Cul-de-Sac

Moving to the cul-de-sac,
this city boy already keow there’s
only one way in. Just turn right for
a quarter-mile or so, past kissing-cousin duplexes
cuddling in their allegedly chaste suburban way.
Where the road rises you come upon the ring
of homes where I live, realize your mistake
and drive ’round the grassy circle at its heart
back into the world.

I’ve imagined driving faster and
faster in a fescue-centered orbit
as houses flash by in their glassy-eyed
oh-so-attentive-to-everyone-else’s-lawn way.
It feels like I’m their grade-schooler alone
on the merry go round or another neighbor’s
teen making my first solo in the family SUV.

I wonder if that’s how you reach
escape velocity out of here.
I mean besides driving out that road
you came in on. I guess there are those
idle reveries over a lawn tractor’s front end,
perhaps some multi-cocktail-lubed daydreams
or maybe that long-ago nightmare
come fatally true,

Each could be one of the few ways I can
think of bidding au revoir to where
all kinds of dreams, from American to unmet,
can stop, and drop roll or maybe just
keep on circling in place, going nowhere, really.
But I guess that’s what cul-de-sac means.
It’s just a fancy dead end en francais.

Poem number 30, the last of this year’s Poem-A-Day NaPoWriMo. The call was for a “dead end” poem. Well, I’m dead to this project at the end for another year, even though I tend to write something new every day. Tomorrow, I try my hand at a story each day in May. So hang in there, dear reader. This could get ugly.

Yes, No, Neither, N/A

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Somewhere the rules were written
that we’re free to believe our lives
are all part of some Grand One’s
equally Grand Plan, one concocted
behind a door in the firmament
that reads: Gown and Glove Before Entering.
Others wrote that it’s all on us,
warts, mud, blood and all.
But isn’t it also possible we might be
students in a metaphysical low-security
prison school, our lives contained in stacks
of test papers surrounding our dorm rooms.

We spend our days filling in a circle
— Yes, No, Neither, n/a —
with our No. 2 free will.
From time to time, like on
a fire drill schedule, The Dean
opens the window and blows in
a breeze, scattering our papers in
a haphazard blizzard.
With a sigh, we pick them up and
just as haphazardly restack the unanswered
ones, grab ol’ No. 2 and decide
Yes, No, Neither, N/A
until the next blast of planned
supreme serendipity blows up our
little lives all over again.

Penultimate poem (Number 29) in Poem-A-Day April 2016. A haphazard write quickly rendered because…I’m whipped by time and poetically creative exsanguination.

Important Recording

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The Mike Schneider Polka Band

Never knew the compulsion, the why-the-hell,
Dad turned on that radio station each Sunday
while he prepared dinner and fiddled with
a balky carburetor there at the kitchen table.
No, it wasn’t his old-timey Country-Western music
he played when there still was a Western to it.
This music polka’d around the house on tuba oompahs,
accordion wheezes, clarinet giggles and trumpet yodels.
It became as much a part of his and my Sundays as
missing Mass and enjoying the perfume of the cloves
and ginger on the ham or in the sauerbraten.

I eventually asked, “Why d’you listen to this every Sunday?”
And dad would barely look up from his glass of beer
and auto part, and say, “It’s important. Just wait.”
Somewhere in the middle of the next bouncy tune,
the middle-aged DJ (which stood for Deutsche Jockey, I guess)
would pod the music down and say in a middling German accent,
“Dis is an im-pawt-ed re-kawd-ing,” and the music would swell
until the next tune, which sounded a lot like the previous five.
My Old Man would look at me with those sapphire lasers and dead-pan,
“See? An im-pawt-ent recording.” Then he’d grin and interject
through the rest of the program, “Hey, you want to keep it down?
This is an important recording.” Dad was a teaser, not one
for jokes, but when he had one, it never got old to him.

Or, apparently, to me.

Poem(ish) #28 of this year’s Poem-A-Day April marathon. This one is in response to a prompt calling for an “Important (Something)”-titled poem. Probably should have left it in block form, but here’s the true story of two guys named Joe Hesch simmering in their genetic memories and an “Important {Father/Son}(Something).”

Unprepared for Take Off

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For weeks we’ve waited, peeking through the lacy front door curtain as a pair of house finches set to keeping their own house in our covered entryway. One day there was nothing but lazy disinterest in the swale of the too-late-removed Easter wreath. The next, I found a mesh of twigs, sprigs and finch spit. And inside I spied an egg, light sky blue with reddish dots at one end. Eventually, five potential finches grew in the goo within their thinly armored launchpads. Mama finch would sit dutifully upon her someday quints, bursting for the skeleton red maple out front only when the tread of threat approached the doorway. Her mate would stand astride the gutter along the roofline, staring red-headed avian wrath upon any who might crash their birthday party. But today, they’re gone, taken off, their nest deserted, save for that first egg. At the bottom of the little crèche I found some feathers and scraps of shell. I doubt they just up and took off. I never saw the feathered parents feeding any gape-beaked peepers, never saw them fletch in drab brown glory to arrow off into a world where crows and kestrels, house cats and hawks could end in a flash a life barely begun or even long-lived. Did I miss their birth and fighter jet scramble into those cruel pale blue skies or did something cruel from those skies scramble those lovely ovate spheroids for breakfast one morning while I pondered my flown-the-nest babies’ last time eating breakfast with me. I’ll wait one more day to take down the wreath. Now it’s a memorial to hope and potential enmeshed with a mystery. A sky blue Sunday kind of mystery, like a certain resurrection. With blood red dots.

Looooong prose poem for Day 27 of NaPoWriMo 2016. Today’s Poem-A-Day prompt was for a “take off” poem. I eschewed one about a stripper I spent a night talking with in my reporter days after what I observed this afternoon outside our front door. Maybe I will do the stripper story…someday. After all, I’m thinking of doing the Story-A-Day May thing next month…because I’m a crazy writer who thrives on self-flagellation of the writing kind. A veritable Francis of Assisi, Brother Ass, to my own written words.

For Love of the Game

I was late to the game,
seventh inning at least,
a set-up guy for the set-up guy
for those who closed the deal,
who had all the pitches
and a feel for it all.
I was obsessed with the quest,
the how-to, watching from
the bullpen or giving up
the home run to the lover boys.
The girls really do love
the long ball. But that’s the game,
their rules, my inadequacies,
a Single-A rag-arm who wouldn’t
know what to do if he ever
made it to The Show, shaking
off all her signs and inevitably
being sent back down where
my love of the game of love
got lost among all my other losses
over those lonely nights
between Helena and the Bigs.

Sorry I’m late for Poem #26 of Poem-A-Day April. Destroyed my phone and painted away the rest of the day. Was prompted for a love or anti-love poem. Not sure I have either here, just a metaphor for a guy with a 58-foot high school curveball and a BP fastball when it came to the game of love.

Poli & Sci: An Exercise in Futility

In my life, for every push up
I counted, there always appeared
a more than equal,
and quite opposite, push down.
One that choked me face-down
into the dust to dust. Despite
this Sisyphian way-of-the-world,
I never envied those guys
who always managed to “fail up.”

I hoped the physics, meta- or vanilla,
would catch up to them before they
crested their gift-wrapped Olympus.
I finally realized fighting
their anti-gravitational serendipity,
waiting for that margin call on
their karma banks, I’d end up waiting
until my next push up was face-up
and six feet under.

As far as I know, shoving two meters
of cemetery up up and away’s
a feat never quite scientifically proven.
But to disprove the anecdotal
during these days of political science,
where never the twain shall meet,
would prove an exercise so futile
even Houdini’d throw up his
steel-cuffed hands and admit defeat.
Forget any recount.

A poor pass at Poem #25’s prompt for a piece concerning exercise. I gave up on understanding or respecting politics (both Capital and lower case P) a long time ago. Working in journalism and government will do that to you. Working in a slaughterhouse has more truth, humanity and cleanliness. Toss religion into the volatile mix (as seems to be part of the recipe these days) and you have an inedible sausage force-fed and over-served you for breakfast, lunch and TV dinner. Relax, I just ground down my bully pulpit tree stump and will now return to my quiet window seat.

Dressing for Dinner

German Emigrants

German Emigrants

In steerage you don’t dress
for dinner, your baggage meager
as your probable prospects
when you reach that western shore.
You’ve worn this same old jacket
for two weeks and now, as you press
against the starboard prow,
even the swells in their fancy
Hamburg suits feel the engines slow
and their hearts gallop just like
yours at the sight of the shining city
on the horizon.

And on the docks, men wait
to offload the belongings
and those to whom they belong,
maybe to dip into one of the
leather cases that roll off
the Electric or the Adele.
There’s always a chance they
might nick a new jacket replacing
the same one they wore when they
hit this blessed shore. Here,
where the streets look much like
those in Le Havre, Antwerp, Liverpool,
not paved with gold, but possibly
with a puncher’s chance.

Maybe even a chance to one day
dress for dinner.

I’ve been working on my vast family’s genealogy these past few weeks and I wondered what brought them here to this country and what life was like when they got here. It must have been exciting, frightening and took incredible guts. The research is partly for the (whispered) novel I’ve danced around for two years. Anyway, that’s the inspiration for Poem #24 of Poem-A-Day April 2016.

Somewhere Between A-three and A-four

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There’s a beat to the river,
as it plays its own music
through the valley,
as it imparted its pulse to mine.
You must stand by her side
to appreciate the sound of the wind
turning her to glistening corduroy.
The wales angle to her sandy hems
of shoreline, where the ripple
and the slosh of this living thing
lie somewhere—in being and sound—
between the stream and the sea.
My world’s grown so small
since I left her side. Like a grebe,
I took one last breath, a dive
and, with a heave of wings,
watched myself shrink on her mirror face,
as we drew apart, our heartbeats
grown dissonant with the distance,
and I lost my way somewhere between
a-three and a-four.

Catch-up day for Poem-A-Day April. This is poem #23 and once again a sigh about no longer walking, as a poet would, with the Hudson at my side.

Staring at Nothing, Seeing It All

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All alone while south-bounding
this midnight highway, I’m staring
at the painted lines on the road.
The high beams serve as the conduit
through which I’m reeling
yellow-yellow-yellow into my eyes as I
draw closer to here, to there, please
don’t let it be once more to nowhere.

Now the snow is falling, though
from my aspect behind the wheel
it surges toward me in one long burst
of white and I dare not blink
or I might lose the road altogether,
the touchstone lines now erased.

My eyes must be stinging from all
this gaping into the glare
of faded yellow lines on black,
now motes of white ice dust
streaming upon a beam of light.
I just tell you they’re sweating tears
from the strain as I idly wipe
them aside with the back of my hand.

All I really see is your face out there.
All the rest is mere background…nothing.
All I want is to make it home and ask for
one more chance to make it all —
all the unbroken lines of all our strife,
all the blizzards of guilt I’ve run from since
all I knew was walking. I’ve run out of road.
All I want is back there by you.

In Poem #22 in the April Poem-A-Day slog to May, I’m responding to Robert Lee Brewer’s promo for a piece with “Star (Something)” in its title. Well, you know how Hesch rolls…too cute by half. Mission accomplished, Robert.

Pen Light

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I can’t feel the sunshine on my face,
not like the touch of some muse
that would set fire to my puny pen.
Okay, it’s a wireless keyboard,
but all these poets will go on
about that word…pen…like t’was
handed them from Olympus or Ararat.

For some it is the manifestation
of their gift, whether they have
the one for stringing words
into image and emotion or not.
To many others, it is the word
signifying the act of using said pen
to turn word seeds into rosaries
of verse that fall from their hands
onto the blank space before us.

That sunshine thing?
Not to be too pennish about it,
but that’s the real engine of this art
I stumbled into. There wasn’t enough,
and I tripped upon a haiku, the silly
little thing. Then there came so much
it blinded me in words blooming forth
like the dandelions’ resurrection
I just witnessed and tell you about today.
Flash, and there they were…

Just like this. I hope you can sense
this light without seeing it, too.
I’m staring at a wall and it’s
an illuminating inspiration.

Poem Number 21 of this month’s 30-day marathon of new poems. After this past week’s batch of Stygian composition, all written within a sack of gloom, I decided I’d better cut myself out into the light, whether I can feel it or not. So I did, with this, my little (forgive me) PEN knife.