December Morning

Deer bracing for another blizzard

Deer bracing for another blizzard (Photo credit: Garen M.)

It’s so cold you can feel the fabric of your pants stiffen around your legs when you tip-toe-slide on the ice from the front door to your car. It sits there shivering and panting steamy like an exhausted asthmatic who’s just finished a 400-meter dash on this below-zero morning.

You grunt your manly huff, grasp the door handle and break the grip of new ice that wants to lock you out of both your house and your ride, while your keys sway and sweat condensation in the ignition. With two cracks–of door and spine–you stiffly fold into the seat, trying not to sigh a blindfold spot onto the windshield at the thought of struggling through another upstate winter, braving the cold drive from one warm place to another for three months.

At the end of the road, while you wait to turn onto the slick roadway, you notice how different the roots look across the way in the sun-dappled sugar bush down by the stream. That’s when you notice three of the maples’ bases turn and stare at you, stand on spindly legs to bound across the road from their snow beds, and wave white mittens on their way deeper into the long, frozen shadows, where everywhere is cold to cold with freezing in-between.

For a second you feel a rush of heat upon your cheeks, a shiver up and down your spine. You adjust the defroster and lose your train of thought as a fourth deer joins her comrades in a different kind of morning commute. With a shrug, you hear the radio voice warn of six more inches tomorrow and figure it could always be worse.

Can Only Tell You

FWF 12-27-13

Once, spatterings of who I am would drop
onto the page with the certainty of gravity.
They poured like rain in an empty jungle
silent and secret. And when I opened
the road to me, you tore out
some of my simple sheets to paper
the walls of your hidden places.

Your smiling oughta’s and supposed-to’s,
my shoulda’s and what-if’s, all have dammed me,
punishing with expectation, confining
my thoughts, hopes, even loves.
I can’t reach in to clear them out.
I am stranded somewhere between an ocean
and desert with nowhere to turn.

So I will wander around this page
today, maybe even tomorrow, looking
for a home, hoping I can find another
route to that lost me. Whether
you come along is up to you.
I can’t tell you what to do.
I can only tell you.


Christmas Tales


As I gaze out the window of my second floor writing lair this morning, the sun stretches the shadows of the trees–vacant, red-bud maples and the solid spruces–almost due south to north. A blue jay swoops and sits on the limb in front of me and we each check the nuthatch scurrying around the branches in three dimensions like a three year old full of candy running through the house on Christmas morning.

The dit-dot footprints of the wild ones, their own Morse Code, write messages and stories across the snow. That blue-white sheet, with one snowfall above another, works a lot like what a writer would hope to do. So much has been written beneath this surface, informing with depth and height that etched above.

And that’s how this Christmas message works, too. What I don’t see out there, what you don’t exactly feel, is the second set of plodding prints to and from the house, running perpendicular to the rest of this natural manuscript. That emptiness extends into the house and to hearts within the walls.

But, like all those tales told in the snow…that’s life. And today is a day to express the joy we feel for the life lived here among these sleepy, shivering trees and that life yet to come. It’s been a good one, as I hope yours has been, is today and will be, along with ours.

Now, as you can see, I’ve got some reading to do out back. Merry Christmas, friends! Blessings of this season to all!

Light in the East

The Next Morning

The Next Morning (Photo credit: AnkySoho)

When that light in the east returned this morning—
I knew it would be there even if I didn’t see—
it ignited my world in such a comforting glow.
It always reminded me of the hugs shared
while we slept. And when I left my bed,
it was not to run for the crass camouflaged
Christmas commerce beneath the sparkling tree,
but to greet this new light as it dressed today
in its accent of what feels a long ago spring.

Outside, the firs stood at lazy attention
in uniforms of green, but it was the young maple
caught my eye, gangly and excited as a child
bursting with a secret it would share only with you.
The few leaves it had left hung attached to the ends
of spindly limbs, as if pinned to its wrists by Mother.
As it heard your voice upon that illuminating breeze,
it waved a greeting only a few would understand,
and I hugged the light in the east to myself,
warm, one more day.

Merry Christmas, from me to you! 

Silver Bell ~ A Story


Larry Benson, three months out of the South Idaho Correctional Institution, had been standing outside the Target store on North Eagle Road jingling a little silver bell by his Salvation Army kettle for five cold and snowy hours.

He thought it odd that a six-foot four-inch black man in a Santa hat and red Pendleton jacket could be invisible at this suburban Boise shopping mall, but it seemed so as most shoppers looked right through him as they skurried toward the snow-choked parking lot.

Damn, man, Larry thought as he shivered his bell a little quicker, here we are Christmas Eve an’ all, and these folks thinking ‘bout nothing but getting’—presents, hugs, home, laid—an’ not givin’, as the Reverend Ryker an’ the Lord would have us do.

The red doors opened with a whoosh and out walked a man holding the hand of a little girl, who unclenched her mittened fist over Larry’s kettle, clinking maybe five silver coins into it, saying, “Merry Christmas, Santa, I’ll be leaving cookies out for you later.”

The doors shut again and Larry saw his reflection in the glass, the snow clinging to his beard, turning it into a white cloud beneath his now-merry eyes and he knew he had to say it: “Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas and thank you, little lady…you’re at the top of my Nice List for tonight.”

I must be feeling some spirit of the season, because I took Lillie McFerrin’s flash fiction prompt this week–SILVER— and out jingled this little five sentence bit of holiday lunchtime prose.

Better Watch Out, Better Not Cry


Fatso (Photo credit: overthinkingme)

Ginny Bocca sat by the window in her bedroom, her eyes following snowflakes fall on the houses up and down Bancroft Street, their colored lights signaling landing strips for reindeer.

“Boy, Mooshy, Mommy and Larry were pretty mad…I hope I haven’t done somethin’ so bad this time that Santa doesn’t come, ” she said to her one-eyed, threadbare Teddy bear.

“We been in here a long time and they stopped hollerin’ a million-zillion hours ago,” Ginny said, looking up at the cat-faced clock, swinging its tail in tick-tock monotony, when it meowed six times.

“When they come an’ unlock the door, I’ll tell ’em how sorry I am, whether Santa left me anything or not,” she said, blinking back what tears she had left.

As she stared out at the neighborhood again, Ginny saw living room lights blink to life here and there up the street, and once again she wondered what fell over last night, two loud bangs, when her Mommy and Larry finished their yelling and must have gone to bed.

A five sentence fiction, with a typically twisted holiday theme, based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word: Alone.

Reflection Upon a Winter Night

Daily Shoot 12.18.09: Flame

Flame (Photo credit: incanus)

Once was a time when twinkling
candle lights in the windows
could warm even this wintered soul
enough to carry it until green
was a living thing again. Tonight
it lies in that long, bloodless moment.
It reflects this pallid season of giving,
these abbreviated journal entries of light
pressed between the covers
of yards and yards of velvet night.

What will it take to poke awake
any remaining embers to a smolder,
breathe ill-remembered fires
to the merest crackle of being?
You brush my hand, lacy, absent-minded,
barely noticed, and an old sensation
swims up to what passes for a heart.
The corner of my mind reflects glimmer,
its own Light in the East. Veins sense
a temperate pulse, gifts of a life.

And you’ve saved me. Again.

© Joseph Hesch 2013