Still Trying to Find Myself

Can you help show me the way 
to find myself? Who or where
I might be I’m never sure.
Am I a destination
or a denizen? A thought
or a thinker? Or maybe
I’m an island, alone in
the sea, or in a river
waiting for you to float by
and wave hello or goodbye.
So tell me about your quest
to find who you may have become
on the road from who you’ve been.
Or are you still lost as me,
just standing here, knowing you’ve
chosen what’s left but hardly 
ever what was right in all 
those forks on life's one-way road.
Perhaps I’ll never find myself
because never have I ever 
been able to arrive at 
the who I wanted to be.
Except for these quiet times 
when can I sit here with you, 
knowing I’m no longer lost.

Day 14 of NaPoWriMo and another promptless poem sprung from my quest to understand who I might be and why. Something I'm fairly certain about, though. Sometimes, I feel that while I'm writing these, I'm speaking to you and while you're reading them, you're listening to me. Together. Spiritually simultaneous. And I don't feel as lost and lonely sitting at this keyboard anymore.

Each Seed A New Start, Each A New Hope

You make me stop and wonder 
how things can go all wrong,
our real lives torn asunder,
not like in some country song.
So each day a poem’s born
from a seed you’ve sown in me,
from inside a heart that's torn
‘tween what can and cannot be.
We share so many places
life has bruised us black and blue.
Burned, beat and cut our faces,
yet still I recognize you. 
They’re just scars if we let life
cast us in such tragic roles,
full of Shakespeare’s storm and strife,
the ones for whom the bell tolls.
Reach out for my hand, dear heart,
We’ll keep digging with this pen.
Tending these seeds, each a new start,
at escaping to bright times again.

Day 13 of my NaPoWriMo poem-a day grind. I wasn't moved by any of the "official" prompts today, so I gritted through the act without a net. Oh, joy! More bruises. But so much of what I write comes from such black and blue ink.

Sorry, Wrong Number

What if I told you how I used to 
play a trick on myself where I’d call you, 
knowing you weren’t near your phone, 
just so I could hear you speak to me 
from your voice mail message?
But before you convict me of some 
great or lessor transgression,
isn’t this just a little like 
how you might race to hear my voice, 
season after season, 
when my newest poem crossed the ether?
No, I suppose not. 
But it’s nice to think we still might 
be listening to one another 
even if I never called you like that. 
I’d call you like this.

On Day 12 of this year's poem-a-day NaPoWriMo, I used one of my favorite types of prompts. It’s kind of like a word game, a test if you will, where Writer’s Digest editor Robert Lee Brewer gives six words and the poet must use at least three in a poem. I always earn "extra credit" (in my mind) for using all six. This time, the words are: convict, great, play, race, season, and voice.


The Scars We Share

Would you let me see your scars
like I let you see mine?
May I run my fingers softly over
your wounds writ in bas-relief
on places I can see and those
you haven’t shared?
Do I reveal too much or would you
accept another glimpse at some I
forgot until they show themselves
when I recall you and that and then?
If we bared them together, 3,2,1,
don’t be surprised to find we wear
the marks of matching wounds.
Those I would touch gently and
with a certain veneration, since
this is where once we shared our pain.

I Know Your Type

They say when you were younger, 
you were one of those loudly
stuttering rat-a-tat pounders 
on the old Underwood or such.
And when you moved on 
to an IBM Selectric, 
you probably left 
half-moon fingernail tracks 
like horses’ hoof prints 
in the vowels, T, S and N.
So when did you learn
this gentler touch? 
Oh, you’re a poet now?
You learned to take your time
and touch others as you
would prefer to be touched?
Who taught you that?
Never mind. Save it for
another day when you give 
everyone another sensual massage.
By the way,  I says you've  
worn her out by your over-attention.
Could you maybe find a way
to give Z or X some love?
Oh, c’mon! We know your type.

Okay, okay. I decided to give the Writer's Digest Day 9 prompt a try, writing a persona poem for an inanimate object. Probably because I was of little use to a couple of my more animate friends. So here my keyboard is talking to me. This toothy devil's just lucky I'm not writing any more Westerns lately. Rat-a-tat, indeed.

Like Smoke From a Canajoharie Longhouse

I figure the scent of frontier 
still filled the air like 
smoke from a Canajoharie longhouse,
when some long-gone laird 
cut down the Schoharie Eden-trees, 
cut up even older stones and 
piled them in fearful symmetry, 
building his sense of security.
A stream-side mill house, 
still being nibbled at by new growth, 
so sturdy, a miniature mountain, 
that a new forest marched
like Great Birnam wood 
toward Dunsinane hill to watch time 
defeat one man’s reach for a slice 
of immortality. Still they wait.
And though the mill’s roof is gone
like the old trees and the new trees’ 
leaves in October, its bones still stand, 
defiant, crusty as old bread 
from a goodwife’s brick oven 
and steely as an old man’s pride.
As I drive by, I crack open 
my car window, hoping to catch 
a whiff of my family's frontier. 
Or smoke from a Canajoharie longhouse.

Day 9: A poem about a nearby ruin, of sorts, that affects me greatly each time I see it. And I've seen it many times on my trips to pick up daughters from college and to visit friends. And maybe because it somehow connects me to my Palatine German ancestors who settled the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys in the early 1700s. Yeah, and we're all still standing. Oh, and photo © 2018 Joe Hesch.  

Through the Windshield Once More

If you were but a metaphor,
a verbal stand-in in a way,
We might understand us some more.
Though we are what we are today.

Like I’m just a crash test dummy,
that’s used to all kinds of abuse.
Who cares if I’m feeling crumby
if/when I’m strapped in by my muse?

I lost an eye to a sonnet,
a love poem the Bard might write.
Your name I’d never put on it,
but if I could hide it I might.

They screwed in a new one right here,
it’s my head they just can’t replace.
These dents and bumps won’t disappear,
like this QWERTYUIOP scar on my face.

So if you’d be a metaphor,
I’d love it if you’d be my heart.
Sure, this life will break us some more,
but at least not break us apart.

On Day 8 of Poem-a-Day April, I opted to write a "metaphor" poem. A sort of meta-metaphor poem. I would've liked to try NaPoWriMo's prompt of writing a kind of Spoon River Anthology-type poem as a deceased character, but I'm sure today it'd hurt people I would never wish to hurt.  

In Case You Wondered ~ A Shadorma

The answer
is complicated;
it's not a
black or white.
In truth, it lies ‘tween the two.
garbed in gray shadow.
I won't lie to you.
But in poems I write of
my dreams in 
black and white,
with you, in color,
I'm lying

For Day 6 of my poem-a-day April, I've followed NaPoWriMo's suggestion of using the poetic form called a shadorma. A shadorma is a six-line poem with a specific number of syllables -- 3-5-3-3-7-5 -- assigned to each line. I chose to make mine a mirror image version, which adds six more lines of 5-7-3-3-5-3 syllables, respectively. 

If We Only Listened

When I could hear again, 
I listened.
I listened to the wind whoosh 
its breath past my ears.
I listened as it roiled the river 
to a chop of a million mirrored suns.
I listened to our shadows 
scrape their chains across the pavement.
I listened to traffic hum its song
on an interstate I could not see 
but believed knew the words.
I listened as a gull shouted into the wind 
that it found it easier to fight 
river currents but loved the sky too much.
I listened to you tell me how angry 
our world was, though never heard you 
say that word.
And then I listened to my voice speak of what 
it didn’t understand because I never 
tried to say these things before.
So I listened to the river once more. 
The constant river, never changing,
spilling truths in teaspoons or torrents, 
if we’ll only listen.

Combined Writer's Digest's prompt for an "unchanged" poem and NaPoWriMo's to find inspiration from a favorite line of poetry. It's from William Stafford's "Ask Me," probably my favorite poem.

The (Next) First Time

The first time that I heard that voice
it caught me by surprise, I think.
Perhaps how it was carried on
the lilt of an infectious laugh
I did not know. Guess I needed to.

The next time that I heard that voice
I tried looking it in the eyes.
This is not an act I practice
too often, but this voice asked me
if I would. Guess we needed to.

All the times that I heard that voice,
it felt to me just like the first.
It spoke to me in more than words,
it asked me in, pushed me away.
Voice’s choice. ‘Cause it needed to. 

But what if there’s no next first time
that voice my old life surprises,
no more to grace these old deaf ears?
We’ll speak with more than our voices.
Hearts speak heart, we just needed two.

Day 5's poem was written at 5:30 AM on Day 6. I'll call it Day 5 still because dawn had not yet broken. This is kind of like old times for me, writing poems in my near sleep/not quite awake time. The difference is I actually got up and wrote it for the first time in years. Now on to Day 6...ON Day 6.