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.

Listening for the Colors of Late October


As October slides on wet
fallen leaves into November,
the morning wonders if
it’s really arisen. Out my window,
color is a muted thing,
if the reflection of colored light
is something you can hear.
My eyes strain to pick up
any sound that might be more than
a thump or a creak. But no.
The grass has lost its verdant harmony,
where the breezes bend each supple blade
in concert like a vast woodwind section.
The trees mumble like drugged-up hookers
waiting for gravity to finish
stripping them to the skin and
their cold intercourse with winter.
Only in the distance do I hear
the crackle and crash of
the far end of the spectrum,
a roaring row of tympani and cymbals.
The burning bushes stand out like
a bleeding gash on pale skin,
fireworks on a starless night.
And I get on my feet because I hear
their beat within my chest and scuff
in time to the kitchen for
a cup of today.

Wrote one going to bed and another when I awoke. Seems like old times.

When Ash Wednesday Comes in October


End of the Mardi Gras Photo by Joseph Hesch © 2016

When the carny month of October begins descending into November and from there to the passing of the year, it will play the bait and switch with your spirit. The trees don their autumn raiment, turning from lively greens to gleaming golds, bleeding reds and sunburst oranges, only to fly away with your polychromatic joy in windblown death spirals of russet and fawn. Today, October’s grifting insult bordered on injury, shouldering a shivering chill from the north armed with a hybrid ammunition where the temperature’s too cold for rain and too warm for snow. It’s as if the clouds are spitting with derision upon your windshield as you drive by the sad maples and oaks, drooping in their now-tattered costumes like stranded and drenched Mardi Gras revelers, the detritus of autumn at their feet. It’s as if they know the Ash Wednesday of this year is upon us all.

The idea for this piece came from a short drive to the store, past the gray-shrouded maples, in the plastic precipitation that splatted upon my windshield and hung there in a 41-degree insult to the driver who enjoyed an 80-degree day just this week. That’s autumn up here in this land of perpendiculars, where the Mohawk and Hudson meet, tucked into the elbow of the Adirondacks and Berkshires, surrounded by the vertical beauty of the carnival of broadleaf trees, fully knowledgeable that next week you’ll be picking their shabby clothes off their bedroom floor outside your window. The photo above is by the writer, whose view and mood are at perpendiculars today, too.

Heading West

The Final Bow, II © Joseph Hesch, 2015

The Final Bow, II
© Joseph Hesch, 2015

He stares at the autumn trees
as they sway in October’s breeze,
because, like he, they’ve changed
from gin to bourbon, going to brown
and ready to drop.
The trees have forgotten how to color,
to glow in their Northeast neon glory,
the natural Broadway show of SRO
they always did until this year.
No premiere, no revival, no road show
left for the busted impresario
of his own life.

He’s put down his pen since Act Three’s
well upon him and he knows
the climax is out of his hands.
So he stands in the back of the theatre
of his days and sways to the tune
he almost remembers, a whispered whoosh
maybe like the strings bowed
in the overture of his days,
back when the curtains we’re red,
the lights were gold and he rode
the orange sun onstage from the east.

Now he opens his arms to the audience,
dropping vitality like leaves,
in a final sunset bow,
heading west.

I’m feeling the autumn of my years upon me today.  Losing abilities and memories with each dropping leaf from calendars and trees. Maybe  that’s why this piece feels so difficult to express and communicate to you.