The Beard

I found it while culling old photos
that no one need keep — nor even see —
once I’m gone. It shows dark-haired me,
clear-eyed, smiling, hopeful, happy me.
At least I think it might be me,
despite that captured joy and smoothness.
The other reason I’m somewhat unsure of
the subject’s identity is because
the young fellow in these photos has
longish hair and a pretty nice beard.
A full beard, on a face shining with optimism,
even if it is out-of-focus.
I placed the photo in the bottom
of a shoebox in the closet with
the full-length mirror on the door.
The mirror that shows the image of
the silver-haired guy whose mouth sags
on the left side when he attempts to smile,
as if he’s afraid his face might slough off
the front of his head if he gave in
to full expressions of joy.
That’s the mirror where I stare into
the pair of burrows where nest the windows
of my soul. Deep within, it’s like I
can see inside the shoebox behind the door.
I still wonder what happened to that youngster,
but I at least know I can still find him.

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Celebrate, Celebrate

In the service area waiting room,
most of the people waiting
for their cars to be healed
are older men, retirees who sit
and gab about cars they once owned,
or that white Shelby Mustang
they wish they could. Some wear
baseball caps emblazoned with the branch
of the armed forces in which they served
when they were kids.

The 70-something gent in the dark blue
Navy cap caresses the Shelby’s curves
as the bright lights gleam off
the embroidered “CV-34” and “USS Oriskany”
on the front of his cap.
I want to ask him about the fire
on the Big O, killing forty-four
of his shipmates in ’66.
But you probably shouldn’t bring up
such stuff at 10:20 AM in a place
where the only thing to drink
is bad coffee and Three Dog Night
blares a harmonized “Celebrate, celebrate…”

I drain my coffee and recall
my Draft physical and wonder
which of the guys who stood naked
in ranks of eight with me for some
perverse inspection on that
cold tile floor could be sitting
in the blue leatherette chairs
on this tile floor, bouncing
their knees and waiting bareheaded
for their names to be called again.

Been a depressed dry spell for me lately. But being out in the world this morning, seeing guys my age waiting around in somewhat jovial moods for ‘something’ spiked my imagination.

One of a Kind

A Collective Collection Poem

They call a group of lobsters
from Down East Maine a Risk,
even though soup on the menu
containing said Risk is a bisque.
Since collecting cats into a herd
is considered a feat beyond daring,
I suppose a Pounce of them
is as good as a Glaring.
A bunch of peacocks isn’t a flock.
In grand array, they’re an Ostentation.
Swans on the pond may float in a flotilla
dolefully christened a Lamentation,
When snails meet it’s an Escargotoire,
though they can also gather in a Rout.
Chasing each other is a Scurry of Squirrels,
while still waters hide a Hover of trout.
Even Humans, who made up these names,
don’t get off scot free without one.
Foresters fell trees in a Stalk,
a Superfluity counts as more than one nun.
Not sure why a tribe of boys is a Blush,
or how hermits as an Observance come a’meeting.
The Lord of the manor pours a Draught of butlers
while outside a Hurtle of sheep are a’bleating.
A pile of poets can be a School,
so I guess I’m just one of many.
Looked half my life for others like you,
but no bevy exists ‘cause there just aren’t any.

Another Bend In the River

Life is a short thing
we can make seem longer
just by thinking about it.
A night can be long thing
we can make seem shorter
by not thinking at all,
simply closing our eyes
and allowing sleep to snip
short the string we follow
from today to tomorrow.
Time is a river, so they say,
a constantly moving stream
of here to there in its own
temporal course. It has its
gently flowing stretches where
joys float within arms length,
as well as it rippling runs,
swirling eddies of stasis
and buffeting rapids where
Time can speed you along
as easily as it will beat you
fearsome sore for the toll.
I’m speeding by one of the final
waypoints on my journey. Only now
I spend my time sorting through
the remaining recollections
of this trip, though not as much
as I ponder the flotsam of memories
I’ve lost to relentlessly restless nights.
I see only a life unspent playing out
in the spaces where missing experiences
once were laden, albums and journals
lost, floating me lighter and higher,
speeding me along to some great sea where
I’ll become another drop, a vague dream,
drifting eternal in a night never-ending.

Seeking Shelter from the Storm

“… where storms sleep lightly … ” ~John O’Donohue

I found the bedclothes
knotted around my legs,
as once again I awaken.
This for the fourth time,
that I can remember at least.
When you sleep only four
or five hours a night
your mind can forget what’s real
and what’s imagined.

Notice I didn’t say dreamed,
for dreams don’t come often
in the stormy state that passes
for sleep in my hazy experience.
I’ve awoken with a gasp,
as if I’d been held underwater
to the limits of my breath.
I’ve leapt from my bed
in a flight-or-fight frenzy
no nightmare provoked.

I’ve dropped into slumber
at my desk, in mid-conversation
and at the wheel so many times
it brings me to tears as easily
as anger. But I show you neither.
I just walk through each day
in a waking dream, where reality’s
gummy stuff clinging to my eyes.

I see things in a twilight
at noon, as if through
the torrential curtain that falls
on both the living and dead.
Through green eyes I see your hours
of nocturnal shelter from this storm.
And I’ve looked at the peaceful rest
of the grave and think,
“How wonderful!”

Wrote this right out of bed (again), in response to the prompt of that quote at its beginning. It’s courtesy of my friend Sharyl Fuller from her Writing Outside the Lines site. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that sleep (often the lack thereof) is a common theme of the Hesch oeuvre.

Like a Bad Banana With a Greasy Black Peel

I never liked this tie,
but it’s the only one I own
that doesn’t have some stain right over my heart.
That’s what I get for skipping breaks
and eating at my desk or hustling out
without breakfast and gulping
something down while doing 70 mph.
I should remember to take them off
before eating. Or just don’t eat jelly donuts
with powdered sugar, Big Macs or ice cream cones
in business wear.

Well, at least I have one clean tie to wear
to this meeting. I’m sure everybody,
even the governor, owns a Christmas tie
peppered with Grinches. Too bad it’s August, though.
Maybe if I maintain laser-like eye contact,
he won’t notice. That’s me, focusing on the task
in front of me, whether it’s writing a speech
or speeding through rush hour traffic.

Okay, on time and…God damn it!
The cup’s top wasn’t clicked tight.
Look at this stain! Focus, son, focus.
Yessir, good to see you, too.
Yessir, I see you’re heading out for golf.
Yessir, I’ll be brief. Yep, it sure is hot.
Coffee? No thanks, sir. Already had enough.
Make myself more comfortable? Thank you, sir.
I never liked this tie anyway.

My friend Dan Mader liked the first line of my story, The Viewing, and said it could make a great first line for any number of pieces. He should never do that to an obsessive-compulsive and competitive guy like me. So, right out of bed, focused like a laser on the task in front of me, coffee dribbled on my tee shirt, here’s my first try at The Tie. Oh, and the title, of course, comes from the Grinch song from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I thought it fit.

The Occultation

The experts warned of its coming,
but most of us didn’t expect
such darkness until it finally did.
How it cast a Stygian shadow
across the country the likes of which
most of us had never seen.
Well, maybe some old-timers,
but most of them were looking
forward to its arrival anyway.
The golden face we thought we knew
grew darker, as the lunar forces
overcame its careful polish.

Many flocked to be part of the experience,
since such a phenomenon was their goal
left unfulfilled for years.
Others, though, grew more fearful
as the gloomy lunacy spread and shadow
overcame what once provided light
and hope from coast to coast.
Then move or close your eyes,
said some who clamored for this
sea-to-shining-sea anomaly.

But, frightening as they can be,
such triumphs of darkness
over light never last, the forces
of better nature pushing aside
the shadow-maker, bringing our land
back its original sun-bright vision
for those wise enough to turn away
from the eclipse. Of course,
those who gazed so slavishly upon it
had become blind. But they’d lost
their sight to its occultation long
before its shadow fell upon us all.