What Are Friends For?

If I needed you,
would you respond to my call?
If I called to you,
would you even care at all?
If you asked me to,
would I have the gall
to stand back
and just watch you fall?

These are questions
whose answers are moot,
the responses academic,
since I gave myself the boot,
a swift kick in the teeth
or, more likely, the glute.
But what more can you expect
from a depressed old coot?

So forget all these questions,
I should’ve just kept quiet.
I’ll just bury this feeling,
lest it incite a cry-it riot.
I’m pretty sure the moral —
unspoken but clear — don’t deny it,
is if I really wanted a friend,
I’d find a dog and buy it.

This is one of those “Jump into the thicket and see what you come out with (if you can) on the other side” poems. I came out with tortured rhymes, a Freudian cleansing of the subconscious psyche and a typical Hesch ending. Glad I left out the allusion to that old Iggy Pop and the Stooges song in the final verse. (You’d had to have been there on the cusp of the ’60s-’70s to get that.)

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The Struggle Continues

I think of you too much and not enough,
these days and nights since you left me behind.
The “thinking” is something that feels so rough,
while the “not” just makes me feel so unkind.

But kindness is like beauty to a beholder,
and beholders can wear glasses of rose.
My flaw was choosing when to be bolder,
but too often instead of choosing I froze.

That’s how I lost what was a thing unique,
and now I know it’s more than that I’ve wasted.
But this is what comes from being so meek,
not daring to take Prufrock’s peach and taste it.

So today I just sit here and fritter
instead of sharing some time, just you and Joe.
If I’d spoken up would I still be bitter?
Perhaps, but I didn’t, so we’ll never know.

But I like to think this poem you’re reading,
and it’s collecting some transcendent due.
Someday, again we’ll share two souls beating,
since just one heart’s left whole instead of two.

This is such a struggle. The writing, the creating, the imagining, they’ve all gone away it seems. Too long under the pall of my losses. Even though one’s now somewhat mitigated. But I keep trying. If I can’t keep lit that old candle, maybe I can strike a spark and start a wildfire with the dry leavings of what once was so verdant and alive.

Orbital Eccentricity

The sun will shine today,
walking its way horizon to horizon
across my provincial little plot,
taking its longest time until next year.
But I know it’s not really moved.
This dust mote rock on which I stand
is the one actually spinning daily
along its elliptical path ‘round
our own little star.

And in our arrogant, top-of-the-foodchain,
in-God’s-own-image way,
we actually prefer to think
the largest entity in this
insignificant portion of the vastness
of the Big Banger’s creation
is the one trudging like a burro
around the mill grinding out
our oh so historic days.

You know that Earth has spent
its millennia trying to escape
from this cosmic servitude, don’t you?
Sun’s tether is just too strong.
keeping our servile ball
of egocentric existence
situated just-so, so Man can believe
the Sun’s the one in Our thrall.

But really, when one day,
out in the indistinct future,
when the great curveball in the sky
goes black, our planet
will slip it’s gravitational leash
and could be hurled, a giant snowball,
into the void. In light of this,
who gives a shit if I mispell “misspell,”
wash new jeans with white sheets,
eat room-temperature potato salad,
or short-hop a bases-loaded 3-2 fastball?
Not the Sun.

I tell you this because
I care about you.
Still.
A little.
On a summer day,
when the Sun takes its own sweet time
walking horizon to horizon.
And here’s the pitch…

Writer’s Digest’s Robert Lee Brewer suggested writing a “summer” poem today. So I sat down and turned loose my creative wolf for the first time in too many months. And along the stream-of-consciousnous way, I remember a story my friend Steve Adamek and I eavesdropped on in a Montreal bar many years ago. A gaggle of Philadelphia Phillies. Late season pennant clinching time. I’ll attribute it to relief pitcher Tug McGraw, but I’m sure he heard from an old pitching coach of his. I’ve always called it the “Tug McGraw Frozen Snowball Theory of Life.” Steve will know better who should get attribution. It’s funny how life and lessons come back to you once you remember life is more than the time spent worrying about what you did yesterday and what will happen tomorrow. Or sooner. Thanks, Steve. Don’t know how I’m gonna integrate “No one sucker-punches Roger Freed,” into a poem or story. But I’m not going to worry about it. Someday I will.

The World Has Grown So Small

The world has grown so small
from within these four walls,
even with the windows open wide.
I’ve pulled aside the curtains,
cast my hearing and vision
as far as they can go and yet
still the world confines itself
between front and back,
left and right.
But what are directions,
when up is down, down is beneath,
out there is in here and
you are found beside none of them?
What is beside, too?
My world has grown smaller
since I first wrote “The world.”
It’s crowded in here by myself,
when even thoughts have no room
to even shrug their dissatisfaction
with their surroundings and mates.
The light is suffocating now,
unable to radiate upon a world
so insignificant it can’t cast a shadow.
This world has grown so small
that I have only sufficient space
to exhale, to only express
– not hold – blood and love
from this constricted
chamber, these four walls,
this space within no space,
this Universe of one and none.
Yet still, I’ll always keep
room enough for you.

No Direction Home

Around the corner and down a way, just before the main road, two staples hold what’s left of a piece of paper to the power pole. I’d pass it in its fullness on my way to or from when snow still covered everything. It was hard to read then, weather having already faded it, the home printer’s ink running in tears down to the oiled wooden pole. But I knew it was a picture of someone’s white cat that had left the house and not returned. It could have run away, but I doubt it. It could have gone out and run afoul of a winter-hungered coyote, or maybe it got lost in the expanse of white upon which Home happened to be and a car or snowplow had sent it spinning like a snowflake to join the rest of the white on white landscape, maybe until Spring. And now all that’s left of someone’s plaintive posting for their loved one to come back are two staples and a tear of shredded hope. And I thought about the times I have been spun and hunted and lost. When I didn’t know which direction was Home, or if I even wanted to go there. When the dome of sky and the plate of earth are indiscernible from one another, and you look around you for help or escape and you know not which way is the N on the compass, let alone the road to redemption, you just have to find your way within. I once saw a litter of puppies tumbling down a hill toward the busy road upon which I sped by. There’s was nothing I could do for them, surrounded as I was by semis and fulls – the former, trucks and the latter, idiots. I filed that scene as a short loop that runs in my head and heart for thirty years. I have no idea if the little black bundles of bumptiousness hit road level and found a diverting chain link fence there (I pray so) or if a frightening inevitability ended their lives. I just know that they still live within the Home that is me, just as that cat might live in the lives of its family, or whoever saw its snowy invisibleness now indivisibly rendered in the home within them. Whether we know it or not, there will always be a Home for us, grim, gritty or glorious as it may be, in the memories of others, even strangers. Perhaps someday one of them will remember the shred of me when I passed through their day on the way Home. Theirs or mine, the direction doesn’t really matter. We’re Home.

On Day 27 of my Poem-a-Day quest, a “direction” poem. I saw the prompt and could only think of the line from Dylan…Bob, not Thomas. My taste in poets runs toward Minnesota, not Wales. Now, don’t nit-pick if this is a poem or not. It’s a first-draft expression of something within me. Let’s say it’s a prose poem, just for the sake of giving it an address in these last few days of April. A home on the way to May.

Leaving the Nest

What’s it like to be free,
to no longer feel the weight
of it all upon your shoulders,
not bear so much upon your back
of what you can’t even see?
Is it like a life spent in the sky,
unbound from that which would
bring you down among we
who think we’re un-free?
We are silly sometimes,
wishing we were loosed from
our chains that truss us
to the day-to-day track,
expecting an oncoming train
that may never arrive atop us.
You thought you might be free
when you flew off from your
nest built of broken promises,
and curse-propelled spittle.
But that wasn’t freedom.
That was escape.
And the only escape that makes
us free is the one where
the spirit slips the ties
of You and Them, You and Me,
You and its nest over which
all bid adieu with a quiet “Amen.”

Day 23 of my poem-a-day NaPoWriMo quest. Had to take some time away because all my girls were in one place at once for the holiday. Priorities, y’all.

Astride the Penumbra

In a life spent standing
astride the penumbra,
the margin of light and shadow,
I’ve spent most of my days
braced against the winds
always blowing from the sunrise
toward the sunset.
While counterintuitive,
it’s been the darkness that’s
illuminated my way to tomorrows.
It is a wearying place,
cold and fraught with the hidden
and the injurious. And yet,
I’ve come to know it as I would
rising from bed and finding
my way around this room at 2:00 AM.
But someday, I hope to see you
again in bright light, standing there
with the sun at your back
and a smile on your face
reflecting the mirror of mine.
Maybe that’s why, each morning
before I stride to my post
on the melding-point penumbra and
glance at my well-worn path
melting into the darkness,
I still hopefully check which way
the winds might be blowing.

Day 20 of my poem-a-day quest. A “dark/darkness” poem. I guess they didn’t know darkness is my metier. Though it’s been more difficult to get to the writing with the Easter holiday and family visiting from out-of-state. Never said I was the perfect host, though. Just a dark one.