What Are Friends For?

If I needed you,
would you respond to my call?
If I called to you,
would you even care at all?
If you asked me to,
would I have the gall
to stand back
and just watch you fall?

These are questions
whose answers are moot,
the responses academic,
since I gave myself the boot,
a swift kick in the teeth
or, more likely, the glute.
But what more can you expect
from a depressed old coot?

So forget all these questions,
I should’ve just kept quiet.
I’ll just bury this feeling,
lest it incite a cry-it riot.
I’m pretty sure the moral —
unspoken but clear — don’t deny it,
is if I really wanted a friend,
I’d find a dog and buy it.

This is one of those “Jump into the thicket and see what you come out with (if you can) on the other side” poems. I came out with tortured rhymes, a Freudian cleansing of the subconscious psyche and a typical Hesch ending. Glad I left out the allusion to that old Iggy Pop and the Stooges song in the final verse. (You’d had to have been there on the cusp of the ’60s-’70s to get that.)

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A Touch of Memory

Why I can never let go?
Is it because your invisible grip
remains on my memory,
that guilelessly smooth
expanse where the world
has left ridges, whorls
and smudges to mark its passage
through the my library halls?
Despite the Hands Off signs
I’ve scattered, the mess
everyone left has rendered
any of my reflections
impossible to grasp.
Except where you’ve left
your glancing caress.
I keep that hidden
so no onecan mar where
your fingertips will linger
upon my face whenever I look
on this space I hold dear.
And where I hold you, dear,
never to let go.

A Tailwind for Sisyphus

So many wants sit within me,
but inertia and headwinds negate
any attempts, starts or begins, see,
what I once hoped would be my fate.

But Fate she’s a mistress most cold,
one who’d just as soon leave me crying.
Muses turn that way, too, I’m told,
and if I said “Oh, not mine,” I’d be lying.

There’s been more than one pushed my pen,
each gave my heart a stir and a taste.
I thought I loved each, and yet then
they left my poetic heart still chaste.

Now my wants have grown old and dusty,
not lost, but neither kept well oiled.
Such desires are wont to grow rusty,
and without fulfillment they become spoiled.

That’s why these lines squeal so loudly,
like cogged gears spent years without care.
Oh, I cared, but never so proudly
as a man believing in himself might dare.

So my fate remains unrealized still,
and today’s step was just mere mumbling.
While writing this was a Sisyphean uphill,
Sure, two back, but one up without stumbling.

I’m going to keep writing these until something clicks within me. I’m one hundred typewriting monkeys with a not yet totally broken old dream on the other side of this door. And I’ve found the sound of thousands of keys clicking an inspiring song. Who knows? Maybe one of those keys will be the one that unlocks it

The Struggle Continues

I think of you too much and not enough,
these days and nights since you left me behind.
The “thinking” is something that feels so rough,
while the “not” just makes me feel so unkind.

But kindness is like beauty to a beholder,
and beholders can wear glasses of rose.
My flaw was choosing when to be bolder,
but too often instead of choosing I froze.

That’s how I lost what was a thing unique,
and now I know it’s more than that I’ve wasted.
But this is what comes from being so meek,
not daring to take Prufrock’s peach and taste it.

So today I just sit here and fritter
instead of sharing some time, just you and Joe.
If I’d spoken up would I still be bitter?
Perhaps, but I didn’t, so we’ll never know.

But I like to think this poem you’re reading,
and it’s collecting some transcendent due.
Someday, again we’ll share two souls beating,
since just one heart’s left whole instead of two.

This is such a struggle. The writing, the creating, the imagining, they’ve all gone away it seems. Too long under the pall of my losses. Even though one’s now somewhat mitigated. But I keep trying. If I can’t keep lit that old candle, maybe I can strike a spark and start a wildfire with the dry leavings of what once was so verdant and alive.

Wherefore and Why

He thought he’d search today
for that old photograph.
And he was not sure why.
They never talked anymore,
the bloom off that rose like
the youth off that old image.
But still he rummaged,
through notebooks and pens,
books and file folders,
memories and other memories,
real and imagined.
And he was not sure why.
Until then he found it,
dogeared and scuffed,
within a spiral bound
remembrance he’d created
when he wasn’t looking,
not even thinking of it.
And he was not sure why.
But there was the smile
that lit so many dark days
and darker nights, like
the sun continues to glow
in its recalled place
behind his closed eyes.
And then he knew why.
With one smile he knew why.

Run Aground

Allegheny morning
© Diana Matisz, 2019

I still see your reflection
whenever the river slows
in its infrequently placid way,
kicking out sparkles here and there
just to make sure I notice.
Then a tug will push a barge past,
always laden with the weight
of the world someone’s mined,
all the time arguing
with underlying currents,
unseen snags and shallows,
whining of rusted steel on steel
and the strain of tarred ropes
that bind. And the wake
of their passage slices your image
into slivers of memory, emanating waves
that buoy and ground me as I list
in this spot, unable to move on.

With thanks to my dear friend Diana Matisz, who’s images have inspired me for years and I hope still will for years to come.

Condemned to Repeat

Didn’t vote for him in ’72,
thought everything about him C.R.E.E.P.y.
Bet you’d cast yours for Humphrey, wouldn’t you?
Especially with Agnew as VP.

But Dick got his Milhous caught in a door,
starting with the botched Watergate break-in.
The dirtiest of dirty tricks galore,
Step One in a demise of his own makin’.

I love it when pols go around thinking
they’re the smartest boy in any room they enter.
In this case it left ol’ Dick a’drinking,
his paranoia pushed front and center.

They say that Pride goeth before the fall
as slaves warned winning generals Roman.
Dick thought his powers were greatest of all,
’til Congress and the Courts left him moanin’.

Now I’m not one to be pointing fingers,
since I can’t cast even the thousandth stone,
but them what think their stink don’t lingers
may soon look around and find they’re alone.

Again, I’m not casting any aspersions,
but I believe I can tell wrong from right.
Seen my share of political excursions
to the dark side, where people lose sight.

Someone said something about history
and how not knowing it you could repeat it.
But that’s really not any mystery,
unless you’re too self-absorbed to heed it.

I guess there’s a moral somewhere in here,
about crooks and hubris not mixin’.
But if the shoe fits, I hope that it’s clear
history shows you could end up like Nixon.

This bit of rhyme was prompted by a call for a “name” poem. This was the second name to come to mind. Too many people still have not heeded George Santayana’s advice, I fear. And yes, you probably had to be there in ’72 (or seen/read “All the President’s Men”) to know what C.R.E.E.P. was. But for the rest of this piece? Nahhhh…