Under the Frayed Edge of November

The sky grew darker, as if
someone was closing the box on today,
the clouds so gray and cold
you shiver just looking at them
from the window. But that’s how we live,
here on the cusp of December.
Winter’s not quite a month away,
says the calendar. But those of us
who have shaken off the chill,
as well as old November snows,
look at the sky and think the year’s
only as old as it feels.

Today it felt pretty old.

The howling wind blew the slate
cumulo-strato-numb-makers eastward.
And blue, that icy blue that leaves
a halo around the sun before
giving way to the blackness that
canonizes the moon, surrounded
the shreds of steel-wool clouds,
that inevitably cover the sky
like a ragged comforter that’s
put in the inky blanket chest
until next the box opens on a today
so warm.

Photo © 2014 Joseph Hesch

The Great Raid


Photo courtesy of the National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Above the high Comancheria plains
it began gathering, gaining power
along the way, like the great chief
Buffalo Hump storming out of
the Llano Estacado on his great raid.
The first town to feel its wrath was Victoria,
where a whirlwind spun off and
swiped clean the streets and then set off
to plunder the Gulf for its riches.
It was at Linville where the alarms
and howling drove the people from their homes.
The storm tore at the buildings,
emptying the town of life and
depleting itself of its bloodlust.
And then it was over.
The high plains at Lubbock,
hill country from Kerrville to Austin
and Uvalde to San Antone,
the piney woods and the coast,
all waiting for nature’s anger
to once more knit new storms
above the llano and sweep east and south
in another great raid across Texas.

The coming storms and potential tornados building and roaring across plains and hills of the southern Midwest stirred this bit of imaginary meteorological and historical mashup. There really was a great Comanche chief named Buffalo Hump and he really did lead a great raid across Texas in 1840 from the Llano Estacado in the west all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. It was the largest raid ever mounted by Native Americans on white cities in what is now the United States. I’ve got more than a few friends who live in harm’s way out there and I was thinking of them last night when this idea struck me.

Unlikely Mingling

Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan. 1991
Leaves of birch and maple,
limbs of you and I,
protected from autumn rain
beneath this vacant oak.
Such an unlikely mingling,
our clinging,
in damp embrace,
chased here like the leaves
by October wind
and times grown short.
When it ends,
our time pressed together,
like the pages of a journal,
I shall recall the perfume
of leaf upon leaf
and the touch on my cheek
of the chill was
and the warm
might have been.

Heat Wave


Record High Temperature

Record High Temperature (Photo credit: NickWarzy)

All day, for six straight steaming sun-ups
and a half-dozen retina-searing sundowns,
the people who bemoaned their frigid snowy winter
wipe their wet cheeks over the heat this July week.
Their faces shine in the dawn light these mornings,
when 9s are hung in the wide-screen, surround-sound
public square and the talking hairdo town crier
warns of the approach of certain writhing death
for those who do not sufficiently hydrate.
My dog knows this.

I would hear the bump-whir of the air conditioning
kicking in again, but the hi-def Hark the Herald of doom
puts on her drama mask and serious tone megaphone
to relate how tempers sparked in street-length saunas
have claimed four lives overnight. Janus-like,
she flips her mien, and then her mane, smiles wide
and tells me we’re going to see how the penguins
at the Sea-quarium handle this heat wave.
But first these words…

Snowflakes on My Tongue

Snowflakes on my tongue

Snowflakes on my tongue (Photo credit: giraffe_756)

I fear this winter may have ended
and I never consciously captured
on my tongue the essence of its fruit,
the falling snow. Oh, I caught several
windblown facefuls of snowblower mush,
but they taste of two-stroke engine exhaust
and anger. Pure snow, the glistening,
diaphonous jewels that have yet become
a ground-bound part of the landscape
such as I, taste like perfect nothing.

They’re as blank of flavor as they’re
empty of color, their nothingness melting
to shapeless memory in your mouth.
Maybe snow tastes like poetry, though.
Each poem a one-of-a-kind piece
of icy flotsam floating from cloudy thought;
each frozen notion full of facets and edges
only visible by our intimate inspection.
We catch them upon our tongues, they melt
and become part of us in that moment.

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.

Away, Near a Manger


Stables (Photo credit: Earlham College)

Get-together at Cliff’s barn, and the evening stable smells,
chilled like leftovers from an equine Christmas party,
sting my nose like the host overseasoned the hay,
tossed nutmeg in the meal, or gifted the gelding
with too much Paco Rabanne.

And once agin it crossed my mind,
if the faith-spawning story is totally true,
did a similar cold night in a barn
on the other side of the world
carry somewhat similar smells?

I try to envision the reality of that scene,
mindful that the people in the Nativity story
didn’t appear to be carrying their own
key lighting and Martin guitar accompaniment.
Did they sense the same ambiance as I do?

Or did the application of a little of that gift
frankincense and myrrh make their barn smell
a wee bit more festive than these present-day digs
for old Dobbin.  I think I think too much…
But every Christmas, I still wonder.