My Lost Sheep ~ A Poet’s Parable

Little red notebook

Little red notebook (Photo credit: Halans)

 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’~ Luke 15:6

Through shelves and drawers,
under the bed and, with cheeks crimson,
to the Lost and Found,
I searched. You could say
it was just a red-coated gathering of paper,
a gift from my daughter of
a handful of such notebooks.
It wandered from my pocket one day
to the unknown I wished to make known
upon its pages.
Akin to the Shepherd leaving the ninety-nine
to search the wilderness for
that one lost piece of mutton on the hoof,
I disregarded all the others.

Like lambs that must be protected,
a notebook is a newborn thing until
you fill it with your heartbeat,
share secrets, truths, lies, and
draw a map through the darkness,
the journal of your journey,
that voyage of discovery and rediscovery.
The other day, while rummaging
through the dark rough country
at the back of my closet,
I found my literary sheep gone astray.
I carried it back to my desk,
where the remaining flock lie in the lea
and opened to where my journey had left off.

It read:
No sleep again—Each night I press
my eyes closed and all that comes
are tears.

I pulled out my pencil and we stepped
into the darkness again.

Five-Sentence Fiction ~ Angles

Reflections Upon the Morning

Canada Goose in for a Landing

Canada Goose in for a Landing (Photo credit: wackybadger)

I stood on the porch just after dawn and a lone goose, silent, with gentle flicks of his great gray wings, glided directly over my head, descending in a flat angle toward the empty surface of the pond beyond the pines.

It troubled me to spy this lost piece of a greater puzzle, this misplaced symbol of the power of one in many and many as one.

I wondered if he thought he saw the image of an approaching comrade upon the mirror of water, before he shattered its glassy calm into hundreds of spreading circles, each containing diamond pieces of that figure.

The sun now fully risen, I left him to his rest and returned inside, where I passed the framed photo on the wall of Sharon—the smiling portrait from before she got sick.

And there upon its glass I noticed the reflection of my face—my cheek to hers—and I said, “Good morning, babe,” and didn’t feel so lonely anymore, at least for that day.

© Joseph Hesch 2013

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

Lillie McFerrin Writes

Springing to Life

The Joy of Spring [80/366]

The Joy of Spring [80/366] (Photo credit: timsackton)

Above the sweet songs of avian choirs
sound some fresh feathered come-on calls,
like rusty gate hasps squee-awking
from within the fresh-popped maples.
In the waves of Nature’s liberated libido
the birds pitch woo and the trees scatter
their dainty DNA in clouds of yellow.
Below, the field is dappled with herds
of robins and crows browsing through
the awakening grass for dormant grubs,
whose husks now litter the lawns
like tiny Chinese lanterns.

New life is en route, migrating home
from below Mother’s equatorial belt.
I stand amid the clamor, no longer content
to wait for my spring to come
and shake me from years of winter torpor,
unwrap me from these insulating layers
of isolation and inertia. I whistle
a tweedle or two of my own,
just to gain a little momentum,
a running start for my take-off.
My wings may sound like old rusty gates,
but at least I’m flapping them. Squee-awk.

Innocence Lost

Albert Carrying Pogo - Walt Kelly

Albert Carrying Pogo – Walt Kelly (Photo credit: Lynn (Gracie’s mom))

Sure, I learned at a too early age
that good guys and bad guys
shop at the same hat store and
it would always be hard to tell
the malevolent from the beneficent
by their haberdashery.
And despite the jingo flingers’
attempts to sell you their scorecards
touting who’s who of the white clad
home side and which of the unshaven thugs
in gray deserve the most contempt,
the streets taught me, once dirtied
in this neverending game,
we all look pretty much alike.

I regret not remembering those
days of sweet, youthful ignorance
I’m sure I once wore like
a wee clip-on bowtie.
If it wasn’t hearing nice Mr. B
arrested a few times for whooping
on the missus that infected childhood,
maybe it was my precocious reading skills.
I was slogging through the swampy
newspaper the day old Walt Kelly
in his possum suit taught me
“We have met the enemy,
and he is us.”

The Whirlwind’s Wake


They come on with barely a warning,
these blasts to the heart cyclonic,
leaving behind torn life lying scattered
and your scattered lies tearing at life.
When you try to catch one of these
twisted things, you can become
so intent on its skips and feints
you lose your grip on the reins of reality,
bucking the whirlwind like some
pentametric Pecos Bill.

Tossed and broken in its wake,
you think, nah, that was a fluke,
a blink of inattention to the moment.
But within that moment you realize
a tornado can leave a landscape broken
or it can strip it bare of all in its
swirling sweep. You watch it walk away,
knowing it could be worse, piecing together
the debris of what might have been,
instead of starting over with your heart
swept clean as a prairie in August.

This week, my friend Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday prompt was the photo above this poem.  She called it “It was a Dark and Stormy Night, after tornado blew through her neck of the woods. I took a somewhat different view of a storm’s aftermath.

Withholding Gratification

Red Maple Tree Buds

Red Maple Tree Buds (Photo credit: photoholic1)

This early spring morning,
my eyes swell gritty and itchy
with the desiccated sweat of maples
withholding climax so fervently
their tiny fists clench tightly red
at the ends of their spindly wrists,
gripping the imaginary sheets of dew
upon which they in shifting breezes

I imagine their sightless eyes
envision skeletons of scarred saplings
in forest pyres or the nightmare
turn upon that hellish spit
lathe of Louisville Sluggers, lest
they rupture in winged vernal rapture
before that one last echo whimper
of wanton winter tomorrow

Saturday Morning Fantasy

The faint light of morning enters
from the small windows above
and my shadow lies long and lonely
from here to there.
But we never needed much light.
I find you lying there, waiting,
my fingers massage your skin,
cold and goosebumpy, while
my heartbeat quickens, anticipating
of our practiced communion.
It’s always this way.

Around us wafts the haunting aroma
of youth and sweat, lingering with
echoes of our other sunrises.
The fantasies overtake me now
as we coil and recoil, faster, slower,
turning this way and that.
Up, down, my breath coming
in ragged gasps and I know
the time grows close. We stop,
arc as one, and I hear your whisper
as we become two again.

Our time alone is done, so
I switch on the lights and open
the gym for Saturday hoops practice.

Dark Gym

Dark Gym (Photo credit: mikeczyzewski)

This week, my friend Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday prompt is (whispers) Foreplay: Make the ordinary…sexy. Some of you know that I was a basketball coach before I was a poet. Each March, the memories and excitement of it want to tug me back on the sidelines. Just once more. Miss Kellie, I did not expect my memories and your prompt to meet in the dark like this.


Shadow of ‘The Next Big Thing’

Luna y Penumbra

Luna y Penumbra (Photo credit: meab21)

Last week, my friend, the very cool poet Joanna Lee from Richmond, Virginia, tagged me on her blog, The Tenth Muse, as her choice for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. No, Dr. Lee does not have access to my scale readings over the past year. 

The Next Big Thing is a world-wide campaign that that began in Australia, where authors answer several questions from a fellow-writer friend or colleague that introduce their next project. Then the interviewee tags another author to do the same, a type of web chain mail.

I am most grateful to Joanna for considering me for this honor. Here’s our digital conversation.

What is the working title of your book?

My first collection has carried the title Penumbra since the beginning. Since then, I’ve added the subtitle The Space Between. They also are the titles of two of the poems in the collection.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I began writing poetry only a few years ago, when both my feet crossed the line into middle-age.  I write what I know, what I see, and what I feel…all observed through the cracked prism of past and present me. When I scanned my poems, I noticed many dealt with light and dark and the space between, the penumbra. Folks seem to like that voice and vision.

What genre does the book fall under?

Poetry, but many of them have the feel of stories, too. I have only recently copped to being a poet. I’ve always thought of myself as a story teller. I still am, but now I just crack the sentences into bite-sized pieces and stack them haphazardly like Red Robin onion rings on the page.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Middle-aged guy, gray hair, capable of portraying the light and dark of life…hmmm, is Clooney busy?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Penumbra explores the observations and feelings, the radiance and darkness, of a man in his life’s penumbra, the space of partial illumination between perfect shadow and full light, no longer young but not yet old.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think they might be surprised at the amount of gentle and universal emotion. Maybe even a bit of the romantic. When I was beginning to write poetry, I shared my pieces with but a few friends. One of them, who is involved in the arts and poetry, remarked she thought there weren’t many women whose hearts wouldn’t melt when reading some of those poems. (Thanks, H. The check’s in the mail.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Oh, gosh, I don’t know. Poetry doesn’t exactly get placed in the front of Barnes & Noble, does it? That kind of limits a hope-to-be-published poet’s options. However, if there are any poetry agents or publishers out there looking for a uniquely American voice, my email is on the About page. Obviously, self-pub is a viable option, too. I just write the pieces. I’ll defer to my published colleagues for the packaging and distribution knowledge.

Now, my first novel, a HistFic work-in-progress with the working title: Stillwater, is a different ballgame. It’s the intertwined stories of two women from the same county in England who meet on different sides at The Battles of Saratoga during the American Revolution. For that I would need to find representation.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Oh, no more than two years. I’ve been writing poetry for a very short time.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My heart and soul languished in the dark for a very long time. I was able to unlock the doors and allow the light back in only a short time ago. It’s exciting to express myself as I couldn’t or wouldn’t allow myself before. People seem to like what I see and how I depict it. Maybe they’d like to keep some these pieces of my light, dark and in-between near at hand. I certainly hope they do.

For the next link in the Next Big Thing blog hop chain I have tagged my dear friend, the poet-blogger-musician-photographer-‘film’ maker from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK, John Anstie. 

Spring Cleanup

a light in the attic

a light in the attic (Photo credit: kevtori)

The fresh spring light cants just-so
through the windows of my soul
illuminating the dust specks I
set to roaming on this seasonal foray
up in my attic, inspecting things
I’ve left there and sometimes forgot.
Seldom do I rummage for anything
in particular. No, not really.
I’m drawn up here each April
like a spawning salmon,
instinctual and compulsive as
the sneezes trumpeting my return.

From behind the exercise bike, a glint
of post-equinox revelation flashes
upon pieces of incomplete old puzzle.
With unbent wire clothes hanger,
I root about in the sticky, nasty grime
for this compulsive remembrance,
always keeping its pieces at arm’s length.
Even upside down, soggy, some like broken mirrors,
they reflect the gaze of hot coffee-brown eyes
I managed to hold until I blinked
and dropped them, in a searing splatter.
I close the attic windows’ lashed curtains,
enough of this reflecting. Over the bike,
atop the puzzle, I toss a box of books
where they belong, into that corner of stories
best kept for another day.

Shared with the gang at dVerse for Open Link Night

Arigato Gozaimashita

Picture from a serie of the 36 immortal poets

Picture from a serie of the 36 immortal poets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The tired old warrior sits alone
and breathes in shallow sips
as his time grows short.
He has tried his usual wrenching
of tears, spit and sweat to no avail.
Leeches and lancets provided
no relief from his symptomatic shame.
Black-ink tanto in hand,
he opens his blue-lined kimono
before the ones he cannot see,
but feels the presence of that cold
spectatating editor and
judge of his skills with cutting edge
and sometimes cutting word.
Comes seppuku. Again.

From left to right
he guides his blade, exposing
that which should remain within,
never revealed before death.
It is a messy business, this,
and usually a poem is written
before the act.
But today this poet renders
the evisceration and composition
in the same desperate rite.
He bows his head over the keyboard,
awaiting his kaishakunin’s
finish to it all.
Oh, exquisite creative pain,
arigato gozaimashita.