Chapter Two

Wrinkled paperWe all start life like a clean sheet of paper,
pulled from some familial ream.
Smooth and clear and ready for the writing,
the drawing, the composing of
an artistic undertaking called a lifetime.
So often, though, comes a day life bends
and crumples us into hunched-over balls of failure,
destined for tossing in with other throwaways.
Settled into my downward trajectory
of the arc to the trashcan I was, my sheet
a mass of idle doodles, manic scribbles,
ragged erasures, when a revelatory breeze
skittered me off the wastebasket rim.

I bounced up, uncrumpled, laid myself
flat here on this desk and recollected:
We sheets of humanity may get
all wrinkled and raggedy, but we still
have a clean second side.
I looked past the creases and furrows,
taking a lesson from the wisdom of
Side One’s first-draft bleed-throughs.
My sheet’s a wee tattered, but it’s full
of smudged and crinkled knowledge,
and all this space left to freely mess.
Not a make-good sequel, just Chapter Two.

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.


Purple Awakening

Purple Clouds

Purple Clouds (Photo credit: amandabhslater)

Purple clouds daub the eastern sky,
bruising reminders of this,
my abusive relationship with winter
and dawn. I traverse the slippery slope
of driveway, highway, my way,
to get this body where it is scheduled to be.
So, with two left feet on the gas,
I lock myself in this well-rehearsed,
one-track commute to and from
everyday butt whoopings.
But whoopings are what I learned
(somewhere) someone’s got to take
for the team, and it’s not right for
just anyone to be that someone.
No one can do it so well as I.
That’s how I got these garlands
of that purple I wear hidden
from dawn to sunset…
and from you and often even me.

What’s the Point?


shivs (Photo credit: istolethetv)

I guess I’m supposed to appear oh so serious,
because to not be considered serious
is to not BE…

I hear if Writers in their stories, Poets in their verse
don’t appear gravely haloed by Polyhymnia,
bathed in the balm of Calliope,
then they’re just not worth the reading.
Unless, of course, you can appear difficult
or even possess that special fearsome edge.
Something akin to a prison shank-fest
between inky Aryan Brothers and Crips,
viscera and caesura, gore and metaphor
over the heads and covering feet in the library.
That’s why I am never going to make it
in this Big House. Not angry enough,
never felt the need to feed your belly
my edge.

But maybe someday, though I doubt it,
some of the serious, difficult and edgy,
even while they’re looking,
get my point.

Schwund und Reue

Cover of first English language edition. The d...

Cover of first English language edition. The design is based upon a German war bonds poster by Fritz Erler. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can read, won’t read.
Would read, don’t read.
That book sits face up on the table
next to me, it’s eyes staring at
my sheepish ones, like those
of a portrait that follow you
around the room, accusing, unblinking.

Or maybe they’re like
those of that dead French soldier
lying in the crater with Paul Bäumer
in All Quiet on the Western Front,
another book I never finished.
Like Paul, I feel remorse, loss,
over somehow killing my old hunger.

I was once voracious like you,
but lost the combat for my consciousness
and now I lie here, paralyzed,
with my toes framing that big screen,
notebook and tablet on my lap,
pinned down in my depression by this
bombardment of distractions.

I want to pick up that book and
conquer it, but, shell-shocked by media,
all I do is numbly flip a couple of pages
and place it face-down again.
I really wish I could be like you,
finishing every bit of reading you…
Hey, where’d you go?

My deepest apologies to my friends Claudia and Quirina if I have butchered the German words in the title. I wanted to express my paralyzing feeling of loss and remorse. Which I feel…I really do.

Right About Now

You’ll never touch tomorrow,
never glimpse it or even smell
the banana bread cooling on the counter
in its house of possibilities.
You’ve already tossed yesterday aside,
used, no-deposit/no-return.
But today, right now, this moment,
is here for the taking.
Pick it up. Run your fingers across
its soft warm belly, it’s cool slickness,
its moist freshness. Smell it, even lick it.
Or, better yet, give it a kiss.
Hold it like a precious gem, a helpful tool,
or, more to the point, a child.
That tiny one with all the potential
to be something great…or something less.
You’re the caretaker of this moment.
So take care of it. But if you don’t,
that’s okay, too. There’s another’s one
just as new and important right behind it.
See, Life is a fecund and promiscuous bitch.
That’s why I love it.

Carry On

"Please report any unattended luggage."

“Please report any unattended luggage.” (Photo credit: ToastyKen)

As the traveler sat waiting and waiting for his flight out of there,
he heard over and over that recorded statement
from the Feds by the guy whose authoritative voice
they want to sound like God. You know,
to scare you straight. He thought by the tenth time,
the voice actually sounded like a game show announcer.
Everyone knows God sounds like Johnny Cash, he mused.
He must have heard that stentorian spiel
twenty or thirty times more telling him
to leave untouched any baggage he might come across.
And never, ever carry anything for another person.
No problem, he thought. He already left behind
so much of everyone else’s baggage, even his own,
months ago. It all just became too heavy to carry.
Now he traveled light and kept everything he really needed
in that small bag against his chest. Inside his chest.
He was only too happy to declare that with a smile
when he finally arrived at his destination.

Written in Stone

Stones know the score;
nobody bothers them and fewer still
are bothered by them.
Well, except occasionally
touchy sandal wearers or maybe
old-timey New England farmers.
But you hardly ever hear
about stones getting in trouble.
What? That Cain and Abel affair?
Stone fell in with a bad crowd.
Other than that, only flashy stones
get noticed and then cause trouble.
I think the lesson here —
one I didn’t learn soon enough —
is stones should eschew fussy farmers and
prickly poetasters. And maybe you can
hang with such sandaled shepherds
who are not yet Kings.
It’s probably good to be a stone.
Just be hard, lay low,
keep your dirty face shut
and hopefully they’ll never
crack you. Like you did me.

© 2012 Joseph Hesch

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.

Over the Top

By Joseph Hesch

She always had a problem 
with how he tended to over-think, 
over-do, over-reach, 
over-react, over-analyze, 
So, because he loved her so very, very much, 
he tried to change, a total make-over.
He tried to become like he saw her, 
accepting things as they came,
not sweating the small stuff. 
Something he wasn’t, really.
He beat himself nearly senseless 
to overcome his obsession
to make a big deal over every
little thing in his life. 
he was perplexed by the how or why, he
underestimated how much 
he’d changed to be the guy 
he thought she wanted.
That’s why he never fully
understood what to do, 
when she said,
“We’re so over.”