Seeking Shelter from the Storm

“… where storms sleep lightly … ” ~John O’Donohue

I found the bedclothes
knotted around my legs,
as once again I awaken.
This for the fourth time,
that I can remember at least.
When you sleep only four
or five hours a night
your mind can forget what’s real
and what’s imagined.

Notice I didn’t say dreamed,
for dreams don’t come often
in the stormy state that passes
for sleep in my hazy experience.
I’ve awoken with a gasp,
as if I’d been held underwater
to the limits of my breath.
I’ve leapt from my bed
in a flight-or-fight frenzy
no nightmare provoked.

I’ve dropped into slumber
at my desk, in mid-conversation
and at the wheel so many times
it brings me to tears as easily
as anger. But I show you neither.
I just walk through each day
in a waking dream, where reality’s
gummy stuff clinging to my eyes.

I see things in a twilight
at noon, as if through
the torrential curtain that falls
on both the living and dead.
Through green eyes I see your hours
of nocturnal shelter from this storm.
And I’ve looked at the peaceful rest
of the grave and think,
“How wonderful!”

Wrote this right out of bed (again), in response to the prompt of that quote at its beginning. It’s courtesy of my friend Sharyl Fuller from her Writing Outside the Lines site. If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that sleep (often the lack thereof) is a common theme of the Hesch oeuvre.

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The Climb Left Me Breathless

Now I know. But I wish
I didn’t have to.
Then I’d be able to look down
that deep well of recollection
and enjoy seeing the reflection
of the guy I used to be.
Instead, I focus on the skin
of memories I scraped onto its walls
in my halting climb to today.
And as fallible, forlorn and
sore as that climb has made me,
seeing that hopeful face
staring back, framed by all those
slime-coated scars, breaks
what’s left of my heart.
Funny, even though I’m standing
here on the ground, peering into
this well feels like I’m looking
down from some mountain top.

That view of my yesterdays
often hits me like a gut-punch, 
taking my breath away.

I quickly wrote this poem in response to the prompt set in that photo at the top of the piece. It’s from my friend Sharyl Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines Challenge.

With Stars in Our Eyes

I closed the book, put down the lighted magnifier and realized this might be the last one I’d ever read.

You think of these things when you’re going blind. And fast. Ischemic optic neuropathy is what the doctors called it. On top of that, I had something called low tension glaucoma, something the regular eye exams would never pick up.

They were something I’d had for decades as my eyesight deteriorated and the doctors just gave me stronger eyeglass prescriptions and the lame, “You’re getting older” jive.

“Another headache, Dave?” my wife Jen would ask.

“Yeah. Work’s just been a bitch and my sleeping has sucked.”

“When are you going to see a doctor about it?” Jen would always say.

“It’s okay, Jen. Just migraine or something. I’ll take an ibuprofen and it’ll be fine,” I’d reply. But then the ibu didn’t seem to hit it anymore and my peripheral vision seemed to be shrinking.

After I nearly rolled off the shoulder of the country road out near Oneonta, almost taking out a jogger, I decided I’d better see the doctor. But it was too late. The damage was done, my optic nerves were dying and the world was going dark faster than the onset of a January night. Only no dawn was riding to my visual rescue.

To her credit, even though I deserved it, Jen never pulled the “I told you so” card on me. She was calmer than I thought she would be, though in no way unsympathetic. She just was Jden, the woman I’d loved for over forty years.

She found me sitting in the dark, moping, feeling sorry for myself. I’d become your typical panicked patient. You begin groping even before everything goes dark, pondering how you’ll survive in the perpetual night coming in just a few months or even weeks.

“Hey, why so dark in here?” Jen said and flipped on the lights.

“I’m trying the future on for size. Now turn out the lights, Jen, and let me think, okay?”

“I wasn’t talking about the lights, Dave,” she said.

“Wouldn’t you be upset if you were me, Jen? Tell me you wouldn’t,” I said.

“I would be and I am, Dave. But sitting here silently raging in the dark isn’t going to change that. Now let’s talk about this some so we can figure out what we’re going to do when…you know.”

“Are you kidding?” I said, jumping up from my chair and moving toward her voice. I tripped over the ottoman and fell to the floor, banging my head and seeing flashes of light like I hadn’t seen in months.

“Dave, are you okay?” Jen said, hitting the light switch again and rushing to my side.

“See? See what an invalid I’m becoming? I’ll be nothing but a fucking burden on you and useless to myself and everyone else.”

She stood up and looked down at me. I could feel her eyes boring a hole through mine. I recognized that energy from all the other times I’d been a self-absorbed asshole with her.

I scrambled off the floor to the window, embarrassed for my whining outburst. I opened the curtains and looked into a darkness that might well be my view for the rest of my life.

“I can’t even see the stars anymore, Jen. Our stars, the one’s we’d stare at from the bed of my pickup when we were 17.”

“We can get through this, Dave. We’ve been through worse. What about my mastectomy? Fucking cancer and you never wavered in your devotion and care. You’d hold me every night, loving ME, not just some bra mannequin, as much in love as in the back of that pickup.”

“I’ll never see the kids faces anymore, never watch the grandkids grow up. And worst of all, I don’t know how I can take never seeing you again, Jen,” I said with a catch in my throat.

“I’m right here,’ she said, putting my hand to her face. “I’ve got your stars right here,’ Jen said, touching my fingers to her closed eyelids. “And I’ll keep them for you, let you hold them, bring you every bug or vista you’d ever want to see. That’s what we do, Dave. If you can’t see that, then you’re blind already.”

Slowly, her face so close to mine I could feel her eyelashes and a dampness on my cheek, everything became so clear, even with our eyes closed. So clear a blind man could see it. She’s beautiful, isn’t she?

 

And All the Light Within

Night keeps all your heart …” ~ Claus Terhoeven

I surrendered myself to the darkness
when you turned out the lights,
a willing body and benighted soul
wishing to follow your luminescent lead.
But the heart doesn’t need light,
is a blind thing stumbling over the shadows
of other hearts that hide in still others’ shadows.
In the darkened room you offered your body
but not your heart. While mine, tenuously tethered,
I offered to you. But it shattered, its pieces
falling away, chasing echoes of all
my dreams that fell before it.
Now the darkness fills where once a heart
beat for you, lost to your honest duplicity.
You were the daylight of my life and turned
to a thief in darkest night who stole
my heart and never gave it back, for night
hates penumbral half-measures. Night rolls over
and keeps all your heart and all its light within.

A quick “welcome back” write for Annie Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines challenge. I wanted to write a story, and probably will later, but I’m tapped out. You’ll have to put up with this fifteen-minute first draft poem until then.

They Often Come Out At Night

If a story is in you … It has to come out.” ~ William Faulkner

I woke at 4:03 this morning,
a not uncommon fact of middle-aged life.
But what rousted me from slumber
wasn’t the siren call of
the porcelain throne.
Inspiration nudged me for snoring
too loudly,
my muse kicked me for stealing
the blankets,
my gut, like an old dog, woke me
to let it out for a walk
to the notebook.
This is the mid-night urge
to relieve myself of a poem
or story that can’t wait until
morning reveille to turn from
night dream to written reverie.
And I never hit that snooze button
when I hear that call.

Wrote this while dinner was cooking tonight, in response to Annie Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines prompt from this past week. It’s that quote from Faulkner. I’ve been a little tied up with writing something or other a day April and May, but I try like hell to get Annie’s challenge in.

At Loose Ends

As the higher, I’m reserving judgment on “highest,”
species on the planet, by now you would think at least
one of us humans could/would/should have thought
of a way to push ahead our evolution toward a means
of peaceful coexistence among one another.
But suspicion, greed, hatred and war are part of our DNA.

HUMANITY: loose ends with a common thread!

Even if there was an Adam, his sons kicked off the game
of man versus man with brother against brother.
The passage of time grew and multiplied these four horsemen
like funky fruit in Cain’s garden east of Eden.
Thereafter, whether you buy the Biblical or scientific,
original sinning Man’s evolution advanced his four antagonistic
Secondary Sins as much he did fire, steel and weaponry.
Even his thumbs evolved in opposition to his fingers.

HUMANITY: loose ends with a common thread!

Perhaps Man, the upright, big-brain atop the food chain,
never has evolved. Rather, his seed scattered, taking root
in the less green places across the fence from his neighbors’.
Our double helix rope frayed, never uniting us in
perpetual amity. We represent the apex of Nature’s orderly chaos,
only made in some God’s image. Or so the winners say.

HUMANITY: loose ends with a common thread!

On Day 11 of NaPoWriMo, I combined NaPoWriMo.net’s prompt for a poem in the Bop format with the prompt from my friend Sharyl Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines challenge. Hers is the refrain of this poem.

Love Among the Shadow Children

” … the dark has eyes to recognize its own …” ~David Whyte~

It is in the darkness
we lose ourselves,
forget our way.
Without any light,
You could look like I do
and I could look like You
and neither of us
would know it.
But, as we’ve burned
and learned,
looks can deceive.

I’ve tripped and fallen
in the dark as well as
the light over what
I thought was beauty,
something or someone
I never thought would
hurt me, but did.
Just I have caused pain
to those who put
their trust in me —
a creature never far
from shadow —
when trust was undeserved.

Trust is better given
and received in at least
penumbral twilight,
best under the sun-bright
proofing of truth.
Only the dark
truly recognizes,
truly understands,
can only love its
shadow children, because
only the dark has eyes
to recognize its own.
And I know you.

Day 3 of my National Poetry Month poem-a-day quest. This piece is based on Sharyl Fuller’s weekly Writing Outside the Lines challenge prompt you see at the top of the page. Yeah, I am the penumbral denizen who can easily slip into the dark with but one step. But the light is only a step away, too.