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.