Going Under

Lately, this same dream comes to me every night. It’s a dream in which I’m treading water in the middle of a vast ocean on a night of the new moon. I rise and fall on the swells of this inky deep that fills the great depression beneath me. I can tell I’ve been in this water a long time because my fingertips are pale prunes and my eyes sting from the tear-like waters that splash my face. Occasionally in my dream, I sense a vessel approaching, but my voice makes not a sound, my words, my cries for help lie stillborn. I am silent, invisible, mere flotsam as far as they can tell. Often, I recognize the passing craft, perhaps as if I launched it myself or I once sailed with it in my younger days of even a great grey ship of the line bearing a USS (insert some President’s name here) on its prow. And as they drift by my silent kicking and stroking that keep my head above the dark void that would consume me, they toss something over the side. I always hope perhaps it’s a life preserver or line with which to haul me free. But it inevitably turns out to be more ballast that snugly tangles around me and smugly seeks to pull me down, down, down below the surface again. Sometimes it succeeds. But I’ve always had sharp teeth and a sense of survival and place to know in which direction to swim for the surface again. Lately, though, I’ve lost my bearings and the weights have dropped upon me all at once in a tangle of knots and cables I can’t seem to chew through. And I’m going down, down, down. The interesting part of all this dream scenario is that I don’t think of the things above, below and all around me in any concrete terms or even ideas. They’re all just vague faces floating around in the darkness that consumes me. It’s all dark clouds, but not in any poetic sense. Almost literally dark clouds is all my brain can conjure. And when I finally find the emotional and intellectual wherewithal to chew on something for a moment, it just gets covered up by all the other things spinning around me. This sounds scary because to me it isn’t scary anymore. It’s nothing. I’ve become nothing along with it. I believe I’ve gone under, disappeared for good this time. I’m alone, and the dark grows darker and I’m exhausted beyond words from the fight, and just as my breath is giving out, I close my eyes and let the nightmare take me. Then, with all hope lost that this dream will ever end, I finally drift off to sleep.

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The Demon’s Face in the Window

I saw another one just yesterday.
Caught him staring in my window
before he could jump into my shadow
to pull me down to levels
even lower than I lie already.
They usually hide in darkness,
stealthy creatures that fill
your well of woes to overflowing
to drown your soul in their inky ichor.
Stealthy, they carry their own shadows,
that can hide comfortably within your own,
like a friend who’s faux, whose open arms
wave empty hands, yet somehow still
heap the ashes of spent heartache
in your eyes when they leave.
So you’re left blind, left groping
in the dark trying to find your way
to some bit of light in what’s become
this life overshadowed
by a cloud of spiritual death.
For a second, a stiff breeze,
like a prayer answered, blew away
the tormenting face in my window,
which really was only four leaves
situated just so. But in the reflection
left in the window, I saw the haggard face,
the downturned lips, the brows broken
over the knee of self-loathing and
the ash-filled eyes of the real demon
who’s ever plagued my life.

Picking Up Our Pieces

You and I can rise after
so great a fall we
leave bookmarks in the earth
for the next chapters
in our history of falls.
Or maybe our last.
But if you gather yourself,
like you’d gather the pieces
of a pitcher knocked off
the highboy, and you hope
you have enough glue –
hell, enough pieces –
you can reassemble a vessel
that’ll hold who you are
and some of what you used to be.
There’s no chance you’ll
look exactly the same,
all those cracks and gaps
left where the pieces
lost used to fit.
Might even sag a little.
But you’ll still be you,
with a chance, and a little help,
to get set back up there
to watch, wobble, gather dust,
leak, or even fall again,
because gravity and life
stand ready to drop us,
where we can just lie there
in pieces or collect ourselves
and rise again.

Picking up the pieces, with a little help.

What We Talk About When We Talk About…

Maybe someday we can shelter out of the heat to talk about this thing that binds people together in the way ropes might, or even transplants, like giving one kidney to another. Yeah, that thing. I can’t describe it in any way by which someone else would understand it as I do (or don’t). Some people like that proximity that comes with being tied together, immobilized yet mobile or freely captive with another, feeling their heat, shivering with their cold, sharing the showers and sunshine as if they wear the same skin. They can construe it as “being together,” I guess. Until someday, somehow they cut those cords. I have seen many people walking around still attached to their walking shadow even after he or she has left them, one way or another. Other people can subsume, with proffered permission, the object of their visceral need after searching so long to find that perfect match, one fraught with the minimum amount of rejection, yet, only with diligent aftercare, most likely to keep them alive. They can live on together even after their partner in this organic life no longer can. Yet still, there is always that spectre of rejection, loss, need. The one thing both of these experiences share is how all involved are irreversibly changed by the experience. Maybe it’s the scars they can display or conceal, maybe even from themselves. Maybe it’s the memories of their partner’s touch, both on and within their skin, a heartbeat they feel even as they lie alone at night. But I’m no expert. I’ve walked this earth carrying a platter full of bite-size pieces of my marrow-rich thirteenth rib, like some faceless butler named Adam at a grand party of the interested and disinterested. Some have idly taken one piece just to wrap it in a napkin and toss it in the potted palm. Others have taken it with thanks and thought, “that’s different,” and moved on to bacon-wrapped shrimp. And for others I’ve placed one on their plates, wrapped in wordy ribbons with which they might secure it to themselves like pins for some needy charity. A couple have actually taken them to heart, but I moved on because this is a big room and a server’s duty calls. What do I know? Maybe this is why someday we might sit somewhere, with a batch of iced libation between us. Maybe it’ll be something different that we talk about when we talk about love.

Now that’s a ponderous bit of prose poem or maybe fictional one-sided conversation, free-written around my morning shower. The inspiration was brought to me when I needed it most and I have no idea from where the results come, but I thank my muse that they did. Unless you know Raymond Carver, you won’t recognize the title, though maybe you recognized it without my coming out and saying the word until right before the final period. Perhaps one day I’ll revise this unspoken “thing” for a more concise, or expansive, dive into the phenomenon that touches and changes us all. I chose purple for this note because it is the perfect mix of blood and the blues, both of which are sluggishly coursing through me right now, so I’ve been unsuccessful in giving you something to think (or talk) about.  Let’s hope my over-the-transom inspirations cut a few more drops from me soon.

When When Is Not a Question

When I thought I stood strong,
you showed how I was brittle.
When I tried to be softer,
you crushed me at my middle.
When I made the effort to listen,
you would not converse.
When I reached out my hand,
you covered your eyes, and what’s worse…
When I opened to you my heart,
you closed yours forever.
When I pondered a way,
you wandered away with, “No, never.”
When I express this, my pain,
you think only of yours.
When I tell you I’m dying,
you ruminate merely on the wars…
When I told you I loved you,
never knowing how much life would be lost,
When I threw those parts of me away,
never caring how much the cost.
When I, some lonely evening,
come visit in your half-sleep,
When I will read my bad poetry,
some might still make you weep.
When I, tonight, take to my bed,
never certain I’ll awaken,
When I try recalling your face,
as so much from my memory’s taken.
When I do this, the good times
with you are so hard to find, that’s
When I remember, I’ve always kept you
in my heart, if not in my mind.

No stories every day or so, I’m afraid. Just more bad poetry, a rhyming disguise for self-examination of heart and mind. I wish I could do better for myself, as well as you, but these times are a struggle that only I can work through. So prepare yourself for more bad verse, which for some time may not get better, only worse. (Oh, lord….!!!) But I’m digging out this debris to find my RESET button. It’s just takes more time than I hoped when you use a pencil for a shovel.

The Scars That Never Stop Hurting

He didn’t know how to make peace with his past. What offering of acceptable remorse exists when the past, in whatever personage or spirit, listens naught and averts its eyes at the mere thought of him? He’d try, “I’m sorry,” but seven letters hanging off-kilter from an apostrophe can get blown sideways and lost in the winds between two people, two different lives from what came before. His mind has lost its edge and quickness since its days of serving up scars even before others knew the sting of his cut. Now his life is not much more than a scar, something to look at and recall all those wounds he administered across his lifetime. So he waits upon his cold chair for that final felling wound. He sighs at how the sword always fell to his pen, but knows the scythe always wins. Perhaps then a peace he still dreams might come will reveal itself before he hears the swoosh of that existential steel. And, if comes too late, he must assume the role a scar on a piece of someone else’s past. But wouldn’t it be grand to hear that voice say, “Would you write me again.”?

A 200-word free written bit of what feels like literary (those probably not literate) confession and self-imposed penance. Hey, you sit down without a shred of inspiration, you can’t expect Shakespeare or Kendrick Lamar. You just hope and expect ‘something’ will appear eventually. Oh, and the new photo, old regrets and ancient scar (I have many more, some of which you can’t see) are all ©Joseph Hesch.

Fallen Upon This Deaf Ear

Fine, you don’t have to talk to me.
Show me the palm of your hand
and push me away. Your message
has always been clearer that way.
If we were to sit side by side,
face to face, I would only misconstrue
whatever flimsy bond of you and me
I could dream actually existing.
But I do long to feel your words
buffeting me like winds, freezing
and teasing, scolding and caressing,
their temperature and velocity
more important than their meaning.
They bump up against me and fall away
so that I must imagine their substance
and insinuation. But to not feel them
at all has left me voiceless,
spitting senseless utterances into a gale
where they become as lost as I am
perched here waiting to sense your meaning
if only you would speak to me once more.
Yes, I am the deaf ear to your words,
and it is I who will fall without them.

I am constantly coming closer to feeling I cannot make these clusters of words have any real meaning anymore. Be they poem or story, they lack the power, beauty and emotion of what I wrote even a couple of years ago, as far as I can tell. Maybe my misery has changed, beaten down by the silence I feel between me and the ones who fueled my creative flame. I would reach out for their words, kind or otherwise, but I’d only drop them before they reached the forge where I’d form them into something solid and shining. So you get rusty ore in this poem based on metaphor, the theme on this 15th day of April upon which I should be writing something better resembling poetry.