Listening for the Colors of Late October


As October slides on wet
fallen leaves into November,
the morning wonders if
it’s really arisen. Out my window,
color is a muted thing,
if the reflection of colored light
is something you can hear.
My eyes strain to pick up
any sound that might be more than
a thump or a creak. But no.
The grass has lost its verdant harmony,
where the breezes bend each supple blade
in concert like a vast woodwind section.
The trees mumble like drugged-up hookers
waiting for gravity to finish
stripping them to the skin and
their cold intercourse with winter.
Only in the distance do I hear
the crackle and crash of
the far end of the spectrum,
a roaring row of tympani and cymbals.
The burning bushes stand out like
a bleeding gash on pale skin,
fireworks on a starless night.
And I get on my feet because I hear
their beat within my chest and scuff
in time to the kitchen for
a cup of today.

Wrote one going to bed and another when I awoke. Seems like old times.

Heading West

The Final Bow, II © Joseph Hesch, 2015

The Final Bow, II
© Joseph Hesch, 2015

He stares at the autumn trees
as they sway in October’s breeze,
because, like he, they’ve changed
from gin to bourbon, going to brown
and ready to drop.
The trees have forgotten how to color,
to glow in their Northeast neon glory,
the natural Broadway show of SRO
they always did until this year.
No premiere, no revival, no road show
left for the busted impresario
of his own life.

He’s put down his pen since Act Three’s
well upon him and he knows
the climax is out of his hands.
So he stands in the back of the theatre
of his days and sways to the tune
he almost remembers, a whispered whoosh
maybe like the strings bowed
in the overture of his days,
back when the curtains we’re red,
the lights were gold and he rode
the orange sun onstage from the east.

Now he opens his arms to the audience,
dropping vitality like leaves,
in a final sunset bow,
heading west.

I’m feeling the autumn of my years upon me today.  Losing abilities and memories with each dropping leaf from calendars and trees. Maybe  that’s why this piece feels so difficult to express and communicate to you.

Waiting for a Line to Fall

Storm-torn (Photo by Joseph Hesch © 2016)

(Photo by Joseph Hesch © 2016)

Looking at the wind,
watching it tear summer
from the trees before autumn
may gently pluck them.
I can’t hear it from my window,
only imagine its voice, something
between the ocean’s roar
and the highway’s song.
I’d prefer to think it some
ballet score by Copland,
as the trees dance to it en corps.
Or maybe it would be Lightfoot,
waiting like me for a line
to fall, telling me it was all
a big mistake, because sometimes
words need to be torn from us,
even in our autumns.
I know I’d feel the same
looking at the rain.

A bit of a warmup poem before moving onto today’s story. Decided to take the fifth line from one of my favorite songs and use it as the first line of my poem. The song that came to mind was an old “favourite” from Canadian singer/songwriter legend Gordon Lightfoot, Looking at the Rain. Imagination and creative heartbeats took it from there

Spoils of War


The red-brown casualties drip
like blood from the oaken warriors,
who’ve yet to surrender their arms
like the maples and birches did
after the first assault of autumn winds
upon their more colorful breastworks.
The oaks know their shadow-making primacy
grows shorter with each successive march of
a hunchbacked sun from east to west.
It’s my job to collect the dead,
strip the field of their once pliant bodies,
attempting to clear nature’s land
for its winter christening, when she’ll
don a gown of white while the sun
lies in entombed, awaiting resurrection
and the redemption of spring.
Mine is a thankless task that nature
probably fails to appreciate,
which is why she casts more of her
spoils of war behind my back,
ambushing my capitulation to
time and temperature, wind-burned skin,
blistered hands and creaking joints.

Another Poem-a-Day catch-up piece for November 2015. This was one a FAST free write. (Seven minutes?)

Copper and Ice


When I look behind me
through the dust-covered window,
down upon the frost-topped grass,
I see oak leaves dropping one-by-one,
each a gentle touch of cold hands,
a tap on the shoulder, signaling
another cycle of life is ending.

The silver trees’ niggardly scatter
of their lifeless copper reminds me
of misers confronted by their mortality,
prompting an uncomfortable distribution
of their wealth to the cold, unloved needy,
an apprehensive hedging of bets
against a hot hereafter.

I’ll be the poor collector of these riches,
each the recollected hopes, the disappointments,
the punches, the caresses, the love I’ve given,
exchanged or dropped in blind ignorance,
each a look over my shoulder through
the dusty window of time in the fading
light of the ice-crowned autumn of my life.

Running Between the Leaves


It is that moment of the year
I see and feel the maples
beginning to scab over,
their leaves crisping
dark red as dried blood.
Now’s the time all of me
would always come most alive,
despite my testosterone
running free as coursing
tree sap each the spring.
But that was a blind running,
where this autumn harvest
of another year’s life tastes
of steel and blood. It’s in this
head-up trot and gallop,
I dodge those leaves,
momentarily suspended in air,
as they breathe their last,
musky exhalation before the
return to earth and become
whip-crackling slaves to the wind.
They run faster than I can now,
when autumn gasps and pants
in this race to winter, and I walk
my gray-haired petty pace
from day to day until this
glorious moment of remembered
life cannot light this
too brief candle anymore.

Back Under the Covers


It always seems foggy
here on the road
we ride to morning.
Today, even Wednesday,
the equinox of the week,
can open only one eye,
letting the other lid fall
as she tries to crawl
back under the covers
of September.
Meanwhile, we hear
October tapping her foot
with each fallen leaf.
Impatiently, she waits
to crest that autumn horizon,
even though she knows
it’s all downhill
from there.

Photo and poem by Joseph Hesch © 2014