When When Is Not a Question

When I thought I stood strong,
you showed how I was brittle.
When I tried to be softer,
you crushed me at my middle.
When I made the effort to listen,
you would not converse.
When I reached out my hand,
you covered your eyes, and what’s worse…
When I opened to you my heart,
you closed yours forever.
When I pondered a way,
you wandered away with, “No, never.”
When I express this, my pain,
you think only of yours.
When I tell you I’m dying,
you ruminate merely on the wars…
When I told you I loved you,
never knowing how much life would be lost,
When I threw those parts of me away,
never caring how much the cost.
When I, some lonely evening,
come visit in your half-sleep,
When I will read my bad poetry,
some might still make you weep.
When I, tonight, take to my bed,
never certain I’ll awaken,
When I try recalling your face,
as so much from my memory’s taken.
When I do this, the good times
with you are so hard to find, that’s
When I remember, I’ve always kept you
in my heart, if not in my mind.

No stories every day or so, I’m afraid. Just more bad poetry, a rhyming disguise for self-examination of heart and mind. I wish I could do better for myself, as well as you, but these times are a struggle that only I can work through. So prepare yourself for more bad verse, which for some time may not get better, only worse. (Oh, lord….!!!) But I’m digging out this debris to find my RESET button. It’s just takes more time than I hoped when you use a pencil for a shovel.

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The Scars That Never Stop Hurting

He didn’t know how to make peace with his past. What offering of acceptable remorse exists when the past, in whatever personage or spirit, listens naught and averts its eyes at the mere thought of him? He’d try, “I’m sorry,” but seven letters hanging off-kilter from an apostrophe can get blown sideways and lost in the winds between two people, two different lives from what came before. His mind has lost its edge and quickness since its days of serving up scars even before others knew the sting of his cut. Now his life is not much more than a scar, something to look at and recall all those wounds he administered across his lifetime. So he waits upon his cold chair for that final felling wound. He sighs at how the sword always fell to his pen, but knows the scythe always wins. Perhaps then a peace he still dreams might come will reveal itself before he hears the swoosh of that existential steel. And, if comes too late, he must assume the role a scar on a piece of someone else’s past. But wouldn’t it be grand to hear that voice say, “Would you write me again.”?

A 200-word free written bit of what feels like literary (those probably not literate) confession and self-imposed penance. Hey, you sit down without a shred of inspiration, you can’t expect Shakespeare or Kendrick Lamar. You just hope and expect ‘something’ will appear eventually. Oh, and the new photo, old regrets and ancient scar (I have many more, some of which you can’t see) are all ©Joseph Hesch.

The Tune She’d Heard Somewhere Before

He’d say they were like the links on a chain,
each instance where he fell in love.
Or whatever facsimile of “love” he chased.
But he really didn’t understand true love.
He only knew it in a Webster’s Dictionary sense
that he’d read through the bottom of a tumbler
of pheromones and endorphins on testosterone rocks.

There were a few that rocked him, left him
stunned and aching in the avalanche of their passing.
To them he actually confessed his devotion, his longing,
his “love.” They would nod and then shake their heads No
as they moved on to the next manifestations of their own
understandings of the phenomenon.

Once, one looked back at his shadow, the memory of him
cascading broken and crooked on the debris she left behind,
as he whistled his way upward toward the horizon.
For a moment, she wondered why he always got back up
and tried just once more. As he crested the hill,
on his way to falling again, he shifted a few stones
that bounded down to her feet.

She picked them up, stashed them in her pocket,turned and
went her way, humming a tune she thought she’d heard
somewhere before.

On Day #17 of National Poetry Writing Month, I was asked to answer the challenge for a love or anti-love poem. Jeez, must I? So I sat and wrote something that might embody a little of both concepts…perhaps very little. A free write and one of those story-poems that used to flow from me as easy as tapping these keys. Maybe that’s my true love. Maybe there’s still a bit of my Muse’s love left for me.

Grandpa’s Favorite

It’s not that I was the tallest.
Not by a long shot.
Nor the best looking or cutest.
Well, maybe at age 2. Smartest?
Who knew back then?
But I always got the impression
I was my grandfather’s favorite.
Now, I don’t admit this with any
overweening pride. My pride lies
scattered and broken somewhere
in the basement or in my closet.
Years ago, I dropped it and
lots of people stepped on it.

But I can tell you the old man
would lift me into his dump truck
and let me fire up the engine.
He’d give only me nickels
to scratch his bald head while
he dropped off for a nap.
He called me Angelo and
I’ve never quite figured out why,
since I bear the same name he did.
But then, he christened all my cousins
with individual nicknames, too.
Hmmm…

Now I have two granddaughters
and I could never say one’s
my favorite, since they’re
so wonderfully different.
Their three-plus-year age gap looks
so vast when the oldest is barely four.
But here’s what I hope happens
when I’m finally hanging out
with that old man again in
the Valhalla of Hesches:
I want each of my granddaughters
to believe she was my favorite…
because she would be right.

On Day #16 of the PAD Challenge, the prompt was for a “favorite” poem. Which is hard because I don’t have a favorite much of anything. So I just sat at the keyboard and started typing. I often forget the free write is my friend. So here’s the “favorite poem,” which has what someday might be three of my favorite lines concluding it.

Lamentations 1:1

He’s not too a bad guy,
he has feelings as deep and sore
and soaring as anyone else’s.
Maybe even more so, we just don’t know
Few of us have ever seen them
as he moved through
the vacuum of his days.
I once caught him in one of his
brooding moods, the ones maybe
you’ve seen or you’ve felt.
He broke through the 1,000-mile stare
and wall of his self-imposed isolation
to look up at me, half-grinned
and raised his chin in greeting.
He hummed his shrugged-shouldered humph
when I inquired how he was.
And then he surprised me with
“I’m sorry.”
“What are you sorry for?
You haven’t done anything to me,” I said.
“I’m sorry because I’ve never expressed
to anyone my regrets for my sins and omissions,
never cried at their funerals,
never spoke up about how I truly felt,
never professed my love to those
I should have and never moved on
from the ones I shouldn’t,” he said.
“Why are telling me this?” I asked.
“Because you’re the only one I can
and that’s what I lament the most,”
he said, as we turned away from
the mirror and switched off the light.

On Day #12 of this National Poetry Month PAD Challenge, I was charged with writing a poem based on the word “lament.” Oh, I know a lot about that one. I just have never done it right. And I still haven’t. Thank you for reading.

Battle for the Heart and Mind

I armed myself with a bottle of water,
eyeglasses, computer, and absolutely
no advance intel. This is no way
to face so cunning an enemy.
A few years ago, I’d attack these sessions
like a free-writing commando.
Sure I parachuted into the dark,
but I knew my target, its flat white topography
and the objective: break another prisoner
free from the prison of my heart.
I’d toss some metaphors into that
hardened space (like I just did),
set off a smoke grenade to hide
my true position and maybe bring a tear
to anybody who thought to watch,
and make the snatch and run.
I almost always extracted a prisoner,
though sometimes they had nothing to say
when I got them to my lines.
But somewhere along the way, I lost
my sangfroid in a story over New Mexico,
or maybe it was that poem about
how she made me a prisoner in the darkness
of our own making.
Some days I fear I no longer have
the thirst for battle, finding the pen
too heavy for the old parry and thrust.
But I can’t let those prisoners rot in there.
So I guess I’ll jump again tomorrow.

Day #9 of April 2018 PAD Challenge called for a “Battle (something)” poem. 

You Are Here

Every Place is a Face,
by Ed Fairburn

There were six of us,
a number now decreased to four,
of which I’m still the oldest.
And while some may think
holding that position
has hereditary privileges, it also
has its responsibilities and duties.
Or at least it did for me.
If you take the role seriously,
you’re the one who will mind
the second or third littlest —
change them, feed them, keep
the roar down to a rumble —
since Mom will be elbow deep
into the youngest’s care.
At seventeen, I ran away
to a college out west (well,
Rochester), giddy with the thought
that finally I’d be alone to fend
for myself and invent the guy
I might really be, or wanted to be.
All I was sure of was he looked
just like me. And that was the problem.
No matter how hard you try,
eventually you’ll look at that guy
in the mirror and see a nose like Dad’s
and your sisters’s, eyes brown as Mom’s
and your brother’s. A map of the place
only your family lives. And you
might as well admit it, that face,
no matter who resides behind it,
always leads you back to your family.
And that’s where you’ll always belong.

For Day #8 of April, 2018’s PAD Challenge, we were to write a family poem. That one cuts deep for me in so many places and so many ways. And I mean cuts. You can see the roads and rivers and other signs of man and God as they trod from my expanding forehead to my sagging chin. Or at least I see where we’ve been. ‘Nuff said.