Welcome to No Man’s Land

The tractor’s in the shop and I
should’ve sent my back there weeks ago.
So the grass out front has mounted
a full frontal assault on our home’s
curb appeal (if we had curbs)
and an interdiction upon the exercise
of my creaky and aching masculine ego.
Usually, the state of a man’s lawn
is something that will twist his
Obsession Dial to 9 or 10, especially
from April to Independence Day.
But sometime after that, the drive
to maintain that pool table-perfect
expanse of turf withers a bit,
not unlike the object of my
all-consuming passion for greensward.
But let one person ask what happened
to the once-plumb and level landscape,
and the explosion of counter offensive
will lay low the Creeping Charlie that
dares to peek its head above the fescue.
I turn busy anthills, lumpy underfoot,
into smooth and fertile ossuaries
for the insects more industrious
than the he whose subsoil they mined.
Your homeowner, smug, sweat-soaked
and satisfied, heads into the house
for a shower, beer and nap. I don’t
yet know how last night grubs hatched
and moles and crows will tear
this man’s lawn into no man’s land
by Tuesday.

Meanwhile, On July 4, 1776

In Philadelphia, the great men
with their great status and
aspirations debated
if these colonies should declare
themselves independent states
from their strict Mother, Britain.
Some decried the annoying nature
of their colleagues in the heat
of early summer. Their small war
was fought with ideas and rhetoric,
the ordnance of intellectuals.
It’s doubtful, in their deliberations,
they knew that 350 miles north
of their fight for independence,
men who had for the past year fought
against British, Loyalist and Iroquois
lead and steel, struggled, too,
at Fort Crown Point on Lake Champlain.
The good Doctor Bebe, charged
with their care, declared that day,
“Since I have been writing, one more
of our men has made his exit.
Death visits us almost every hour.”
In the next week, while the paper
declaring independence marched north
in triumph, the gentlemen officers
at Crown Point, without debate,
declared it time to abandon their dead
and marched their weary army south.
When these battle-baptized farmers,
shopkeepers and hunters, survivors
of a war not yet designated, met t
he document not yet titled, at their
new fort, not yet named, they renamed
this place on Rattlesnake Hill for why
they fought—Mount Independence.

 

Not For Naught

I looked up from within my clear,
in-plain-sight brooding spot, Today,
and discovered once again it began with
a different kind of F than Monday.
Another week had passed and once again
my life didn’t matter any more
than last Friday and all the ones before.
Accomplishment, I’d never seen, heard
nor even sniffed. Joy lay on the scale
of few and far between,
carried forward on the backs of Yetis
and others never seen.
I wondered, “Why do I stay here,
why do I even try?” Is there something
wrong with me because I don’t care if I die?

Living’s become just moving from one day
to the next, week trudging after weeks,
until the tap on your heart’s shoulder
comes and a voice like Johnnie Cash’s speaks:
“Brother, it’s closing time.
Forever o’clock, no one here gets a pass.
What is it behind you leave?”
We both look down into my brooding glass,
where once a heart did beat, and see I
left no legacy, nor any name to fete.
Just piles of words I wrote for you
(yes, dear, YOU) that even I forgot.
But if you recognize yourself here when
I’m gone, my living was not for naught.

Ten-minute, before-bed scramble because sometimes I do wonder.

Waited Too Long

There was a smell of Time in the air tonight …
what does Time smell like? ~ Ray Bradbury

As I passed her on the street,
it hit me like a flash of light,
blinding me for a second like
headlights in my face on a dark night,
numbing my body and deafening me
to where all I could sense was
that aroma for the life of me I couldn’t place,
but stopped me cold like when you can’t
match a name to a face.
Then I recalled it was the perfume
you wore back then,
the one that filled my head with
the drop and the spin
a certain someone can make a boy feel
where he comes undone,
losing all sense of time and place.
Except I remembered the moment,
felt the heat of your body,
saw your face
and heard your breathing with ears
that no longer hear.
I turned and looked but, of course
you weren’t there.
Just a ghost that floated by on this
warm night’s air, like that night
where we stopped time, capturing it
like fireflies in a jar,
only to lose them all when you left
me in that bar.
One more deep breath and I moved along,
because, like Time, you waited for no man
and I waited too long.

A second poem in response to Annie Fuller’s latest Writing Outside the Lines double-header of prompts. This one is using that Ray Bradbury quote. Now onto the stories that go with these poems.

The Love of His Life

Unrequited Love by Cold Tommy Gin

“What’s his name? he’d ask.
“Does it matter?” she’d say, losing focus
as she saw another’s perfection in her mind’s eye.
“No, not really,” escaped around his smiling shield.

Falling in love — which he felt was her
falling into obsession — was what she loved most.
“So he’s The One?” he’d say.
“Oh, yes. And he’s crazy about me,” she’d reply.

Reflexively, the corners of his mouth bowed up,
as he’d recall all the times she’d run to him
with that same expression he fell in love with
in sixth grade, flashing that same spark
that melted his heart, burning down his hopes with it.

He never thought to tell her the truth
each time she’d run to him like a little girl
excitedly showing a new doll to her best friend.
Because her best friend was who he was.

He couldn’t bear losing her smiling face,
the intimate warmth of how she’d whisper to
him, bringing to flaming life any embers
of his remaining hope, even knowing
they’d burn his heart to ash once more.

“Tell me about him,” he’d say, feeding
more fuel to the torch he’d compulsively raise
in these dark moments just to ensure
he’d be able to see the love of his life again.

An exhausting and exhaustive final poem on Day 30 of my NaPoWriMo poem-a-day challenge. I combined the two prompt sources one last time, using Robert Lee Brewer’s charge to write the title “The (Whatever I Want)” and taking off from that, as well as NaPoWriMo.net’s prompt to write a poem about something that happens again and again. Let’s just say they fell into my creative wheelhouse of steering through love, loss and the the shoals of what lies between. Thanks for putting up with my obsessions and writing compulsion during this month. Hang on tight and wish me luck, tomorrow starts Story-a-Day May.

Love Like a River

Photo by Joseph Hesch © 2014

I can feel the breath on my face,
in waves as cool and metrical
as the current slaps the shore
in its Spring sprint to the sea;
or as warm and moist as a lover’s
sleeping against me on a summer night,
languid, as if waiting for me
to crack her still surface
as if it was ice, to entice those
ripples of movement that would

echo

echo

echo

until coming to shimmering rest
like a sigh on the shoreline.
How many times have I wished
to float with her, letting her guide me
to her mouth, ignoring others’ views
of her boundaries conquerable only by
the arch artifices of arrogant men?
They’ve never appreciated her music
as I have, never watched how she reflects
whoever gazes upon her, be it the
drifting clouds above waving like flags
on her breeze-rippled skin, or my face,
still as a statue’s, as I seek answers
to questions I’ve never been able to ask.
It’s then I realize she’s done that
all along in her constancy, her depth,
her shallowness, her ever-open blue eyes
I’d fall into right now if not for the fact
they’ve absorbed me, absolved me first.

For Day 29 of my NaPoWriMo poem-a-day challenge, I was to take one of my favorite poems and find a very specific, concrete noun in it, then free-write associations – other nouns, adjectives, etc. Then I was to use that original word and the results of the free-writing as the building blocks for a new poem. The original poem I chose was perhaps my favorite, William Stafford’s “Ask Me.” For what it’s worth, this process is one I use all the time in writing new poems and stories.

Whole Worlds Inside This Tiny Old Box

On its outside, it’s not much to look at, just
a wooden box, six slabs of worn, tan-painted plywood
held together by nails and a couple extra screws
I drove into it so it wouldn’t fall apart last winter.
Inside is even less impressive: just bare wood
bearing the stains of rain leaking within, as well as
the outline of the small ski slope that blows in
whenever the blizzards breach its ill-fitting door.
It all smells of damp domestic pinewood.
But inside that dark interior, new places visit me.
The bill for my car comes from Philly,
Bev’s anniversary card from Florida. The travel mag
teases me with views of Nova Scotia, a river cruise
on the Rhine and exploring the dusty red-gold
beauty of Arizona.
It’s an adventure each time I walk down
the driveway in my tiny suburban world
and reach into the vastly wider one stuffed
within its corners. I still get as excited as
the seven-year-old whose world didn’t extend
more than one block from our house on
Bradford Street in Albany. But inside, my
imagination still transports me as far as
these creaky old boxes perched on my lawn
and shoulders can take me today.

Day 25 of NaPoWriMo called for a poem descriptive of a small space. I chose inside my mailbox, which, while cramped, still transports me to places I’ll never set foot except in my imagination.