Remember those days when we dreamt solitude in the midst of our daily chaos would be such a gift? Now we know it was all just a dream. In our own ways, we were always alone. And always crushed by the crowd. You, fighting your way past that throng of voices never giving you solitude, and I, lone as that looping hawk, writing everyone’s life and death stories on the clouds, ever searching for the shadow of my desire to trigger another dive at that dreamy silhouette. As I got closer, though, I always found it was mine… alone...all along.
The AC whirs its chilling song —
no melody, but cool nonetheless.
A look out my window shows
no squirrels, rabbits, nor crows
doing their jobs in a noon heat
so “August” the driveway weeps tar.
But the empty trash bins beckon,
gape-mouthed, their lids hanging
like a dog’s tongue would,
if someone was so mean as to
leave their pup at the foot
of my driveway.
And so I step into the embrace
of the tenth day of the eighth month
of the Year of Our Lord 2020.
With only a slight gasp, I sink into
its warm hug, which I’ve needed
since January, when the world went mad,
that monotonal song was hummed by
the furnace and the wise crows
sometimes punctuated the yard
like a spray of commas in one
of these run-on sentences.
I stand at the driveway’s end
and notice a hawk drop his shadow
onto the road, searching in circles
for another shadow he won’t find
because only a man would do
his job in this heat in which
I whistle a one-note song while I roll
the bin up the driveway and
go back inside, pausing
for a second to tell him
The tactile memories have
flown with the winds of time,
carried on the dust
of crumbled happiness.
Would you recognize the voice
if it echoed back, back, back
to your age-muffled ears?
Would you attest, “Yes, that’s
the one,” should they approach
through these dark dreamy mists?
Probably not, since all you recall
are feelings, emotional placeholders,
little more than silhouettes
of erstwhile three dimensional,
So why do you hold onto
these faded portraits
of the never-really was?
Perhaps it’s because you hope
someone’s sifting through the dust
of shadow-thin memories of You,
and wondering, too.
Robins chase and spar
on the new-mown grass,
whether for sustenance
or sex doesn’t matter.
It’s just the way of their world.
Meanwhile, a hawk glides
on thermal waves
a-way up in cloud-washed skies.
His reason is more evident,
as his eyes scan
the flat green palette below
for any small moving shadow.
As his own shadow crosses over
the robins’ field of honor,
they scatter with mad flapping
and low trajectory
for the maples and pines,
since you can’t eat
nor procreate once you’ve become
in the belly of a red-tail.
Meanwhile, I sit and
watch it all, wondering
when my old instincts will return.
The ones that feed my soul,
express the intimate
of this Me-You relationship,
and helps me soar above
this pale gray palette
where shadows of stories are
all I have left of the Me
who also once took wing.
A stream-of-consciousness run of what I see outside my window and inside myself these days. The Way of the World is hard, no matter if you’re an air-coursing avian or an empty-headed mammal with a crumbling body and crumpled soul. The latter gained a little altitude during this flight of fancy.
In a life spent standing
astride the penumbra,
the margin of light and shadow,
I’ve spent most of my days
braced against the winds
always blowing from the sunrise
toward the sunset.
it’s been the darkness that’s
illuminated my way to tomorrows.
It is a wearying place,
cold and fraught with the hidden
and the injurious. And yet,
I’ve come to know it as I would
rising from bed and finding
my way around this room at 2:00 AM.
But someday, I hope to see you
again in bright light, standing there
with the sun at your back
and a smile on your face
reflecting the mirror of mine.
Maybe that’s why, each morning
before I stride to my post
on the melding-point penumbra and
glance at my well-worn path
melting into the darkness,
I still hopefully check which way
the winds might be blowing.
Day 20 of my poem-a-day quest. A “dark/darkness” poem. I guess they didn’t know darkness is my metier. Though it’s been more difficult to get to the writing with the Easter holiday and family visiting from out-of-state. Never said I was the perfect host, though. Just a dark one.
In Jack London’s The Star Rover,
the warden at San Quentin
wraps a man serving life for murder
in a cocoon of canvas, The Jacket,
to break his rebellious spirit.
How many times have you (or I)
felt crushed within the constraints
of our Jackets, the class, gender,
race, religion, duties and all the
turns of the fabric of our lives?
Do you, too, lie in the darkness
of your nightly solitary confinement,
alone in this prison full of souls,
and dream the What If or
the If Only of your one life?
The prisoner withstands his torture
by entering a trance state,
in which he experiences portions
of his past lives.
Last night, I shed my shroud
of Here and Now, reliving the day
I fought the British on Lake Erie,
only to lose that life in the blast
of a 24-pounder hit amidships.
It was then I wondered,
“In which life do I sail now?
Which will I see of yesterday.
Or will it be a million tomorrows?”
Perhaps we’ll meet again in one,
slipping the bonds of our
unforgiving jailer minds.
I’ll bake files within
these cakes I write you.
All you need is to take a bite.
It never really goes away like rain,
though some folks have equated it with clouds.
Some might call it a never-ending pain,
but that’s like comparing throngs to crowds.
Others equate it to that color there,
the primary between purples and greens.
Though it’s tones can reach from the open air
to the deep indigos of brand new jeans.
It’s that tonal range where I’m mostly found,
though sometimes I break through to the bright.
I’ve swum like hell to keep from being drowned
in these deep darks, then get too tired to fight.
I’ve sunk again. Life’s colored like this bruise
from the fight of always having these blues.
“Been staring into that dark so long now everything’s moving. When’s sunup?” Cleve Bentley said, turning away from the clearing east of Beargrass Creek.
“S’posed to be a while ago,” said his partner, Israel Keene.
“Then where’s the sun?” Cleve said
“Damned if I know, but keep watching that tree line. Shawnee’ll be coming first light.”
“If there is any. That old hag Ben killed said we’d never see sunrise. She was just tryin’ to scare us, right?”
“She was’,” Israel said.
“Well, Ben sure ain’t gonna see it. I turned around and he was gone.”
“They probably saw the old lady’s hair on his belt and knew he was the one killed her. I’d’a killed him, too.”
“Israel, something is happening out there,” Cleve said.
“Damn, maybe they ain’t waiting.”
“I see one!”
“Settle down. I’ll move around and…”
But Cleve’s rifle flared and spit a slug at the approaching form.
“I got him,” Cleve shouted. “Gotta make sure he’s dead.”
”Wait!” Israel said, but Cleve had already crept away to where he thought he saw someone seconds before.
“Oh Christ! It’s Ben. I gone and killed…” Cleve said just before arrows pierced his ribs.
“Cleve?” Israel whispered. Two bodies lay outlined in something like a promise of day as the moon’s shadow began edging away from the sun.
A Shawnee man also emerged from the new shadows, ensuring his grandmother’s predictions — of an eclipse and the white mens’ fate — with a blow from his warclub.
Sunrise finally had come.
Here’s a 250-word flash fiction piece I wrote for Siobhan Muir’s weekly Thursday Threads feature. I felt the need to do a new story from my old genre, frontier and western. Had to use the phrase “something is happening.” So I envisioned this scene in 1770s Kentucky. It needs a hell of a lot more character depth, setting description and, oh I don’t know, a plot? But I wrote it, which is a big deal for me these days.
Have you every noticed,
while others marveled
at the brightness
of the afternoon sun,
we were the ones
pointing out how dark
it made our shadows.
We were the ones
who talked and talked,
sharing so much,
giving so little,
caring not enough
and too much.
We were the ones who held
one another’s secrets,
even after some escaped
our pieces of night
into the light. Look,
how dark the shadows
A pity how our garden
never bloomed, but
such an inevitability
shouldn’t surprise us.
You blinded me
with your light
and you said mine
hurt your eyes.
The daylight times feel
so short now, and sleep
holds never more than
a handful of hours.
Life runs away like that
for the old man whose spirit
sees no age in him,
but whose body stabs him
to wakefulness along
the dark trail to morning.
It drops him without warning
into a drowsy torpor while
daylight, who knew him
so well, still calls
from the window
to come out and play.
He ponders where the
remaining shards of each day go,
as if they’re hiding in the pocket
of some thief of latter days.
He realizes no one stole
these missing heartbeats,
these warm knowing gazes,
these potential walks and talks,
these stories left untold.
He’s the one who lost them
to another sunset and he’s
the only one who can steal them
back from each new dawn,
if he’d let his ageless self
rise and seize this day.
Photo © Joseph Hesch 2017