Tomorrow Under the Covers

I’m not certain anymore if I walk
through the valley of death’s shadow
or the shadow of the valley.
Either way, it’s cold and dark.
The days can start brightly enough,
curtains opened, sun illuminating,
though what day this is doesn’t seem
to climb from the covers until
well after I’ve gone downstairs.
At some point, no matter what light
through yon window breaks,
the Juliet of perceived joy will drink
the abbot’s poison. And that, friend, is that.
My steps will once again stagger
into the valley or the shadow
and some small death will rip from me
the light and warmth even you
might mean to provide.
And so it’s back to the room,
where those curtains I pull
and nameless tomorrow smooths
that special place for me beneath its blanket.
Somewhere between darkness and dawn,
your warmth and light will touch me.
Then tomorrow steals all the covers.

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Spring Sings Its Advent Hymns in February Skies

Photo © Joseph Hesch 2019

The hawk traces lazy eights
across the high clouds and distant blue.
You wonder how he keeps warm up there
when it’s single digits down here
on the white blanket ground.
Then a flash of blue stretches
flat waves across the road,
hanging azure bunting on hooks of air.
The jay finishes it’s celebratory decoration,
nailing it to an oak with both feet.
His obsidian-eyed stare declares
he’s still master of this level of the sky.

But a softer shade of blue
catches my eye at the top
of the red maple guarding my lawn.
Upon this bluebird’s chest he wears
a shield of look-at-me vermillion
and he sings in low-pitched triplets
of tu-a-wee tu-a-wee. I don’t speak
bluebird, but I think he’s singing a hymn
about Spring’s waiting like dimes
in the maple’s childlike bud fists
to drop into some March Sunday’s
collection basket.
Amen.

Making a Joyful Noizzzzz

I’m trying to write something happier
something outside of the same old dark stuff.
Problem: I don’t wish to sound sappier,
but convey more than a dog barking “Ruff.”

I said, “Joe, what would make you feel better?”
But the answer didn’t make itself clear.
I knew maybe when my whistle’s wetter…
So I went to the kitchen for a beer.

Sustained, I sat to make happy happen,
but just beer alone can bring on a yawn.
The next thing you know this poet’s nappin’,
rhyming “yawn” with the sound of wood sawin’.

So my hope to write you a poem of joy
lies delayed beneath your sleeping old boy.

I’m trying’ to fake it ’til I make it. Make it out of this long running depressed state. So in a stab at my own form of cognitive behavioral therapy, I figured maybe if I could express some joy in a poem, I might catch that wave out of this eddy of woe. Let’s just say I feel a little more near its perimeter. Hope I made you grin a little. THAT makes me feel better.

All The World Was His Stage

Will always got a perfect mark from his favorite professor. I don’t begrudge him his success. He came from pretty tough circumstances. First of his family to go to college, small rural high school and all.

Okay, I kind of resent the fact that Will Shakespeare got a reputation as “the most inventive and gifted writer our English Department has ever produced” according to a college newsletter to alums and donors.. 

Will was a nice enough guy. Quite friendly and very well-spoken. We hit it off our first week at a dorm mixer. I’d say he over-compensated for his farm boy upbringing by walking around like he was strutting on stage or something, but it did get the attention he craved. 

“Christine, I understand you write poetry,” he said as he swept up to me.

“Uh huh,” I said. “Been lucky enough to have a few things published. But I want to be a doctor, so the artist side of me will have to take a bit of a hiatus, I guess.”

“Wow, I’d love to have my words published one day. See some of my stories turned into plays, movies or even video games. Would you like to read some of them?” Will said.

“Sure,” I said. They were pretty bad. 

After that, Will was always hanging around my room. That is, if he wasn’t sucking up to the head of the English Department. 

Will made sure we always sat together in our Freshman Composition class. Soon it became, “Christine, I’m having trouble with this poem.” “Chrissie, how can I straighten out this essay?” “Chris, can you fix this story for me, pleeeeze?”

And, for whatever reason, I would help him. That more often than not, ended up with me putting aside my Organic Chem or Spanish 3 and essentially rewriting his work.

“What do you think of this?” he’d say.

“Will, you saw that on TV just last night.”

“So, it was a good story.”

“Yes, but you have to switch it up, give it a different slant, change the characters and setting, and puh-leeeze stop writing ‘should of’ when it’s ‘should HAVE.”

“Show me,” he’d say.

He was very sweet. Handsome in a gentle, long-haired, softly goateed way. I loved how he’d massage my shoulders while I turned his chicken shit prose into Chicken Kiev for Professor Kaplan. He’d enter my room with a flair, never wander in, always a grand entrance. 

And I loved how he’d softly compliment my hair, my nails, my new bedspread, the photos I’d taken from my trips to Europe and California. Oh, and my clothes, always my clothes.

He’d wear those skinny jeans with nice buttoned shirts that bordered on something from Forever 21. He even asked if he could borrow one of my peasant-sleeved blouses more than once. He was pretty skinny and could get away with wearing a size 10 or a medium. Just like me.

Next thing I know, he’s borrowed (stolen) a pair of my leggings and he’s wearing them around campus under a pair of workout shorts. As I said, he was pretty skinny and about as unathletic as a combined English/Theatre major could be 

“Will, I want my clothes back,” I told him.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Chrissie. I thought I’d try that look. Nathan loved it and he gave me a pair of his running tights to wear instead — more colorful than plain black. I’ll drop them off tomorrow.”

Nathan was Professor Kaplan. And tomorrow was never. Next thing I know, Will left school. His roommate told me he headed to New York with Kaplan to meet some of his old theatre buddies. Never came back. No note or a text or any kind of goodbye. When I got back to school for my senior year, I saw that alumni magazines with a photo of Will on the cover. It said he’d become a protegé of some writer-producer and had mounted his first off-Broadway play, which got great reviews from the New York papers.

I can’t remember if I cried the night I read that. Not that I should care what a skinny, femme, social-climbing, plagiarizing wanna-be Sam Shepard did with his life. I was headed to Duke Medical School, after all.

Will died recently. Nice obit in The Times. I was surprised when I received a letter at my Charlotte practice from a New York lawyer.

The Broadway whiz kid had mentioned me in his will. I was to receive his second Golden Globe, the one for that execrable movie that his last mentor had juiced the Hollywood Foreign Press to give him.

A second envelope, addressed in Will’s flourishing script was addressed it to me, Christine Marlowe. I pulled from it a note written by Will. No doubt. It read:

Good friend, for Christ’s sake listen,
Without you my career would sure be missin’
Thanks for always being there to save my ass,
And fuck those critics who doubted I had class.

Yeah, he always sucked as a writer. But the boy could act. Oh, how we loved that boy’s act.

This is a quickly penned response to a prompt from writer Julie Duffy. I needed the help. I was supposed to write a story of 750 words or less (FAIL!) featuring a character from history or mythology, but place them in a different era. I pulled this scribble out of my nether regions in about an hour. I know. Reads like our Will Shakespeare’s hideous “real” writing. I may try this again with someone else later.

Love Unmade In the Shade

Shroud of Sadness by Elle Leee

The dolorous shroud again fell on me
after I thought I’d escaped its dark shade.
And, again, it was dropped by a jeune fille,
this time not because of trouble I made.

Well, just a tad, because my love’s so big,
but love’s only a construct made for rhyme.
I figured this out as I tried to dig
up the right word that sounds like rhyme this time.

Losing your love, whether rhyming or not
gutted me like a dull knife in my chest.
And the blood ran from my heart, cold not hot,
so maybe this shroud’s all for the best.

Perhaps you’ll love this poet when he’s dead,
but if I’m just blue, forget what I said.

Yeah, Valentine’s Day always brings out the loser in me. And I’ve always been a better poet of Loss more than Love.

The Oh-So Close Encounter

Perhaps it’s best
when you just meet and that’s it.
Just, “Hi, I’m Joe” and move on.
But it’s those times when
the hairs stand up on your arms
and the heat takes
the express elevator
from the basement to your face
that make those first encounters
so blissfully painful.
Then you find your gaze
lingering on how she’s
brushing her hair from her face,
how she holds you in place
using only her eyes,
how she closes the space between you
upon those perfect legs and
places her hand on her neck,
and there’s little stagecraft
you can use to cover up your
instantly besotted state.
Next thing you know,
she’s touching your arm
and you’re lost in imaginary
together times ahead,
where it’s more than just your gaze
lingering on those
aforementioned perfect pieces
of ideal womanhood.
That’s when she says,
“It’s been nice meeting you,
… John,”
and the gravity of that moment
takes all those Up items
you’ve just encountered —
hairs, eyes, temperature,
dreams, expectations, and such —
back
Down
again.

We Star Rovers

In Jack London’s The Star Rover,
the warden at San Quentin
wraps a man serving life for murder
in a cocoon of canvas, The Jacket,
to break his rebellious spirit.
How many times have you (or I)
felt crushed within the constraints
of our Jackets, the class, gender,
race, religion, duties and all the
turns of the fabric of our lives?
Do you, too, lie in the darkness
of your nightly solitary confinement,
alone in this prison full of souls,
and dream the What If or
the If Only of your one life?
The prisoner withstands his torture
by entering a trance state,
in which he experiences portions
of his past lives.
Last night, I shed my shroud
of Here and Now, reliving the day
I fought the British on Lake Erie,
only to lose that life in the blast
of a 24-pounder hit amidships.
It was then I wondered,
“In which life do I sail now?
Which will I see of yesterday.
Or will it be a million tomorrows?”
Perhaps we’ll meet again in one,
slipping the bonds of our
unforgiving jailer minds.
I’ll bake files within
these cakes I write you.
All you need is to take a bite.