I Still See a Face

It seems so stupid,
how that face is still in my thoughts
visiting me more often than even
someone’s idea of a Muse.
And while some might call it
my poetic river’s source,
the thought of it brings
more sorrow than joy.
On my ceiling dark, I lie awake
and see those eyes swing
from glad to sad to mad
(or even angry)
and randomly hopscotch emotions
until my mind surrenders
in exhausted relief.
And so thank you
for your curious lullaby.

Your silence is often the last voice
I hear before the darkness
consumes my consciousness
and my dreamless sleep
provides escape from
the gladness, the sadness,
the madness, that would
drive most other men to
slumbering fantasy,
but prods me toward
the sweet relief of a poet’s
near-sleep breath and breath,
hopeful that even if all those
transgressions are not forgiven,
they may, at least someday,
like that face,
be forgotten.

Turning Back the Pages

The decisions we’ve made
have steered our lives
like some existential
“choose your own adventure” book
with its pages ablaze.
We flip them back in recall
and feel the sting of those
times we chose C instead of
A or B. But what if we hadn’t?
I’d probably still be jamming
my fingers in my mouth,
wincing with the pain
I’d feel about the pain
I caused, scanning
the scorched past through
blackened memories of
times when I thought
my light was bright enough
to decide C sparkled like
the sapphire or obsidian
in those eyes I misread,
too.

Do You Ever?

Do you ever wonder why
I do these things I do?
Those annoying, forgetful,
clumsy, mean-spirited,
endearing, gentle,
memorable, loving things?
I suppose not.
That would mean you’d
have to think about me,
and that’s something
you’d just as soon
not have to do.
No reason to,
no future in it,
don’t care.

I wonder not only
about all my actions,
but also about yours.
Sorry, that’s another thing
you might not think about
that I do. Did you ever?
Will you now? Now that
I’ve brought it up,
like someone saying
don’t think about me.
And so you will.
Add another annoying
act to my tab.
You’re welcome, stranger.

The Forgotten Man

I am the forgotten man,
forgotten by you and you
and, if I’m not mistaken, by you.
(You know who you are.)
But that’s okay. I’ve forgotten
some of you, as well. It’s
something that happens when
we get older and too long hide
behind walls and in our depressions.
I’ve already lost the memory picture
of my grandparents. And recently,
I lost high school, like it’d been
razed and buried with all my memories
in it. I tossed my yearbooks
in the grave with it.
I like my memory of you, though.
I’m sure it’s mistaken and certainly
isn’t the you you are now.
Which is fine. We all change.
Like this morning, I looked
in the mirror and didn’t recognize
that guy staring into the windows
of my soul through this window
of sad truth. I turned off
the light and we each walked away,
as I heard someone say,
“Forget him.”

Fading to White

Photo © Joseph Hesch, 2018

She flies closer from beyond the hill,
gliding through the snowfall
like an animated gray scale,
white to smoke to stone to black.
And once by my window, she alights
upon the the pristine page outside
and before me, a cast-off drop
and this cascade of ink. She flies off
holding some tidbit within the pincers
of her beak, only to hurry back
to bus more off this tablecloth
spread out before her. She’s cleaning up
while I am making a mess right here.
Now the crow’s gone, fading like my memory,
from black to stone to smoke to…

Class of ’70

I’ve lost so much from
when last we met,
chunks of life gone with a
loss of courage and of memory.
Just like last week, when I realized
I’ve lost high school
from the library where I
can pull bushels of useless facts,
yet not four years of proofing
in the fires of adolescence.
Perhaps that’s because
I never did the fire-walk
across the coals of teen desire,
not for fear of getting burnt,
but more for fear of not.

Oh, there are some scars I find
in the corners where my other
secrets lie beneath the dust,
so I know I got close a few times.
But I can’t remember when.
Maybe the scars were from acid
thrown my way by the guys
with asbestos shoes
and courage to burn.
Doesn’t matter now,
since some of them are naught
but someone else’s history
to forget.
Just like mine.

How Do I Say It?

How do I say it,
when words won’t come?
My brain teeters in paralysis,
ready to topple again.
My tongue, always cocked and loaded
with some glib ammunition,
suddenly is a rusted and
dusty artifact, a relic of days
when you would fire me off
just to hear me bang.
How do I say it?
People mouth those words
all the time. It’s simple,
just like ordering coffee
used to be. But I wouldn’t know
an Americano from a Macchiato,
just as I wouldn’t know
Love from Obsession.
How do I say it?
How did I?
Did I?
How?
Oh…