The Price We Pay for Light Is Shadow



I don’t wish to be dark, since all 
I want from life is to bring you light.
Light to shine like joy upon you and me.
But I know I can’t hand you a ray 
of sunshine, like a celestial flower,
just as you can’t chase away my dark ennui.
And I don’t know if you’d even accept it 
if I offered. Maybe because you know 
what I know about life and light. 
How whenever each has shone upon us, 
neither of them has come cheaply. 
And nothing’s ever come to us without a fight.
So while I don’t want to bring you more darkness, 
we both know shadow’s the price we pay 
for the gift of light from above.
The shadow light casts when something 
or someone stands between us and some 
someday’s bright shining love.
So I will never stand in the way 
of the light you need and deserve. 
Just as I hope you’ll never block mine. 
For that we must stand side by side, 
letting the light have us full, 
and leaving our lives’ shadows behind.

The Light You Shine for This Blind I



Perhaps it would make you laugh, 
or shake your head and wonder why, 
but no one would be able to see 
these words without the light 
you shine on them. Not even I. 
Even in our darkest times,
I’ve found illumination in your
presence, your soul-light shine 
from over my shoulder.
I tried writing in the dark, 
smearing what felt like 
letters upon the night air. 
But they’d be gone by morning, 
like dreams forgotten when
I’d awaken and find nothing 
but emptiness all about me.
So this is all about you, 
the dawn and noon and sunset glow, 
the land and water and sky,
the he and she and they and them,
that you are to this otherwise blind I.

Your Dark Angel



So many times I’ve wished I could 
just swoop in to lift some of the load 
from your shoulders, helping you rise 
from your knees and see some 
of your prayers have been answered. 
But that’s silly. I can’t hear 
your prayers, though I can feel 
the weight of darkness upon you. 
And God knows I’m no heavenly angel, 
my robes muddy and threadbare, 
my wings not much more than whatever 
I can fold from the paper upon which 
I write these letters to you.
But maybe I can scoop up some 
of your darkness and leave behind 
a kind of light with which you can see 
more than just your shadow out there 
in front of your knees. See those 
softly shaded wings at your shoulders? 
That’s me, your Dark Angel.

Dreaming In Black and White

I did half my work
in a lightless room
where touch reigned
as the primary sense
and smell was a miasma mix
between a morgue and
a cruet of oil and vinegar.
And I reveled in it.

But to get there I stored lives
in a one-eyed jewel box
full of light and imagination,
accompanied by the song
of its mechanical acolyte
mirror kuh-lacking
and the squinting blink
of its shutter shih-flicking.

And in that captured moment,
my view of life disappeared,
blinded with hope and
exposed to everyone but me.
Later in that room of black,
when I revealed my vision
to myself, I never felt
so illuminated.

I remember those days
more often since time’s
blindfolded and muffled me.
Their visions and echoes
glow radiant, as does
this dream portrait of you
I’ve kept in vivid
Black and White.

Gospel of the Golden Hour

In the distance, rain clouds
drop millions of miniature prisms
as they march upon Mechanicville.
But it isn’t the Sunday afternoon
shower catching my attention.
As too little sleep dims my vision,
today closes its solar eye
over the rooftops behind me.
I cast a shadow a furlong eastward,
seemingly reaching for the trees
that glisten as they breathe in
the southwest breeze.
They’ve taken on a flaxen glow,
like a coterie of Fox News bunnies
beaming into their key lights.
They’re fair in the balanced
auric light, a photographer’s dream,
turning them into brilliant beings
of otherworldly luminescence.
The rain’s turned into an inclusive
rainbow spanning the Hudson,
while I turn to the west and
am enlightened, my face taking on
a glowing mask of a rapturous mien.
It’s as if all of us have been touched
by a greater power at this, the Golden Hour.
And that’s Real News.

This was one of those allegedly inspired pieces that drew me out of what I was doing and demanded to be written before it was lost in the darkness. I’m not saying it was a divine inspiration or even one of any importance. The premise/hook/true subject didn’t occur to me until I finished the first draft, which this, for all intent, is. But the trees really did look like a bunch of hyperventilating blondes heaving their bosoms in the glow of the Golden Hour, which seems some sort of blessing for those of us who view such light as a gift from above. And I mean more than 93,000,000 miles above. Photo © Joseph A. Hesch 2016

Thirty-Nine Over A Hundred

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It seems not long ago
when I traded a life
of deep dark for one
in the twilight with you.
These shadows have always
towered over me, just as
I’ve always dragged them.
I just wish I didn’t
shift them onto Us when
You and I became We.
In the dim light, you pled
not to hurt you.
I didn’t, but it seems
I’ve done not much but
hurt since then.
It’s my darkness,
these cursed shadows,
they dim my sight
and I race headlong
into pain, its burden
holding tight against
the light you shine
to cast them away.

The title? Don’t ask, ’cause I ain’t telling’… 
…As if I know.

The Sharp Edge of Day

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Breeze combs out the trees’ bed head,
while maple leaves, catching low
morning sun on their top sides,
bob up and down as if dawn’s light
carries weight in addition to
blinding strength.
Dew refracts the sharp edge of day
into millions of diamonds, tiny gemstones,
precious, yet soft as morning kisses.
A hunger-emboldened rabbit, piston legs
slowly pushing out of the shadows,
finds a twig full of sun-laden leaves,
consuming their light like that cloud
the breeze pushes south to north
will eat the sun’s. But not before
late-hunting owl’s taloned shadow
takes rabbit’s light first.

This piece, persistent as dawn through an east-facing window, broke up a potential nap I really needed today. I can always sleep tomorrow.

Nothing Beats Nothing

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The light must’ve played tricks
with my eyes. But my eyes were
always so gullible when they
wanted to be.

They can spot a phony like a dog
can sniff out an escaped con.
But, with a blink and my mind’s wink,
I could believe you’re there before me.

Or they could believe the lie
when you were. Perhaps that’s why
the dark, so scary in my youth,
emerged my ally as an adult.

In the dark there are no illusionist’s tricks.
There’s just the truth of nothing.
And dark nothing beats dazzling nothing
standing right in front of you.

Didn’t want to write a poem today, but storyteller Joe didn’t wish to play in prose. Maybe, now that this verse-type scab’s torn off, that other kind of story might allow its telling.

Emotional Ecdysiast

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With his five o-‘clock shadow and
jiggling belly, with most of his sense of shame
left in the pocket of a terry cloth robe
hanging just off-stage, the poet once again
danced bare-ass from his bald spot down
lit in the spotlight he personally aimed
from the cheap seats of the Internet.
The voices in his head, the winds
of imagined storms, the reports of cannon,
cracks of a pistol, a baseball bat,
a ten-year-old’s twisted forearm,
they drown out any sounds he might hear
from the invisible audience.

It’s not that the light blinds him to their
existence, or that he closes his eyes
whenever he thumps across the stage
wearing nothing but pasted-on metaphors
and transparent hopes of recognition;
he now only looks within because
he’s already seen what’s out there.
And what’s out there is a mirror
reflecting a mirror, reflecting a mirror,
infinitely trading him for him,
them for them and all for one another.

Tinsmith

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Tinware Desk Lamp, late 1930s, Bandelier National Monument.
Made by a Civilian Conservation Corps tinsmith.
Photo via Wikipedia

The bristles of his broom brushed
the debris of a life from the entrance
to his old house.
Though the mat in the doorway
lay stained, showing years of
his dark tread, scuffed, like
a permanent shadow, you could
still make out a message:
COME.
This is where he entered his apprenticeship,
learning a craft, like that of a tinsmith, transforming
new emotions, base as pieces of cheap metal,
into shining lamps to light this new path,
so others might enter. He hangs each
new piece near his old heart’s door.
The one with a new mat that whispers
COME.

Poem #16 (sorry, life really got in the way) of Poem- (nearly) a -Day NaPoWriMo 2015.