I don’t think the trees care if the leaves they flip come up heads or tails. They just let them fall, like coins into an old toll booth basket, something you must do to get from here to there, from Summer to Winter. Sometimes I feel like one of those leaves, flipped from the branch closest to the sky, where I could sometimes feel as if I was flying, only I’m actually tripping my way down the oaken stairway, ultimately jumping into the void between Up and Down. I know the ground's coming, cold and sad as another broken heart, but for a moment or two, I’m defiant, ignoring gravity upon an October breeze, enjoying a freedom I’ve only felt for so short a time before. It’s not the sky in which I fly, but, soon enough, the bare trees won’t block my view of that blue. Unless… Heads!
Perhaps if I dreamed I’d not find all my nights such lonely walks from light to light, like street lamps pouring down without warmth on this corner through the dark to the next pool of yellow glow ahead. Or like Tuesday to Wednesday. I’ve strolled or rolled my way through each, always wishing I could reach out to touch that warmth light and dark and I denied me, wrapped as I might be in blankets or shadows. But if I dreamed, perhaps I’d dream of you joining me here at the intersection of Yesterday and Tomorrow. Someday some warm Tonight.
From their highest branch perch upon us they’ll spy, in this sylvan church on whose floor they’ll all lie. But some have yet to fall, though look at them sway, like bold paintings on the wall of a windy gallery display. They must know come their ends, colors bright as beacons, as cold North Wind portends and their grip weakens. There goes another I see I’d hoped might be staying. Nature’s iconography at which I’d been praying. But all we can do is sigh as they wave ‘bye and fly, remember, when most leaves fall and die come dark mid-November. And that’s how it goes, as years and we grow old. Winter’s silver snows will plate even autumn’s gold. My prayers cannot stop the passage of time. Like leaves we’ll drop when we drop, with or without silly rhyme. It’s October and I’ve fallen, dear, and I don’t care if you’re an oak or birch. Labels don’t matter to me here, leaf’s a leaf, love’s love in my church. Photo ©2015, Joseph Hesch
I thought that if I were broken enough I would see the light — Robert Creeley, “The Revelation” Today I went blind when the light of revelation poured through the weak places I’d thought I’d made stronger with wishes and forgetfulness. It felt safe here in the dark, not knowing whoever came scratching or pounding on these walls we’ve stretched between me and you. But my best-laid plans most often fail when it comes to affairs of this hollow old space. So the light came through, over there where I’d punched the wall, up there where the prayers stop and stick into the ceiling, down here where my tears eroded the shaky floor upon which I’ve stood alone for way too long. I hobbled over to this one crack and scraped away the wish I’d forgotten I’d made so many times it sounds like an echo in this empty heart of mine. That’s when I closed my eyes for good, because I saw the one trying to bring love’s light to me wasn’t you, but me. I understand, but I’d rather be broken and blind than whole and not see you.
Memories fade in the growing dark, which has increased its pace and one day soon will grasp his shadow, the long cutout of light in the shape of a man as featureless as his life. The sun sits lower on the horizon than he’s ever seen and blinds him to what lies ahead as much as the dark conceals the nothing he’s seen and been. He stops to wonder if it’s even worth taking another step toward a future as featureless as his shadow, one he knows will be more nothing and nothing more than a monotonous shuffle of heartbeat steps. “Let the darkness have me,” he sighs, consigned with becoming part of the forgotten. That’s when the voice comes out of the dark past, growing louder and warmer as its memory approaches him. “Why are you in such a hurry toward a light that only blinds you to all around you? And if life only needs you staying one step ahead of the darkness, why must you always walk the straight line, my friend?” the voice says. “Because…” but he could find no answer. He realized while the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, it can be fully colorful off the lines they give you.
Lake George, Autumn, 1927 by Georgia O'Keeffe Conflicted leaves hang between summer slick and autumn tweed, at this place on the lake where your heart stays and my invitation says come as you are. And we stand on the deck behind this place, while the setting light upon your face says it’s all right, you saved some space where I can lay my head. And that’s where we are, behind that locked door, you’ve opened in your heart and I don’t need any more than a dream on your pillow. I’ll even sleep on the floor. ‘Cause the invitation reads come as you are. And I’m yours. Sorry for the disappearing act. I haven’t been feeling well. I’ll tell you the story in a week or so. But I was inspired to write this today by looking out my window and into a heart.
Photo by S. Zeilenga When autumn comes, I look back on the trail I’ve just followed, hoping to find out where I’m going while becoming lost in the loneliness of where I’ve been. Here and there I see my footprint pages, those wandering thoughts and feelings about this, that, me and you I didn’t know I’d left behind until I looked back. Back where I was lost. The maples, in their majestic magic, drop their poems, too, allowing today’s skies to grow within their branches with each beat of the wind, showering us with the color and aroma of something leaving the trail toward tomorrow to a leaf-lined tomorrow, shushing our sad memories to wind-swept whispers, and keeping our secrets between the journal pages they safeguard beneath their shadowy hands.
So they told me I was booked,
but I never bought a ticket.
Destination? I haven’t looked,
I mean why bother? Frick it.
It’s one-way. At least that I know,
no round-trips this millennium.
Then I heard voices call, “Hey Joe!”
T’was a flock with angels tending ‘em.
Now I may not be that thrilled how
so much of my life’s played out,
but I did meet you, then “POW,”
agreed with what life’s about.
Some times we’ve traveled together,
but didn’t even know it.
Side by side, the trips were better,
if we checked our baggage to stow it.
I’d love to ride with you, you see,
if you’d have me as companion.
Such adventurers we would be,
wise Constance and rube D’Artagnan.
But I’m now kept in The Bastille,
my only escape with that doomed flock.
Death of body or soul quite real,
Hobson’s Choice and I’m on the clock.
I choose not that trip, don’t fret,
though staying’s thousand cuts kill, too.
I don’t wish to stay or go just yet,
unless it’s leaving here with you.
I know my time here's short though could go on for years. Don't want to be the sort always running from smiles to tears. A marathon without pacing, the twenty-six-mile dash, my life's been about chasing some dream one gone in a flash. And that’s why just today I finally took a rest. Here beneath this duvet, lying warm upon my chest. Then from the corner of my eye, even closed to any sight, I saw that dream run by and sleep again lost the fight. So I rose and wrote, you see, instead of lying there in bed. The race won't end for me until one day when I’m dead. Don’t gasp or weep or scream, it’s all okay, my friend. I’ll become star of a new dream, one I pray with my dreamed-for end.
Ben reflected on the flames licking from six chunks of maple he’d split that morning and pulled from the truck bed that evening. If he looked to his right, he may have noticed how Lissa’s brown eyes reflected the flames, too, only doubled.
He just stared at the fire and sighed over his disabled truck, stuck there just off the old Adirondack logging road near Oven Lake. A less practical guy might think it looked like it was kneeling there in the brush, its headlight eyes peering into the dark like it was searching for something.
But Ben was anything but impractical. Lissa told her sister that Ben had one direction – forward — and two speeds – fast and stop. She’d almost learned to accept him missing the right and left of things, like how Lissa’s heart beat twice as hard since her accident.
“I doubt you planned getting us stuck in such a mess. Too out-of-the-blue, even for you. Too many moving parts,” he said.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. But now that it has, I’m kinda glad it did. You know, we haven’t cuddled like this since…”
“Are you cold?” Ben said.
“Nope. I’ve got you and this fire to keep me warm,” Lissa said.
She kissed his cheek not facing the fire and noticed how it felt almost as cold hers was hot. She pressed her cheek against his.
“So what are we going to do?” he said. “Why can’t you make a call?” Lissa still didn’t understood Ben’s refusal to carry a cell phone. How he said he felt uncomfortable being tailed by some invisible overseer. Maybe, she mused, like an electronic conscience. But that was Ben.
“Tomorrow morning we can walk out to where I have coverage. For now, I just want to snuggle under this blanket, the fire crackling, moon smiling down, the loons looning by the lake.”
Ben broke her cheek-to-cheek link and stared into her face glowing in the firelight.
“Sure, like how they’re being in the moment and dealing with things as they come.”
“Like large rocks hidden in the brush?” he said.
“Like nature revealing itself in its own time and its own way.”
“Like broken axles on an F-150 loaded with firewood and other unexpected…”
“You said you thought I’d be okay. And is it really so bad?”
“Hell, yeah, you need to be careful.”
“I thought I was. But I guess I was looning.”
“In the moment, eh?”
“Yes. You know how when things are too heavy and the momentum builds and you just can’t stop in time and…stuff happens. Right?” she said.
“Yeah. But look what your being in the moment got us. So when are you gonna…”
“Call? Tomorrow, soon as I can. Tomorrow.”
“Jesus! Wish you were more careful,” Ben said.
“Me, too.” Lissa said. “I’ll fix it all tomorrow.”
“Get some sleep, will ya?”
But Lissa’s stinging eyes already were closed tight as the wind shifted away toward the lake, carrying away the fire’s smoke with it. But not thoughts of the loons on Oven Lake and the accidents that got her there.
Here’s a double-sized version of my 250-word super-short story I drafted for Siobhan Muir’s weekly Thursday Threads feature. I had to use the phrase “you need to be careful” in it. This story started in one direction and then got Hemingway’d in an entirely different one.