If You Can’t Stand the Heat

Only mad hogs and English majors
would go out in this midday’s sun.
The bacon on the cloven hoof
gallivant because they’re demented
and likely angry they can’t find
a shady mud hole in which they may
submerge their psychoses and hide
their sensitive pink hides.
We who emerged from college with
a passing acquaintance of Chaucer,
Wharton, Cheever and seducing
steamy allusion between the sheets
of their oeuvres, walk from our
comfortably cool writing bogs
for the blast furnace outside
because to sit here and compose
something only we’ll ever read
seems more demented than strolling
Albany’s Venusian sidewalks.

It’s a hot one here in New York’s Capital Region today. Yet here I am sitting at my writing desk, once again wondering why I continue to do what I do here if not for some madness afflicting writers who don’t finish what they stated. For better or worse, I’m a finisher. Oh, and  that illustration up is the 2:30 PM weather graphic for Albany. Oh, and for my non-American readers, I believe 93°  F converted to Celsius is “too freaking hot.”

The Empty Dotted Line

You never signed up for this,
I know. But neither did I.
The fact you’re a part of this
one and that and who knows
how many more of my fragments
of lives lived and unlived,
loved and unloved, shouldn’t
leave you too surprised.
You lurk in the shadow places
my memory can’t fully illuminate,
the wells once full of possibility
of what could have been love, back
when love actually meant something.
But I stumbled, mumble-mouthed,
in my one chance to connect while
my words carried might, but not
the light for you to find my
dotted line.

The Deal

Life has loveliness to sell. ~ Sara Teasdale

If I had the strength, I’d
steal some, because I don’t think
I’ll ever trade for it once more.
I recall it felt like holding you,
your eyes piercing mine, inspecting
the inventory left upon
the shelves of my soul.
That’s what loveliness feels
like, like holding you in my
ever-weakening arms once more —
priceless, though it’s cost me
so very much of my life.
Would that I had more days
I could barter for that loveliness,
but my stock has grown scant.
I exchanged them for moments
of the loveliness I felt you share
in my daydreaming yesterdays.

I’m not feeling too well these days and mortality has suddenly become my wingman. And, like a lot of people who feel thus, I go back and audit the balance sheet of my life’s black-ink experience versus the red of its too many hopes and dreams, and I’ve found how much I’m in arrears. Don’t waste your life’s assets, children. Splash that ebon ink all over your ledger’s pages until it’s full of nothing but black and the balance reads zero. It’s like they say, “You can’t take it with you.” This poem is in response to my friend Annie Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines prompt up there of a quote from the prolific early 20th Century American poet Sara Teasdale’s poem “Barter.” Hence, my title.

The Final Movement of Spring’s Symphony in C Major

The muted roll of a tympani
nudged me from my torpor,
as more of the rhythm section
rapped steadily upon the roof.
The wind sounded like strings
stroked long, given vibrato
by shivering maple leaves.
Lying there, I felt the musical
tension swell, as if waiting
for the conductor to signal
a note of resolution.
The house lights flickered, as if
announcing intermission’s end and
I’d yet to more than sip from
my nap time cocktail. With another
bass drum thrum, louder than before,
this audience of one at
at the window to enjoy
Spring’s orchestral finale
of this year’s residency.

Photo ©Joseph Hesch 2014

Falling in Waters White

This time it’s for you,
about you, because of you.
You who bumped my skiff
of folded paper into the
heartbeat rapids swirling
and crashing over
unknown emotional rocks.
I who became captive to
the eddies of obsessive stasis,
grip on my oars lost,
forced to paddle my way out
with these ink-stained hands.
The scenery’s still a blur.
Then, because it all
moved so fast in rosy hues past
my infatuation-blinded eyes.
Now, because my memory
fails but for those
too-close instances to
the falls and the too-long
from the thrill of dropping
into certain oblivion.

Come Listen to Me, the Teller of Tales

“… come listen to me, the Teller of Tales …”  ~ Brian Jacques

The children would gather around the fire when the old man would sit and light his pipe. It was his silent way of telling them, “Come, listen to me, the Teller of Tales.”

The children were not the only ones who would grab for the words, the lines, the tales, the dreams the old man would weave into something palpable, like the log upon which he sat or the lap upon the young ones would cuddle. So too would be the tousled head that would rest upon a mother’s breast, a father’s grizzled chin. All of the warm and comforting.

Such a blessed distraction from the star that stared down upon them night and day, growing bigger with each rise and fall of the sun. One couldn’t really call them nights anymore, since the star’s light rivaled the twilight of dawn and sundown.

“Come listen to me, the Teller of Tales,” the smoke would say to their little noses.

“Come listen to me, the Weaver of Dreams,” his eyes sparkling in the campfire would say to their frightened eyes.

“Come listen to me, the bringer of sleep,” his comforting voice would say in its tone so soothing, never rushed or strident, never angry or dismayed, never giving in to the inevitable forever sleep that approached the world in a ball of ice and iron that had slipped from the belt of the great god planet and through the fingers of his red-faced minister of war. And now it was coming into the embrace of the mother of planets.

The old man would begin his stories the same each time: “In the beginning…” which gave the children a little anchor to end their days, something they could moor themselves to like the sea otters to some sea leaf before drowsing hand-in-hand with their loved ones, for no one wanted to be separated from them when the great sleep ultimately came when the ever-dawn became ever-night.

Here’s my last possible moment response to Annie Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines prompt for the week of May 28- June 4. It based on that quote from a character created by Brain Jacques in his Redwall series of novels. I’m not one given to writing fantasy, but in the half-hour it took to write this piece, that’s what appears to have happened on the page. I guess that’s what you’d call it, even though it sounds like historical fiction and reads like speculative fiction of a coming Armageddon.

Cuckold of the Balm of Hurt Minds

I cannot fight you anymore,
you’ve whittled away
my strength and resolve,
you’ve perverted my instincts
for self-preservation.
I thought it was merely
my obsessions, as much
a part of me as breathing,
my thoughts of this or that,
of her or another her,
that trimmed the ends
off my healing time between
lights-out and pre-dawn awakening.
But it was something stronger
than even the reins of any
preoccupation with the regret,
the maybe and the unattainable
that are killing me in the
too-short, too-broken time
from when I close my eyes and
the few hours until you rip them
open, unraveling this sleeve of care.
Oh, Sleep, why in these my
final days have you forsaken me,
taken your warm caress and
healing gifts from my bed
as would a cheating lover.
I knew you’d become a harridan,
but not, as well, a heartless harlot.

Sleep has returned to her position as the “ossessione di tutte le ossessioni,” the paramount obsession of all my many obsessions, in this miserable dead-man-walking life. The reasons for her desertion are many, but the results are the same—disjointed jeremiads written at 4:45 AM after maybe five broken hours of pathetic toss and yearn, when my brain is firing off short-circuiting sparks I cannot suppress nor control, other than to chronicle this broken relationship I have with a third of my days. This “death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast,” as another poet once wrote.