By Joseph Hesch
The smell of raw wood
struggles to fight its way over
the oily exhaust of the chain saws.
It is a contest these resinous exhalations
lose as surely as the maple and pine
eventually bow to the keening teeth of steel.
For years I was hushed
by the gnawing growl of the city,
my heartwood ripped by neck-tied woodsmen
wielding telephones, email and arrogant lies.
When I eventually fall
to their maleficent ministrations,
I won’t scream and crash
with the powerful gasp of the plummeting timber.
I will no doubt go down with
the push of an OFF button,
a click of a pen,
and post-straightline silence.
Until then, unlike the wind-strummed forest,
I won’t stand and whisper.
I will scream and crash and
thrash about on pages cut
from those who fell before me.
By Joseph Hesch
The dancers I’ve known
hardly ever showed much joy,
except while they moved to the music.
It seemed to soften the diamond hardness
of their bodies and faces,
like they were appearing on Degas’ stage,
all shadows and smeared pastel smiles.
But, when the music stopped,
and you saw them on the street
away from their cosmetic camouflage,
their armor of knits and tulle,
and their funneled electric suns,
you understood who they really were—
heroically tiny, ambivalently starving,
radiantly tired, and gloriously pained girls,
in conflicted relationships
with their art.
I wrote this, one of my favorite poems, in response to a picture prompt from With Painted Words Magazine. The painting used as the prompt is the one above, by Maggie Barra, a fantasy artist and illustrator from Lake Oswego, Oregon. When I saw it in its tiny size, I didn’t see forest faeries. It reminded me more of the dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet and the Twyla Tharp troupe I met when I worked at Skidmore College. I let my memory and my imagination take it from there. I submitted the poem and it ran in the magazine’s December, 2009 issue.
This bit of verse is in a form called a Spanish form called Shadorma. It was written in response to One Stop Potery’s Form Monday prompt. The form requires six lines with a syllable count of 3-5-3-3-7-5.
He checks the mail every day,
hoping to find that message,
something unsolicited, not in
reply to his soft, first serve of
inviting words. He so hates
that image of himself, begging
behind a mask of rhetoric.
When it never comes,
he crafts another alms cup from
zeroes and ones to send
to those he wished would care.
Those, or just one, he hopes
would feel as he does, braving
a different kind of spidery
consummation from across the web.
He’s hoping on a dream he knows
will never come near true.
But dreams have kept him company
forever, it seems,
in that darkness before sleep,
when he sees a face, and feels a touch,
and breathes a taste of imagined joy.
Even with the immediacy of light, modern communication still boils down to two people expressing themselves to one another. Yes, it still takes two, no matter how hard a compulsive and obsessive “one” wishes and frets. Just as in the wax-sealed words on paper days, sometimes the message is in what you don’t see or hear.