Mother’s Day

English: Mother's Day card

English: Mother’s Day card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eighty-something year old Moms
tend to give their middle aged sons
ancient history lessons,
even on Mothers Day. A word, a photo,
a memory, she dropped them all
like a cup of tea. And he picked them up.
The photo was of a chubby 5th grader,
alone, flying his crazy black hair
and a goofy gray grin at half staff,
there on the front stoop, a stain of
something on the front of his shirt.
His fingernails were dirty and
he had smudges on his hand, no doubt
from scrawling or drawing something,
from his perfectly cultivated
amber waves of imagination, a look
of skeptic wonder on his face.
He hasn’t changed too much.

Still the pudgy-feeling little guy, stain
worn like a badge of honor over his heart,
smudges of gray on the heel of his
age-twisted hand and head.
He cultivates this self as he tends
the wretched patch out back.
Perhaps one day they both might
bear some fruit, something more than
weedy promise and seedy emotion.
Farmer or poet. They’re the same
to him now. Each a singular effort,
trying to grow something out of
tiny near-nothings.
He put that photo away. Mom’s
absent-minded lesson learned.
You are who you are, kid, but you
can be loved no matter who that is.
Once again, Mother knew best.


Innocence Lost

Albert Carrying Pogo - Walt Kelly

Albert Carrying Pogo – Walt Kelly (Photo credit: Lynn (Gracie’s mom))

Sure, I learned at a too early age
that good guys and bad guys
shop at the same hat store and
it would always be hard to tell
the malevolent from the beneficent
by their haberdashery.
And despite the jingo flingers’
attempts to sell you their scorecards
touting who’s who of the white clad
home side and which of the unshaven thugs
in gray deserve the most contempt,
the streets taught me, once dirtied
in this neverending game,
we all look pretty much alike.

I regret not remembering those
days of sweet, youthful ignorance
I’m sure I once wore like
a wee clip-on bowtie.
If it wasn’t hearing nice Mr. B
arrested a few times for whooping
on the missus that infected childhood,
maybe it was my precocious reading skills.
I was slogging through the swampy
newspaper the day old Walt Kelly
in his possum suit taught me
“We have met the enemy,
and he is us.”

Snow Angels

Snow Angel

Snow Angel (Photo credit: dalechumbley)

The nightmares began in the week before Christmas;
screaming, fearsome trespass into the child’s mind.
The news had infringed with no conscience
and stolen a bit of innocence from the six year old,
waking her from a terror others could not escape.
“I don’t want Santa to come into our house,”
she said one night. “it scares me.”
“You’ll be safe, hon,” her father whispered.

“Mommy and Daddy will protect you,”
her mother said. “And your Guardian Angel, too.”
“Why didn’t their Guardian Angels
protect them?” she asked,
in the direct distillation of thought
only a child can accomplish.
Her father closed his eyes and drew a breath
before telling her.

“Because so many little kids
and their Mommies and Daddies
fear this world more than we used to,
God needed more brave little angels
to help them feel protected.”
As snow fell outside the bedroom window,
the little one lay down with her mother,
satisfied for a bit, sleeping safely in her arms.

Her dad thanked God for her and that
she heard not the door open and close twice.
When she awoke in the morning,
little Emma called into the kitchen,
“Daddy come see, come see.”
There in the new-fallen snow, a score
of snow angels had ringed their blessings
upon a home and a little girl.

I’m sorry if this doesn’t really sound like a poem. I’ve been struggling with these feelings all weekend and I have difficulty expressing such things sometimes except by “writing them out.”  Some folks say I’m some kind of storyteller, but I often lack the emotional capacity to couch thoughts of such horrible things as the Newtown tragedy in words. This piece has helped me gather a few in one place. May all our angels rest in the peace of this season, and all to come.

Five Sentence Fiction ~ Candidate

Lillie McFerrin

Citizen Jamie

A polling place at a recreation center in New ...

A polling place at a recreation center in New Jersey’s 2008 general election (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I’m really, really nervous about this, Daddy,” 18-year old Jamie Gerwick said to her father as they walked down the dark tiled hall of P.S. 12 toward the polling place in the gymnasium.

“Oh my, don’t be, honey,” Leonard Gerwick said, placing his arm around his daughter.

“Today is the first time you’ve ever exercised that most important privilege of citizenship,” he said, “something generations of Americans – including your late great-uncle Bennie — have fought and died to maintain and protect.”

As they were about to turn the corner into the gym, Leonard stopped, his welling eyes looking into Jamie’s, and put his hands on her shoulders, saying, “You just go in there and sign your name in the book, confidently enter the sanctity of the voting booth and vote for whichever candidate you believe best represents your dreams and aspirations for yours and this country’s future.”

Jamie sheepishly glanced over her shoulder, pulled on her sunglasses and hissed, “No, Daddy, I’m nervous that Bobby Bannister will be in there with his mom and think I’m some sort of geek because you dragged me over here before I could fix my hair and get out of these sweats and flip-flops…gahhh!”

Here is my latest Five Sentence Fiction offering, based on a prompt from Lillie McFerrin. This week: Candidate.

Jeremy and Jacob

By Joseph Hesch

The eight-year-old pinballs
back and forth, up and down
the aisles of the market,
making sure all the cans and boxes
are aligned perfectly with
the edge of their shelves.
His mother’s firm and exhausted call
carries from canned goods to dairy.
”Jeremy, come back here, now.”
”Jeremy,please leave that.”
”Jeremy, now, Jeremy.”

But her Nerf words bounce off
the boy’s seemingly unhearing ears,
blocked by a soundless enthusiastic voice
cheering his next split-second adventure.
His tunnel of attention feels right,
as his hands flap to his next task,
even though he never wanted
to leave home with Mom in the first place.
”Jeremy, hey lookit!.
”Jeremy, go, Jeremy.”

Nearby, a white-hair looks on
with disdain at the unruly little boy
who needs a good spanking.
That’s just what she told her daughter
to give her grandson when he would
act up like this. Now her daughter
doesn’t speak to her and
her grandson’s a very quiet
young man who doesn’t answer
when Grandma calls:
“Jacob, please pick up.”
“Jacob, it’s Gram, Jacob!”

© 2012 Joseph Hesch

I’ve been noodling with this piece for a little while–on and off for two years, actually. I saw a little boy in the market Saturday who moved me to complete it. Had to finish. As I was once again going over it before posting, I found out today is World Autism Awareness Day. I had no idea, just as Grandma has no idea (or doesn’t want to) about Autism, either. I don’t claim to know much about Autism, but I learned a lot from visiting the Autism Speaks Web site. You might want to check it out, too.

The Eve, the Day, the Joy

By Joseph Hesch

On the Eve and Day of Joy,
the presents were covered
in their smooth and sparkling raiment,
as were the trees and roads
in their fresh-snow greeting card grandeur.
Come the gathering, all those wrappings,
of packages and countryside,
were torn by child and adult,
each in their own way—
hand, scissor, sled, SUV. 
The magic was so quickly broken,
And what was smooth wonder
and sparkling mystery
the night before and at dawn,
had been torn, crumpled, stained
and rendered debris and nuisance
to everyone’s continued joy.
Moms and Dads near-curse the mess
of late-day. Kids ignore or revel in its chaos.
On Boxing Day the broken ugliness
of cold fact will be exposed.
Yet all will be forgotten with the advent
of a new year, a new hope,
a new anticipation
for the sleek magic of the Eve and
the Day we came together
and were joyously unbroken.

Like Father, Like Son

87/365 - The writing on the fridge

87/365 – The writing on the fridge (Photo credit: Micah Taylor)

I’m not my Dad, the first Joe.
I can’t build you a castle, a house,
or even a box. Wood and nails feel
as alien to my being as ingesting those
half-gestated Asian duck eggs.
I can’t scramble them, bake them
in a cake, or choke them down
in any form.

I know my limitations, and carpentry,
auto mechanics and such gifts
he almost taught me are
nice dreams for this smooth-hander,
but are as within my grasp as walking
the moon, dunking a basketball,
or entanglement in the warm limbs
of Andie MacDowell.

I can build something like houses
and castles and worlds, though,
out of words. Some even look pretty,
plumb, and even true.
I wonder if Dad would be as proud
of these skills as I always was of his.
Maybe he might think, with words, I’m
finally handier than tits on a bull.