Afraid of Being Afraid of the Dark

Here in the darkness, we all look alike.
Yet we fear that which we cannot see.
If we reach out to explore more than
what we hide or hide from,
we might find whatever differences
we sense are actually differences we share.

I wonder what would happen if we conquered
our fears, raised the shades, opened our eyes,
unlocked our doors and allowed a new day
into our rooms. Perhaps we’d discover
it isn’t one another we need fear,
but the darkness within which we cowered,
covers over our heads,
pillows muffling our ears and minds
we kept imprisoned, locked away
by our own intentions.

It’s fear that compels us to conceal
ourselves from the known and unknown,
fears of being hurt in which
we not only hurt ourselves,
but the shadow-shrouded world
we hope would just go away.
My fear is it already has and
now we’re really alone the dark.

Joy Like a Red-Flowered Dress

I found this faded old photograph
at the bottom of my desk drawer.
It captures you in a joyful moment,
as you turned and saw me
with my camera. I’m unsure
which of the two made you smile.
When I took this fumbling exposure,
I think you were pregnant,
which might explain your glow,
the red in your cheeks,
the beaming from your eyes.

I think that’s a gift women
take on to illuminate their way
across that threshold to becoming
a mother. It’s the only photo
I have of you radiating your
womanhood like that. I never
took one of the next child and you.
By then, the space between my heart
and mind had grown so vast, I so lost,
your incandescence would be wasted
signaling me through that darkness.

That was the apogee of my journey;
today I’ve swung back closer to
the sun. But time and circumstance
have extinguished anything like
that singular warm glow. Maybe
that’s why I kept this image
when I’ve lost so many others.
It echoes a time never again
will I see, when I was blind
instead of sightless, and you
wore joy like a red-flowered dress
that’ll always fit perfectly.

Took four random words — pregnant, threshold, echo, space — and built this old-school Storyteller/Poet Me first-draft house of sticks in about twenty minutes. For whatever reason, Jackson Browne’s “Fountain of Sorrow” came to mind as I started stacking. It’s better than a house of straw, but I believe a good huff and puff could topple it. So you’d better read it quick, because I feel an editorial sneeze — or hot glowing ember of Delete — coming on.

With Dreams Inside My Eyes

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I have a bed, my very own.
It’s just my size.
And sometimes I like to sleep alone
with dreams inside my eyes.” ~ Mary Oliver

The doctor says I could go blind,
and for a moment my mind races
in frantic paces where sight
no longer graces my life like
random tones do a composer’s.
But then I realize I’m already seeing
such things in this darkened room.

There’s robin’s vermillion breast
coming to rest from azure above
to green below. And here’s your face,
unburdened by the toll of years,
the paths of tears, inviting yet
another riff on things only I
can see in you. The doctor says
we can arrest the coming darkness,
but what’s already lost
is gone forever.

I thank her and walk outside,
wearing what’s probably an odd grin.
She doesn’t know it’s at night,
with my eyes closed, I see
my life’s places and faces
so clearly. You may
tear away pieces of my sight,
but you’ll never steal my vision.

This piece was inspired by the final line of the first verse Mary Oliver’s Every Dog’s Story suggested my friend Annie Fuller. 

 

Secrets the Moon Never Tells

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Our shadows ran out ahead,
shifting shapes upon the swells
and ruts of January’s snow.
Their hands always touching,
even though ours never did.
Our breaths mingled, though,
white and crystalline,
in a communion of warmth
shared only fleetingly.
But that’s how some couplings
run their courses, like
momentary pairs like unbridled horses,
ready to run headlong, though
not necessarily together.
Nevertheless, there lay our shadows,
linked, our exhalations
in exhortation of something
only possible under the unblinking
glare of the full moon’s gaze.
Then you turned the corner
and moonlight glistened in my eyes
like shards of broken glass.

Dashed off in response to Annie Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines prompt of the latter half of the famous quote from Ground Zero of storyteller Hesch’s fiction exemplars, Anton Chekhov: “(Don’t tell me the moon is shining;)…show me the glint of light on broken glass…”

Broken Chains

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Each night’s become another
recitation of a rosary strung
with whispered Ave Marias
disrupted by the calls
from a father never seen,
a judge ever recognized.
This circle of fine filigree
inevitably will lie broken,
perhaps tossed under the bed
with rest of the best forgotten,
like the kind of secrets
that arouse you just before
you come to the crossroad
metaphor of a rising son,
that sacrificial cross, the sign
of death-turned-redemption.
This is the ritual I perform
each night, attached to a chain
linked to the miracle
of that blessed kind of death
lasting only a little while.

Five of the last seven nights have been this way, broken into decades of fruitless near-sleep. Nothing new, just nothing so recent. Once this was my obsession, then my obsessive literary theme. I’m hoping to break THIS particular chain with a new poem from my old, sleep-deprived brain.

Perchance to Dream

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When darkness
finally swallowed me,
I sank below the surface
into the blessed death
that isn’t The End.
There’ve been times
I’d have accepted
that ultimate
punctuation mark,
the black-dot
full-stop
from which there’s
no catching your breath,
no ellipsis, and
never any question.

This time, though,
the bliss I miss
wrapped me
in its arms,
holding me,
carefree and numb,
until that rarest treasure,
a dream,
opened my hooded mind’s eye
and there you stood.
Must’ve been a dream,
because you loosened
sleep’s sweet embrace
with an unsolicited kiss,
something that’ll haunt
my ever-restless nights
for weeks.

Bedtime poem about bedtime.