Dawn, Feb. 11, 2017

You stir, cough, roll over and peek one-eyed at the clock signaling in garish mini-sunrise that it’s 6:30 AM. Kicking off the covers, you swing to face the wall while your feet search for slippers hidden in the coolness of your bed’s shadow. Scuffs beneath your feet, you shuffle to the window and pull back the curtain just a crack to see the consequences executed by the overnight snow. Eyes blink their reconciliation with the alarming alchemy cosmically metamorphosing the black-smudge base metal of yesterday into the platinum of a new day. Wedding cake duplexes and cupcake SUVs suspended from the clouds by steamy exhalations surround the cul de sac as gray dawn doesn’t so much rise as just happen. Crows calling in cacophonous amity, scratch away the comforting blanket of bedroom quiet. Four inches? Six inches? Does it matter? You still ache from pushing aside Thursday’s storm, so what’s to come when you eventually step into the subarctic day is just another pile of potential, frozen and tossed upon your front step like a million Sunday papers. You crack your back, grab some socks and head downstairs. Weekend’s come and it still feels like Thursday.

Welcome to my shivering, shoveling, sleep-deprived world. And I count myself lucky to be here in it.



They each hold their positions
of conscious unconsciousness.
One on her side, her back, her side,
gently rolling in a sea of slumber
only a child floats upon.
The other, in his soft chair,
head back, closed eyelids a’twitch,
whispering the tender tuneN
of the chain saw’s lullaby.
The house is quiet, save for
the call and response of
the gentle snores of toddler,
grandparent and furnace,
all keeping harmony with
the breathing of nearby homes,
each suspended from the dreamy
winter afternoon sky by tendrils
of exhalation from their chimneys
swaying in the breeze
like a nursery of cradles.

Any similarities between this scene and mine and my granddaughter’s afternoon here in cold and sleepy upstate New York are completely coincidental. Yeah…sure.

Fresh Canvas

Unblemished and waiting  © Joseph Hesch, 2011

Unblemished and waiting
© Joseph Hesch, 2011

When which is sky
and which is ground
can only be determined
by the faint horizon
of trees and houses,
you know winter’s taken
its broad brush to the world.
While fresh on the canvas
of the neighborhood’s
dormant grass or
the dark driveways and rooftops,
the snow is a frosty gesso
waiting for the artists
to scribe their marks.
Out front, homeowners scrape
black lines of tire tracks,
swaths of plowed driveways
and shoveled walks in their
gallery of suburban Mondrians.
But out back, the furry natives
leave their tiny glyphs
telling histories before
written history and
the trees shake a new coating
of white upon which to write
the next chapter with each gust
from the northwest.

Turf War


Slow Crow #1, © Joseph Hesch 2016

With the measured arrogance
of a tinpot dictator,
the obsidian autocrat
struts across my lawn
as if it’s his.
He drives his saber-sharp beak
into the near-frozen turf and
shakes it free with millennia
of hard-wired insouciance.
Whatever tidbit he’s plucked
from my front lawn will have to do,
since he’s cleared the larder
that once was my backyard.
With unhurried flaps and
scolding rasp he escapes
up into the maple after I rap
upon the front window.
Sneering with confidence
he proclaims I might hold
the deed to this property,
but it’s, without question,
his turf.

I shot that photo of a crow aerating my lawn this morning in his self-proclaimed primacy over his tenant farmer — me. This poem I wrote in the ten minutes before lights-out for the night, while I stewed over how right he was.

Off With Their Heads



Clover perjures itself
throughout the yard,
lying from over its length
and width, operating as
grass without a license.
Long-shadowed rabbits browse
amid all my green that isn’t
fescue or Kentucky blue.
Here and there, a pink beacon
peeks mockingly above
the grass line, humiliating
my opposing-thumbed efforts
to keep all this green
some uniform height.
Sundown’s almost here and
those ruminants reappear
in their long shadows like
judges’ robes, pronouncing
sentence on the three-leafed
liars no one ever sowed,
executing them like Sanson,
lopping their toppings
whether royal or revolutionary,
just munched like they were mowed.

Ouch, a first draft that needs a rabbit’s touch just like those clover flowers.

Until I Drop


Crow, insidious in his element. Copyright 2015, J. A. Hesch

The crows stalk the wild
near-subterranean somethings
in the far part of my yard.
Bugs and grubs are their
Beluga and Cristal.
Dressed as they are in flashy
funereal ebony, midday sun’s
proven too much even for
these surface-spelunking

They scrape their voices against
my rain-needy sandpaper soil,
lift off for the shade trees,
and become one with the shadows
until the sun tips over
those leafy tops and day begins
its crawl to crow-wing night.

From the window of this
air-conditioned room, I bury
beneath the sod of my suburban
manliness a green jealousy
of their ways, working my grass
from end to end, front to back,
and never losing a drop of sweat,
or even a minute, to watching me
while I’m out there sweating
until I drop.


Moving to the cul-de-sac,
this city boy already keow there’s
only one way in. Just turn right for
a quarter-mile or so, past kissing-cousin duplexes
cuddling in their allegedly chaste suburban way.
Where the road rises you come upon the ring
of homes where I live, realize your mistake
and drive ’round the grassy circle at its heart
back into the world.

I’ve imagined driving faster and
faster in a fescue-centered orbit
as houses flash by in their glassy-eyed
oh-so-attentive-to-everyone-else’s-lawn way.
It feels like I’m their grade-schooler alone
on the merry go round or another neighbor’s
teen making my first solo in the family SUV.

I wonder if that’s how you reach
escape velocity out of here.
I mean besides driving out that road
you came in on. I guess there are those
idle reveries over a lawn tractor’s front end,
perhaps some multi-cocktail-lubed daydreams
or maybe that long-ago nightmare
come fatally true,

Each could be one of the few ways I can
think of bidding au revoir to where
all kinds of dreams, from American to unmet,
can stop, and drop roll or maybe just
keep on circling in place, going nowhere, really.
But I guess that’s what cul-de-sac means.
It’s just a fancy dead end en francais.

Poem number 30, the last of this year’s Poem-A-Day NaPoWriMo. The call was for a “dead end” poem. Well, I’m dead to this project at the end for another year, even though I tend to write something new every day. Tomorrow, I try my hand at a story each day in May. So hang in there, dear reader. This could get ugly.