Poker Face


Dealer (Photo credit: ΞD)

It was like I antied up as soon as
I entered the room. The cards,
my face-up hand, before me.
“What?” she said, and peered over her glasses
in that interrogatory way of hers.
It speaks louder than the bright lights
and rubber hose quality in her voice.
“What do you mean, ‘What’?” I said.
“I don’t know, something’s going on.
You look like you’re thinking,” she said.
Even though nothing was,
I immediately tossed in my hand.

Busted said my discard mush.
“Well, of course I’m thinking,” I stammered.
“I’d be going around bumping into things
like one of those little toy clown cars if I didn’t.”
She hmmphed her …aannnd? hmmph.
“Now you’re making fun of me.
You know what I mean,
something’s going on,
I can tell.”

This is why I never play poker.
My face, a fumble-fingered fish
in a casino of card sharks,
always expresses whatever I am feeling,
what I might possibly be thinking.
No matter how hard I try to control
these tics and twitches.
“Oh, nothing’s going on,” I said,
“Uh huh,” she said, unconvinced.
And then she smiled her selachimorphic smile
and dealt me another hand,
just to make sure.

Sincerely yours…

Deutsch: Eine Flaschenpost wird während einer ...

The deafening dismissal I sense
from your silent indifference
has done its job, drying this public pen,
chasing me to the journal again –
the one I share with so very few.
Maybe two.

I understand, you wanted
more from me,
from point of view I see,
even if it wasn’t true,
so long as it was about you.
And the other few.

But maybe you don’t care,
how some of us cannot share
beyond these letters we cast
to the storm-tossed and vast
in cursored bottle blinking
from depressed poet, oft sinking.

Mine would bear barely a label,
but always carried a fable,
a story, a confession,
and the implicit signature
in hope you got the impression
I was…

Sincerely yours.

Love Song

Lillie McFerrin

Love Song

Piano-Bar (02) - 26Feb09, New Orleans (USA)

Piano-Bar (02) – 26Feb09, New Orleans (USA) (Photo credit: philippe leroyer)

The girl at the piano in this bar is singing what she called “our latest love song” and she’s singing the truth, because I can feel it even through the beer and the darkness.

This one is different from every other love song because she wrote it and she’s singing it— there in that cone of light— she’s singing it just for me.

I don’t even know her name, but she’s stared at me all the while she’s been playing, even clamming a few notes because I’m such a distraction and you know I’m the target of the arrow of her soul, her heart, her song, OUR song.

“Can I get another here, buddy?” I said to the barkeep, adding, “Would you just look at her, would you listen to her?”

And now she’s finished, and as I smooth my way around this rudely mumbing crowd to introduce myself and pledge my troth, I notice the white stick on the floor next to her bench, and I’m glad of all she’s reminded me about Love — artful Love, dream Love, her Love, my Love, our Love — how Love is blind, too.

Here is my latest Five Sentence Fiction offering, based on a prompt from Lillie McFerrin. This week: Awkward.


[18/52] lethargy

As September’s nights grow
longer and longer, larding on
harvests of autumn bleakness,
the late summer mornings don
shrouds of summer-mourning,
sunless except for the promise
of dawn trudging this way
from over the eastern rise.
New day reveals itself then,
not in light, because light
is something of yesterday
and the not yet today.
No, my awakening is in
the warmth next to me,
which is my everseason now.

The Poet/Silly Words

Horse and poem street art

Horse and poem street art (Photo credit: Marshall Astor – Food Fetishist)

I sit, sigh, breathe
and then I weave
such silly words,
like tortured birds,
dreams, sorrow,
moon, love…maybe
And I hope my knots
can hold fast these thoughts
when by the road
I leave them.
Wondering if you’ll stop,
pick up what I dropped,
and when you read,
believe them.

I don’t do rhyming poetry, so I don’t know why I did this. But I did. And that’s the poet’s lot, I guess. You don’t ask why or how or what you write, you just write. And then I leave it for you–whoever You are–to pick it up and do with it what you will.

There! Done! Sorry for the litter.

Test Patterns

English: RCA Indian Head Test Card ca. 1940 Ру...

Back when life was as black and white
as the picture on the TV, but I had dreams
like Dali and Van Gogh fevers,
I would wake Saturdays before 7:00,
click on that glass-fronted magical
piece of furniture and stare at the whoooing
salt-and-pepper of its teeny screen’s jumble.

When the Indian Head test pattern appeared,
I knew I was mere minutes from visiting the bears,
dogs and sea serpent I’d waited all week for.
The only colors in the room came from
my dimly lit PJs, imagination, and handfuls
of sugar held together by a baked mash of grain
called breakfast I shoveled dry into my mouth.

These days I wake from dreamless sleep
at 5:00 AM and stare into the hi-def nightmare
of dolorous newscasts that bathe my
already too-gray life with their garish gore,
pied bar charts, and happy-talking hairdos
who paint it all into chiaroscuro philosophies
of right and wrong (or Right and Left).

They shovel all of this by the handfuls,
dry, into a head that would much prefer
the company of time-traveling canines,
pic-a-nic basket-filching bears, and a long green
Plesiosaur (an assumption proved true by color TV)
who would come and save me from all this severe
adulthood when I call, “Help, Cecil, help!”

A post-birthday Old Guy poem. Maybe some of you “seasoned media consumers” will get it.

Five Sentence Fiction ~ Memories

Lillie McFerrin

The Lights


Lights (Photo credit: williamhartz)

She loved this time, the first instance each show when she broke from behind the curtains and into the lights.

She can feel her power to draw the attention of men as well as women to her beautiful face, her seductive body, her magnetic being.

She reveled in the fact that every man out there wanted her and every woman sitting with that man secretly wanted to be her, sinuously slinking down the catwalk, head high, stride strong, to stop at its end, right hip, POP, left hip, POP, swirling turn, and show them the rear view is as good as the front.

The lights, she thinks, it’s the power of the lights that helps bring this power out of me, the light that loves me…Love…and this crowd loves me…Love.

Just listen to them, just…“Can I give your wheelchair a push, Mrs. Marmelstein, love?”

©Joseph Hesch 2012

This week’s little story is written in response to Lillie McFerrin’s Five-Sentence Fiction prompt “Memories.”

Saving Life

The mess we poets make each time
we sit to the task of cutting
wounds into pained imagination —
making would-be scars on ethereal skin,
turning knife strokes on a page into
heartbeats, breaths, flashes of life —
can rival the floor
of an emergency surgery,
But, if we are as attentive
to the job as that trauma doc —
recapturing existence before it
slips away from human grasp,
running to the dark deep
of the forgotten —
we heal the surgeon
as much as the patient,
and we’ve done our jobs.

©Joseph Hesch 2012

Nothing There

In the command center, conscious of light,
but surrounded by darkness,
chill desk beneath my arms, a pen
that will not write sets in my hand.
The pen is fine. It’s my hand has no
communication to the soul outpost
on my emotional front. I stretch every nerve.
But there’s nothing there.
Nothing there.

I send out messengers up the line
to gauge the situation, scout for movement.
My orders are simple, good or bad,
scan for heartbeats, smiles, tears,
any rustle in the trees, birdsongs, sighs.
Then write a report of your observations.
“All’s quiet,” they say.
“There’s Nothing there.”
Nothing there.

“Okay. Pull back, then,” I signal, because
extending the lines of communication
into enemy territory without support
weakens a force. But they do not answer.
Not a breath, a thought, nor a dream
from the soul horizon. So I write the report,
because even Nothing is something.
Today’s observation:
Nothing there.

©Joseph Hesch 2012


Each day on my questioning walk,
I stop to commiserate with
a not-too-aged birch that bends low
over the road, as if bowing to the pressures
of our natures’ all too real. In his case,
twining vines have shackled the leafy serf
into horizontal servitude of their bidding.

It reminds me for all the world
of some slavish supplicant begging
absolution for a sin known only
to the choking confessors that demand
obeisance and a contrite posture
of verdant contrition. Does a tree
know the longing for liberty?

Life bent me low for a longer time,
and some of its depressing weight
I’ve already cast off,
which the birch can’t.
It’s tied down by those vines
clinging like children
whining their way to a new puppy.

Or maybe like a youthful mistake
that casts a shadow so heavy
its history bends us into arboreal
arthritic old men, our faces parallel
to the roadway and, only by peering overtop
our spectacles, can we see what lies
on the path ahead.

I’ve considered cutting the birch’s Lilliputian
vines of imprisonment, but I’m afraid
my Gulliver doppelgänger will stay bent over,
and this middle-aged rebellious Defoe will lose hope
that I can spring back to upright independence
once I hone my shears, to sever the vines
of fear, anger and a twisted sense of duty.

This poem was written in response to my colleague Stu McPherson’s prompt for a poem off rebellion over at dVerse Poets Pub. In this case, a tree and I fight our respective natures in order to stand tall again.