I don’t take much joy in this time of year.
It’s cold and still dark longer than it’s bright.
And trees, bare-ass or muted around here,
are the contrast to a tableaux off-white.
See, there’s little difference ‘tween the sky
and the ground, since the ground sleeps ‘neath the snow.
Tree-limned horizon interrupts the eye,
breaking gray monotony, high to low.
I’m not sure if it’s winter’s curtains drawn,
or my need for warmth that burns up my joy.
Or perhaps it’s those trees, the view they’ve sawn,
spoiling Nature’s symmetry, that annoy.
Typical, a break in dull tedium
would inflame a poet so… medium.
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.
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…
The two feet of snow
the length of December,
and now Winter looks
like Autumn from my window.
The great smoother
of Man’s and Nature’s
jagged angles has ebbed
its way back into the clouds,
leaving reminders of a job
poorly done collecting leaves.
But one can’t expect perfection
when you are, indeed,
And that is the lot
of the lone gardener,
the one who wields
the rake or the pen.
Or so I’m told.
I suppose I could go out
into the cold cold afternoon
to gather the leaves
that came after I put away
my toothy tools, just as
I suppose I could sit here
with a heater at my feet
and rake words into
this biodegradable bag
of free verse. Besides,
there’s no one looking
to collect any leaves
until March. Like no one’s
inside looking at poems.
Last night, I sat and torpidly watched
from my window the advent of deep winter
settle in well before Christmas .
I recall going out with the dog
on nights like this, when
what few sounds you could hear
seemed brittle upon arrival.
It was so still the cadenced report
of our feet on the snow was
something between a crunch and a squeak.
Every breath left the taste of steel
and blood on the back of your throat,
and each “C’mon, Slowpoke,” would
hang in front of your mouth like
sub-zero comic strip dialogue.
The air about you smelled so clean
as it chicaned its way through
the warming chambers lying
behind your frozen face, upon which,
if you cracked a smile,
you might indeed do just that.
Then you’d feel the tug of the leash
as a simple animal felt it necessary
to remind this dreamer that his dreams
were best accomplished under warm blankets
rather than beneath ice-crystal stars,
a haloed moon and a need to freeze
if only just to feel.
A winter day’s free write about winter nights.
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.
Down the hill Winter bleeds unabated,
leaving behind the wounds we couldn’t see.
With all the trees gone I guess we’re fated
to find a pond where a pond shouldn’t be.
The ground’s still frozen ‘neath its epidermis,
so there’s nowhere but down the hill to go.
Up on top is where the earth’s the firmest,
but down here we’ve an inch of melted snow.
It’s nothing new, just how it goes come Spring
or whatever passes for that these days.
Lately you never know what March will bring,
another blizzard or mid-Summer haze.
It could end up the latter or former,
even both, since we’ve made Earth so much warmer.
If you want to argue or troll, find another poet. I’m too old, too sick, too tired and too sad to get in a pissing match about this.
Photo © Joseph Hesch 2019
The hawk traces lazy eights
across the high clouds and distant blue.
You wonder how he keeps warm up there
when it’s single digits down here
on the white blanket ground.
Then a flash of blue stretches
flat waves across the road,
hanging azure bunting on hooks of air.
The jay finishes it’s celebratory decoration,
nailing it to an oak with both feet.
His obsidian-eyed stare declares
he’s still master of this level of the sky.
But a softer shade of blue
catches my eye at the top
of the red maple guarding my lawn.
Upon this bluebird’s chest he wears
a shield of look-at-me vermillion
and he sings in low-pitched triplets
of tu-a-wee tu-a-wee. I don’t speak
bluebird, but I think he’s singing a hymn
about Spring’s waiting like dimes
in the maple’s childlike bud fists
to drop into some March Sunday’s
Photo © Joseph Hesch 2018
You know it’s Winter when
the sky and ground
mirror one another,
and near their middle
the roads, trees and houses
provide the deep-end
You can sit at your window
on a Sunday morning,
squint and nothing changes,
as if the whole scene’s
like a painting by Franz Kline.
Then drop of black
from the upper right corner
drifts through the dark
middle ground to the lower white,
to become a jagged spot
where the white paint flaked off
leaving behind a black canvas.
I know it’s really a crow,
but I’ll hold this squint
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.