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.

Rebuilding the Sky

The sky has fallen,
in a triphammer beat
of pieces on the roof,
moving in waves
crossing and recrossing
the blacktop road.
It teaches gravity
to the hands of the leaves,
bending their wrists
and arms toward the earth.
It grays my view,
turning down its contrast
and intensity.
Everything that was up
ten minutes ago is now down,
except my eyes.
I can’t help but scan
the sky, searching
for a hint of sunlight,
even if now all is darkness.
The rain’s abating, and
light begins rebuilding day,
propping up the damaged
sky once more,
upon a rainbow’s
scaffold.

Caught In My Own Web

I started out with a length of golden thread
with which my life’s tapestry one day would be read.
But, Oh what a tangled web I’d weave
when first I set out not to deceive,
but to become he who I’d be proud to call Me,
the man I and they always wanted me to be.

But I was the guy who’d fall for a girl
who’d never fall for me, and instead would curl
into the arms of another’s possession,
only strengthening my ardor into obsession,
which always clung stronger, in fact like a glove,
to my oft-scarred heart, than affection or love.

I was the man who with artful words
built billboard ads, where nested birds,
upon which footnotes called “news” were hung.
I crafted webs of truths (full, half and un-)
to snare those who’d read them with their heart,
missing the fine print and calling it “art.”

As a youth I somehow viewed, through history’s haze,
certain learned men, who back in their days
owned other men, as being “of their time”
and somehow not as culpable of the same crime
as those who’d as soon destroy the constitution
they built and defended, for their “peculiar institution.”

This web, strung with self-deceit and knotty lies,
supports and ensnares he I’ve come to despise.
So I bid you and they and the old me goodbye,
leaving behind the smug mug I wore while I became I.
I hope you’ll forgive me my many transgressions
and pray for any and all divine intercessions
on behalf of the boy who always meant well,
but ultimately found he wove his own private hell.

Welcome to No Man’s Land

The tractor’s in the shop and I
should’ve sent my back there weeks ago.
So the grass out front has mounted
a full frontal assault on our home’s
curb appeal (if we had curbs)
and an interdiction upon the exercise
of my creaky and aching masculine ego.
Usually, the state of a man’s lawn
is something that will twist his
Obsession Dial to 9 or 10, especially
from April to Independence Day.
But sometime after that, the drive
to maintain that pool table-perfect
expanse of turf withers a bit,
not unlike the object of my
all-consuming passion for greensward.
But let one person ask what happened
to the once-plumb and level landscape,
and the explosion of counter offensive
will lay low the Creeping Charlie that
dares to peek its head above the fescue.
I turn busy anthills, lumpy underfoot,
into smooth and fertile ossuaries
for the insects more industrious
than the he whose subsoil they mined.
Your homeowner, smug, sweat-soaked
and satisfied, heads into the house
for a shower, beer and nap. I don’t
yet know how last night grubs hatched
and moles and crows will tear
this man’s lawn into no man’s land
by Tuesday.

Hesperides in Gold Leaf

During summers on the lake,
I’d leave the family back
at the trailer after dinner—
because I was a big kid now,
almost 12—and walk to the beach.
The sun would be sagging
in its evening ease, casting
golden flakes upon the chop.
Over the next hour they’d melt
into orange, purple and red
slicks upon the quieting surface,
like a lake-wide gasoline slick
from some grand mahogany runabout
christened Hesperides in gold leaf
on her stern. The sun sinking behind
the pines gave the sky a black eye,
and I’d skip a stone along the surface
to shatter the image of the moon
in the southeast corner of this mirror
of my youth called Snyder’s Lake.
Tonight, as I watched alone the sunset
behind the pines back of my house,
the memory of that bruised sky
hit me in the eye. Must have been
a speck of dust, too, because
I’m a big guy now, almost 65,
and why else would I get teary?

Gospel of the Golden Hour

In the distance, rain clouds
drop millions of miniature prisms
as they march upon Mechanicville.
But it isn’t the Sunday afternoon
shower catching my attention.
As too little sleep dims my vision,
today closes its solar eye
over the rooftops behind me.
I cast a shadow a furlong eastward,
seemingly reaching for the trees
that glisten as they breathe in
the southwest breeze.
They’ve taken on a flaxen glow,
like a coterie of Fox News bunnies
beaming into their key lights.
They’re fair in the balanced
auric light, a photographer’s dream,
turning them into brilliant beings
of otherworldly luminescence.
The rain’s turned into an inclusive
rainbow spanning the Hudson,
while I turn to the west and
am enlightened, my face taking on
a glowing mask of a rapturous mien.
It’s as if all of us have been touched
by a greater power at this, the Golden Hour.
And that’s Real News.

This was one of those allegedly inspired pieces that drew me out of what I was doing and demanded to be written before it was lost in the darkness. I’m not saying it was a divine inspiration or even one of any importance. The premise/hook/true subject didn’t occur to me until I finished the first draft, which this, for all intent, is. But the trees really did look like a bunch of hyperventilating blondes heaving their bosoms in the glow of the Golden Hour, which seems some sort of blessing for those of us who view such light as a gift from above. And I mean more than 93,000,000 miles above. Photo © Joseph A. Hesch 2016