The Coming Storm ~ A Story

Pickett's Charge: So Much More to Go

Young Langdon Cabot, his face covered in sweat and worry, leaned close to Asa Benning’s ear and yelled, “What time is it, Asa?”

The big guns had been shelling the Union lines for two hours this hot July third, and South Carolina boys had said the din reminded them sitting in the middle of an afternoon thunderstorm in Beaufort County, except it rained steel.

Benning, a 25-year-old Virginian with a combat history as long as his lice-ridden beard, untrimmed since Sharpsburg, squinted out over the rolling mile of Pennsylvania pastureland between the useless shade here in this steaming apple grove and the Union fortification before Cemetery Hill.

When an itinerant breeze nudged aside the clouds of smoke and dust coughed up by the barrage, Benning could see the Confederate artillery rounds were overshooting the Union positions…and then, silence.

Benning turned to young Cabot, fished the spent wad of tobacco from his dry mouth and sighed, “The time? It’s high tide, boy, and time we cast our nets for to catch what these damned old men have ordered.”

A bit of Five Sentence Fiction kicked off by Lillie McFerrin’s prompt: Thunder

Reflecting in the Dark

eye in the dark

eye in the dark (Photo credit: lord_yomismo)

In this darkened room, even beneath the blankets,
you can count off the six steps to the dresser,
then two more left to a mirror that provides a serene touch
yet no reflection, and three more to the door on your right,
where egress may mean escape to the embrace of shadow.
Bursting or crawling through that opening
into a place so confining as the freedom to think,
but not do, envelopes you in a different darkness.

Here, numbing paralysis steeps you in
an urn of urges unmet, moving in thought and deed
yet lying in a well-lit casket of stasis beneath
a blanket of worrisome weeds and dutiful dirt.
That existence lies heavier on the soul
than my nimble confinement in a roomful of gloom,
where this tiny physical world and its dreams
are vast and accessible, and reflection means
more than examining my wrinkles in polished glass.

Closing the Door

Brown eye

Brown eye (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That thought came wafting back again today.
This time a song blew the door open a crack.
Even though you would never push it wide
to fill that empty space, a gust of curiosity
slipped a faded picture across its threshold.
As always it showed that captured half-smile,
but until lately I never noticed the off-boil simmer
in those hot cocoa eyes whose gaze I tried
but could never hold. It’s for the best my grip
couldn’t stand the heat, and your focus alit
upon more distant objects of what passed for desire.
I nudged shut the door and the wind swept away
most of the memory out where, really, it belongs.
But some dust of it I never can blink out.
I guess that belongs where it belongs, too.

Entitled to Love


Dandelion-Fluff_Sun-Shining__104258 (Photo credit: Public Domain Photos)

When we were new,
and life, that skeleton gate
upon which the ivy of our season
clung and climbed, we bloomed
like flames within stacked kindling.

We burst from darkness,
your spark upon the dry past of one
who should never love another.
But when your spark flared,
my black heart dissolved.

A twilight of promise grew
where deep shadows and
brightest illumination
crossed in a jumble of
fuzzy possibility.

We chose not to wait for
the full bloom of what
the night voices,
the midnight call of lovers,
said would come.

What would they know of
the sere and broken tinder
from our time untended
in the green years of lost,
if ever lived, youth?

And so we watch, together,
as they step off the steps from
one side of their lover’s cages
to the other, held captive
like exhibits owned by others’ greed.

We sway free in our light
and lightness like dandelions,
ready to burst and fly together
upon whatever breeze takes us
to all our tomorrows.

A Free Write Friday exercise based on my friend Kellie Elmore’s prompt to use one of the following titles as inspiration for a poem:

“Dandelion Season”
“Phone Call at Midnight”
“The Green Years”
“The Human Zoo”
“The Fires of Spring”
“The Ivy Covered Gate”

Typically, I chose them all.

The Road to Boston

The Road to Boston, 620 AM

The Road to Boston, 6:20 AM (Photo © Joseph Hesch)

Tuesday cracked open her bloodshot eye, peeking above the Berkshire peaks’ gauzy blanket.

She wonders why I’d awaken first.

“You’ve never seized any other day before this,” she said.

I squeeze the wheel, knowing where I’m headed.

Eventually I’ll run out of morning, out of road to Boston, and out from that coldly accusing stare.

Here’s a really quick Thursday double-header: a Five Sentence Fiction from Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word, TRAVEL, that’s also a 55-word Drabble for dVerse Poets’ Form for All.

© Joseph Hesch 2013

The Search


The search begins and ends
in this same spot every day,
where the concrete beneath me
is as hard as a cold-blooded heart
but as giving of daylong warmth
as a full bottle.

The seeking is much better at night,
when you can’t see the memories
in the face of the sun.
Those are the ones that hurt
if you stare too long at them.
And faces are meant to be ignored.

Illumination and clarity
are overrated anyway when
what you’re trying to remember
is how to forget, and the memory
is as rough as this concrete upon
which the search begins and ends.

I prefer the hard and warm
of this perch, and the comfort
of that bottle, to the soft
and cold arms that won’t let me
go, chill and flaccid as
the lips they drew to mine.

A raw free write for Kellie Elmore’s photo prompt below the title. The arresting photo is by Kellie, as well.

Born to the Blues ~ A Story

Resonator guitar

A Five Sentence Fiction

The pimply music store clerk leaned against the counter and watched as the unshaven 50-something in a suit so threadbare its fabric glowed like it was under a black light put his ear to and clumsily pluck the strings of the vintage National Reso-Phonic guitar on the wall and he thought, Oh, jeez, another one.

“She’s a beauty, isn’t she,” he said as he startled the morose figure beneath a bunged-up fedora who had just left four greasy smudges from remarkably well-groomed fingertips on the guitar’s shiny metal body, “and a steal at, ya know, just 5,800 bucks.”

The mournful face turned toward the clerk and replied in a rasp about twenty years older, “She’s my Holy Grail since I realized the Blues in my DNA, the preeminent color in the fabric of my fuggin’ life….uh, man.”

“Sure, dude, gotcha, but we’d, ya know, appreciate it if you’d, like, ya know, not touch the piece unless you’ve, ya know, got the dough and the chops to, ya know, like actually play her?”

The man stepped away from the guitar on the wall, stared down at his $900 Bally slip-ons and mumbled the rap the clerk had heard in one form or another about half a dozen times from other such blues men: “’Course…sorry…shoulda known…no damn good no way…my damn life in a nutshell…ya take ‘Merican Express Black…uh, man?”

This week’s Lillie McFerrin Five Sentence Fiction is brought to you by the prompt word FABRIC and this writer’s desire to use it a couple of different ways in the same story.

Fighting the Current

English: Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis...

English: Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) catching salmon at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The sunless trail turns left
and breaks through into
the sterile clearing and its carpet
of rank smelling gloom.
All around rings with the cicada song
of air-conditioning and mini-fridge,
and Bear alone disturbs the ripple
of this eddy in the shallow stream
of sound.

What passes for dawn here beams blue
from the flat-screen sun burning
not his pallid face, only his retinas.
Old flashing words fight the current,
and the silvertip grizz wades in,
plucking them from the air to feed
his need before the other beasts
lumber in to scare them back
to the depths.

It is sunrise in Cubicle 200-A.

Interview with Poet Emmett Wheatfall

Emmett WheatfallThis week, I had the honor of being interviewed by Oregon poet and recording artist Emmett Wheatfall for his ‪‎tumblr‬ site.
Emmett asked me some questions I never really stopped and pondered before, like, “What’s your definition of poetry?” Nope, never thought about it before. I guess that’s indicative of my “seat-of-the-pants” approach to being a poet.
Once again, my deepest thanks to Emmett for this opportunity, exposure and friendship.

The Third Degree


Sun (Photo credit: DBduo Photography)

The sun is still asleep
over the foot-end of my bed,
no sign yet of its tousled rays,
while I am cooing with
the mourning doves.
Who, who! they say
in definitive reply to
question unspoken, unheard.
Who, who? I ask,
with no one but me
here to hear an answer.
As I lie back now, resting
from this interrogation,
Sun glows bright in my face,
giving me the third degree,
asking burning questions
about my day, this life,
for which I’m still
searching in this dark
for answers.