Enough Rope

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All my life, I’ve braided
my feelings of confusion and
confusion of feelings into
ropes long enough to hang me.
Each line from which I
counterbalanced better judgment
inevitably tangled around me,
sometimes only tripping me, spilling
my dignity ass over teakettle,
like my shoelaces were tied together.
Others, it hurled me avalanche-like
into the crowd, where I hurt others.
Almost always, the rope tightened,
snaking around me, squeezing light
and life from me, giving me
little choice but to cut it,
dropping me into a thin heap
of compassion, tenderness, love,
pity and sorrow. Scarred by
shattered notions, suspicions,
beliefs and guesses, I limped away,
certain I’d soon begin gathering
new fibers of feelings, blindly
tying different knots of confusion,
seeking another out-of-reach limb
over which to toss my new rope.
I’ve always known how to fashion
such strong, dangerous lines.
I just never figured out why I do.

 

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Fresh Canvas

Unblemished and waiting  © Joseph Hesch, 2011

Unblemished and waiting
© Joseph Hesch, 2011

When which is sky
and which is ground
can only be determined
by the faint horizon
of trees and houses,
you know winter’s taken
its broad brush to the world.
While fresh on the canvas
of the neighborhood’s
dormant grass or
the dark driveways and rooftops,
the snow is a frosty gesso
waiting for the artists
to scribe their marks.
Out front, homeowners scrape
black lines of tire tracks,
swaths of plowed driveways
and shoveled walks in their
gallery of suburban Mondrians.
But out back, the furry natives
leave their tiny glyphs
telling histories before
written history and
the trees shake a new coating
of white upon which to write
the next chapter with each gust
from the northwest.

She Left by the Servants’ Entrance

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She left by the servants’ entrance,
perhaps because she felt as tied
to the upstairs and downstairs
of the Homestead as any
Bridget who left Éire to spend
life rearranging the dust,
baking the bread and cleaning
the dirty laundry of her
Amherst Anglo clan.

She left by the servant’s entrance,
carried by men with accents
green as the Kilkenny hills,
driven off in a Carriage holding
but three, leaving behind the crypt
of a life,hidden behind walls
of wood and words
and eccentricity,
to live on in another –
its Roof scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
from which Miss Nobody soared,
a thing with feathers,
to perch ever in our souls.

She left by the servants’ entrance,
an enigma to her last, a loaded gun
that stood in the Corners –
till a Day The Owner passed –
And carried Her away.
Her story today told slant,
with explanation kind –
Her Truth to dazzle gradually,
lest the light leaving
by that back door
strike us mourners blind.

My pre-Dawn poem in celebration of Emily Dickinson, born today in 1830. When she died in 1886, her family honored one of her last requests, that her coffin be carried not by Amherst’s leading citizens, but by six Irish farmworkers – all employees of the Dickinson family – out of the Homestead’s servants’ door.

Reaching Out for the Out of Reach

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I would think of her whenever I heard that song or even the singer. I’d recall the pain of obsessing over that which I could not have, yet still I dreamt of the possibility of it all. There was no way she could be more than she was, or really, what I was to her. But still my heart would leap when I saw her name on my ringing phone, feel the heat rise through my body and the flip-flop of something leap inside me as I held what I could of her in my hand. The distance between us would always exist because we each placed boundaries around one another, defenses against another broken heart. But mine was already shattered by the disappointment I realized whenever I stopped to think what might happen if… If we did breach my fear of our finally being together. How long before the joy waned and she discovered the secret I hide even from myself? I’ve yearned for so many, so much, so often, and the truth burns more than the longing. See, it’s really the yearning I love more than the yearned.

I wanted to dash off a quick something this morning, so I went to the dictionary and opened it to any random word. Up came YEARNING. I know, I know. Rather than wing it and just write, I decided to use an old process of mine I learned from Ray Bradbury. You take the theme of your potential work and then list ten nouns you free associate with it, each preceded by the word the. They’re all up in that block of prose poem above. A free written piece of semi-fiction, semi-confessional by a character who yearned to be expressed, I guess.

Turf War

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Slow Crow #1, © Joseph Hesch 2016

With the measured arrogance
of a tinpot dictator,
the obsidian autocrat
struts across my lawn
as if it’s his.
He drives his saber-sharp beak
into the near-frozen turf and
shakes it free with millennia
of hard-wired insouciance.
Whatever tidbit he’s plucked
from my front lawn will have to do,
since he’s cleared the larder
that once was my backyard.
With unhurried flaps and
scolding rasp he escapes
up into the maple after I rap
upon the front window.
Sneering with confidence
he proclaims I might hold
the deed to this property,
but it’s, without question,
his turf.

I shot that photo of a crow aerating my lawn this morning in his self-proclaimed primacy over his tenant farmer — me. This poem I wrote in the ten minutes before lights-out for the night, while I stewed over how right he was.

It’s Too Late

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It’s not hard for me to imagine,
when imagining’s all I’d do,
what it’s like to be here with myself
instead of back there, when I still had black hair,
deep in my thoughts of you.

My head always crowded with couldas,
my shoulda-filled heart brimming with dreams.
And in between, each make-believe scene,
reality’s not what it seems.

I remember Tapestry’d drone,
in corridors of the girl’s dormitory,
where from every other room, down that hall full of gloom
you’d hear the soundtrack to every second girl’s
stormy story.

Half of them wept in recall
of some boy from the opposite hall,
who left them with heartbroken spirit.
The other half would cry over some fantasy guy,
play Will You Love Me Tomorrow, hoping he’d hear it.

I said to myself,
when I jumped off the shelf,
of a childhood spent safely worrying,
“Don’t live like this, in the staticky hiss
of getting nowhere, yet ever hurrying.”

But the days they flew by
and young me became old I,
in a life ruled by lone circumspection.
I sat here with a pen, too often thinking of then,
a captive of my own retrospection.

Now I try to ignore the what-ifs and maybes,
won’t whine like those coeds, old men and babies.
Unlike the natural women who built Carole’s myth,
I spin Stephen Stills, no more therapy and pills,
ignoring past and future to love the one I’m with.

More nonsense rhyming verse, this time about putting aside getting bogged down in the past and future for living in the present. I used the universal common denominator of love as the tent pole metaphor and memories of my college days to peg it down. Have to admit you’d probably need to be of a certain age to truly “get” this one, but I wrote it from where I am, with a nod to where I’ve been. 

Another First December Snow

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The first December snow
came upon us overnight,
laying its frozen breath
upon the grass, turning
car roofs into smooth igloos warmed
by internal combustion engines.
I decided to let it rest
upon the driveway, delaying rising
from my chair to remove it.
Neither of us were in any hurry
to move, let alone remove.
Sometimes it feels like
I’ve reached the first week
of my life’s December, the sun
not rising as high as it once did,
its days shorter, nights longer
and my body colder in the lee
of these long shadows cast
o’er top of me. They conceal
the imprinted memories of what
lies behind me, this anti-snow
broadening its lightless view
of a trail ahead without footprints
to leave or follow, only a hope
that somewhere beyond is yet
another first spring rain –another
chance to splash in its puddles
like a child once more.

Photo © Joseph Hesch 2016. It’s by the author from his writing aerie above the back forty, where he contemplates his past, present and future in all-day twilight today.