Hamlet and Prufrock Walk into a Peach Orchard…

My life’s grasp seldom exceeded its reach.
Most often it brought back nothing but air.
If I’d grasped it, I’d have eaten that peach,
but I’d not get a taste unless I’d dare.

Those times I stretched beyond my fingers’ tips,
you would just laugh and skip away a pace.
And so your flavor never graced these lips,
even when you’d skip back to tease my face.

I know it’s for the best I always failed,
except for these times my words caught your ear.
Like Prufrock’s Love Song, they’ll never be hailed.
I just wonder if I’ve made myself clear.

I’d still eat that peach, I’ve never forgotten,
It’s just overripe. I’ve become rotten.

Ugh. Sorry. For two years, chronic crippling depression has rotted the creative core of this once-prolific and not-half-bad writer. Whatever gifts I had, today present as useless mush. If I don’t get squared away soon, I fear you’re destined for more shoe-bottom sludge like this…or nothing. If I were you, I’d opt for the latter. Still grinding away, though. For me. For now… ~ JH

Prisoner of My Own Device

I have become a prisoner
within this body, this mind,
this world, this life.
While I know I can’t jump
into any others, I also realize
I can’t jump anymore at all.
Meanwhile, they’re all
shrinking around me, this spark
of humanity, of being.

I cannot escape from this world
that exists beneath but one roof,
population: six and one ghost;
this hobbled body that cannot
do much of what it once did;
this mind atrophied by age,
sadness, anger and fear.

I exist in whines and complaints,
poorly expressed, framed within
postage stamps or cards
I’d send only to you.
And I don’t know why I try,
since even I don’t want
to listen to me anymore either.

Soon the air will be gone,
this spark extinguished,
these silent songs choked off.
I know I’m the key to my escape,
but how can I turn
if there is no lock?

I’d tap out this message to you on the bars, but there’s no you there to listen and we’ve each forgotten our secret code anyway.

Class of ’70

I’ve lost so much from
when last we met,
chunks of life gone with a
loss of courage and of memory.
Just like last week, when I realized
I’ve lost high school
from the library where I
can pull bushels of useless facts,
yet not four years of proofing
in the fires of adolescence.
Perhaps that’s because
I never did the fire-walk
across the coals of teen desire,
not for fear of getting burnt,
but more for fear of not.

Oh, there are some scars I find
in the corners where my other
secrets lie beneath the dust,
so I know I got close a few times.
But I can’t remember when.
Maybe the scars were from acid
thrown my way by the guys
with asbestos shoes
and courage to burn.
Doesn’t matter now,
since some of them are naught
but someone else’s history
to forget.
Just like mine.

Masks

Our faces emerge
so smooth and guileless.
But we learn along the way,
as those older ones
teach us how to massage
the clay from which we emerged
into a new mask to wear.
Even the fumble-fingered
can become their own Leonardo,
Rodin or Michaelangelo,
turning themselves into
something they aren’t,
until eventually, they are.

Mask after mask,
thin slip fib or thick layer lie,
we attach to our baby face,
until one day it becomes
the one we wear last.
They grow heavy
after all this time.
They’ve drawn my face down
with the gravity of their artifice.
so much so that I wish
to crack them off my
inner infant’s innocent mien.

All it takes is confession
and a smile, perhaps.
This is not me, I swear.
I am more than words,
more than the lies I’ve shaped,
more than the masks I’ve worn
and you have come to accept.
Though I am not yet that smile.
Touch me, friend.
Let me grip your finger.
I won’t let go anymore.

Waiting to Fly

The time has come
when we hang here,
dull where we used to shine,
limp and bedraggled
where strong and seamless
were our natural state.
It’s the time when
the winds no longer move us
in The Dance,
a vast corps de ballet,
moving as one to the sound
of what poets might call
an aeolian harp.
But it’s still just the wind,
maybe even of Time,
and we’re still like
those leaves out there,
waiting.
I suppose it is to fall,
to land upon the earth
and become one with the soil.
All of us, as one,
in the grand finale
of our lives’ recital.
When you think about it, though,
once we release our hold
upon that tree, for a moment,
we’re truly airborne, free,
blissfully as one
with ourselves.

One of my oldest, wisest friends reminded me today — as I sat for what seems like two years since I was able to write as I once did — of the words of our favorite poet, William Stafford. If old Bill were to come up behind me, moping and fretting here in my chair, waiting for inspiration that never seems to come, he would no doubt spin me around, look me in the eye and give me his timeless advice for a broken writer: “Lower your standards.” So I sat and just turned my fingers loose. Ten minutes later…

Thanks, Bill. And thank you, dear Helen. You’ve saved me again.

The Winds Came Up Today

The winds came up today,
shaking the old man awake
when they tousled the curtains
across his drafty window.
The winds came up today,
bending the trees,
in full late-Spring flutter,
to wave their frayed flags,
some spitting out their whirligig seeds
to fly from there to there.
The winds came up today,
tipping birds in yawing flight
from the old man’s house
to the school, where
cheering kindergartners freed
their new butterflies
each from the safety of
its cracked chrysalis.
The winds came up today
in front of the old man’s house,
tearing away the tag
on the wheelchair by the roadside
which said, “Free, no longer needed.”
“The winds came up today,”
the nurse said to the old man.
But he already knew
after they whispered him
awake from the drafty window.
The winds came up today…
Only the winds.
Only the winds.

State of Disarray

I’m certain right now we all can’t agree
that things around here surely aren’t okay.
Online attacks, shootings, guys taking a knee,
we’re messed up in a state of disarray.

I’ve seen a lot in my decades of life,
stuff that made us crazy, yet always great.
Our history reveals days full of strife,
yet we’ve survived those times of raw hate.

But right now I’m scared of what might yet come
from the Us versus Then, Win or Die throng
that shouts down compromise like it’s dumb,
“If you aren’t leaning our way you’re dead wrong.”

Dead wrong or just dead by uncivil fray,
this new United States of Disarray.

Day 14 of my NaPoWriMo poem-a-day challenge. Supposed to be a “state” poem. Fuck that. Just know that I HATE politics, having worked closely outside and inside that disgusting sausage factory. So I always make it a point to not take sides. I’m just pointing out right from wrong. Right now, too many people are just behaviorally wrong. Let’s at least try, for our nation’s (and world’s) sake, to step back, take off our myriad hats, and work together to restore this to being a nation OF the people, BY the people and FOR the people…ALL of the people. I pray we can do that before I die and my granddaughters miss out on what I was lucky enough to share (at least I believe I shared to the best of my being) in my lifetime.

This stuff is killing me, keeping me awake at night and spinning my already hideous gyre of depression into a deep-dive death spiral. It’s crippling me. If some day soon, you notice I don’t visit you anymore (as I’ve seen myself approaching more and more lately) you’ll know all of this strife has become just too much for me and I can’t be me anymore. Today’s poem was not that me.