My Tragicomic Work in Progress

“Everyone is trying to read the last page of the book.”
~ Chuck Todd, Meet The Press Daily, June 20, 2017

When I was a kid, I’d often sit
and wonder how my life would turn out,
the whole epic saga of Joe Hesch.
Would it be a thick volume or two,
full of adventures and notable acts
of merit or valor? Or perhaps
a pamphlet of failure and sadness?
And thus far, I have found,
as I reach the climax of this tale
full of sound and fury,
but mostly quiet and solitude,
it’s been told by an idiot,
an actor scuffling across his stage
forgetting his lines. Or, more likely,
his lines being forgotten.

I’ve had my entrances and exits,
my hour upon the stage, and then
I’ll likely be heard no more.
And that’s all right, I guess.
I just hope that I’m able to write it
to its denouement, penning a satisfied
Finis to its last page.
And I still dream. Dream that, like
younger me, older me, current me,
not necessarily everyone, just you,
someday have a yen to find
where my pen took it. Even if
only to see your part in what’s still
my tragicomic work in progress.

My somewhat poetic free-written take on this week’s Writing Outside the Lines challenge presented by my friend Annie Fuller. This week it’s prompted by that quote from NBS News’ political editor and moderator of its venerable Meet the Press Sunday morning show.

Love Like a River

Photo by Joseph Hesch © 2014

I can feel the breath on my face,
in waves as cool and metrical
as the current slaps the shore
in its Spring sprint to the sea;
or as warm and moist as a lover’s
sleeping against me on a summer night,
languid, as if waiting for me
to crack her still surface
as if it was ice, to entice those
ripples of movement that would

echo

echo

echo

until coming to shimmering rest
like a sigh on the shoreline.
How many times have I wished
to float with her, letting her guide me
to her mouth, ignoring others’ views
of her boundaries conquerable only by
the arch artifices of arrogant men?
They’ve never appreciated her music
as I have, never watched how she reflects
whoever gazes upon her, be it the
drifting clouds above waving like flags
on her breeze-rippled skin, or my face,
still as a statue’s, as I seek answers
to questions I’ve never been able to ask.
It’s then I realize she’s done that
all along in her constancy, her depth,
her shallowness, her ever-open blue eyes
I’d fall into right now if not for the fact
they’ve absorbed me, absolved me first.

For Day 29 of my NaPoWriMo poem-a-day challenge, I was to take one of my favorite poems and find a very specific, concrete noun in it, then free-write associations – other nouns, adjectives, etc. Then I was to use that original word and the results of the free-writing as the building blocks for a new poem. The original poem I chose was perhaps my favorite, William Stafford’s “Ask Me.” For what it’s worth, this process is one I use all the time in writing new poems and stories.

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.

Missing You

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“Do you miss me?”
she asked me tonight.
“Of course I miss you.
How could I not?” I said.
“How much do you miss me?”
she asked in that way
women ask questions
they wrap around
emotion-tripped IEDs.
They’ll look at you with
an expression of expectation
that your answer will bring
the sensitive revelation
they crave from you.
Guys seek yes or no.
Black or white.
Click or boom. Maybe
with a spot of gray-scale
adjectival variance
for comparison purposes only.

I sighed and said,
“I miss you more than
I ever thought this man
could miss another,
with more tears than any
ocean could hold,
with the lonesome chill
of a blanketless night
on a new moon prairie.”
“Then smile,” she said.
“C’mere, I’m still here.”
I opened my eyes and scanned
the room, reached for her
empty pillow beside me,
pressing my hand to it,
warming and denting it as if
her head still did.

I rested my face upon
the momentary warmth and
inhaled the vague aroma of her.
still left to me
“Yes you are,” I said,
and went back to sleep.

Angel on Her Shoulder

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It’s just a hair, maybe
an inch or so long, not
perfectly straight
nor perfectly curved.
It’s of a shape and color
all too familiar to us.
It looks for all the world
like one of the millions
we swept, dusted and
vacuumed up for 13 years.

She keeps her photo bedside,
like her yearning to see,
to touch her angel dog again
after these three empty years.
This may explain the dream visit
they shared two nights ago,
but not the single golden hair
she found this morning on
the shoulder of the robe
I gave her last Christmas.

Sweetly spooky slice of life, for which I have not nor need any explanation, from the lives lived here.

Alone in My Crowded Bed

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Some days I lie in wait
for dawn to come, knowing
I’ll never return to
the sweet darkness until tonight.
The thoughts, the images, the hopes
(dashed and otherwise),
and the guilt crowd my consciousness
out of bed like they all
rolled over toward me at once.

And nowhere was there room
for any dreams.

Not under my pillow,
nor beneath the bed or
in the jewelry box, because
I would treasure a dream so much.
Tonight, I’ll lie in wait
in silence behind the darkness
for one, like I wait
for dawn come morning,
alone in my crowded bed.

Had a free ten minutes while granddaughter slept. She awakened as I placed the ultimate punctuation on that crowded bed. One hundred words exactly. Funny how that happens.

Beyond the Obvious

Beyond the obvious — you can’t
be seen or touched — sometimes
I wonder if you ever existed at all.
Oh, I’m sure someone can run
their fingers across
what I imagined was skin akin
to an infant’s. But I never did.
So I can’t attest to what I’m sure
must be your tactile perfection.

Beyond the obvious, you know,
I’ll never see you anymore,
I wonder now if I ever really did.
Oh, I’m sure I saw a somebody
who zinged my rods and cones
in a kaleidoscopic frenzy of
retinal fireworks. But the brood
of hairballs in my control room
have been known to hit the catnip
pretty hard after spying an enticing
wiggle on the end of a string.

Beyond the obvious, you never
really saw or touched me, either.
Never felt the goosebump pebbles
the mere thought of your skin
brushing mine would excite.
You never saw the hope and fear
the increments of intimacy we
never suffered wrought upon
this shadow you stepped across.

I guess, as far as you’re concerned,
I never existed either. And maybe
I don’t. I’m just a ghost who floats
among the phantoms and wispy memories
of mirages where we hoped to find
solace and the nonexistent answers
to our supplication. I guess I’m just
another nothing chasing nothing nowhere.
Until now, I never realized that was
beyond the obvious.