Independence Day

I awoke to the booming thunder,
and a though it was well before dawn,
the room flashed with light like sun-up
even with the bedroom curtains drawn.
I noticed the drumbeat
of rain on the roof,
and even half-asleep
I needed no calendar for proof.
This was no spring shower
I realized with the next flash.
I knew for certain now it had come,
as sure as the accompanying crash
of thunder like a cannon
went off over my head.
And even though you couldn’t sleep
I snuggled comfy in bed.
Such storms with their flashes
lit memories of boyhood so bright,
of when I’d take my pillow and blanket
to the backporch in the night.
and sleep with Nature’s fireworks,
not something pyrotechnically contrived.
Like that school kid, whose Independence Day
had come, I knew Summer had arrived.

My first poem of Summer 2017, I guess. This in response to Annie Fuller’s Writing Outside the Lines prompt for writings inspired by our soon-to-be summer. Forgive me the hideous rhyming. It seems they keep cropping up like ragweed in this old man’s garden of memories.

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The First to Fall

The First to Fall Joseph Hesch © 2016

The First to Fall
Joseph Hesch © 2016

I found the deceased
on my front lawn this morning.
Dropped by a seasonal drive-by,
the flashes and booms just
another night on the mean streets
of southern Saratoga County.
This killer swept by in a whoosh,
a swiftly moving hunter knocking off
the stationary target, instead of
the other way around. Which way’s
more sporting? Not that it matters.
Dead is dead is dead is dead.
That’s how it’ll be in coming months,
when the annual turf war grinds down
its green recruits, and decades-long
veterans of the air unpin
their golden decorations, with
oak leaf clusters.

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Yep, found this fallen airman on my lawn this morning, just like I found Halloween decorations and the first 2016 collector Christmas tree decorations at the Hallmark store last night. Meanwhile, the summer storms continue their west-to-east drive-bys and I’m daily melting like a Creamsicle fallen upon a sizzling sidewalk.

A Star Is Born

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The sun has ascended to
the height of this ironically
apropos Sunday, pouring down
not its graces, but relentless
white beams of heat and staggers
upon we roadside travelers.
Beside me, the cloud-free storm
sifts through the trees in their
summer costumes. The slightest breeze
cues the branches to shimmy,
transforming the blinding spotlight
into kaleidoscopic drops that dance
with the wind on this stage.
From the wings, a fawn wanders
downstage in a costume of
variegated daytime, turning
from understudy to headliner,
now outlined in sparkling grand jeté
upon the green marquee at
the corner of my eye.

Kinda saw this scene while driving this afternoon. However, didn’t hear the new star give her name so it could’ve been Esther Blodgett, Vicki Lester or Mrs. Norman Maine.  Don’t mind my cinematic rambling. The sun and heat have gotten to me.

Straight Down Union Avenue

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They speed up I-87 before dawn, hot hopes and cool beverages in the back of their SUVs, just to get a shady spot at 7:00 AM. Some transport a designer-dudded entourage on a G600 into Albany International from Dubai, or maybe just ol’ Ma, Pa and their millions wing their Citation from the Hamptons into the little strip outside town this morning. But they always come, August after August, and I’ve never understood why.

I am the anomaly, the local who’s never been to the Saratoga Racecourse to see the thoroughbreds run. Back when I worked in The Spa, I drove past the revered track a hundred times, watched the steeds clip-clop across posh, tree-lined, manure-strewn Union Avenue from training on the Oklahoma Track, then kept on driving.

Do I eschew the milling thousands because I hate crowds? Do I stay home in air-conditioning because the sun and heat make me sick? Or am I just too cheap? Not too cheap to bet on the horses, but to lose on them. I don’t know nor care.

I imagine I might — barely — endure the hustle and hassle if someone drove me to the track, feted me with food and drink, then awarded me for my trouble with a little more. Funny thing, though. That itinerary might make me another of you track-goers, but it just as easily could make me another horse. And to both I still say…neigh.

Until I Drop

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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
scavengers.

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.

Stealing Fire on Snyder’s Lake

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On July Fourth at Snyder’s Lake, we would sit in our folding chairs in front of the trailer to watch the big kids and their dads shoot off illegal Roman candles, sparkling fountains and whatever other supernova pyrotechnics they acquired on the black market. Or from Uncle Murray in Myrtle Beach. I’d look at the faces of my brothers and sister as they canted skyward and glowed with the white, red, yellow, blue of whatever ball of Ooh-and-Ahh had just burst above us. Maybe two seconds later, the concussion of the birth and death of that fireball would reach us and we’d blink, a shadow blink of the one from the initial blinding spray of stars. We all had our sparklers going, writing our names in the dark air with the twinkling wire torches of magnesium powder and other chemicals no one cared to know. We just wanted to hold onto the fire, if only for a minute, to be young American demigods who stole the illicit joy the authorities forbade us. Afterwards, if you stepped barefoot on one of the sizzling leftover wires tossed in the grass, well, that was the price you paid for playing Prometheus.

It’s Independence Day, and I almost always think back on this historic date, rather than a lot of the present and almost all the future. On July 4th I muse over our Declaration of Independence from Britain, the ends of the Battle of Gettysburg and Siege of Vicksburg, and how Jefferson and Adams pull the flashiest magic act finales in American history, each checking out of this mortal world on the anniversary of the very day they launched this great nation. It’s also the day we boys would fire off firecrackers and cherry bombs all day and watch the illegal personal firework shows of our neighbors at night on Snyder’s Lake over in Rensselaer County. Happy Independence Day, friends.

Roofies

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On the Colonie Central School roofs, if the heat didn’t get you, the hilariously volatile combination of a barely post-pubescent prefrontal cortex, gushing teenage testosterone and vacuous flexion of maturing muscles might.

I worked a flat-roof replacement gig there one summer. Under the August sun, the viscous-but-no-longer-vicious erstwhile dinosaur I toted in that 40-pound bucket, could cost you dime-sized drops of epidermis if you got sloppy in your work. But to pour the new, you had to remove the old, scraping off post-fossilized roofing of solid tar-encased gravel.

I’d lug its strata to the eaves, where I lobbed it into a rollaway thirty feet below. I always made it a point to remind myself, “let go before you throw,” lest my proximity to summer sun above and all that empty air between me and terra firm below turn me into an 18-year-old Icarus, tarred, feathered, fallen and run out of the Town of Colonie on a gurney, not a rail.

The remuneration for this summer job sucked, but you couldn’t beat the shirt-off-all-day tans we boys carried back to school in September, along with a deeper appreciation of our language’s Anglo-Saxon roots.

I looked like burnished leather, save for those pink polka-dot reminders of why there are professionals who do that work and I’m the soft-handed dude from the literary profession relating my tar black on gravel white impressions of melting away one of my summers as an apprentice roofie.

And today, upon my middle-aged parchment of summer tan, I have the faded periods punctuating this tale to prove it.

Some hot sunny yard work Saturday unearthed the old hydrocarbon-induced erasures on my skin, like someone rubbed lead pencil upon my all-too-mature prefrontal lobe. I decided to write it down and share it before age washes these memories away, like so many others, through the holes in my brain’s now-leaky roof.