I remember those nights
that edged into day where
I’d sit, pencil in hand,
pondering how to overcome
that day’s opponent…
every night, every day, too.
Obsession and fear kept me
drawing up new tactics that might
steal a victory once the clock
started running. Should we press
from tip-off to buzzer, trying
to impose our weak will to turn
them aside from our goal?
No, that’s a task too difficult
to accomplish one-on-one. Inevitably,
we’d opt for a passive defense,
hoping to shield and slow them from
getting inside. But that merely
prolonged the inevitable, just like
every other time. I’d crawl off
to bed, resigned to another defeat
in this seemingly endless season
of losses. It’s record was 365-0 and
I couldn’t take the losing anymore.
It was then I admitted, pride be damned,
I’d ask for help. Even I couldn’t beat
Day 20’s NaPoWriMo poem, combining prompts for a task poem and one incorporating terms from a sport or game. After thirty years of coaching basketball, I knew more than enough jargon. After more than thirty years of the fruitless task of trying to beat depression by myself, I finally took on some assistant coaches. Still don’t win all the games, but my record’s improving all the time.
One dark day, you’ll discover
the forehead fits perfectly
into the palm of one’s hand,
as if the Master behind the skin
and bone designed it for just
that purpose. That Master will come
searching for solace and sanctuary
when it no longer can find any within.
But, it may find nothing there
but idle thoughts, calloused responses,
and more deep depressions.
Perhaps it will detect a tremor
or numbness in the caress of its servant
so long ignored and abused.
I suppose one really should expect,
after all the brooding over its
servant’s imperfect interpretations
of one’s heady imaginings, to find in those
final downturned and overcast days
the stony slag in a Devil’s Workshop
of your own forging?
Free write blather, inspired by my pressing of my uninspired head into my dry and arthritic hands. The perfectionist gets his perfect comeuppance.
I’d be embarrassed
for you to see me today,
sick and bloated,
dragging body and soul
from dawn to dark.
I know the memory of me
is cloudy and tainted
by another of my tumbles
in this long road of mine to
understanding and forgiveness.
I’m sorry for that and for
all those times I failed you
Sometimes I’m sorry
for myself, but that sounds
it makes me feel even sorrier.
And so I hide behind words,
metaphors, third-person cutouts
of what a real man,
a man of strength and honor,
should be, instead of one more
a Y chromosome
and no good answer to your
One of those first-draft, still half-asleep, poems that usually get written only in my head, but not on the page. Perhaps that’s why this one should stay there—smothered beneath my pillow.
If I was one to believe everything
you all say to me today on face value,
I’m sure I’d swagger, bust my buttons,
and maybe feel right proud to be me.
Instead, I listened to you say
this nice thing and that
about what a good this or that I am,
or this or that I’ve accomplished.
Through the filter of self-doubt,
this is what I heard instead:
That I’ve wasted so much of my life
taking this path or that role,
this course or that job,
making this choice or that mistake.
It’s too late to change now, though.
They all lie behind me. Today,
I value each scar, each lump and dent
I’ve earned in this fun house skull of mine.
I know now what I considered my failures
were the scenery on my swift journey here.
If it looked like the worst of Detroit
or the Pine Ridge Reservation, then I
can say I’ve seen what you’d call
your worst on my way here and the tears
they brought have washed me clean of regret.
I’ll worry about the There ahead when it
becomes the This and That of Tomorrow.
I’ve fought myself, beaten myself brutally, most of my life. I’m only beginning to understand that fact and do something it. But it’s a difficult process. The why of it lies back there in the clouds of exhaust I peek at in the cracked rearview mirror of my memory. I’ve no control over what’s there in the past. In my regret-filled days and nights I would worry more about them because the mirror says they may be closer than they appear. The best I can say about this is that they’re not catching up with me much anymore.
Darkness for Breakfast
Photo by Joseph Hesch
The darkness never lasts,
even if clouds still cover you
like bedclothes come dawn.
Earth still spins, sun still crawls
eastish to westward.
You’ll have to trust me on this.
I’ve lived in shadow
all my life, attempting
to ignore how light,
dim or bright, eats darkness
like a final meal.
Though it never turns out
to be that last repast,
though. Like I said,
darkness never lasts.
Light nips it from my
shaking hands each time.
Light’s insatiable, but never
goes hungry. That’s because
darkness is eternal, inexorable,
the chocolate life dips day in
to lay upon your pillow.
Could you ever stop thinking of me
that way because my arms couldn’t
reach out when you needed them most,
bound as they were by bonds I wove
of confusion and fear? If not,
I wouldn’t blame you, though that’s
a heavy load to carry for so long,
cracking backs and taxing hearts
whose clockworks wind down past
their dwindling supply of twelves.
But if you could, it’d be a blessing
in these latter days granted me,
my leaves tearing from the calendar tree
of this life spent blinded in shadow,
blown from one direction, battered
to another. Ever away from the peace
for which I pray before I fall
and lie forgotten, save for fading lines
on pulp, lost in the emptiness between
the zeros and ones I’ve cast like acorns
in a promiscuous gale of words…
sound and fury signifying I’m nothing
without friends I’ve lost in my storm.
I know a man, we call each other
Friend, who also calls himself Hermit.
In truth, he does live almost alone,
save for his dogs and
the glowing, dusty, snowy,
piercing beauty of his mountains.
He is content there in the wide open,
greeting the sun each day, Inviting
it in and sharing it through his third eye.
I know a man who some call Hermit,
who resides in the suburbs, so close
to the whirrings of highway and flyway
that they’d awaken him, if he would listen.
But he doesn’t even hear.
This one hides in the cut of stone
behind his eyes and burrows within
the shadowy side of his heart.
He throws rocks when you try
to get close, and struggles to bring
himself out of the dark to perceive
the dawn in life shining on all his good——
people, accomplishments, memories, joy——
that surround him like those mountains
embrace the friend he never met,
the one who calls himself Hermit,
who loves the world and it loves him back.
Perhaps, one day, the second one might
emerge to embrace your bright love, but
first he must learn to love himself.