An Air Evergreen

I like to watch the pines
as they breathe in this cold air.
It’s all theirs, it would seem,
since they don’t have to share it
with their broadleaf sisters
for a few more months.
It is of a different vintage
from the vernal, summer, or
even autumnal variety stuff,
what they take in now. It seems
clearer, cleaner, a steelier ether
that tightens their needlework
about them like old letter sweaters.
Enjoy it while you can,
snark the stark maples,
oaks and poplars, standing and shivering
like under-clothed underclothes models.
Meanwhile, the pines pine not.
They just take in meditative breath
after breath, or heave their chests
in bellowing exhalations that smell
of kerosene in the raw and
Christmas pitched until Opening Day.

I’m afraid I may have clear-cut too many metaphors, analogies and the like in this little copse of evergreen reverie. For that (and that last sentence), I apologize. I’m just praying poetry is a sustainable resource in the forest of my life. Fiction? Well, that is a deciduous dilemma right now. Though I’ve scattered some acorns and whirly-seeds that I hope, with patience and gratitude, will take root and prosper.

Prima Ballerina Assoluta

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She’s peeled off her shrug of russet,
just about ready for her
season-long performance
of The Nutcracker.
Anchored firmly in fifth position,
she stretches her bare arms
skyward, perhaps for a demi-détourné.
She’s the only danseuse left
from the corps de ballet that once
swayed and rustled their
crispy tulle in concert with
the West Wind’s orchestrations.
Now she’s the principal,
evergreens complementing her
in her terra cotta-colored costume
as the dawn lights rise above the roofline,
compelling me to applaud with this pencil.
Despite her snow-broken branch
and wrinkled bark, she’s still
prima ballerina assoluta
of the backyard ballet.

Every year, this last oak on the  north boundary of our backyard sheds most of its leaves except for that ring sound its lower limbs. I’ve always called it her tutu, which really stands out when the snow has fallen. She’s dropping her shrug now and we’re supposed to catch some snow tomorrow, but I couldn’t wait to write about her in the dawn light this morning.

Farewell Flight

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The leaves are finally dropping
from the oaks, assisted by
the rain and just enough wind
to yell, “C’mon, already, jump!”
to the tawny holdouts.
Their brothers and sisters
still clinging to the branches
wave goodbye to the soon-to-be
bushels of russet rustlers
who’ve danced across my grass
from one neighbor’s line
to the opposite.
They know it’s goodbye
after learning the leaf life
there on their shelves
of that library oak,
whose counts her years in
in a hundred rings and to whom
this leaf-fall’s nothing more
than another brushing of dust
off her winter coat.

Rainy day observation and photo by your faithful (illustrated) storyteller,
Joseph Hesch © 2016.

Waiting for a Line to Fall

Storm-torn (Photo by Joseph Hesch © 2016)

Storm-torn
(Photo by Joseph Hesch © 2016)

Looking at the wind,
watching it tear summer
from the trees before autumn
may gently pluck them.
I can’t hear it from my window,
only imagine its voice, something
between the ocean’s roar
and the highway’s song.
I’d prefer to think it some
ballet score by Copland,
as the trees dance to it en corps.
Or maybe it would be Lightfoot,
waiting like me for a line
to fall, telling me it was all
a big mistake, because sometimes
words need to be torn from us,
even in our autumns.
I know I’d feel the same
looking at the rain.

A bit of a warmup poem before moving onto today’s story. Decided to take the fifth line from one of my favorite songs and use it as the first line of my poem. The song that came to mind was an old “favourite” from Canadian singer/songwriter legend Gordon Lightfoot, Looking at the Rain. Imagination and creative heartbeats took it from there

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.

In Chorus We Breathe

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Today the wind has sung so well,
trees had no choice but to sway
to its tune and clap their green hands
in a seven-hour standing O.

Whenever I blow, the shrill
or melodious wind that whistles
from my lips doesn’t move the wood
and greenery. It moves me, though.

I can see songs’ unspoken images and,
if I’m lucky, trees responding to me
with feathered leaves launching
on those big gusts.

Winds once rustled my black hair,
before it took on the color of clouds,
now misting these old eyes as breeze,
birds and I in chorus breathe.

Another Day Waiting for an Answer

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The Japanese maple’s leaves flip over
in supplication to the rain gods.
They know their prayers and the
silent cries of the yellowing grass
are heard above, just not listened to.
The tree’s south side rustles
in the teasing breeze like
the crinoline petticoats of
some stripper with
a southern belle gimmick.
Enough to draw attention,
not enough to make it rain.
So we wait, the land and I,
wait to hear tapping on the roof
that isn’t from the woodpecker
who awakened me this morning,
hopeful, then hands turned palms-up,
not in supplication, but in today’s
silent “Why?”

Spoils of War

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The red-brown casualties drip
like blood from the oaken warriors,
who’ve yet to surrender their arms
like the maples and birches did
after the first assault of autumn winds
upon their more colorful breastworks.
The oaks know their shadow-making primacy
grows shorter with each successive march of
a hunchbacked sun from east to west.
It’s my job to collect the dead,
strip the field of their once pliant bodies,
attempting to clear nature’s land
for its winter christening, when she’ll
don a gown of white while the sun
lies in entombed, awaiting resurrection
and the redemption of spring.
Mine is a thankless task that nature
probably fails to appreciate,
which is why she casts more of her
spoils of war behind my back,
ambushing my capitulation to
time and temperature, wind-burned skin,
blistered hands and creaking joints.

Another Poem-a-Day catch-up piece for November 2015. This was one a FAST free write. (Seven minutes?)

Bleeding Time

The leaves started bleeding last night,
with no one there to watch.
This overnight metamorphosis
is as much a mystery as yesterday’s sun,
once so vigorous and sturdy
in that western sky, abruptly deciding
it was time for bed
before even I did.
The leaves started bleeding last night,
the red on the dawn side of those maples
waving a warning that the green time’s
running out, and I wasn’t there,
wasn’t able to stanch
this wound in Time.
That’s because I was bleeding last night,
dripping these red remaining hours
where once my green days ran
vigorous and sturdy toward the eastern sky.
When it was I who decided what time
it was to start my living,
even before Day did.

The Last of His Breed

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Shivering in its snowy shrug,
a version arboreal of
an ermine wrap royal,
the red maple’s lonely hand
grasps its place at the end
of its branch.
You could take that literally,
the brown leaf clutching
the spot where a redbud memorial
will rise and erect a replacement,
come spring.

I prefer to view this
forsaken member of another
of my tree’s ring’s ring of children,
all growing into singular sentinels
armed with chlorophyll and
munching on sunlight to feed
the family and Mother Maple.
He devoutly and proudly
grasps that place as well,
as the last of his breed.

Photo ©2014 by Joseph Hesch