One Final Shout of Faith

The old man sat on the bench,
chin to his chest, as birds throughout
the park sang paeans to new life
after the near-death of winter. Yet all
he heard were his own thoughts. Some murmurs,
some plain-spoken facts, but none the shouts
that accompanied his life as he roared
from childhood to old age.
His memory had leaked away the words
to his hymns in praise of life.
Even their echoes within his earthly temple
had been quieted by his body’s
decrepit decline. He’d lost his faith,
the blind confidence that, even in the face
of the worst, something good would happen,
or he’d will himself to make it so.

It mattered not if it was an act
of some deity, the last-second shift
in the winds of pure luck, or his own pluck.
Yet here he sat, in the deepest winter
of his life, a pile of sagging humanity
held up by one last tenacious memory.
He rose on unsteady legs and whistled
a breezy alleluia the birds understood
and began walking, always keeping the winds
to his back. Something said they’d
carry him the rest of his journey.
Maybe one last shout of faith.

On Day 24 of NaPoWriMo, a poem of one man’s faith, not necessarily in some deity or luck, but in his own ability to move mountains. Or maybe just find a way around them to the other side.

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Last Kisses

A soldier kissing his girl goodbye at Pennsylvania Station photographed by Alfred Eisenstadt,1944

Oh, sure, it was ardent, urgent, but
lacked the passion of those before, like
a period differs from an exclamation mark.
It lasted long, but it was the firmness,
the desperate I’m-not-letting-go
of its embrace that he remembered most.

It wasn’t the deep dive into
that warm pool of inviting flesh
in their other kisses, but it’d have to do
because this was their last kiss before
not seeing one another for a long time.
It felt as if she was kissing him
on his deathbed.

And on the other side, a boy kissed
his love that one last time, as well,
and surprised himself with the stiffness
of their lips against each other,
pressed hard together, like one would
in glue two things one to another.

Warmer, more expressive, were the tears
trickling down and mingling on all
their cheeks. Lips can lie.
Lips can speak in languages unknown
or misunderstood. “Auf wiedersehen,
meine Liebe” would be lost on the
girl who heard “Goodbye, my love.”

But tears speak the same language.
They express love, fear, warm hope,
even bitter finality on the lips that
could never profess that in words alone.
Even in a last kiss.

On Day 23 of NaPoWriMo 2017, a poem that has the title “Last (Something).” In my bleary-eyed wake-up half-hour on this Sunday, this story of two soldiers, each on opposing sides, speaking different languages though feeling the same emotions, came quickly to my mind and notebook. I love when that happens. I hate that its theme and truth ever have to happen.

The Homeowner and the Crow ~ A Georgic Fable

The Man stood ready, his lawn to spray
In order to kill off or at least chase away
Those bugs and such turning his green grass to hay
“I’d reconsider that, if I was you,” he heard a voice say.

And, looking up, in the maple he spied a crow
Staring down at him and speaking, for a crow, quite low.
“Why should a bird of the air care what I sow?”
The Man said, knowing t’was poison, not seed, he’d throw.

“I see on that bag the sign of the skull and bones,”
Crow squawked down disapprovingly to Homeowner Jones
“And that won’t work on all the bugs in certain zones.”
The Man did pause, wondered what else he could use to end his lawn’s moans.

“What other remedy is there that will rid us of the bugs
Turning our lawns into naught but scratchy yellow rugs?”
He asked crow. “You leave this to me and not those jugs
Of drugs or whatever. Go back inside for more coffee mugs.”

Crow said, and Man for once listened and decided to agree
With crow, not knowing if this junk might even kill friendly bee.
“Okay, Crow, you go ahead. I’ll accede to your plea.
I’ll be back tomorrow,” he said, as Crow alit from the tree.

And when he returned, Man found Crow was gone
As well as great patches of what once was his lawn.
From above he heard a cackling black bird laugh on and on,
And he knew he’d been bamboozled from yesterday to dawn.

The moral of our Georgic fable, one you might find on Pinterest,
Is if you’re looking for a natural remedy to bugs big, bigger or biggerest,
Check with a human expert in agricultural entomology, I insist
And never some clever bug or grub-eating bird with a vested interest.

For Day 22 of NaPoWriMo, I once again combined prompts, one calling for a Virgilian Georgic and the other for a poetic fable. Considering I cranked this out in about twenty minutes, I’ll take what I got, though as an agriculturally instructional Georgic poem, as well as providing a moral, old Virgil and Aesop are no doubt spinning like tops in their final rests somewhere above or sub rosa. (Photo copyright 2016 Joseph Hesch.)

Pillow

In the hallway I heard him tell her
he didn’t like the pillows on their hotel bed.
“They’re all too hard. You know I like
one softer I can smush they way I want.”
I can understand how someone could be
so picky about their most intimate companion
with whom they share their bed.

Your pillow, will cradle your sleepy head,
catch your sobs and dry your tears
like a mother’s lap does for its child.
You can hug it as you would someone
you wish was there with you,
accepting and returning your warmth.

It can be the launchpad of dreams,
whether you’re asleep or awake,
soaring above you, maybe just out of reach,
or just floating there all night keeping
you awake like a dripping faucet.
It’s probably no coincidence I sleep
with two pillows. One for my head,
while I hold the other in my arms.
They console, accept and embrace me.

We’ve come to fit each other, though not
because I smushed them. Gently, like muses,
they’ve helped shape lofty thoughts,
often of you, that I might write tomorrow.
Or they support me while I push and lift
those thoughts almost all night long,
so you and I can wake next to them come morning.

For Day 21 of NaPoWriMo, A poem inspired by an overheard conversation and also with a one-word title about its subject.

Calling Time When You’re Down 0-365

I remember those nights
that edged into day where
I’d sit, pencil in hand,
pondering how to overcome
that day’s opponent…
every night, every day, too.
Obsession and fear kept me
drawing up new tactics that might
steal a victory once the clock
started running. Should we press
from tip-off to buzzer, trying
to impose our weak will to turn
them aside from our goal?
No, that’s a task too difficult
to accomplish one-on-one. Inevitably,
we’d opt for a passive defense,
hoping to shield and slow them from
getting inside. But that merely
prolonged the inevitable, just like
every other time. I’d crawl off
to bed, resigned to another defeat
in this seemingly endless season
of losses. It’s record was 365-0 and
I couldn’t take the losing anymore.
It was then I admitted, pride be damned,
I’d ask for help. Even I couldn’t beat
Depression alone.

Day 20’s NaPoWriMo poem, combining prompts for a task poem and one incorporating terms from a sport or game. After thirty years of coaching basketball, I knew more than enough jargon. After more than thirty years of the fruitless task of trying to beat depression by myself, I finally took on some assistant coaches. Still don’t win all the games, but my record’s improving all the time.

An Afternoon in No-Man’s Land

The wild bramble bush has defeated me for years,
defending itself with twisted wire vines and thorns
like wildcat claws. It’s stalks and branches
laughed off mere garden shears and sorely tested
the metal mettle of long-handled pruners.

It tries disguising its natural malevolence
with dainty pink blossoms come spring and summer,
as well as musical accompaniment from humming
honey bee acolytes.

This year the gloves came off when I pulled
my leather gloves on, fighting claws with
the teeth of a chainsaw. With chain whining and
motor roaring winnowed the suburban Maginot Line
down by its flanks, nearly to its side-hill foundation.

I then called an immediate cease-fire.

There, deep within the once-impregnable, are
two entrance holes into the den of an animal
who felt the need for the jagged protection
of my bushy bête noire for its newborn own.

That’s when this ruthless flora-felling homeowner
was himself hewn down by my own nature as
pater familias. I’ve gone soft in my old age.
Even semi-merciless backyard generals have families.
I can always wait to finish after Father’s Day.

An extra poem for Day 19 of NaPoWriMo. The true story of how this suburban Genghis was conned by some varmints (along with his own soft heart and cowardice — those holes are BIG) to show quarter to the foe that’s blooded me for seven years.

Recreating Recall of the Priceless

Age can be a terrible thing, what it can do
to a man’s body and mind that he once thought
invulnerable to the degradation of disease
and his own misuse over time.
But along comes the day when his shoes
become too far away to tie and the chasm
so great between the desire to remember and
the clear view of actual recall, it renders
memory nothing more than a museum ravaged
by the temblors of time. Now the picture
I hung of you is not much more than a frame
surrounding empty desire, one I must fill
or you’ll finally be lost to me forever.
And so I scour this shattered space for bits
of the ancient and arcane. With pieces of lapis
set in shards of Delft blue glass I fashion
your eyes, with flaxen threads of fine
Irish linen and crushed Etruscan alabaster
I formed your face, and with countless strands
of gold and brown silk, your hair. It’s an
imperfect portrait, true. Though, created
from treasured bits of my life and the echoing
music of your voice, I once again can hang
my invaluable memory of priceless you.

For Day 19 of NaPoWriMo, a piece made of the combined prompts of Writers Digest and NaPoWriMo.net — a memory poem and a creation poem. I like to think of this as my imaginary life imitating their art.