Adrift on Social Seas

Fogbound ships , Gibraltar

Fogbound ships , Gibraltar (Photo credit: gailhampshire)

They told me if I was going
to make it from this island,
I would have to venture
offshore as they did,
into the sea
where artists must become mariners.

It’s deep and vast and foggy
out here,
and you can’t tell if the other
wayfarers are pleasure craft or pirates.
A dinghy could come off as a racing sloop,
a canoe as an aircraft carrier.
a corsair’s galleon seem a bass boat.
We could pass each other,
in the misty mythic day or night,
not knowing the other was there
or maybe not even caring,
though we should, sharing
these winds and seas as we are,
a community of solitary sailers.

If I dropped away, just sank
beneath this sea of zeros and ones,
leaving behind naught but
a slick of tweets, a wake of follows,
would any of the other vessels
In this fleeting fleet even know?
Would they even care?
It’s becoming quite scary
to brave the swells and storms
crewless and without a chart
to guide me to a place
I don’t even know I’ll reach.
Why’d I think I could leave
my beach?

Cold Truth

Last night the snow laid its ghostly hands
upon all the horizontals outside.
Some of the verticals and in-betweens
felt its curative touch, too.
Fresh-fallen, softly whitening the dark,
smoothing the points and edges,
beautifying the uglies too conspicuous
before the fall after Fall.
But, come windy morning, that which was covered,
and those sojourners not long passed
have carved their marks on the once-immaculate.
And with dawn’s rising light they reveal
Winter’s cold truth.

Hide or Seek


By Joseph Hesch

You’re running again.
Are you afraid of something
or someone? Don’t know?
I used to run, too.
I hide now.
I’ve tons of debris
behind which we can hunker.
If not, we’ll build walls.
Did that, too. Still do.
Sometimes I use walls of silence.
They’re all soft and cold.
Other times it’s noise,
all hot and sharp.  They ward off
attempts at contact.
But running’s okay
if you’ve got the energy –
the fight or flight thing.
One thing I found out
about running is that it’s
almost never to…
it’s ‘most always from.
The course we take tends
to begin and end
in the same damn place,
like a Mobius loop,
where we begin outside,
get down inside and
then end up back out
where we started.
We’re left wondering
not so much how we
got there, as why.  That’s when
runners get scared again.
That’s why I have to
ask, as you begin your trip,
this time.  Do you know?
What are you running from?
Check the rear-view.  That’s right.
See that too familiar face, don’t you?
But it’s not mine.
Pulled this older one up after reading my friend, the wonderful Canadian poet, Heather Stewart‘s poem “Walls.” We build our own walls all the time even if we don’t know how to stack one stone atop another. Sometimes these walls come down, sometimes they get thicker and higher. They protect us, they separate us, they keep us together. They are in the nature of man and woman.

What’s on the Horizon

If you look at those old black and white photos,
maybe something by Adams or Weston,
what appeared as dark grey
actually may have been red.
And so this morning, when I awoke,
time rolled backward to those days
as the weather rolled ahead.
Some unseen printmaker soon developed
the eastern sunrise
from a sparkling glow shaded rose
to a slate curtain of stormy dread.

Gone Fishing

I sat in frustration yesterday
and for too many yesterdays before that,
worried if the Joe who did
all those nice poems would again
warm the heart of the Joe
who was doing nothing but
warming this seat.
Bill Stafford never worried like that.
The old poet would stroll to his couch before dawn
and just cast his line into that dark stream
behind his eyes,
not caring if he reeled in a bullhead or a rainbow.
Bill was an angler of words
who knew enough to love the fishing
as much as the prize.
Not that he ever threw
any of those catches back
into the Stream of Subconsciousness
from where they came.
Why do I worry about the straightness of my elbow
when I cast my line,
or what type of tackle I’d use,
or whether the bait was just right?
Today I’ll just tie some string
to a safety pin and snug the other end of it
to a stick. I won’t worry if they’re biting
on worms or grubs or any bait at all. 
Whatever hits the hook will be fine with me.
And that’s what I just did.
How many of you, like I am, are too often blocked from creating because of paralysis by analysis?  The great American poet, William Stafford, addressed this in an essay in his book, “Writing the Australian Crawl.” This poem is about how old Bill taught me to “just write.” And that’s a lesson I believe is “just right” for all writers.

A Tanka for Valentine’s Day

While I presented (well, I tried to) a Valentine’s Day love poem in the previous post, there is always the other side of the love story.

This is my first effort in writing a poem for OneStopPoetry. It is in the Japanese tanka form and tells the story of a my favorite prose subject, the lonely, longing loser.

“I’ll never hurt you,”
Angel carved into my heart –
A promise unkept.
“Never again,” she professed,
But all of them do, in time.

Target of Opportunity

My Valentine

My Valentine (Photo credit: oxygeon)

Once I think I caught a glimpse of it
from the corner of the corner of my eye.
And when I thought I had found it,
it turns out it had found me.

Maybe it was looking for me all along,
instead of the other way around.
I think when you’re looking for it,
you’ll more than likely walk right by

the real thing, like it was
an Apache hidden in the scrub brush,
looking like another piece of the scenery.
It’s waiting to see if you’re worth the arrow.

Maybe that’s why when I think I got
close to it, I felt the hairs
on the back of my neck stretch themselves
a little bit taller.

Stupid hair, making me a bigger target.
Stupid me, not knowing that reaction’s
what I should have been looking for
in the first place.

How I Got Here

I’m a writer. That’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done. And I’ve been doing it for a living since I was 20 years old. That’s a long time ago.

All that time, I’ve been writing for The Man, the boss, putting others’ words on paper or my words in others’ mouths and committing those to paper. For the past 25 years, I’ve been writing the equivalent of grey government cheese for decent remuneration and zero benefit for my heart and soul.

Five years ago, my heart rebelled at this self-inflicted sentence and it tried to inform me that each day is a blessing not to be wasted because you may not get a tomorrow. Part of that waste was denying the Writer within me the room to breathe fresh air instead of the climate-controlled breeze wafting over my office cubicle. Near-death experiences can do that to you.

So I started to write for me. Mostly angry, sassy essays that I shared with friends around the USA. Then I knocked off a bit of memoir at my kitchen table one afternoon about the Christmases of my childhood. I submitted it to a publisher who was putting together a Christmas anthology and it was accepted for publication. Paid a couple of hundred bucks, too.

So I continued to write, not for the bucks, but for the discoveries I was making in myself and the world I’d ignored for the previous decades. And then everything stopped.

I can’t call it writer’s block. It was more that I ran out of gas and sass. I had lost that feeling of creating something tangible from sense and memory, illuminated by the cracked prism through which I view the world. It hurts when that happens.

A dear friend noted that my prose always sounded quite poetic to her. “Why don’t you write a poem?” she said.

Uh, no. Grumpy old fallen journalists do not write poetry.

In desperation, I did as she asked. I started out with the 5-7-5 structured hug of haiku. She said it was good.

“You’ve got a thing for this, Joe,” she said. (Foreshadowing alert!  Foreshadowing alert!)

I then wrote a poem about not being able to write anymore, stringing together those syllabic steps. She suggested I share it with some other folks. They suggested I share it with some literary journals, which I did.

It was accepted for publication. As was the next poem. The poetry and the feelings of acceptance I received recharged my fiction machine and I was back in business as a writer. But this time I was really writing for me. No, I guess I was just really writing.

Which brings us around to this blog. My writer friend Jane Tolman suggested I do the Twitter thing to see what other writers do–besides write, I mean. Within my first week, I met a handful of writers who graciously accepted me into their following fold and returned that favor to me. Among those writers was someone I call “the hardest working woman in literary social networking,” Emlyn Chand. Emlyn said I better get myself a blog and about a dozen others, including the wonderful author K.M. Weiland and German poet Claudia Schönfeld agreed.

And here we all are.

Now, enough backstory. Yep, I have a thing for words.  They are my tools and my raw materials. Sometimes I use them to build beautiful houses.  Other times I use them like a Cub Scout does, hammering pieces of pine into a birdhouse with bent nails.

But I keep building.

I hope to keep everyone abreast of my present and future as I make my journey through a second-chance literary life. And it all starts NOW…