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…
It’s been four days
since the storm left
it’s two feet planted firmly
over the property,
standing there on the roof
and straddling the road.
And during that time,
it lost its serene demeanor,
aging with wrinkles, scars
and the spots that time
will paint on your skin.
But she who ordered the storm
to leave a guard on this realm
until told to stand down,
that is until the coming March,
has sent in a bit of reinforcement.
Silently, the new minion
fills the gaps in the line
left by a few days where
the sun made its counterattack.
And now, with two inches of reserves
softening the uglies
that follow an early snow,
all’s quiet on the northern front.
At least until, I’d suspect,
some ranks of sun and rain
make this army of white
run down my roof
for the storm drains.
I can wait until
This study in gray and white – the poem, not necessarily the photo – is the winter view I have from my writing desk in the basement – my Lair. It’s just a gray wooden shed with some pines and maples holding up the sky behind it. But when the snow decides to fall, it becomes something magical, where the dull and plain become something to write about. At least to me.
It’s been a light,
excuse-me snow fallen all morning.
The kind you may not notice
if you look out the window
through these sheer white curtains,
because that’s what’s happening
But after a couple of hours
or so, your upstate New York
genetic wiring kicks in
and you part the curtains
to see what you’ll need to
shovel away as soon as
“Excuse me. Don’t get up”
“It’s been nice, see ya.”
It’s still snowing,
and Winter’s great eraser
has softened most of
the jagged debris left
by the plows from the last snow,
like Nature’s own Photoshop app.
Even the stains the dog next door
left to certify my driveway
is really his, have disappeared
behind today’s gentle white curtains.
It’s time to close the sheers
and let Nature take her course,
or teach it,
because snow is always better
seen and not yet herded
into Man’s gray boundaries.
Of course, that’s only if you can
just watch it from a poet’s perch,
where everything looks smooth
and clean as this paper
before I buried it under
flurries of worries about things
that can feel big as all Winter
and small as a snowflake.
Photo © Joseph Hesch, 2011
The day opened with so much
of my little world wearing
a white gesso, waiting
for men to paint their marks
upon the pristine scene.
With the huff of their grunts
hanging frozen in the air
if only for a second,
with the chuff of their shovels
opening a wrinkle in the unsullied,
with their blowers snorting smoke
and throwing the fallen pieces
back toward the gray sky,
only to see them descend again
as Nature, with great gravity,
laughs at their puny efforts.
Then along come the plows,
with their dead, unblinking eyes
lighting the way, to gouge the skin of winter,
wide channels of black and brown,
made worse by throwing salt into its wounds.
But out back, no shovel,
nor agent of man’s need
to improve Nature by sullying
its beauty, has left its scar.
It’s too cold even for the deer
to place their punctuation
on the virgin page.
Perhaps tomorrow, the crows will be
the first to write Nature’s script
as they drop in twos upon the snow,
quotation marks for the Winter artist
who prefers to paint in one color,
whistle and hum a tuneless tune,
and speak loud without saying a word.
The late November snow,
its gesso spread confidently,
had designs on December,
to make it out past Black Friday
or even Cyber Monday.
But this year rains came
and picked it away
like my brothers would
a leftover turkey carcass.
The crows didn’t mind that at all,
noted pickers that they are,
and in fact reveled
in those muddy wounds upon
the momentarily forgotten grass.
The cars wear their patinas
of salty schmutz, a pasty
dry-rub instead of a brining,
as their drivers sit in jams
with tired eyes, like they’ve
shopped all night on that old
But what’s that I see
upon my windshield fallen?
A white crystal unlike
its next and next and next,
each a unique hex and hex and hex.
And so it is, the snow’s returned,
nature like a cook with no plan.
The forecaster never saw it coming,
in fact this crap weather he spurned,
a turkey basted in climate change.
The town’s turned all white
with the first December snow —
Useless to fight, I know
I awoke to find
the ground wrapped in swaddling clothes —
Snowy rind. Red nose
the backyard an empty page —
Snow in my boot – rage
Christmas weeks away,
the new tree arrayed with lights —
I pray. Fam’ly fights
Santa doesn’t come,
to some kids in my old ‘hood —
Bum, they were e’en good
What if ol’ Christmas
didn’t come around one year?
Bad business, I fear
Shoveled all morning
and now my back’s all janky.
Warning! I’m cranky!
Because of my current creative speed-bumps, I thought I’d go back to the start of it all for Poet Joe–haiku. Of course, knowing me, you’d expect at least a little wrinkle. Yeah, I tried to rhyme the first two lines within the five measly syllables of the final line. Mission (sorta) accomplished.
So small is each worker,
yet so united in communion,
that they cloud my view
of what their force builds.
It’s their lot in my back lot
to shape a scape as placid as
a pearl’s face, with whom
even selfish moon feels compelled
to wed it’s center-stage light
in the blackest February night.
But this congregational effort
to absolve the dark transgressions
and from chill gray winter
will only stand as a tent village,
a home temporary as a sinner’s promise,
for these crystallized raindrops
set to ascend back north
when the river ice cries out
and floats south to the sea.
On this Sunday, the frozen souls
will whisper prayerfully
from matins to vespers
in vestments so chaste,
as the soles of sinful men
sully this pristine place of worship,
this mausoleum where they await
the rapture of equinox crawling
beneath the southeastern horizon
toward earth’s resurrection.
It’s not that I wish
my creaky old bones
could still maneuver
a shovel full of snow
like a martial arts master
slicing the chrysanthemum air
with fancy sword or spear.
I’d be quite content never
again to clear pathways of
the imperialist white interloper
overtaking my home.
But the spray of snow
from the spout of a blower
carving egress from
my fevered cabin
sometimes entrances me
like watching the flowing silk
streaming from the ends
of those blades swung in
harmonious soft and hard
by Righteous and
I’ve believe I’ve been
cooped up here too long.
Deer bracing for another blizzard (Photo credit: Garen M.)
It’s so cold you can feel the fabric of your pants stiffen around your legs when you tip-toe-slide on the ice from the front door to your car. It sits there shivering and panting steamy like an exhausted asthmatic who’s just finished a 400-meter dash on this below-zero morning.
You grunt your manly huff, grasp the door handle and break the grip of new ice that wants to lock you out of both your house and your ride, while your keys sway and sweat condensation in the ignition. With two cracks–of door and spine–you stiffly fold into the seat, trying not to sigh a blindfold spot onto the windshield at the thought of struggling through another upstate winter, braving the cold drive from one warm place to another for three months.
At the end of the road, while you wait to turn onto the slick roadway, you notice how different the roots look across the way in the sun-dappled sugar bush down by the stream. That’s when you notice three of the maples’ bases turn and stare at you, stand on spindly legs to bound across the road from their snow beds, and wave white mittens on their way deeper into the long, frozen shadows, where everywhere is cold to cold with freezing in-between.
For a second you feel a rush of heat upon your cheeks, a shiver up and down your spine. You adjust the defroster and lose your train of thought as a fourth deer joins her comrades in a different kind of morning commute. With a shrug, you hear the radio voice warn of six more inches tomorrow and figure it could always be worse.
Snowflakes on my tongue (Photo credit: giraffe_756)
I fear this winter may have ended
and I never consciously captured
on my tongue the essence of its fruit,
the falling snow. Oh, I caught several
windblown facefuls of snowblower mush,
but they taste of two-stroke engine exhaust
and anger. Pure snow, the glistening,
diaphonous jewels that have yet become
a ground-bound part of the landscape
such as I, taste like perfect nothing.
They’re as blank of flavor as they’re
empty of color, their nothingness melting
to shapeless memory in your mouth.
Maybe snow tastes like poetry, though.
Each poem a one-of-a-kind piece
of icy flotsam floating from cloudy thought;
each frozen notion full of facets and edges
only visible by our intimate inspection.
We catch them upon our tongues, they melt
and become part of us in that moment.