A Lesson from Mollie


Mollie (Photo © Joseph Hesch)

In our old days, driving southwest on I-88
somewhere between Albany and Oneonta,
my dozing young retriever Mollie would jerk
to wakefulness and jam her nose through
the gap in the passenger side window.

You’d hear her snort-snuff-snort
and see her body quiver all electric
in excitement over something I couldn’t see –
more than if she’d inhaled the arresting aroma
of a maverick hamburger a little kid dropped.

My Golden girl had picked up the pungency
of hamburger on the muck-caked hoof, though –
a dairy farm just behind the roadside trees.
With Mollie, it’s always scents before sights,
her canine early-warning system.

Yesterday Mollie snort-snuff-snorted
along a scent trail in our backyard head-first
into the chain link fence and then
into its fencepost. In her slowed-down age,
scents before sight had new meaning.

I never had such seeming prescient sagacity
with which I could sniff out upcoming instance.
Instead, I too-often raced headlong into
cowpies of woe on my way to I-knew-not-where.
Mollie and I have slowed down to sniff out more life.

Scents before sights, Joe.
Sense before sight.

Charmed, I’m Sure

A Five Sentence Fiction

“Don’t you think he’s charming?” my wife Elizabeth asked as she watched walk away handsome Father Lucas Bender, who had just concluded a five-minute heart-to-pitter-pattering-heart bit of small talk with her.

“He’s okay, I guess, but I still don’t buy his phony schtick,” I said, my mouth full of a cube of provolone and a slice of pepperoni I’d grabbed from the buffet during St. Michael’s Church’s open house for the parish’s volunteer workers.

“What do you mean, Brian…haven’t you noticed how much larger the crowd is at Sunday Mass since he arrived?” Elizabeth hissed.

At the sound of Father Bender’s boyish laugh, every woman in the place looked up, their eyes zeroed in on the far corner of the room, and blinked – I swear I could hear them all blink — to see their 40-something pastor brush his fingers along the upper arm of 23-year old parish secretary, Zoe Calabrese, who giggled a little girl giggle and rested her fingertips upon his chest.

“Ohhh,” Elizabeth oozed, her hooded eyes returning from that little tableau to stare dully into her drink, “how…charming.”

Whipped up in response to Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt, “Charmed.”

Spring Cleanup

a light in the attic

a light in the attic (Photo credit: kevtori)

The fresh spring light cants just-so
through the windows of my soul
illuminating the dust specks I
set to roaming on this seasonal foray
up in my attic, inspecting things
I’ve left there and sometimes forgot.
Seldom do I rummage for anything
in particular. No, not really.
I’m drawn up here each April
like a spawning salmon,
instinctual and compulsive as
the sneezes trumpeting my return.

From behind the exercise bike, a glint
of post-equinox revelation flashes
upon pieces of incomplete old puzzle.
With unbent wire clothes hanger,
I root about in the sticky, nasty grime
for this compulsive remembrance,
always keeping its pieces at arm’s length.
Even upside down, soggy, some like broken mirrors,
they reflect the gaze of hot coffee-brown eyes
I managed to hold until I blinked
and dropped them, in a searing splatter.
I close the attic windows’ lashed curtains,
enough of this reflecting. Over the bike,
atop the puzzle, I toss a box of books
where they belong, into that corner of stories
best kept for another day.

Shared with the gang at dVerse for Open Link Night

Gray Becomes Me

morning lights

morning lights (Photo credit: glenn~)

The alarm cracks the curtains of my eyes
to a darkened room scattered with shadows
of a misspent yesterday, like a tangle
of dirty clothes left on the floor
to snarl my feet as I get out of bed.
The dark and I have been lovers for so long,
I now eschew most light until it’s necessary.
Why would I wish to leave her calm embrace
for that brassy glare of sun? I know my way,
not needing to count my steps anymore.

I can shower and shave like a blind man,
knowing the craze of hair on the mirror
and the whiskers at the bottom of the sink,
if I bothered turning on the light,
would show gray as the clouds hiding dawn outside.
The dark ones slide across the lighter ones
faster than I can walk. But, standing where I am,
they make me feel like I’m the one
doing the moving. Somewhere over there,
or maybe there, mourning dove calls
and no bright bird answers.

Darkness and the shroud of morning mist
can do that to you, steal context and scale
from your life. I break their spell
by heading out on the highway,
where all the cars’ colors still are muted
in shades of charcoal, steel and dirty snow.
And just about the only hue outside the gray scale
are the sightless red eyes of commuting cavefish,
strung out, halting, feeling their ways before me.


Close Your Eyes

Close Your Eyes (Photo credit: ♥ Unlimited)

In the dark, all eyes look alike,
no matter which end of look you hold.
Color means nothing then,
just the subjective reflection
of a radiance that never really existed
in the mirrors of our unshared souls,
lashed-together frames
of wide-eyed hope.

Maybe darkness protects our vision
as would a prolonged blink,
a teary baptism, saving us
from bleary illumination.

After dawn, we attempt to gaze
into those brown or blue
looking glasses before us,
where we espy only reflections
of our own reveries, visions we
dreamed up last night in the dark,
where we all looked alike,
just like our eyes.


Close your Eyes

Close your Eyes (Photo credit: Piccadilly Pink)

Matte and colorless, not black,
nor any shade of gray, is my Dark.
Even without gesture, no nuance other than
its lack of supposed visual,
to touch, taste, or smell within Dark’s embrace
slams sensory experience into me with vitality,
vast and vigorous.
How often needless is Light, the glow of clouds and snow
kissed by Sun, or the angled ray that would allow me
to perceive the hairs rise on your arm at my touch
in the Dark?

Why do you turn your eyes from Light
when it glares into your face? You close them
when you kiss me, when you smell a rose,
taste the finest sustenance. Close them now,
join me where there is no jangle of what may be real,
the Hall of Mirrors reflection of what you perceive
all your Its to be.
Beneath your present gaze exists Life I have created
from that you might curse, as you search,
with candle lit, for something you cannot hold,
if broken by once precious Light,
like silence crashed.

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.

These Eyes

English: a hand holding unidentified white pills

They stare at me each morning,
the doleful white, yellow and pink
ovals and circles that allegedly
see to keeping me happy and alive.
Unfortunately they aren’t doing the former,
and at times because of that,
equally unfortunately, are doing the latter.

I would take in a bigger batch of them,
filling my hand like a loser
holding but one ace,
but I’d probably pull nothing more than
three, seven, nine, Jack,
a splitting headache and
wrenching nausea for the effort.

I remember a time when I felt happy
and alive and didn’t worry about
holding or being held in the gaze
of such pale, jaundiced and sleepless eyes
as these glaring at me as I lean
against the shower-steamed mirror
above the bathroom sink.

They were a lovely shade of blue,

A Twelvemonth’s Tears

December Sky

December Sky (Photo credit: catladycam)

The December weather has edges
and sharp points, like a star
atop the Christmas tree.
When I inhale, the air feels
of peppermint but the flavor
favors woodsmoke from
my neighbor’s fireplace.
It’s during these nights,
under a stardust canopy
and a searchlight moon,
my eyes sting and water a bit.
Not sure if it’s from the the cold,
the smoke, or the need to
sweep the cinders
of another year from them.
Or perhaps this year
it’s to wipe the spillings
of an old year away to prepare
for a brighter new one.