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The White Bird

The White Bird

First Edition

Copyright © 2013 William Bernhardt

Published by The Balkan Press

All rights reserved

ISBN: 978-0-9993420-6-0

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

The White Bird

and other poems by

William Bernhardt

Other Books by William Bernhardt

The Red Sneaker Writer Series

Story Structure: The Key to Successful Fiction

Creating Character: Bringing Your Story to Life

Perfect Plotting: Charting the Hero’s Journey

Dynamic Dialogue: Letting Your Story Speak

Powerful Premise: Writing the Irresistible

Sizzling Style: Every Word Matters

Excellent Editing: The Writing Process

The Ben Kincaid Series

Primary Justice

Blind Justice

Deadly Justice

Perfect Justice

Cruel Justice

Naked Justice

Extreme Justice

Dark Justice

Silent Justice

Murder One

Criminal Intent

Hate Crime

Death Row

Capitol Murder

Capitol Threat

Capitol Conspiracy

Capitol Offense

Capitol Betrayal

Justice Returns

Other Novels

The Code of Buddyhood

Dark Eye

The Midnight Before Christmas

Final Round

Double Jeopardy

Strip Search

Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness

The Game Master

Challengers of the Abyss


The White Bird

The Ocean’s Edge

For Young Readers

Equal Justice: The Courage of Ada Lois Sipuel (biography)

Princess Alice and the Dreadful Dragon

The Black Sentry


Edited by William Bernhardt

Legal Briefs

Natural Suspect

For my teachers and my students:

I have learned from all of you.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

from “Digging”

by Seamus Heaney



The Professor


Mystery Story



Joslyn’s Idea

Meditation 7:15

Dinah and Me

Shakespeare’s Daughter




For My Rutabaga Baby

My Holland

The Historian

Found Poetry From Leicester Square

Deck Party

The English Countryside


After Meeting J.M. Coetzee

What Happened While I Was Away?”

Valentine’s Day


William Harrison


My Greatest Poem



The White Bird


No Horizon




The Oklahoma Kid Rides Again


The Problem with Poetry

The Moment She Said “Yes”


Fair to Poor

Tons of Time

Idylls of Baast


AIB, 13



These Days

Physics Lesson

Morning Poem



Sonnet 1

Sonnet 2

Sonnet 6

Sonnet 7

Love’s Labour Regained

Fiction Writing

How to Get Published




My Finest Hour


This is how it begins:

scratches on signs, on blocks

on a white page. Then the

scratches start to dance. They

recombinate, they collect sounds

they call your name.

Like so much in childhood

they are ciphers, full of secrets

but once you learn the dance

the mysteries of this world

and more, are revealed.

You learn to read.

You learn:

manners from Goldilocks

curiosity from George

gluttony from Peter

nonsense from Alice.

You set sail with Jim Hawkins, raft with Huck

and row with Mole.

Love is eternal, Catherine tells you

But so is madness, says the first Mrs. Rochester.

Jeeves helps you laugh

poetry helps you cry

Atticus shows you how to do both, with courage.

Not only have the scratches shaped the world

they have shaped your world.

They have taught you how to see.

Now you need never be afraid.

Now you will never be alone.

In the darkest night

in the deepest solitude

the scratches will call to you.

You will open the covers.

They will reach out their arms and say,

You thought you were the only one?

The Professor

In the beginning there was the Word

and the Word became my life.

When I left Pittsburgh as a boy

I had no idea what it meant

to read, to write, to teach

to compete

but I learned.

I wrote a love poem to woo my lady

and she agreed she would be mine

if I would give up writing poetry.

I go to class armed with my quotations, my books

and my bow tie

but I spend the summers writing

four books in forty years.

What does it matter if anyone has read them

or even reviewed them?

They are good books

and I have poured the strength and soul

of so many summers into them.

Haven’t I earned a little recognition?

Haven’t I at least earned a footnote

in the dissertation

of the next young man from Pittsburgh?


After he carves the turkey I

lead the group giving thanks

like an acceptance speech

at the Oscars.

I’d like to thank TLF for

teaching me how to love

in the back seat of my father’s white Cadillac

Harry, for teaching me strength

Mother, for teaching me how to dress

don’t I look sharp in my Armani tux

with the stud instead of a bow tie?

I’d like to thank Joe Blades for

liking my stories even

the stupid ones

and all the little people

who are actually huge

Readers out in Readerland

who make it all possible

by reading my books even

the stupid ones

and that librarian who first shoved a book

into my myopic view

I’d like to thank everyone who lends my life spice

you know who you are

I want to thank—Wait! Don’t

start the music yet

I’m not finished.

--the carver, for teaching me

who I didn’t want to be

Alice, for teaching me

who I did want to be

Ralph, for reminding me who I was.

A groundswell of applause begins

but I bat it down with my hands.

Most of all, I want to thank

the people gathered around this table

we are all hurting

but at least today we are all hurting together.

Mystery Story

Every now and again I catch

a glimpse of myself

we all do it

a fleeting reflection in a store window

a mirror where a wall should be

who is that squinty-eyed

idiot looking back at me

hunched shoulders, giraffe neck

receding hairline he’s

all forehead and face with

eyes narrowed by reading and

time. You are old, Father William

and no starvation diet will erase

lines not etched by

laughter. I need a theme

song and I’m hoping for Over

the Rainbow but I’m hearing

What Kind of Fool Am I?


I emerge from a liquid sleep

and rise to the first splinter of light.

The morning sky is an unblemished canopy

its color reflected in my eyes.

The morning sun embraces the mountainside

while a fierce wind threatens to send our canvas castle

plummeting to sea level 8000 feet below.

The clouds are a wispy stair step, parallel, not ascendant,

inviting me to explore what lies beyond.

We are reliably informed

that Shambhala was a mythic city where people

strove to live a more harmonious life.

This was interspersed with more practical information—

don’t feed the mythic bears—

because writers are susceptible to illusion.

But where lies illusion when clouds beckon?

Why have we come from all points of the compass?

Why would anyone climb the mountain

or traverse the winding path to the stupa,

or synagogue, or cathedral, or sit cross-legged

attending to our breathing, and why

would we ever pick up a pen to write

except to discover something far more real

and less treacherous

something beyond the brindled clouds

something you feel in your heart

something you see in the deepest sleep

and is no illusion?


The coastline is shrouded by fog

invisible but omnipresent

shifting the colors to a grayer scale

muting the conversation of the birds

preventing the sun from elucidating the morning.

We sit at a fork in the river, a crossroads

but unlike my good friend Bobby Frost

we will probably not choose the road less traveled.

The kayakers do.

They are all young women

and they glide down the shimmering water

like beings from an ice planet, a world in which surface tension

has not yet been invented.

Stroke left, stroke right, left, right, left.

The swans take no notice.

Together, the kayakers and the

gliding as-it-turns-out-not ducks

beckon me toward the alternate path

the direction this boat surely will not take.

The woman at dinner last night thought me a great iconoclast

but my choices were all made a long time ago

and though it may seem to others that I am swimming with the swans

I know that I am merely cruising

on the boat I boarded when I was young

and didn’t know any better.

What lies to the left?

Beneath the bridge and beyond the horizon?

Serenity, I choose to imagine.

A sense of peace with one’s self.

The respect of one and all, perhaps

even the admiration of one’s children.

Your work stands and salutes you as you pass by

and at night you snuggle

not with a drink, or a crossword,

but with someone soft and all-embracing

who never tires of telling you how much you matter.

The kayakers are gone now.

The swans have drifted to the midpoint

of the fork in the river.

Perhaps they will follow me whichever way I travel.

Perhaps it is much the same down either stream

never having enough, always smelling

the flowers that bloom on the other bank.

But I miss the kayak girls who veered left

without hesitation or deliberation

and now have disappeared

into the infinite recesses of the fog.

Joslyn’s Idea

translucent like the

window pane like the truth and

just as hard to hold

I like slick words that

glide off the tongue and make me

sound much smarter than I

actually am. It

shimmers like heat off the road

just as hard to hold

sometimes I wish I

could shimmer, dissolve

and be translucent like

Meditation 7:15

Nothing is ever what you imagine it will be

you think, as you travel down the winding road

and catch your first glimpse of the brown ground

and the melting snow. The mountain steps aside

to reveal the nesting valley, tall pines--

perhaps not so tall as you envisioned--

pink mud and a baby blanket sky,

jazzy triangular pennants, the fierce

banshee wind, the revenants

of extinct lifeforms, and the alabaster peak

that always seems just a few more feet away.

You close your eyes and let this

imprint itself on your memory engrams,

less paradisiacal than you dreamt but more real,

more of the air you breathe and the people you know,

consumed by the collective craving for connection.

The food is pretty much what you imagined,

but not the dinner conversation, not

the deer vaulting into the forest as if

choreographed by Balanchine, not

the black-and-white bird that will not tell you its name, not

the gravity of silence, not

the carnival of consciousness left to its own devices.

Nothing is ever what you imagine it will be

and therein lies the impetus because otherwise

why would we even lace up our shoes?

Dinah and Me

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