Blurred Visions

I don’t know why the purity
of this falling snow
wrenches forth a scene
twisted and blurred, as if
by winds gusting off the roof,
and by years spent staring into
an indistinct vision of some
winter park scene walking by and
a spring that never came.
Always I’d see the snow’s potential
for marring, for cast off slush
and salt to decay its natural beauty,
like age and anger can mar a face,
even one ever youthful in the
blurred eyes of a snowbound beholder.
Then, the chill in the gut,
that might-be that never did.
A windy white hand blows across
my mind, pushing me back inside
from this storm of a million million
useless maybes, sheltering me
for another day and night until
a spring of memories yet to be
comes along. Draw the shades,
stare into the fire.
All is indistinct again,
but warm, as tears glisten,
always warm. Always.

A free write by the writer’s window, watching another snowfall, another new page upon which to let an imagination think back upon a never-was. I said yesterday I wanted to write a poem. This wasn’t it. 

Maybe Tomorrow

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A week’s freezing cold didn’t bring me
the numbness I need. Always before,
lack of sensation was my refuge,
even before north winds turned my eyes red
and the single digits froze each fingertip
a deathly white, white as the snow
that slapped my cheeks with raw reality
this morning. Maybe tomorrow.

The snow was our canvas, upon which
we painted winter-wide murals and
our ever-whitening portraits, from those
two feet and a chubby snow angel
to the broad icebreaker paths we’d carve,
leaving wakes of winter, like rustic frames
in our personal galleries of year after year.
I could just stay alone by the window,
watch it fall, pile, blow across the grass,
jealously watch scratchy weeds break the trail
we once blazed in the bedsheet smoothness.

But I can’t. I must move along, muck up
the natural perfection with my pen-nib boots
writing this diary entry for one,
the same painful one as yesterday’s.
No cold, time, or any vacant expanse
of paper white are numbing enough,
still can’t dull the pain of this life’s winter,
eyes red and fingers wrung deathly white.
Maybe tomorrow. Please, maybe tomorrow.

I don’t want to keep writing these poems, but I can’t seem to lift out of this damn dark ink well. Maybe tomorrow.

The Tracks We Leave


Footprints (Photo credit: Peter Nijenhuis)

There are times you look back
at the tracks you’ve made and wonder
whose feet fit in those prints.
They can’t be yours, they seem so neat,
so sure, long-strided, suitable
for framing, if you could frame
such sweetly blemished snow.

Other times you don’t wish
to risk even a glance, knowing
you’re trailing jumbled smudges
like some drunken dancer
with mismatched shoes,
no sense of rhythm, mumbling
a prayer for a sudden thaw.

Eventually spring comes
for us all,
rinsing away the perfection
that cannot be,
because nothing is flawless.
Not footprints in snow, or in mud,
or in the sand on a beach.

The tides of time leave very few
beyond today’s impressions others to read.
Oh, but to have left them captured
by even your own memory!
That might be what
even you might agree
is poetry!

Prelude to Resurrection

The crunch of January ice and snow
gave way to a squish of lawn tartare
in last night’s unseasonable showers.
The snow cover crust of yesterday
dissolved to dilute memory, save for
the tailings of ice crystals remaining from
the mining of pure driveway during the last storm.

In headlight beams, an eerie fog suspended
above the shrinking snow piles,
all melting into their muddy internment,
giving up the ghosts of
temporarily forgotten winter, and
setting us up for resurrection surprises
well before the dawn light of Easter.

Otherwise Occupied

On my old blog I would, from time to time, post short stories I was fretting over. Really, until I let them go to some unsuspecting journal, they’re all Works in Progress. And, after their editors reject them, they still are!

This story came to me during the freezing latter days of the Occupy movement, specifically the Occupy Albany camp sitting across Washington Avenue from the New York State Capitol.

It’s 1,300 words, but hang in and I hope it makes you smile by the end. It did my fiction group colleagues.

The story’s working title is…

Otherwise Occupied

Kenny walked down the dark corridor of headquarters toward the Old Man’s office. Even though he had worked there what seemed his whole life, he’d never been in the Old Man’s sanctum sanctorum.

Outside, he could hear the south wind, the wind always from the south as far as Kenny knew. What he couldn’t hear was the sound of the workers working, the sound of hammers and whistles and laughs that always drowned out the howling wind.

You can do this, Kenny, he said as he pulled open the large frosted glass door and tottered into the expansive anteroom. The platinum-haired receptionist looked up, startled, as if she’d never seen anyone but the Old Man come through that door. She peered over here silver-framed glasses at Kenny.

“Can I help you, sir?” she asked.

“Uhh, yes, please. I’d like to see Mr. C.”

“And you are…?”

“Kleinmann, Kenny Kleinmann. I represent the workers.”

“The workers?”

“Yeah. Can’t you hear the chanting and clapping outside?”

“No, I only hear the wind.”

“And that in itself should tell you something’s up. There’s something in the wind,” Kenny said, regaining some of the courage he’d felt trickle away the further he walked down the long corridor.

“Suppose you tell the Old Man that the workers have stopped working and demand to air their grievances with him…right now,” Kenny said. He stretched up to his full height and felt his chest puff up a bit now.

“Let me see if he’s in,” said the woman behind the desk.

Seriously? Kenny thought. Where the hell else could he be?

Isolated as it was, the main office still used outdated equipment such as the intercom the receptionist toggled to contact the Old Man in his office behind the carved oak door.

“Yes?” Kenny heard coming from the tinny speaker on the desk in front of him. Even through a small speaker, the Old Man’s voice had a deep and stentorian timbre that gave Kenny as much of the shivers as his walk across the frozen space from the factory to headquarters.

“Sir, there’s a Mr. Kenny… uhh…”

“Kleinmann,” Kenny reminded her.

“…a Mr. Kenny Kleinmann out here to see you.

“I’m a bit tied up right now. Could you tell Mr. Kleinstein to please make an appointment for next week?”

But as she turned toward where Kenny had been standing, he was no longer there. She heard the great door open behind her with a clank and a creak.

“It’s Kleinmann,” Kenny said as he entered the Old Man’s dark wood-paneled office. And there behind his great wooden desk sat the Old Man himself, two computer monitors beaming light upon his white beard and the impressively carved decorative accents that festooned the walls and furnishings. Kenny recognized the carvings as Bavarian Black Forest style. He came from a long line of wood carvers on his mother’s side. He had no clue about the computers. Kenny took a couple of small steps toward the Old Man.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” the secretary said as she rushed in behind Kenny. “Shall I contact security?”

“That won’t be necessary, dear,” the Old Man said, never taking his eyes off Kenny. I’m sure this young man just wants to inform me of all the bad behavior that’s been going on the past few weeks outside and in the factory.”

“It’s not bad behavior, sir,” Kenny said, a chill running down his spine. How’d he know? Kenny thought. Does the Old Man have spies inside the Union?

“Oh, I just know these things, Kenny,” the Old Man said with a cheery expression in answer to Kenny’s unspoken question.

“What was it you came here to tell me, Kenny?” the Old Man asked.

“It’s really quite simple,” Kenny said. “We are tired of being the 99% around this factory town and we’re instituting our own version of the Occupy movement until you give us our due.”

“Oh my,” the Old Man said in mock horror. Then he thumbed his red vest and laughed his loud and seemingly affected laugh.

Kenny became angry with this condescending response to his serious attempt at social change and workers’ rights. It was this kind of looking down his nose at the workers that had prompted Kenny to organize all the little people against Corporate. He reached up and slammed his calloused hand on the Old Man’s desk.

“Listen! We’ve had enough of your keeping us down while you roll fat and happy off our sweat and blood. That’s the way it’s got to be from now on, Old Man. We want a bigger piece of the cookie, no more crumbs…real wages.”

The Old Man stopped his laughing, tented his fingers together prayer-like against his lips and closed his eyes. The only sound in the room was the loud ticking of Kenny’s heart and the elaborately carved grandfather clock in the corner of the office near the display of awards and photos of the Old Man and various celebrities. Then it struck quarter-after with a resounding gong.

The Old Man’s hands dropped to his desk and he slowly, quietly began to speak.

“Sorry, Kenny,” he said, his eyes still closed and giving up nary a twinkle hope, “there’s no money in this seasonal gig of ours anymore. We’re in the overnight delivery business more than production, these days, anyway. I pay you what I can and what you’re due”

“But what about the little folks like me and Louis Petites, Pablo Conciso, and Enzo Piccolemani? We’ve been with you since the beginning.”

“I know, Kenny. And believe me no one appreciates your hard work and all that stuff more than I. But times have changed and you guys have just not kept up with the Real World. I mean, look, it’s been a year since all this Occupy hooie has come and gone.”

“Well, we only heard about it here when Arthur Littlefield’s cousin from the States visited this summer.”

“Yeah, well it didn’t amount to more than a pile of beat-downs, a few rapes, a goodly number of ODs and arrests down there, too. I don’t want that here, understand? Though the first and last of that list could be arranged.”

Kenny couldn’t believe his ears. If the rest of the world could only see this side of the Old Man…

“So here’s the deal,” the Old Man said, laying a finger to the side of his nose, “I’ve kept you guys around because of all your years of devoted service, but since that has as much value as Blitzen poo, you either go back to work or I’ll replace you with Inuit temps or maybe some Finnish Saamis. Those guys know reindeer like nobody’s business and will be happy with Comet and Cupid milk and veggie burgers.”

“But what about Christmas?” Kenny said.

“What about it?”

“All our work, everything we’ve done for like centuries around here.”

“You mean those kitschy wooden pull toys and stuffed baby dolls you’ve been making for the past 200 years?” He laughed his jelly-belly laugh again. “So glad I never had satellite TV put into your quarters. Look, they just aren’t in demand anymore out there in the Londons, or Johannesburgs, or even in podunk, shit-heel four-way stops like Dilly, Texas.”

Kenny snapped at that, and tried crawling over the desk to get hands on the Old Man.

“Security,” the Old Man said and nodded to the hulks standing in the doorway. Kenny was hauled out of the Old Man’s office, tossed like a doll into the snow and the Occupy North Pole movement ended during one break time in September of 2012.

And, with the failure of Kenny and his colleagues in the newly formed newly organized NPLPUWC (North Pole Little People United Workers Cooperative) to break the anti-union hold the Old Man had on his business, 800 little men in tights flooded the carnival, Renaissance fair, shopping mall and midget wrestling workforce worldwide.

Meanwhile, his bottom line bulging a little more, just like his December waistline, the Robber Baron of the Borealis was able to stash a cool extra $1.5 mill of his image royalties and what he laughingly loved to call “Elf Overhead” into his Cayman retreat, ho-ho-hoing all the way to the bank.

©Joseph Hesch 2012

Rapture in Rivertown

With January’s ice-scrim mist,
this riverside neighborhood
turns back to photo proof
black, white and gauzy gray.
Holiday colors have faded
like mid-September memories.
Tinder-dry evergreens,
erstwhile harlequin-lit window beacons
for passing ice-breakers,
now lie prostrate on streetside,
snow-dusted Christmas gravestones,
waiting for the herald crash
of the trash collecting Rapture.
And the perennial trees
standing sentinel nearby
at snow-footed attention,
look like lean black guardsmen,
their uniforms on backorder

until a too faraway Spring.

This poem came from my walks and runs along the Hudson shore over the past 20 years. During the holidays, you could see the gumdrop-lit Christmas trees in windows over in Rensselaer. By early January, they were gone, the snow had come and the ice had choked the river. “Rivertown Rapture” is what I recall and imagine of those days.

Cold Truth

Last night the snow laid its ghostly hands
upon all the horizontals outside.
Some of the verticals and in-betweens
felt its curative touch, too.
Fresh-fallen, softly whitening the dark,
smoothing the points and edges,
beautifying the uglies too conspicuous
before the fall after Fall.
But, come windy morning, that which was covered,
and those sojourners not long passed
have carved their marks on the once-immaculate.
And with dawn’s rising light they reveal
Winter’s cold truth.