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.
Photo ©2018 Joseph Hesch
From a distance, you can’t really see it,
there across that expanse of white.
Maybe from a higher angle like a window seat.
And that’s how I found it,
the smudge of fresh bright red
in a small ragged depression on the snow.
Nowhere near it did I see any footprints,
not coyote, fox or bobcat.
But there in that spot lie inked
the final punctuation of the life sentence
of some mouse or vole.
He did not see the end coming,
especially if it came at night.
Though clouds have cast the entire yard
in their shadows for days and days.
Was it a hungry hawk, whose sharp cry
I heard while I shoveled away
my own mark on the snowscape?
Was it an owl, the silent assassin
whose wings leave no track upon the night air.
Does it matter? No. Not even to
the guest of honor who also was the menu item
at this exclusive dining spot,
table for one, no reservation necessary,
just drop in, takeaway available,
where the table linen is so clean you
can eat off it and the busboys wear midnight
and speak a language like brass nails
scraped on a slate blackboard.
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.
She’s pulled the covers over herself again,
something she’s done to me for many years.
Come to expect this cold shoulder and then
it still hits me like frozen tears.
I stopped hearing her voice as I ran through life,
but maybe I just stopped listening too.
She’d always been there through good times and strife
still is, though ‘neath a sheet I can’t see through.
Now I lie with memory, and memory lied,
viewing our times together in moonbeams.
For weeks she’ll stay silent, as if she died,
not sharing her sparkle, her breath, her dreams.
But, come spring, perhaps we’ll rejoin our souls,
I know ‘neath that sheet my Mohawk still rolls.
I no longer cross the Mohawk River each day, much to my dismay. Sure I don’t miss the crazy commuting traffic. But I miss seeing the sun glisten off her hair, watching how she runs and hides behind that curve on the way to the Cohoes Falls, where she becomes one with the Hudson. She had a poetry and an art that spoke to some piece of me that itself went dormant when, each winter, she pulled her icy covers over her cold shoulders and stayed silent until the ice cracked in March and April. And the poetry came back.
Oh, and Tanontatátie is one of the names the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk people) called their river.
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.