Still Trying to Find Myself

Can you help show me the way 
to find myself? Who or where
I might be I’m never sure.
Am I a destination
or a denizen? A thought
or a thinker? Or maybe
I’m an island, alone in
the sea, or in a river
waiting for you to float by
and wave hello or goodbye.
So tell me about your quest
to find who you may have become
on the road from who you’ve been.
Or are you still lost as me,
just standing here, knowing you’ve
chosen what’s left but hardly 
ever what was right in all 
those forks on life's one-way road.
Perhaps I’ll never find myself
because never have I ever 
been able to arrive at 
the who I wanted to be.
Except for these quiet times 
when can I sit here with you, 
knowing I’m no longer lost.

Day 14 of NaPoWriMo and another promptless poem sprung from my quest to understand who I might be and why. Something I'm fairly certain about, though. Sometimes, I feel that while I'm writing these, I'm speaking to you and while you're reading them, you're listening to me. Together. Spiritually simultaneous. And I don't feel as lost and lonely sitting at this keyboard anymore.

Sorry, Wrong Number

What if I told you how I used to 
play a trick on myself where I’d call you, 
knowing you weren’t near your phone, 
just so I could hear you speak to me 
from your voice mail message?
But before you convict me of some 
great or lessor transgression,
isn’t this just a little like 
how you might race to hear my voice, 
season after season, 
when my newest poem crossed the ether?
No, I suppose not. 
But it’s nice to think we still might 
be listening to one another 
even if I never called you like that. 
I’d call you like this.

On Day 12 of this year's poem-a-day NaPoWriMo, I used one of my favorite types of prompts. It’s kind of like a word game, a test if you will, where Writer’s Digest editor Robert Lee Brewer gives six words and the poet must use at least three in a poem. I always earn "extra credit" (in my mind) for using all six. This time, the words are: convict, great, play, race, season, and voice.


I Know Your Type

They say when you were younger, 
you were one of those loudly
stuttering rat-a-tat pounders 
on the old Underwood or such.
And when you moved on 
to an IBM Selectric, 
you probably left 
half-moon fingernail tracks 
like horses’ hoof prints 
in the vowels, T, S and N.
So when did you learn
this gentler touch? 
Oh, you’re a poet now?
You learned to take your time
and touch others as you
would prefer to be touched?
Who taught you that?
Never mind. Save it for
another day when you give 
everyone another sensual massage.
By the way,  I says you've  
worn her out by your over-attention.
Could you maybe find a way
to give Z or X some love?
Oh, c’mon! We know your type.

Okay, okay. I decided to give the Writer's Digest Day 9 prompt a try, writing a persona poem for an inanimate object. Probably because I was of little use to a couple of my more animate friends. So here my keyboard is talking to me. This toothy devil's just lucky I'm not writing any more Westerns lately. Rat-a-tat, indeed.

Like Smoke From a Canajoharie Longhouse

I figure the scent of frontier 
still filled the air like 
smoke from a Canajoharie longhouse,
when some long-gone laird 
cut down the Schoharie Eden-trees, 
cut up even older stones and 
piled them in fearful symmetry, 
building his sense of security.
A stream-side mill house, 
still being nibbled at by new growth, 
so sturdy, a miniature mountain, 
that a new forest marched
like Great Birnam wood 
toward Dunsinane hill to watch time 
defeat one man’s reach for a slice 
of immortality. Still they wait.
And though the mill’s roof is gone
like the old trees and the new trees’ 
leaves in October, its bones still stand, 
defiant, crusty as old bread 
from a goodwife’s brick oven 
and steely as an old man’s pride.
As I drive by, I crack open 
my car window, hoping to catch 
a whiff of my family's frontier. 
Or smoke from a Canajoharie longhouse.

Day 9: A poem about a nearby ruin, of sorts, that affects me greatly each time I see it. And I've seen it many times on my trips to pick up daughters from college and to visit friends. And maybe because it somehow connects me to my Palatine German ancestors who settled the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys in the early 1700s. Yeah, and we're all still standing. Oh, and photo © 2018 Joe Hesch.  

The (Next) First Time

The first time that I heard that voice
it caught me by surprise, I think.
Perhaps how it was carried on
the lilt of an infectious laugh
I did not know. Guess I needed to.

The next time that I heard that voice
I tried looking it in the eyes.
This is not an act I practice
too often, but this voice asked me
if I would. Guess we needed to.

All the times that I heard that voice,
it felt to me just like the first.
It spoke to me in more than words,
it asked me in, pushed me away.
Voice’s choice. ‘Cause it needed to. 

But what if there’s no next first time
that voice my old life surprises,
no more to grace these old deaf ears?
We’ll speak with more than our voices.
Hearts speak heart, we just needed two.

Day 5's poem was written at 5:30 AM on Day 6. I'll call it Day 5 still because dawn had not yet broken. This is kind of like old times for me, writing poems in my near sleep/not quite awake time. The difference is I actually got up and wrote it for the first time in years. Now on to Day 6...ON Day 6.

My Wishes Look Brighter By the Light of Yesterday

Sitting in the car 
just around the corner.
Street light beaming through 
a foggy windshield, 
illuminating my hands, 
my chest, my mouth. 
But not my mind, 
groping in the dark 
for its best answer. 
Do I? (Sure.)
Should I? (Why not?)
Can I? (Of course.)
What if? (I think it would make you happy.)
But what about…you know? 
(Yeah…and? You want me to fight dirty?)
I’m just sayin’…
(It’d be best for everyone.) Everyone?
(Especially you.) Mmmmaybe, but…
(Always “but.” What’re you 
afraid of this time?) The usual.
(It’s right there around the corner.
What you wished for.)
Maybe tomorrow. 
And before I could hear the reply, 
I started my car and pulled away. 
No headlights, straight down the 
street, past one corner's dim streetlight 
to the next. Occasionally I looked back 
at the lights on the yesterday corners 
not taken and wondered why they 
always looked so much brighter 
than those on the tomorrows.

For Day 2's Poem-A-Day effort, I combined the NaPoWriMo prompt with Writer's Digest's. The former asked for a poem about the writer's "road not taken" and how it might've affected his/her life. While WD's asked for a poem about our idea of what our futures hold and to use that idea in the title. Competing ideas, I know. Boom! 

It’s Written In the Scars

I learned somewhat late in life, perfection 
was an impossible standard to capture.
To pull it off required misdirection,
like casting a spell akin to rapture.

And for a while I could be quite smitten
mostly during those times I was manic.
I’d find more than I could chew I’d bitten,
while I was choking on it without panic.

I learned that perfect can obscure the true,
after I kept running into walls headlong.
I was healed and chastened by then and knew
if I saw only perfect, I’d be dead wrong.

This revelation and relief I’m sharing;
they came to me like some grace from above.
Please know despite the scars you’re wearing,
you’re always worthy of this scarred man's love.

A Sample From This Fountain of Youth

It's a shame my body and soul 
finally caught up to one another, 
now both old beyond their years. 
This heretofore angular form 
and slender spirit may be capable 
of entering into the occasion of sin, 
if they can somehow slip through 
the golden door to seal the deal.
My mind hasn’t yet suffered such decline 
as this willing flesh and weak soul. 
I'll bet its boyish imagination can still craft 
a workaround that might satisfy someone 
willing to sample a poetic taste of hope 
from this fantasy-flavored fountain of youth. 
Now, if I could only find my glasses.

Let’s Talk About It

Do you tend not to answer 
the phone unless you know 
the caller, and then “Hello” 
only some of those?
Me too. Not to be rude, it’s
just too often my mind’s 
incapable of opening my ears, 
and my heart’s forgotten 
the rest of the words.
I’ve never had to decide 
about answering when your face 
or name appears on the screen. 
I’ve lost my only picture of you, 
including in my memory. 
And we’ve both tossed 
each other's numbers. 
Probably a good thing, right?
We could talk about this all day, 
but it always was the listening 
got in our way.

Day 10 prompt in the countdown to Robert Lee Brewer's Poem-a-Day April was to make a poem titled "Let's (something)". So here we are. Again.

Main Street, Deadwood, South Dakota

In Deadwood, Main Street’s 
no longer a river of mud 
bridged by soggy boards 
that otherwise might become 
a saloon, gambling hall or 
some whore’s crib.
Main Street’s like 
streets in any other town. 
It never did get paved 
with Black Hills gold, 
nor run with the blood 
of men, red or white.
The town sells being
Deadwood, a legend that 
appealed to the vices…
gambling, greed and
gold fever. Oh and
Wild Bill, who was 
killed in a saloon called
Nuttall & Mann’s
at 624 Main Street.
They sell antiques there 
today, on this river of
blacktop bridged by