winsome call
in flight above the lonesome snow,

swirling in the winter woods
and trees of sixty years ago?
Do you discern these carols in
some midnight clear? Each pass-
ing day I’m closer to the truth,
yet see only from a wearied distance
or darkly through a windshield glass.
If only I could make things out;
bridge that transit between faith
and sight. On a darkening hill,
a twinkling tower bulb, red
as Holly, slowly blinks its light.

Originally published in Red Cedar

The Little Girl in the Embalming Treatise

God knows I wasn’t looking for it
(browsing for poetry at the College Bookstore)
But the big blue sign attracted—
“Mortuary Science Textbooks.” On the bench
there rested a weighty tome—
“Basic Embalming,” on display--
thick as an encyclopedia,
a coffee table book for the House of Usher,

filled with glossy text and pictures—
The several stages of death (agonal,
clinical, cellular, biological…)
A bald woman, all chin and cheekbones
the mouth a withered hole
and open as if talking
(“restoring the chemotherapy patient”)

On the facing page, a dapper
fellow in his fifties, almost posing
for his photo here,
bemused like nothing’s wrong
and even seeming to be dozing
overdressed at a wedding
that’s gone on too long.
(“preparing the middle aged male”)

And on a shiny page so deep within
a little girl, no more than ten
lying serenely on her back,
closed eyes to heaven,
some tiny bruises by her cheek
sprinkled like freckles on a summer day
(surely not fatal, those?)
Her pretty bottom teeth are showing.

This is Science too, I suppose
and no less useful or profound
than the kind that informs with ease
how many planets orbit round
some distant star,
or that pinpoints with supreme
precision some new disease
for which there is no cure.

Master of the Big Bang
and the primordial atom—Man,
so smart--knows the age
of the universe to a day
and how it all began,
but still does naught for this little girl
in the embalming treatise
The authors are too science-wise

to quote the Savior, “she is only sleeping;”
in those white rooms the words “arise
little girl”are never spoken.
The best that one can do
is see the delicate matter through
of sewing the pretty, almost smiling mouth
neatly and securely closed;
keep her presentable another day

or so, until she is safely put away
and out of sight for keeps,
cacooned beneath the heavy sod
in the darkness of which little girls
are still afraid, a darkness never
broken by a ray
of sun, and that waits
forever for the voice of God.

Originally published in Red Cedar