There’s no name in his spot
on the screen mounted at the end
of the hallway in ICU, not like
where it says RICO or MV.
There are just tiny numbers
in red and blue, along with
two jagged horizontal lines,
miniature versions of the ones
across the hall in this buzzing room,
the one marked with a big black 8.

Out there they trickle across
the tenth of the glass identifying
the inhabitant as BED08.
But his name is really Andrew,
and he’s a husband, a father,
a brother, a friend, a blue collar
who got sick, and then sicker,
and went from being BED5225A
to BED5228, before he eventually
became the so terribly thin man
the machine breathes for in BED08.

And I sit here next to him, barely
recognizing the burly guy whose
diapers I once changed when he
was a wee one, and I’m wondering
how this happened, how I just
saw him in that incubator only
yesterday (forty-nine years ago
yesterday to be exact) and now
we’re back again, only here at BED08.

I sigh, I’ve become quite practiced
at sighing lately, when I recall
at least in that little hot box
where my tiny pink brother
whisper-cried and slept, the card
on the front let whoever saw it
know he was a person, even if
all it read was BABY BOY HESCH.

The Angel and the Velvet Box


I look at her sleeping and I wonder
what will come.
No one can remain
an angel forever
in a world full of big-brained
bi-pedal beasts with free will and
no good reason to be angels

Her soft skin will toughen
because it has to, slapped
as angels’ so often suffer the slaps,
spiritual, emotional, maybe physical,
from the hands that’d once caress
the downy pillows upon which rest
pert lips, pursed, ready to pronounce, “Hi,Pa,”
upon awakening.

I can’t protect you forever, angel,
from the swinging hands of time
that have beaten me down.
But I can hold this and other moments
in the velvet lined box no one knows
I hide here on the dark side of my heart.
The one I’ll only ever share
with you.

A 15-minute Sunday afternoon free write. I know not from where it came. But I’ll share it with you.

My Changes, the Reason I’m Still the Same


“You’ve changed,” she said, and not in a sing-song “Oh, Sugar, look at you!” southern lady kind of “You’ve changed,” as the reunion well-wishers filtered away from the bar to the circular dining tables.

“Yeah, well since the last time you saw me I came out, lost thirty pounds and I’ve written two books, all pretty heavy things to carry around for twenty-five years,” I said, sort of smiling my new sort of smile.

“Well, doesn’t that make you the special one,” she said in the same tone she’d use when I was one of the peripheral satellites, a confused speck of space dust really, in the high school galaxy she centered, a black hole for attention and adulation.

“No, I just grew up and found something in me, a truth I guess, that made me feel good about myself, not relying on everyone’s acquiescence to my capricious whims for validation,” I said, grinning with each Latinate rocket I fired over her head.

She shook her head, waved at the table of once-upon-a-time teen Sun gods and goddesses in the middle of the banquet hall and brushed past me, muttering, “You’re still a jerk…you’ll never change.”

A combo platter of prompts in this piece, which incorporates Writers Digest’s “My ___, The ____” Poem-a-Day prompt, as well as Lillie McFerrin’s five sentence fiction prompt, Changes. Still need poem #20 for the day, I think, but glad I squeezed out this free write.

Peace and Hugs

A bit of news and explanation: My relative absence for the past several weeks, and particularly days, from the virtual social whirl has been because of, among a handful of things, my involvement with my Mom’s health. After a relatively short hospitalization, Mom died last Thursday.

It might sound incongruous, considering the drops and splashes of me I share on these pages, but I’m not one to share a lot of my life with too many. But just this once, I thought I would.

If you have read the most recent poems I’ve written, each at her bedside, you might have had a clue that something was up.

Thanks to those who knew and comforted me, and for the support all of you have given me even though you may not have known. Now go give someone or something you love a hug. It would make me feel better.

Entitled to Love


Dandelion-Fluff_Sun-Shining__104258 (Photo credit: Public Domain Photos)

When we were new,
and life, that skeleton gate
upon which the ivy of our season
clung and climbed, we bloomed
like flames within stacked kindling.

We burst from darkness,
your spark upon the dry past of one
who should never love another.
But when your spark flared,
my black heart dissolved.

A twilight of promise grew
where deep shadows and
brightest illumination
crossed in a jumble of
fuzzy possibility.

We chose not to wait for
the full bloom of what
the night voices,
the midnight call of lovers,
said would come.

What would they know of
the sere and broken tinder
from our time untended
in the green years of lost,
if ever lived, youth?

And so we watch, together,
as they step off the steps from
one side of their lover’s cages
to the other, held captive
like exhibits owned by others’ greed.

We sway free in our light
and lightness like dandelions,
ready to burst and fly together
upon whatever breeze takes us
to all our tomorrows.

A Free Write Friday exercise based on my friend Kellie Elmore’s prompt to use one of the following titles as inspiration for a poem:

“Dandelion Season”
“Phone Call at Midnight”
“The Green Years”
“The Human Zoo”
“The Fires of Spring”
“The Ivy Covered Gate”

Typically, I chose them all.

Springing to Life

The Joy of Spring [80/366]

The Joy of Spring [80/366] (Photo credit: timsackton)

Above the sweet songs of avian choirs
sound some fresh feathered come-on calls,
like rusty gate hasps squee-awking
from within the fresh-popped maples.
In the waves of Nature’s liberated libido
the birds pitch woo and the trees scatter
their dainty DNA in clouds of yellow.
Below, the field is dappled with herds
of robins and crows browsing through
the awakening grass for dormant grubs,
whose husks now litter the lawns
like tiny Chinese lanterns.

New life is en route, migrating home
from below Mother’s equatorial belt.
I stand amid the clamor, no longer content
to wait for my spring to come
and shake me from years of winter torpor,
unwrap me from these insulating layers
of isolation and inertia. I whistle
a tweedle or two of my own,
just to gain a little momentum,
a running start for my take-off.
My wings may sound like old rusty gates,
but at least I’m flapping them. Squee-awk.

What’s the Point?


shivs (Photo credit: istolethetv)

I guess I’m supposed to appear oh so serious,
because to not be considered serious
is to not BE…

I hear if Writers in their stories, Poets in their verse
don’t appear gravely haloed by Polyhymnia,
bathed in the balm of Calliope,
then they’re just not worth the reading.
Unless, of course, you can appear difficult
or even possess that special fearsome edge.
Something akin to a prison shank-fest
between inky Aryan Brothers and Crips,
viscera and caesura, gore and metaphor
over the heads and covering feet in the library.
That’s why I am never going to make it
in this Big House. Not angry enough,
never felt the need to feed your belly
my edge.

But maybe someday, though I doubt it,
some of the serious, difficult and edgy,
even while they’re looking,
get my point.

Sky Blue Pudding

It always looked so smooth and soft
when I watched others enjoying it,
that sky blue pudding with whipped cream clouds.
I would stare at it up there on the tall counter,
my arms never long enough to find if it
was as sweet as it looked.
I climbed on chairs, scaled open cabinet drawers,
dipped my finger into bowls, sampled them,
found nothing sweeter…and always fell hard to the floor.
Even when I finally got a bowl, I lost my grasp,
dropping it to shatter all over creation.
I had gotten lost in it, cloud-bound, blind,
bumping into shards of Oreo mountaintops and
jagged pieces of others’ skinned-over sky blue pudding.

Why did mine become so hard, separated
into runny messes of azure bark and spoiled whey?
Didn’t I deserve the good stuff?
Then you came along, inviting me to your kitchen,
offering your recipe for my longed-for prize.
Now I feast on it, sneak into your fridge at night
and steal some (even though you said
I could have it anytime I wished), and
get all sticky lipped and happy.
You’ve even let me lick the spoon and bowl
while we make our own batch every day,
with whipped cream clouds but no Oreos.
It really is smooth, soft, sweet and sky blue.
It’s heaven, don’t you agree?

I sure wish I knew where this poem and its motif came from. Because I don’t. But I’m pretty sure I know where it went. I hooked it up with dVerse Poets open link night.

Hesch Karma

The emaciated yin and obese yang of my life,
the painful imbalance of the bad almost always
immediately arriving to drown in mud
the alleged shiny new good,
has led to a numb stasis in which I hang
here and age like stinking cheese.
Why bother even trying for anything
beyond right here, right now?
Leaky gumboot in the swamp is just
the way it is. Even if I slog to dry land,
that eager helping hand extended to lift me
will inevitably be revealed to work
some slight-of-hand and flourish a flame-thrower.
It all falls under the mantle of what I’ve come
to call Hesch Karma—
a Newtonian law of metaphysics that says
for every good action that happens to me
there is an unequal and opposite reaction—
a bomb blast without bombast, just bad ass.
But these days I’m making some headway
extricating myself from the swamp.
See, I’m becoming a scofflaw on the run
from Newtonisms. The Karma cops
may come after me, but with this new map
I have of joyous escape routes,
they’ll never take me alive.
Still worry about those gators, though.

© 2012 Joseph Hesch

Slap and Tickle

The slap and flop of bare feet in sandals
on the sidewalk this April morning,
even at forty-five degrees—temperature,
not the angles of her sweet ankles—
roused me to the fact that it’s really Spring.
Even more so than those weeds I ignore
bursting through what passes for lawn
in front of my house, or those birds chirping
their raucous reveille each earlier morning,
or those creek-cruising toads peeping
lullabies to me and love songs to toadettes at night.
Not quite sure what this dialed-in observation
of an anonymous woman’s footwear says about
what tickles this old poetic chronicler
of the seasons, except maybe his sap
still can rise when the post-equinox sun does.

© 2012 Joseph Hesch

Another ten-minute from-the-carpark-to-the-desk poem for April and my poem-a-day attempt. In this case, a too-true observation of the passing feminine parade and its effect on my mindfully open poetic (OK, and masculine) senses.