Picking Up Our Pieces

You and I can rise after
so great a fall we
leave bookmarks in the earth
for the next chapters
in our history of falls.
Or maybe our last.
But if you gather yourself,
like you’d gather the pieces
of a pitcher knocked off
the highboy, and you hope
you have enough glue –
hell, enough pieces –
you can reassemble a vessel
that’ll hold who you are
and some of what you used to be.
There’s no chance you’ll
look exactly the same,
all those cracks and gaps
left where the pieces
lost used to fit.
Might even sag a little.
But you’ll still be you,
with a chance, and a little help,
to get set back up there
to watch, wobble, gather dust,
leak, or even fall again,
because gravity and life
stand ready to drop us,
where we can just lie there
in pieces or collect ourselves
and rise again.

Picking up the pieces, with a little help.

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I Fell Again Today

I fell again today.
Not a little trip or slip,
but a real live death spiral.
I didn’t even bother to look
behind me to see the long trail
of smoke, tight where I was,
expanding to blot out the sun
the further I fell.
And I thought of you.
I thought of reaching out to you
to say, “Here, I’m falling, too.”

But I was already a few feet
from bottom, so I stayed silent again.
Besides, you don’t need any
of my woe, though you understand
the passion, the anger, the sorrow,
the heat, the chill, the vacant,
and the jagged in your gut as well—
or is it as badly? — as anyone I’ve known.
We make that same trip every day,
just with different landmarks
and memories and questions and regrets
and shame and here and there some pride.

And yeah, it’s like seeing your life
on a slow motion loop as death,
or worse, comes closer all the time
as you fall,
and you fall,
and you fall,
but you never get all
the way to the bottom
because that’d be too easy
and life has a thing about
never being easy. You understand.
I understand. And we’re not ready
to give up and just shut our eyes
and let the bottom have us.

We’ll probably drop again tomorrow
and maybe the day after and after that.
But a few things keep me getting
back up to take that long fall,
dangling like a spider under that
smoky pall, again and again.
I remember when you and I,
apart and together, would listen
to the music as the wind rushed past
and, for who knows how long,
we’d fly.

We’ll revisit some of this again soon. I promise. Because I care. Always. Me.

What We Talk About When We Talk About…

Maybe someday we can shelter out of the heat to talk about this thing that binds people together in the way ropes might, or even transplants, like giving one kidney to another. Yeah, that thing. I can’t describe it in any way by which someone else would understand it as I do (or don’t). Some people like that proximity that comes with being tied together, immobilized yet mobile or freely captive with another, feeling their heat, shivering with their cold, sharing the showers and sunshine as if they wear the same skin. They can construe it as “being together,” I guess. Until someday, somehow they cut those cords. I have seen many people walking around still attached to their walking shadow even after he out she has left them, one way or another. Other people can subsume, with proffered permission, the object of their visceral need after searching so long to find that perfect match, one fraught with the minimum amount of rejection, yet, only with diligent aftercare, most likely to keep them alive. They can live on together even after their partner in this organic life no longer can. Yet still, there is always that spectre of rejection, loss, need. The one thing both of these experiences share is how all involved are irreversibly changed by the experience. Maybe it’s the scars they can display or conceal, maybe even from themselves. Maybe it’s the memories of their partner’s touch, both on and within their skin, a heartbeat they feel even as they lie alone at night. But I’m no expert. I’ve walked this earth carrying a platter full of bite-size pieces of my marrow-rich thirteenth rib, like some faceless butler named Adam at a grand party of the interested and disinterested. Some have idly taken one piece just to wrap it in a napkin and toss it in the potted palm. Others have taken it with thanks and thought, “that’s different,” and moved on to bacon-wrapped shrimp. And for others I’ve placed one on their plates, wrapped in wordy ribbons with which they might secure it to themselves like pins for some needy charity. A couple have actually taken them to heart, but I moved on because this is a big room and a server’s duty calls. What do I know? Maybe this is why someday we might sit somewhere, with a batch of iced libation between us. Maybe it’ll be something different that we talk about when we talk about love.

Now that’s a ponderous bit of prose poem or maybe fictional one-sided conversation, free-written around my morning shower. The inspiration was brought to me when I needed it most and I have no idea from where the results come, but I thank my muse that they did. Unless you know Raymond Carver, you won’t recognize the title, though maybe you recognized it without my coming out and saying the word until right before the final period. Perhaps one day I’ll revise this unspoken “thing” for a more concise, or expansive, dive into the phenomenon that touches and changes us all. I chose purple for this note because it is the perfect mix of blood and the blues, both of which are sluggishly coursing through me right now, so I’ve been unsuccessful in giving you something to think (or talk) about.  Let’s hope my over-the-transom inspirations cut a few more drops from me soon.

The Scars That Never Stop Hurting

He didn’t know how to make peace with his past. What offering of acceptable remorse exists when the past, in whatever personage or spirit, listens naught and averts its eyes at the mere thought of him? He’d try, “I’m sorry,” but seven letters hanging off-kilter from an apostrophe can get blown sideways and lost in the winds between two people, two different lives from what came before. His mind has lost its edge and quickness since its days of serving up scars even before others knew the sting of his cut. Now his life is not much more than a scar, something to look at and recall all those wounds he administered across his lifetime. So he waits upon his cold chair for that final felling wound. He sighs at how the sword always fell to his pen, but knows the scythe always wins. Perhaps then a peace he still dreams might come will reveal itself before he hears the swoosh of that existential steel. And, if comes too late, he must assume the role a scar on a piece of someone else’s past. But wouldn’t it be grand to hear that voice say, “Would you write me again.”?

A 200-word free written bit of what feels like literary (those probably not literate) confession and self-imposed penance. Hey, you sit down without a shred of inspiration, you can’t expect Shakespeare or Kendrick Lamar. You just hope and expect ‘something’ will appear eventually. Oh, and the new photo, old regrets and ancient scar (I have many more, some of which you can’t see) are all ©Joseph Hesch.

The Tune She’d Heard Somewhere Before

He’d say they were like the links on a chain,
each instance where he fell in love.
Or whatever facsimile of “love” he chased.
But he really didn’t understand true love.
He only knew it in a Webster’s Dictionary sense
that he’d read through the bottom of a tumbler
of pheromones and endorphins on testosterone rocks.

There were a few that rocked him, left him
stunned and aching in the avalanche of their passing.
To them he actually confessed his devotion, his longing,
his “love.” They would nod and then shake their heads No
as they moved on to the next manifestations of their own
understandings of the phenomenon.

Once, one looked back at his shadow, the memory of him
cascading broken and crooked on the debris she left behind,
as he whistled his way upward toward the horizon.
For a moment, she wondered why he always got back up
and tried just once more. As he crested the hill,
on his way to falling again, he shifted a few stones
that bounded down to her feet.

She picked them up, stashed them in her pocket,turned and
went her way, humming a tune she thought she’d heard
somewhere before.

On Day #17 of National Poetry Writing Month, I was asked to answer the challenge for a love or anti-love poem. Jeez, must I? So I sat and wrote something that might embody a little of both concepts…perhaps very little. A free write and one of those story-poems that used to flow from me as easy as tapping these keys. Maybe that’s my true love. Maybe there’s still a bit of my Muse’s love left for me.

It’s Not The Hand You’re Dealt (But How You Play it)

Forever she told me
that she always felt Life
dealt her nothing but bad hands,
each full of strife.
I replied in encouragement,
Knave to her Queen,
“Don’t fold, you’ve got
one more hand to be seen.”
She sighed and said,
“I got nothing here but a nine.”
I said, “Toss those four
and let’s see what we find.”
So she looked at the dealer
and said, “I’ll take four.”
He chuckled and said,
“Is that ‘cause you can’t take more?”
Then the dealer grinned
His indecently superior grin,
dealing the cards, saying,
“Ya know, gambling’s another sin.”
I put my hand on her shoulder,
‘cause she was my Muse,
as the dealer said,
“I’ve a full house, so I guess you lose.”
She looked at her hand
and then back at me,
while I kept my poker face,
the lesson I’d hope she’d see.
“I’ve got this pair of deuces,”
she said to his sneer,
“And oh, look, I’ve got another
just like it right here.”
The lesson she learned is even
an Ace-high full boat can lose
to someone whose hand
holds nothing but twos.
So stay positive, keep hope,
and don’t lose your mind.
Bad hands happen, but (Who knows?)
you might pull your own four of a kind.

Day #10 of the April 2018 PAD Challenge (I’m a third of the way through without a miss) called for a Deal or a No Deal poem. In the old days, I’d write one for each instance on these Two for Tuesday specials. Don’t know if I’m up to it these days, but thought I’d deal you this bit of whimsy. Call.

Something About Hope, Time and Brown Eyes

I keep this picture of myself,
from sometime during the 70’s,
a smiling kid, brown eyes
gleaming with hope, black hair
covering my ears and shoulders.
In it, I am a young man of my time
and my time was Now.

The other day I was shown
another head shot of a guy
I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.
His was hair thin and silver,
some growing ON his ears or
fallen upon his shoulders.
He appeared a man old
before his time,
which he prays isn’t now.

Through the bottom of my bifocals
I peered into the dark caves
beneath his patchy gray brows.
There I saw something like
a glimmer in his brown eyes
and I recognized it as Hope,
which knows not Time.
And was thankful Time
can never dim true Hope.

My catch-up poem for Day 2 of the PAD Challenge, which was prompted by the word portrait. Any resemblance to actual old poets, living or dead, is purely coincidental…and poor editing.