Finally Fallen

There are times I felt
like a leaf fallen from a tree,
blown away from Home,
that place from where
spring my roots.
I’d be chased by this breeze
and that, run in circles
going nowhere, tossed among
other untethered souls
awaiting burial or burning.
But I always hung on,
the sturdy one, gutting out
October, never-minding
November, shaking off
December and its snows.
I’d slip the North Wind’s
noose and start over again.
But now has come the winter
I couldn’t escape,
when I fell without a breath,
captured and held in stasis
by this cold beyond Death,
awaiting some Spring when
I will be released and forgotten
among the other scraps
blown away from Home,
where my roots have lost their hold.
Perhaps the tree will fall
without me there to hold it up.

Photo © Joseph Hesch 2018.

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We All Fall Down

A gentle snow has fallen
since mid afternoon and
I have not watched the snowflakes,
not a one. Haven’t focused on one
and followed its path best I can
to join the millions that rest
on this patch of mine-ness.
They hold no attraction, no sparkle,
nor relevance today. And that’s not me.

But then, nothing gets me excited
these days. My mind is blank
as that new-fallen snow,
my spirit just as flat,
and I’m struggling so hard
just to get from sleep to wake
and then back to sleep,
in a lonely listless drift
with this hole in my hull.

I can’t seem to shake it because
I can’t quite understand it, and
I’ve no power to change it if I did,
save for a list of felonies
I’d need to commit. We should all
laugh at that line, but we never
can be sure if what we’re reading
is truth or the artful lie.
I lie pretty well, some say.

Maybe, if I get dressed and go outside,
I can lie again, this time on that
little patch of mine. I can look
straight up into the falling snow,
illuminated by the Christmas lights.
I’ll try watching my one flake drift
in its downward gyre, helpless,
to this frozen tongue, upon which
millions of words lie too,
in hope of an early spring.

Beyond My Reach

My life’s temple is collapsing,
the figurative version of it
shattered by forces both
within and without,
the actual one sick and weak
and ready to fail.
Life was so much easier,
when I kept it boarded up
like an old house,
its clapboards stripped,
gray, cracked and whistling
as the cold winds blew through.
Back then, you would walk past
and not notice it except
for the birds occasionally
bursting from the attic.
And now the birds are gone,
scattered like leaves in the wake
of the semi truck that just
ran me over, blowing past,
pulling at my chest,
tearing my eyes, these windows
of my decrepit soul that
she opened when first I held her.
And now is beyond my reach.

Maybe I’ll cry tomorrow. But for now, I’m just empty.

What Was Found Above the Lines Has Been Lost Between Them

Aerial photograph of a Bristol F2B fighter aircraft flying above the clouds.

Above the lines you can see the scars etched
into the beauty’s countenance, crisscrossing
ones old and new, some smeared with spoiled
face powder trying to cover the pocks
and failures of old men’s vanity.
But that’s only if you regard them with some
romantic aesthetic you lose all too quickly
as you are assailed by the scream of
the engine in your lap, its heat of no use
in the freezing air and wind in your face,
redolent of burnt petrol and cast-off castor oil.
You dare not wax so poetic that you stare
at billowing, sun-painted clouds as if
they were masterpieces like great Cathedrals,
or as the marble imaginings filling them,
wrought by some absent God’s immortal tools.
No, above the lines’ beauty and cleanliness
are mere primer for a blank canvas, one yet
to be spattered with the black and red blooms
of Archie shells, the yellow tracings of bullets
as they pierce your wings, fuselage, or someone’s son.
You chance a glimpse of the slanting or spiral
chiaroscuro of a funeral pyre in descent,
in a hurry to bury another boy in the box
within in which he tried to stay above all the mud
And blood below, only to be lost between the lines.

Inspired by a picture and conversation shared with my friend, the novelist Julia Robb. These days, I feel so much like one of those young men of the Lafayette Escadrille or the Royal Flying Corps in late 1916/early 1917. I see little beauty in what I’m doing here anymore and feel my time at this is growing as short as my next climb into the cockpit of this desk. 

Sharp Pencils

The gale pushes its way
past doors locked and sealed
with hope and prayer.
But they will not
withstand the cloaked
forces of Nature between
dusk and dawn.
I know that darkness
cannot last longer than
a new sunrise, and storms
eventually give way
to a new bright promise.
If you believe your hopes
securely lock the entrance
to your sacred space,
or that prayers hold fast
the door of your sanctuary,
I can’t say you’re mistaken.
I only know another
dark storm has shattered
the door she opened
in me when first I saw her
open her blue eyes.

I started writing this down as just scribbles while I watched my granddaughter use the freshly sharpened #2s from the circular pencil box on my desk. I had written “Sharp Pencils” at the top of the page because that’s what we were using. Hence the title. She likes the pink gel pen, too. But, c’mon…

Hooks, Lines and Lingers

What used to be scars
are now but traces.
And what traces came
before those,
Time has buried
upon my face.
The marks delineate,
limn and illustrate
where compulsions,
like hooks in my flesh,
drew me to you.
I knew better, but I
couldn’t choose to ignore,
to turn, to run away.
Distance, of years
and circumstance,
dissolved any cords
connecting me to you.
Some hooks linger,
embedded in those lines,
reminders of how easily
I can be caught.
They’re affixed to feelings
I can’t explain, so
I share them here.
They’re no doubt obsessions,
but some call them poems.

Awake in a Flash

It wasn’t lightning nor thunder
that woke me last night.
though I’m certain it was
a flash of something bright.
And I think that’s what
made me sit bolt upright.

So I asked myself
“Could this all be a dream?”
‘Cause at night some things
may not be what they seem,
like seeing the face of an old lover
in the gleam of a high beam.

As I looked ‘round the room
thinking, “Well, now I’m awake,”
that same ache in my chest
started my hands to shake.
Yeah, this latest high beam gleam,
courtesy of that same old heartbreak.