Turf War

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Slow Crow #1, © Joseph Hesch 2016

With the measured arrogance
of a tinpot dictator,
the obsidian autocrat
struts across my lawn
as if it’s his.
He drives his saber-sharp beak
into the near-frozen turf and
shakes it free with millennia
of hard-wired insouciance.
Whatever tidbit he’s plucked
from my front lawn will have to do,
since he’s cleared the larder
that once was my backyard.
With unhurried flaps and
scolding rasp he escapes
up into the maple after I rap
upon the front window.
Sneering with confidence
he proclaims I might hold
the deed to this property,
but it’s, without question,
his turf.

I shot that photo of a crow aerating my lawn this morning in his self-proclaimed primacy over his tenant farmer — me. This poem I wrote in the ten minutes before lights-out for the night, while I stewed over how right he was.

In the Shadow of Gull Mountain

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The Colonie landfill towers above
the roadway along the last run
of the Mohawk River before it drops
with a roar into the Hudson.
It stands as a sandy, ever-growing
monument to modern excess.
When the wind blows across
the mountain of detritus,
scraps of loose paper scud
across the face of the erstwhile dump
like streaks of snow caress
Mt. Everest’s icy profile.

But today the scraps of white
and gray seem to be holding
and folding in a position
above the man-made mound of jetsam.
Flocks of misplaced gulls,
peppered with scores of crows,
have succeeded in confusing my eyes
as they swoop and circle
in a trash-picking murmuration
even the starlings fear to join.

Along the road I see more crows
moping in the autumn-emptied
maples and birches, their wings
tucked in shrugs, waiting for
the trucks to deliver their
next meal. Maybe it’ll be pizza, or
at least the pizza crust within
the flat cardboard box that always
flies off the back and takes wing
with the rest of our flocks
in the shadow of Gull Mountain.

The Feather ~ A Study in Contrasts

Feather, A Study in Contrasts © Joseph A. Hesch 2016

Feather II, A Study in Contrasts
© Joseph A. Hesch  2016

The blacktop was running a fever I
felt through my shoes, infected by
tossed cigarette butts, wads of gum
and mouthfuls of disrespect hawked
into its face. I feel your pain,
I thought, adding my hundred-eighty pounds
of self-effacing injury to those insults.
It was then I spotted a feather of gray
and white left by another head-in-the-clouds
drifter in these hinterland parking lots.
Once it soared to dreamy heights over
ocean waters, the agent of ascension for
some living cross silhouetted against the sky.
Now it lies in this parking lot, lost to
the heavens, ground-bound in its new
home with castoffs and garbage bins,
flitting among SUVs and shopping carts.

Yet still it held a dignity, an inherent
natural symmetry, a razor-sharp edge,
yet with a gossamer touch mitigating
the unyielding black to its back and
gracing with a soft balance its undeserving
surrounding bleakness. I bent to touch
this ethereal gift and its caress cured me
of my fever, the one acquired from my
low flights through this world’s
crassness and decay. Now it’s my source
of soaring visions, a quill expressing
the ink from my pen and my soul.

A rather longish poem (for me), based upon the photograph by this writer, offered as a prompt by my friend Sharyl Fuller and her weekly Writing Outside the Lines Challenge. It’s true. I did find this feather on the ground as I exited the SUV at a Home Depot this weekend. It inspired me then, so I took three photos of it and posted them online. Inspired “Annie,” too. Next, a redrafting of an old story of mine for a prose piece inspired by a feather like this.

Until I Drop

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Crow, insidious in his element. Copyright 2015, J. A. Hesch

The crows stalk the wild
near-subterranean somethings
in the far part of my yard.
Bugs and grubs are their
Beluga and Cristal.
Dressed as they are in flashy
funereal ebony, midday sun’s
proven too much even for
these surface-spelunking
scavengers.

They scrape their voices against
my rain-needy sandpaper soil,
lift off for the shade trees,
and become one with the shadows
until the sun tips over
those leafy tops and day begins
its crawl to crow-wing night.

From the window of this
air-conditioned room, I bury
beneath the sod of my suburban
manliness a green jealousy
of their ways, working my grass
from end to end, front to back,
and never losing a drop of sweat,
or even a minute, to watching me
while I’m out there sweating
until I drop.

In Chorus We Breathe

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Today the wind has sung so well,
trees had no choice but to sway
to its tune and clap their green hands
in a seven-hour standing O.

Whenever I blow, the shrill
or melodious wind that whistles
from my lips doesn’t move the wood
and greenery. It moves me, though.

I can see songs’ unspoken images and,
if I’m lucky, trees responding to me
with feathered leaves launching
on those big gusts.

Winds once rustled my black hair,
before it took on the color of clouds,
now misting these old eyes as breeze,
birds and I in chorus breathe.

We Swoop to Conquer

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I’ve heard her many nights,
sounding to this groggy traveler
on the road to Nod like a reveler
out back who’s maybe had too many
and felt like hootin’ instead of hollerin’.
There’s no denying she’s
the genuine article if you’ve heard
that true whooo-who-who-whoooo.
I’d give anything to see her swoop
from the oak in the full moon’s light.
I imagine she’d appear like a ghostly
autumn leaf in an early fall
upon some deserving tunneling varmint.
This morning, I came as close
as I ever will to catching that owl
in flight when one of her feathers
stayed behind, in post-predatory landing,
upon the grass below my window on
the natural and imaginary worlds.
It’s now my talisman for these flights
into the darkness where I hunt
for the beginnings, middles and ends of
the whats, the whens, the wheres, the whys
and, of course, all those whos.

Found that feather up there in my back yard this morning. Thought it might be a hawk feather. But my wife noted that she heard our recent visitor out back last night. Sure enough, a short check of Internet resources confirmed it’s a flight feather from a Great Horned Owl. I just couldn’t let all this go without making a written “something” out of it.

Twenty Knocks & Twenty More

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The house’s shadows
reach from dawn to the pines,
while the oaks tower above
and reach beyond them all.
The coda from spring songs signal
the second act of courtship
as new nests settle where
last month only glances
lit and then flew home.
Awakened here in my nest,
I watch it all ~
the sun reeling back its
shadows like I roll up
the blinds, the rabbits
browsing on clover for breakfast,
the pines shaking loose robins
like flame-chested cones.
When a day feels too much to bear,
I’ll remember how woodpecker
challenged oak’s supremacy
twenty knocks at a time.