Peggy Turnbull


When Big Tuba Goes to Heaven

God, don’t let silence rule the hereafter.
Our father’s nonagenarian lungs
are a testament to his handle
from C.B. radio days:  Big Tuba.
He likes his music lively.   

Let paradise be a place
where he can play polkas 
at a perpetual party.  Once a night
he’ll sing The Blue Skirt Waltz
in Bohemian.  The crowd
will hush and strain to hear words
their parents spoke in the language
of childhood. Between songs
musicians will wet their whistles
from a bottle hidden in a paper sack
discreetly passed.

Let him wear a scarlet tee
that reads God’s Gift to Women. 
And a cap for the Chicken Dance
with a model barnyard animal
complete with droppings
attached to the bill.

If kingdom come is fit for the jocund
please hold your horses.
He’ll tell you when he’s ready 
and there will be nothing quiet,
nothing tame, nothing solemn--
just his thunderous alleluias
piercing the pink glory
of the promised land
as you welcome Big Tuba home. 





Church of the Holy Urban Messengers  

A crow’s black cape drapes over the feeder.  He hops
to the ground, pecks for seeds where squirrels forage. 
His kinsmen linger near birches while Mr. Bold displays
his wing-span, lifts a karate master’s claw, Bela Lugosi
in the backyard.  Squirrels scatter.  The crows close in.

A sick man watches from a window, rises from the chair
where he dwells in wait for the guy with hood and scythe.
Depression ages him, his eyes whirligigs of angst.  He’s stared
into emptiness two years. But today black feathers shimmer
in sunlight.  He croaks to his wife, “They’re social critters.” 

She nods.  The couple once equated the scavengers
with roadside carrion, trespassers, sinister spells.  Now
they subscribe to the Church of Holy Urban Messengers,
founded by themselves.  They offer peanuts
and suet, rejoice at each glimpse of gleaming black. 

The winged ones descend, a blessing of dark angels,
miraculous healers.  Spontaneously, the couple hum
hymns of praise.  They know what salvation means. 





At Evening, the Faithful Gather

At dusk near a black river
a roiling slapping river
where the harbor sends its backwash
believers form two lines
astride the downtown bridge

They pray for peace in this world
in words written by St. Francis
belt freedom songs, chant psalms
bow heads in reverence

As they try to light their candles
breezes play with them and bluster
flames flicker, wicks darken
herring gulls shriek overhead

The wind disrupts and bothers
the words sent up to heaven
garbles language as they listen
sends strange words their way

Look up, look up, you people!
You pray to God and Jesus
while a Great Spirit listens
sees your hands are linked together
in peace with all creation
your worship’s penetrating
three hundred years of dispossession
sent to ears of old gods dwelling
in Manitowoc, their home

The people then were puzzled
Who gave the wind such power?
How could they trust this new voice?
Should they be offended
by an ancient pagan spirit
interrupting their calm worship
speaking louder than their Lord?  

But others thought it potent
that prayer had stirred what slumbered
a force that was forsaken
by European settlers
and if their Lord kept silent
perhaps there was a reason

for Mother Earth is stirring
If she asks now for attention
who dares to turn away?






Peggy Turnbull is from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, once a state leader in the number of polka bands per population.  She is now retired, but during her working years she was one of three librarians in her family.  Read her recent poems in Social Justice Poetry, Mad Swirl, NatureWriting, and Three Line Poetry