Under the Frayed Edge of November

The sky grew darker, as if
someone was closing the box on today,
the clouds so gray and cold
you shiver just looking at them
from the window. But that’s how we live,
here on the cusp of December.
Winter’s not quite a month away,
says the calendar. But those of us
who have shaken off the chill,
as well as old November snows,
look at the sky and think the year’s
only as old as it feels.

Today it felt pretty old.

The howling wind blew the slate
cumulo-strato-numb-makers eastward.
And blue, that icy blue that leaves
a halo around the sun before
giving way to the blackness that
canonizes the moon, surrounded
the shreds of steel-wool clouds,
that inevitably cover the sky
like a ragged comforter that’s
put in the inky blanket chest
until next the box opens on a today
so warm.

Photo © 2014 Joseph Hesch

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.

Falling in Waters White

This time it’s for you,
about you, because of you.
You who bumped my skiff
of folded paper into the
heartbeat rapids swirling
and crashing over
unknown emotional rocks.
I who became captive to
the eddies of obsessive stasis,
grip on my oars lost,
forced to paddle my way out
with these ink-stained hands.
The scenery’s still a blur.
Then, because it all
moved so fast in rosy hues past
my infatuation-blinded eyes.
Now, because my memory
fails but for those
too-close instances to
the falls and the too-long
from the thrill of dropping
into certain oblivion.

Not For Naught

I looked up from within my clear,
in-plain-sight brooding spot, Today,
and discovered once again it began with
a different kind of F than Monday.
Another week had passed and once again
my life didn’t matter any more
than last Friday and all the ones before.
Accomplishment, I’d never seen, heard
nor even sniffed. Joy lay on the scale
of few and far between,
carried forward on the backs of Yetis
and others never seen.
I wondered, “Why do I stay here,
why do I even try?” Is there something
wrong with me because I don’t care if I die?

Living’s become just moving from one day
to the next, week trudging after weeks,
until the tap on your heart’s shoulder
comes and a voice like Johnnie Cash’s speaks:
“Brother, it’s closing time.
Forever o’clock, no one here gets a pass.
What is it behind you leave?”
We both look down into my brooding glass,
where once a heart did beat, and see I
left no legacy, nor any name to fete.
Just piles of words I wrote for you
(yes, dear, YOU) that even I forgot.
But if you recognize yourself here when
I’m gone, my living was not for naught.

Ten-minute, before-bed scramble because sometimes I do wonder.

The Bucket List

My time’s growing short here,
with so many things I’ve left hanging.
But when your end-time grows near,
yet your heart’s still banging,
you make time to pull out a pen
to make the list you never wrote
of things you need to do like other men
before your life becomes an obit note.

But when you hit that certain age,
and a certain diagnosis hits you,
such dreams come easily onto a page
of acts never realized, but are now Must-Do.
I made a difference in lives here and there,
took an airplane’s controls in my hands,
wrote poems, stories and books, unaware
they might take me to some foreign lands.

I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon at dawn,
nor Yellowstone’s natural wonders.
I have seen nature in a newborn fawn,
and I realize that this is a list of blunders
I’ve made in not looking up, the world to spy,
to live each day like there’d be no other,
and tried making a better me for you, so I
could’ve enjoyed this life instead of waiting on another.

I Once Loved a Girl

I once loved a girl,
though it could’ve been three,
and she (or they) could
very well have loved me.
But we couldn’t stay close,
or too close is what I stayed.
More than likely we never became We
because one or both of us was afraid
to express the dream within ourselves
and believe we stood a chance
to be more than just friends,
maybe not lovers, but maybe a romance.
So I and this girl,
and maybe the other two, too,
parted with sorrow, though it could’ve
been more “It’s not me, it’s You.”
Now I write poem after poem
here alone in my room,
pondering the “what-if” of us together,
lyrical lamentations of love never to bloom.

Blue on White

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen – Torn Notebook

“Fill your paper with the breathings
of your heart.” ~ William Wordsworth

I’ve hidden some dog-eared
notebooks on the bottoms of
my desk drawers into which
I’ve opened a vein and gushed
the contents of my heart
to you like a mooning teen
would in his spiral-bound journal,
his unrequited sighs tearing
at the pages, making a break
for it over the wire.
Hands smudged bloody with ink,
we each pen our own
Twenty Love Poems
and a Song of Despair
.
The pages pulse with heartfelt
exhalations and exultations
to someone we never could outright
tell how they make our hearts quicken,
criss-crossing white dreamscapes
with blue blood trails.

This week’s first-draft poem in response to Annie Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines Challenge prompt. It’s that quote from William Wordsworth at the top of the poem. It filled my paper with poetic panting in quick order. The short story to go along with the prompt, however, might take a little more time.

Afraid of Being Afraid of the Dark

Here in the darkness, we all look alike.
Yet we fear that which we cannot see.
If we reach out to explore more than
what we hide or hide from,
we might find whatever differences
we sense are actually differences we share.

I wonder what would happen if we conquered
our fears, raised the shades, opened our eyes,
unlocked our doors and allowed a new day
into our rooms. Perhaps we’d discover
it isn’t one another we need fear,
but the darkness within which we cowered,
covers over our heads,
pillows muffling our ears and minds
we kept imprisoned, locked away
by our own intentions.

It’s fear that compels us to conceal
ourselves from the known and unknown,
fears of being hurt in which
we not only hurt ourselves,
but the shadow-shrouded world
we hope would just go away.
My fear is it already has and
now we’re really alone the dark.

It Might Mean All It Might Mean

Still don’t know what Love means,
even after all these years.
When I was a kid, I thought
it was something like devotion,
like I was devoted to my parents.
But it wasn’t really.

As a teen I thought Love was
something like that emotional,
romantic and sexual connection,
that feeling of excitement
you experience when you touch,
or you get lucky enough to
press your flesh against
(or some other preposition)
the object of your affection.

As a father, it was all about
providing for and protecting
those people you’d call my loved ones.
I was never too good at any
of what might be Love, except
what actually could be obsession.

Maybe Love is all those things,
but I still don’t know for sure.
I am sure it’s something close
to what my brown-eyed girl gave me
just about her whole loving life.
But that’s dogs for you.

I took a line from Ray LaMontagne’s song Jolene and Annie Fuller’s prompt photo, closed my eyes and just wrote. The results are iffy, but the experience of discovery is always a blast. You might say I love it.

Joy Like a Red-Flowered Dress

I found this faded old photograph
at the bottom of my desk drawer.
It captures you in a joyful moment,
as you turned and saw me
with my camera. I’m unsure
which of the two made you smile.
When I took this fumbling exposure,
I think you were pregnant,
which might explain your glow,
the red in your cheeks,
the beaming from your eyes.

I think that’s a gift women
take on to illuminate their way
across that threshold to becoming
a mother. It’s the only photo
I have of you radiating your
womanhood like that. I never
took one of the next child and you.
By then, the space between my heart
and mind had grown so vast, I so lost,
your incandescence would be wasted
signaling me through that darkness.

That was the apogee of my journey;
today I’ve swung back closer to
the sun. But time and circumstance
have extinguished anything like
that singular warm glow. Maybe
that’s why I kept this image
when I’ve lost so many others.
It echoes a time never again
will I see, when I was blind
instead of sightless, and you
wore joy like a red-flowered dress
that’ll always fit perfectly.

Took four random words — pregnant, threshold, echo, space — and built this old-school Storyteller/Poet Me first-draft house of sticks in about twenty minutes. For whatever reason, Jackson Browne’s “Fountain of Sorrow” came to mind as I started stacking. It’s better than a house of straw, but I believe a good huff and puff could topple it. So you’d better read it quick, because I feel an editorial sneeze — or hot glowing ember of Delete — coming on.