He Just Belongs

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Mom and Dad gave Billy that dime store guitar
when he was little. He took it from there.
I left home, and when I orbited back,
he’d transformed himself into a big ball of
Toy Caldwell, Richard Betts and Jerry Garcia.
The kid with the plastic-stringed plywood box
now strode onto stages a guitar god.
But when he gave in to his blues…oh my.

Under the lights, with that Strat in his hands,
he finally was who he was meant to be…himself.
He could raise us up, then make us cry,
all with a two-step bend of a G.
Then he’d release it, like he did one night
with his spirit, to sit in with Toy and Jerry.
He’ll never have to give up his seat.
Stevie Ray says he’s got his back.
He’s Wild Bill and they all know
he just belongs.

My friend Anthony Desmond has asked folks to write a poem about music. My relationship with music is deep as the Marianas Trench, but it’s center of gravity always is my late brother Bill.

54 Across

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“Joel, you’ve got to hurry up here and see this,” Andi Simkins called one Late Sunday afternoon from the patio window to her husband down in what Joel called his Subterranean Lair.

“I’ll be up as soon as I finish this part of the Times crossword, hon,” Joel replied from his leather lounger, as the Giants versus the Eagles provided a background soundtrack from his 50-inch flatscreen.

“Lemme see…54 Across…seven-letter word for skyline,” Joel mumbled to himself, with an Eagle’s player’s interception of a late-day sun-blinded Giant receiver’s potential catch sending the Philly crowd into a mega-decibel frenzy in the background.

Andi called one more time, “Joel, please, you’ll miss this if you wait much longer….”

And when he didn’t answer, Andi sighed once again, stood by the patio doors, and recalled all those afternoons Joel would tangle his fingers in her auburn hair and she would beam at him with her gold-flecked blue eyes, as they’d watched the sun sink, a searing communion of light and heat, beyond that southwestern horizon.

A five-sentence fiction based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word HORIZON.

You Just Missed It

Speeding north on I-87 any
early autumn afternoon,
you could feel the thip thip thip
of the tar strips tickling
your tires and toes,
if you really paid attention.
But you were more concerned
with what you left behind in that mirror
and with that tossing of red light
rosary beads surrounding you.
The trees to your left and right flash
like a natural zoetrope, animating
an unnoticed world as you pass.

You don’t see the geese lighting
with a sun splash on the Mohawk.
You could never imagine the little girl
sitting alone in that shabby house
you just passed hoping her mom
gets home from work by 10:30.
If you looked to your right,
you might have seen those puppies
that escaped their yard, bumbling
and yipping through the brush
heading for the same roadside that
browsing deer on the opposite side
consider crossing to after sundown.
You just missed it because you wondered
if pizza or chicken waited home for you.

Shared with my friends at dVerse Poets Pub.

Wolves

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“For God’s sake, Robert, it’s been ten days since the raid and the men been without any provisions since two days a’fore that, other than the bit of dried corn they carried off from St. Francis before we set it to the torch,” George Campbell said, chewing a piece of fringe from his deerskin leggings.

“Aye, I’m hungry too, Lieutenant, but game is beyond scarce in these parts, we’re carrying prisoners and, with the Frenchies on our trail, I trust our scattered men are maintaining the pace however they can to meet us and the Regulars down at Fort Number 4,” said the rangers’ commander, Major Robert Rogers.

Since the pre-dawn those ten days before, when Rogers and his men had attacked the Abenaki mission village near the south shore of the St. Lawrence River in the French province of Canada , killing more than thirty of its residents, native, French provincial and military forces were hunting the White Mountains for the British colonials.

“Bring me that fat old woman that’s been nattering and wailing for the past five days,” Rogers called across the fire to the men guarding Abenaki prisoners, as he stood and placed his hands on his hips, just above the beaded Mohawk belt in which he kept his tomahawk and fine knife that came all the way from Sheffield in England.

Campbell looked into the eyes of the man the Abenaki called Wabo Madahondo — White Devil — saw that cold glint again, like a spark from a piece of flint, then spit out the gelatinous bit of hide he chewed, and shrugged as desperartion and disgust overwhelmed what back in Albany had once been his conscience.

Tonight is the 255th anniversary of the revenge attack by the group of American colonial fighters we know today as Rogers’ Rangers on the Abenaki village of St. Francis in what is now the Canadian province of Quebec. War on the frontier of what is now the states of New York and Vermont was as bloody and merciless as if it was fought by wolves. And, in truth, the native and provincial warriors protecting their families from one another were the attack dogs Kings George and Louis used to protect their fur trade lands. This story, based on legend, fact and that cloudy “more than likely so” in between is my poor effort to demonstrate one man’s hero is another’s savage villain. It was inspired by Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt HUNGER and my hunger to know the history of where I live.

Penumbra: The Space Between, my debut collection, available on Amazon

Some of you may be wondering where the heck I’ve been for the past few months, particularly during September. Well, lots of things kept me away from you as a friend and a writer during that time. One of them was this:

It is with excitement and a smidgen of nerves that I announce publication of my first collection of poetry, Penumbra: The Space Between. The Kindle version of my debut effort is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

Penumbra_Cover_for_Kindle

You can find it on Amazon here:

I have so many of you to thank for encouraging me with my writing, and for poking me like a rented mule to put this out. I wouldn’t be the me you see here without you. And you know what? I’ve got a few more surprises up my sleeve for the next few months.

Across The Shorter Hills

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Maybe it’s the sun’s sharper angle
as it heaves from horizon to horizon
over the shorter hills of October.
Maybe it’s the perfume a year
in middle age wears, earthy, musty,
so full of memory.
Maybe it’s the looking back I do
when I see that western horizon
in its long dark coat, waving me
toward what seems like
an end to this Never-was.
Maybe I don’t blanch as the sky
grows wider, replacing fallen leaves’
with its orange and yellow hue
because behind me lay days
of fool’s gold and this moment
of my life’s autumn shines diamond-bright
in its crystalline air of possibility.

A much-needed free written poem based on my inspirational friend Kellie Elmore’s prompt photo up there.

Back Under the Covers

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It always seems foggy
here on the road
we ride to morning.
Today, even Wednesday,
the equinox of the week,
can open only one eye,
letting the other lid fall
as she tries to crawl
back under the covers
of September.
Meanwhile, we hear
October tapping her foot
with each fallen leaf.
Impatiently, she waits
to crest that autumn horizon,
even though she knows
it’s all downhill
from there.

Photo and poem by Joseph Hesch © 2014

What Goes ‘Round, Comes ‘Round

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His daughter-in-law told Charlie Bates she thought his six-year-old granddaughter, Charlotte, might be too young, too frightened, to take her first ride on the Rainbow Fun Park’s famous Ferris wheel, though Charlie was adamant.

“I had my first ride on The Rainbow when I was Charl’s age,” Charlie said. “You just make sure you get a picture or two of us on it with your phone, okay?”

When Charlie arrived home that evening, he found six photos of Charlotte and him beaming as they whirled above the soon-to-close-forever amusement park attached to an email that read in part: “Rode nearly every ride at the Fun Park, and all she could talk about on the way home was riding with you on that Ferris wheel, Dad.”

Charlie breathed a whistle and clicked SAVE on each colorful shot, while with his left hand he clicked the shiny serrated edge of an old black and white photo of an old man and a boy, on the back of which was written in his Mom’s hand: “Dad and Charlie, age 6, ride The Rainbow, 1958.”

When I saw Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt word WHEELS this week, I knew I wanted to twist that tale just a little. Luckily (or maybe not so luckily), the storied Hoffman’s Playland, an Albany area institution for more than 60 years, closed last week to much fanfare and sadness. As a kid who had his first amusement park rides at Hoffman’s, and as a new granddad, I knew I had to write something like this story.

Metamorphosis

Is this how it is for caterpillar,
waking in his cocoon,
encased here in twisted sheets
within which the only moving parts
are heavy-lidded eyes darting
dark to dark and a heart pounding sore?
A night of toss and turn,
sigh and thrash, won’t metamorphose
a simple man into something better
than when he dropped into his lonely bed
and prayed blessed sleep would bring
new life come morning, should it come.
Morning is but the butterfly of night
a new chance at the same life
with or without whatever spun
this dawn-cracked shroud. But still,
a chance.

A Morning’s Work

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At dawn, fog sleeping in the trees
holds captive dimming street lights,
fireflies caught in its ethereal web.
Gaping new moon yawns her stars to bed
beneath the creeping blanket of day.

Commuters still haven’t grumbled
from their beds, but we began our job
an hour ago. The river never sleeps,
not even under winter’s ice, so we dutifully set
our paper sails upon its whispering rills.

We know breezy shadows will deliver
bright thoughts of day, of love, of life,
upon our harboring doorstep.
This is our time, my mind’s pen and I,
and our workday is almost over.

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