Fallen Again

From their highest branch perch 
upon us they’ll spy,
in this sylvan church
on whose floor they’ll all lie.

But some have yet to fall,
though look at them sway,
like bold paintings on the wall
of a windy gallery display.

They must know come their ends,
colors bright as beacons,
as cold North Wind portends
and their grip weakens.

There goes another I see
I’d hoped might be staying.
Nature’s iconography
at which I’d been praying.

But all we can do is sigh
as they wave ‘bye and fly, remember,
when most leaves fall and die
come dark mid-November.

And that’s how it goes,
as years and we grow old.
Winter’s silver snows
will plate even autumn’s gold.

My prayers cannot stop
the passage of time.
Like leaves we’ll drop when we drop,
with or without silly rhyme.

It’s October and  I’ve fallen, dear,
and I don’t care if you’re an oak or birch.
Labels don’t matter to me here,
leaf’s a leaf, love’s love in my church.

Photo ©2015, Joseph Hesch 

Come As You Are

Lake George, Autumn, 1927 by Georgia O'Keeffe

Conflicted leaves hang 
between summer slick 
and autumn tweed, 
at this place on the lake 
where your heart stays
and my invitation says 
come as you are.
And we stand on the deck 
behind this place, 
while the setting light 
upon your face
says it’s all right,
you saved some space
where I can lay my head.
And that’s where we are,
behind that locked door,
you’ve opened in your heart
and I don’t need any more 
than a dream on your pillow.
I’ll even sleep on the floor.
‘Cause the invitation reads
come as you are. 
And I’m yours.

Sorry for the disappearing act. I haven’t been feeling well. I’ll tell you the story in a week or so. But I was inspired to write this today by looking out my window and into a heart.

Within the Poems of Autumn

Photo by S. Zeilenga
Photo by S. Zeilenga

When autumn comes, I look back 
on the trail I’ve just followed, 
hoping to find out where I’m going 
while becoming lost in the loneliness
of where I’ve been. Here and there 
I see my footprint pages, those wandering 
thoughts and feelings about this, that, 
me and you I didn’t know I’d left behind 
until I looked back. Back where I was lost.
The maples, in their majestic magic, 
drop their poems, too, allowing 
today’s skies to grow within their branches
with each beat of the wind, showering 
us with the color and aroma of something 
leaving the trail toward tomorrow 
to a leaf-lined tomorrow, shushing our 
sad memories to wind-swept whispers, 
and keeping our secrets between 
the journal pages  they safeguard 
beneath their shadowy hands. 

Of Muses and Walking Moon-Shadows

The moon used to walk across the sky
for me and my dog. But she didn’t see that.
She just knew the breeze carried
the identities of the wild and tame
west of us. She understood how scary trees
clacking their branches can be on
an autumn night, unless I was brave.

She knew I’d wrap my arms around myself
as I shivered from the cold norther,
but not fear. I had her to protect me.
But she never saw that moon walk its way
behind the breaks in the rolling clouds.

She’d warn me of the wedge-shaped skein
of geese that made everything in the sky
stop as they honked their way home to
the Chesapeake, though. Deaf poets see
plenty of things at night that aren’t there,
but a quiet dog can reveal more wonder than
any capricious muses when the winds howl
at walking moon-shadows.

Make-up poem #2. Photo by yours truly.

Stitched-On Smile

There’s not much left for the black crows to steal,
 maybe enough for a mouse’s meal.
 I'm alone in this field, as if I’d died,
 unburied though, left to rot, crucified.
 But that’s my lot once harvest’s done.
 Still, surprised, I find out I’m the last one,
 the watcher left when corn’s mostly been stripped
 before Fall’s frost has nipped, Winter’s winds ripped. 
 I take great pride in how I stood my ground,
 chasing off intruders without sound.
 But by this time if you stopped by to ask
 you’d hear me sigh while I’m still at my task.
 There’s no rustle of crops upon the breeze,
 few birds left singing, just my silent "Please,
 could you stay with me and talk for a while?"
 I’m sad and lonely despite my stitched-on smile.
 Farmer’s got more important things to do now.
 Like feeding our corn to his stupid cow.
 Come, my true friends, we'll share the seasons’ rest -
 Crows, be my guest. Mice, nest warm in my chest.

The Leaves of Late September

The leaves of late September strut and dance,
on this stage once more before their curtain,
leaf-weaved, falls like October from the branch
of which year’s calendar I’m not certain.

The top of that maple, like a fireball,
explodes in bright orange and yellow flame,
while the rest remains deep green and that’s all,
which, dramatically speaking’s, a shame.

Out my window one bleeds red down its side,
like the climax of a drama by The Bard.
So, rhyming these leaves of fall verse I tried,
in his honour, like a sonnet. But it’s hard.

Autumn’s punctuated my years, it seems,
oft with declaration or exclamation.
But the most painful seem to paint my dreams
with primary-colored interrogation.

The Where and What, awake or asleep appall,
haunting me like some All Hallow’s Eve ghost.
But it’s Who and When, come every Fall,
that to this day shame and pain me the most.

This conflicted view of dead Autumn leaves,
despite the beauty they bring to our view,
stems from something I planted but you aggrieve,
since that Fall long ago when I hurt you.

That’s why I still send out pages of verse,
though I’ll never know on which winds they’ll fly.
But ev’ry year at this time, like a curse,
I’m inspired again by that question. Why?

Photo by Joe Hesch

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,
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 Golden Hour

Photo copyright K. S. Brooks.

Ed Bergen jumped from his chair in front of the television showing that political ad for the third time in the past half hour. 

“Damn, I missed The Golden Hour again,” he said, camera in hand as he ran to the patio door.

Looking up from her book, his wife Kate asked, “What’s The Golden Hour?”  

“It’s the time just before sunset, where daylight’s redder and softer than when the sun’s higher in the sky. It would’ve made all our leaves look like pure gold,” Ed replied with a crestfallen look.

“And this is important because…?”

“It’s important to a nature photographer like me, that’s all,” Ed said. He returned to his seat just as that other political ad, calling the previous one a pack of lies, appeared again. 

“I think it’s more important to the guy who still hasn’t raked up all those leaves out back. You said you were going to do it Saturday,” Kate said.

“And even more have fallen since then. So why should I do all that work twice when I can do it once if I wait?” Ed said as he muted the fourth showing of that first ad.

“Your logic stinks, Ansel Adams,” Kate said while she turned on the outside lights, turning the backyard into a golden wonderland.

“Adams worked in black and white.”

“I see.”

“It’s just not the same, Katie. You wouldn’t understand,” Ed said, flipping the channel. 

“Of course not, Eddie,” Kate said, switching off the lights.

Prima Ballerina Assoluta


She’s peeled off her shrug of russet,
just about ready for her
season-long performance
of The Nutcracker.
Anchored firmly in fifth position,
she stretches her bare arms
skyward, perhaps for a demi-détourné.
She’s the only danseuse left
from the corps de ballet that once
swayed and rustled their
crispy tulle in concert with
the West Wind’s orchestrations.
Now she’s the principal,
evergreens complementing her
in her terra cotta-colored costume
as the dawn lights rise above the roofline,
compelling me to applaud with this pencil.
Despite her snow-broken branch
and wrinkled bark, she’s still
prima ballerina assoluta
of the backyard ballet.

Every year, this last oak on the  north boundary of our backyard sheds most of its leaves except for that ring sound its lower limbs. I’ve always called it her tutu, which really stands out when the snow has fallen. She’s dropping her shrug now and we’re supposed to catch some snow tomorrow, but I couldn’t wait to write about her in the dawn light this morning.

Farewell Flight


The leaves are finally dropping
from the oaks, assisted by
the rain and just enough wind
to yell, “C’mon, already, jump!”
to the tawny holdouts.
Their brothers and sisters
still clinging to the branches
wave goodbye to the soon-to-be
bushels of russet rustlers
who’ve danced across my grass
from one neighbor’s line
to the opposite.
They know it’s goodbye
after learning the leaf life
there on their shelves
of that library oak,
whose counts her years in
in a hundred rings and to whom
this leaf-fall’s nothing more
than another brushing of dust
off her winter coat.

Rainy day observation and photo by your faithful (illustrated) storyteller,
Joseph Hesch © 2016.