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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 ghosts.