Emotional Ecdysiast


With his five o-‘clock shadow and
jiggling belly, with most of his sense of shame
left in the pocket of a terry cloth robe
hanging just off-stage, the poet once again
danced bare-ass from his bald spot down
lit in the spotlight he personally aimed
from the cheap seats of the Internet.
The voices in his head, the winds
of imagined storms, the reports of cannon,
cracks of a pistol, a baseball bat,
a ten-year-old’s twisted forearm,
they drown out any sounds he might hear
from the invisible audience.

It’s not that the light blinds him to their
existence, or that he closes his eyes
whenever he thumps across the stage
wearing nothing but pasted-on metaphors
and transparent hopes of recognition;
he now only looks within because
he’s already seen what’s out there.
And what’s out there is a mirror
reflecting a mirror, reflecting a mirror,
infinitely trading him for him,
them for them and all for one another.

One-Horse Life


The red dust encrusting the streets
of my one-horse life has long
held its place in my throat,
a choking grasp on words
of love, praise, even sorrow.
It binds my ankles to the earth
in its crippling confederacy
with gravity.
What I wouldn’t give to water
at desire’s spring,
untie my tangled snubbings,
loose a whoop and mount
my dream claybank mustang life,
racing away and leaping,
dark manes flying, over
hope-toppling potholes
peppering our way.
We’d ride west, reaching
for an ever-today,
leaving behind dusty dreams,
set on almost, but never quite,
touching the horizon.

The Last Leaves



The grass has grown old outside,
its hair turned from its youthful color
to something like the dormant straw
that barely grows atop my head.
The leaves, what once-legion few remain,
skip about, carried by breezes
swirling away from their old directions
to something colder, darker.
When some of the brown pages catch
in the pale, sleeping blades,
they shiver and sing the song
of a seasonal endtime.
More and more I have such thoughts
spiraling around my head.
Close enough to touch,
but not substantive enough to grasp.
So many now crumble into dust
like dried leaves in a young man’s fists.
But when the grey straw captures one,
I caress it, put it in a special place
away from the endtime songs.
Such once-green memories
of this man’s days, mercurial,
though inexorably dimming as sunset,
I hold close to my heart,
like my last breath.

Photo © Joseph Hesch 2015.

Welcome Mat

The gray has come over the top,
drained shadow from the image
and stolen most of its color.
Cracks have formed in the window frames
and spots of some wrong color
are showing through.
Where once WELCOME shone bright
for all who approached, now a dingy,
downtrodden space frowns
where years of kicks and grinding heels
have left their marks.
In the attic, so many pieces of a life
almost lived, but really just collected,
lie forgotten in dusty corners,
lost or unrecognizable beneath
smooth gray sheets.
I live within this shell of what was
once a serviceable and attractive place,
my face. I still watch from these
filthy brown windows, trying as ever
to understand what it is, who you are,
that have always passed on by.
I understand. Shuttered as I am,
as I’ve always been, you
probably thought no one
was ever home.

The Language of the Rain

Raindrops, by Tony Webster, via Wikipedia

Sometimes, as I sit and listen
as rain raps its rhymes upon my window,
I wonder if it sounds the same on windows
looking out elsewhere in the world.
Kind of like how I wonder if a Brazilian dog
understands little Deputy next door
as he gives hell to some damp squirrels
in the pines out back.

He’s out there watching the sky now,
like he knows all this rain will end,
as it does in Dresden, Pietermaritzburg
and Exeter, and with it bring that instant
of peace before noisy life begins again.
I like to think we all understand,
that message no matter where we sit,
no matter what language we speak.
Or bark.

One Hundred Beats A Minute free today for Kindle


A little holiday giveaway.

Today only, I’m making my latest collection, One Hundred Beats A Minute, free for Kindle on Amazon.com.

I think you’ll like this latest book, even if you’re not a big fan of poetry. Sixty small portions of verse, each only one hundred words long. Yet each one will leave your soul feeling full and satisfied. Or, if you’re like me, you can binge on the whole volume over the holiday and not feel the least bit guilty afterward.

I’d appreciate it very much if you would leave a short opinion of what you think of the book on its Amazon page. Hope you enjoy it.


It’s Been Two Years Now

It’s been two years now.

The full-face moonlight falls
in rigid rays against my body,
casting shadows so dense I can
hear them rustle the leaves
upon which they stretch.

It must be the shadows, because
there’s no cold wind to torment me
as on all the other November nights
since then.

But I would suffer them all,
the prickly chill upon my cheeks,
the waking moan of the westbound
disturbing our sleep,
just to have you with me
here one more time.

I regret all the times I’d scold you
for the midnight wake ups.
My heart playing the role
of numb somnambulist who didn’t
understand you’d be gone so soon.

Not until it was tenderized with
the club of reality from
those last visits,
when I had to assist you
into and out of the car.

Then came that last time, hefting you in
and the great weight I carried home
and sense even today, of never needing
to lift you again. Nor you lifting me.
That’s why I’m out here tonight.

I carry the gravity of your loss
in my chest. It’s a warm gravity,
so crushing I want to lie beneath it
in my shadow, in a forever dark
and never rise until we can run together
in some lovely lonely nighttimes again.

Spoils of War


The red-brown casualties drip
like blood from the oaken warriors,
who’ve yet to surrender their arms
like the maples and birches did
after the first assault of autumn winds
upon their more colorful breastworks.
The oaks know their shadow-making primacy
grows shorter with each successive march of
a hunchbacked sun from east to west.
It’s my job to collect the dead,
strip the field of their once pliant bodies,
attempting to clear nature’s land
for its winter christening, when she’ll
don a gown of white while the sun
lies in entombed, awaiting resurrection
and the redemption of spring.
Mine is a thankless task that nature
probably fails to appreciate,
which is why she casts more of her
spoils of war behind my back,
ambushing my capitulation to
time and temperature, wind-burned skin,
blistered hands and creaking joints.

Another Poem-a-Day catch-up piece for November 2015. This was one a FAST free write. (Seven minutes?)

The Warm Breeze of Last Words

There was a time when
I would speed to the music of youth,
running hellbent with the taste
of blood and steel in my throat,
making way for my hawk-like cry
as I swooped on the wind
down the crest of boyhood
to set upon the prey of maturity.
My heart still pounds to the beat
of the predator, the tongue
still tastes the salt and metal,
the once-smooth face feels the wind,
and the voice longs to shout
in its primacy over all below.

But I am the one down here,
the quarry of memories of
a life barely lived, battles never
joined, let alone won.
I’m the thin-feathered target
of talons felt steel-sharp,
pulsing the cooler blood
for the great executioner
who’s coming to free that last
warm breeze from my throat.
Will it carry words of love
or of defiance? Know this:
You’ll not have to bend close
to hear them.

Catching up with this free write in my November poem-a-day quest after two days of this life barely lived rolling boulders across the path of the roaring artist who never was.

The Harmony of Heartbeats

I wonder about the harmony
of the heartbeats that
no one will ever hear.
I wonder about the echo
silence makes in this room,
because it rings like this
every night.
Pillows muffle the goodnight
whispers, smothering them
before they can be born,
turning them into muffled breaths,
dying winds carrying nothing
but lonely thoughts upon these
feathers that never flew,
never soared in a dream where
I’m the happy one.
Maybe it’s because I squeezed
too tightly. But it’s only
my eyes I ever squeeze,
needlessly shutting them in
this room vacant of light
and the harmony of heartbeats.

Once again, it’s another stab at making it through a Poem-a-Day month with 30 poems written by December 1. Got one shot off yesterday. Here’s today’s 100-word free-write in anticipation of something a little brighter tomorrow. Guess that’s what makes this month’s goal worth the effort. I never know what’ll be on the page until it’s there.