Thursday, March 31, 2011

From the Notebook

I just looked in an old notebook of mine. Written right after I got back into writing.  

In July 2007 I wrote:
"The process of writing well--hell writing at all--is hard enough w/o having to make stuff up. That's why I feel fiction is almost all the way up near the top of that literature mountain. That's the one I'm trying to climb that has poetry at its unreachable summit."

Shows you what I know.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Driving the Lines

By Joseph Hesch

It's probably a good way to be killed,
driving along the highway and
letting the stereo's music fade the road,
its yellow, yellow, yellow lines,
into something else.
And then the words start to come,
prompted maybe by lyrics and carried
on a melody of tires strumming asphalt
as much as steel strings on a spruce-topped box.
Monologues, conversations,
arias and lamentations
distractingly pass between us,
the speeding world and me,
like the gashes of sky between the pine trees
that rip past the corners of my eyes.
I absent-mindedly compile lines of words,
strung like all those trucks and cars
in their own sentences
ahead and behind me,
blindly rushing somewhere.
It reminds me of how I recklessly
drive hopes that never happened
and memories that never will.
But that makes me smile,
because, yeah, this is a good way to be killed,
but one hell of better way to live.

Man Versus Machine

By Joseph Hesch

Every morning I enter this workday machine
and it enters me with the scent of
burning electric motors,
like hundreds of toy locomotives.
They carry me up the escalator to
my seat on this train
to nowhere fast.
Where every sight, smell,
feeling of my butt in this chair,
my fingers on the keyboard,
my head to my desk,
is the same as yesterday’s
and will be again tomorrow.
And could be all the other tomorrows.

Can't I change tomorrow?
Maybe I’ll hold my nose and
walk close-eyed up the down escalator,
bumping into and disturbing
their order of things.
Or maybe I should just roll over,
when the alarm rings,
and open my senses to change --
the sight of her breathing,
the scent of her sleeping,
the feel of my skin on hers,
my fingers in her hair,
my head to her pillow --
maybe for what will seem the first time;
maybe forever.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Life, Or So I Hear

By Joseph Hesch

Since the doc unlocked my ears
from decades of solitary confinement,
I've emerged into a world
I forgot existed and
hadn't fully lived in.
Just over the trees,
I discover the distant rolling
of the highway. It's my roiling surf,
shushed now and then by the windblown
prickly pines guarding
this museum of natural history.
The 18-wheel waves crash on and on,
and quieting them must be like
pacifying the Atlantic.
Now I hear the crows,
black commas punctuating fields
and their cawing dialogue
with the songbirds' trills.
A herd of boys hollering a game of soccer
edits those exchanges, deleting
the avian speech and replacing it with
ill-fitting, awkward profanity.
All I've missed because of my deafness
overwhelms me now, like I'm one
of those trapped miners
reborn into the harsh brightness of day.
I wonder if all this time I spent
in the muffling shadows
made me invisible to you and the world
because I couldn't hear it and
couldn't understand you.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Certain, We Believe the Uncertain

By Joseph Hesch

Feed a cold. Starve a fever.
Drown a depression. Smother a lover.
Wax a memory. Shave a lie.
Gild a lily. Strip a tease.
Seize a day. Let go your feelings.
Catch a cold.
Deja your vu.
We've seen it all before
and closed our eyes
to those truths. 
But, beneath our lids, 
we best judge always
the what's what
and who's who
with our hearts,
in darkness kept.
Certain, we believe the uncertain
smoke-limned sensation
and not the mirrored lights
of self in others’ lying eyes.

Friday, March 18, 2011


By Joseph Hesch
Inspired by Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks"

I was sitting there
on the dark end,
away from the windows'
reflections on lives ill-spent,
bookended by open stools,
as well as the day before today
and the night after tomorrow.

Squinting into the icecube
at the bottom of my glass
I see familiar movement behind me,
or maybe it's there in front of me,
all these faces I recognize.
Or maybe just one face multiplied
in the melting moment suspended in my
too-swiftly dwindling spirit.

Perhaps it's another illusion,
a mirage in my desert of time.
I really don't see anything out there
in those near or distant tomorrows
that will make me feel better
about my todays.
That's probably because
I've emptied too many
of my yesterdays.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

When the Last Snow Came

 By Joseph Hesch

When the last snow came,
it caught all of us off-guard,
especially the mourning doves.
The dappled grey couples
sat side by side, wing to wing,
perched silently, sullenly,
in the maple out back,
its red buds aborting blast-off
for another day.
The whisper of falling flakes
was the only voice we heard.
And out against the white background
of soon-to-disappear spring snow,
stood this paragraph without words,
only quotation marks.

A while back I promised one more Winter poem. Yesterday I noticed the maple trees decided to develop their version of adolescent acne on the tips of their branches, so I figured it was time. I wrote this poem a couple of years ago, after once again hanging out in the backyard with Mollie. A soft slop of snow began to fall and every living thing outside tucked their heads between their shoulders and sighed. Including the doves. I sat down that afternoon and recorded my observations and titled it, "___" -- graphically representing two pair of mourning doves on a branch.  Once again, I was being too cryptic by any editor's imaginings.  After changing the title, the poem was published in Wanderings Magazine.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

La Luna Piena

By Joseph Hesch

Last night’s full moon,
resplendent in its frost-haloed glory,
shone like the brightest pearl,
perched on a phosphorescent-ringed
half-shell, like Botticelli’s Venus.
Or maybe like a silver stone
dropped into the
deepest-blue pool, and there
emitting concentric ripples
of gold, turquoise, and pink,
and a light beyond white,
casting shadows so dense
I tripped over one.

This is another poem I submitted to my friend, poet Heather Grace Stewart for the Poets for Tsunami Relief one-week blogzine of poetry on her website Where the Butterflies Go. It's been in the notebook for a while and was inspired by standing out in the yard one clear night with my longtime muse, our Golden Retriever Mollie. Please check out Heather's website and maybe be illuminated by some wonderful poets.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Rising Sunset

By Joseph Hesch

In a land named for a growing celestial light,
It was earth itself that heaved upon it
the sudden shaking darkness.
The wasted land awakened a frightened ocean
that ran crying to its mother,
pushing people further out of reach
of their rising sun, never to see the light again.
Always the darkness can become darker,
and though fear shortens arms,
we must never fear to embrace
even the dusk when we may.

I wrote this poem for my friend, poet Heather Grace Stewart's Poets for Tsunami Relief one-week blogzine of poetry on her website Where the Butterflies Go. She's posting as many poems by her many poet pals from around the world as she can this week on many different themes. Her plan is to offer the reading audience a variety of excellent poetry in hopes that readers will open their minds and hearts to the poems, and to the cause of donating to the relief of people caught in the aftermath of the horrible earthquake and resultant tsunami in Japan. Please check out her website and embrace some light. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Alone in the Dark

By Joseph Hesch

It’s pitch black where I sleep.
I'm okay with it that way, just me,
my breath and the dreams
we create with open eyes,
even though no one’s there
to say they’re not.

It’s lonely where I sleep.
I don’t really like it that way
but those near-sleep dreams
have comforted me for years
even though they can’t hold me
and I have trouble holding them.

Someday, I hope to find a place
to sleep where someone will
hold me and I can close my eyes
and dream the colors I can’t see here
where it’s pitch black and lonely and
closed eyes snuff what little light's left in me.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


By Joseph Hesch

When the wires shed their ice skins,
between midnight and dawn,
it was as if Nature knew
her pretty party was through.
She dropped the gelid husks,
now turned to jewels in the scatter
of headlights and the barroom's neon glare.
Or maybe she just tossed her
empty Corona bottles from on high.

I'm pretty sure we're getting close to the end of rough winter just about everywhere in the US. Up here in the Northeast we've had as much snow and cold as I can remember since I was a youngster (during the Ice Age, you know).  But I believe it's almost over because we're getting more sleet and freezing rain of the type that makes tree limbs and powerlines sag like teenagers' jeans. Once that ice breaks, we get buoyed by those hopes for rainy old April and the green of spring. Wait, did you just hear that crack? I choose to think it wasn't the ice on the Hudson or Mohawk breaking up. I'll make believe it's the sound of a baseball meeting a wooden bat. I remember those, too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lip Service

By Joseph Hesch

Did I smile last night?
It was dark and warm and I was
with you,so there’s a good chance I did. 
But I can’t be sure.
See, my lips are numb from too many years
of frowning and using them for little but
mumbling glib insincerity.
Maybe if I could press them to your lips
you could teach them to shape a smile again. 
A beautiful smile like yours.
And, while they’re there, perhaps
you could help me learn how to use them
to make you smile, too.
So tell me, did I smile?
Because, even if I did, I’m pretty sure
we can make a better one.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hearts and Glowers

“Arrested Creative Development”
By Joseph Hesch

“What the heck is this?”
I heard her shout behind me, shattering
the silent glow of my nascent creative self.
She caught me just as I closed
the right-ventricle point of the heart
I drew with a purple crayon
on the wall in the family room.

“But, Mommy,” four-year old me said,
“don't you think it's pretty?”
She didn’t see the need to make the beige wall
not such a bore
I guess because her life had become
beige, too.

After Mom marched me to my room,
I wiped my nose and 
was glad I never completed
this artistic tribute.
She'll be sorry, I thought.
I never got the chance
to write inside my heart,
in red this time,

It's an unfortunate truth, I've learned from both sides of the story, that overwrought and under-rested parents don’t have the time, patience, or insight to factor their child’s need to make their own mark on life, to begin the growing up by being independently creative. Honest, if this story was true, it was not a case of being a sinner or saint.
It was just me learning to be me.

Friday, March 4, 2011

False Spring

“False Spring”
By Joseph Hesch

The sun is hanging higher, longer
each day, and I am again craving
the warm light of love I feared
lost over the near-death of our winter.

Encouraged by the shining face she
showed me, I ventured into the field,
its winter-woven cover frayed to vapor,
the dry warp of autumn left behind.

Looking into her hazy brilliance,
I shivered in chill despair
and watched her once again run away
from arms that coveted her light and warmth.

Lowering my eyes, I dropped my gaze
to the ground and saw it land, freezing,
on the first thread of vernal weft–
its hope, as mine, stillborn by false spring.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

“Cold Comfort”

Ruddy-faced, the ragged wanderer wraps his
coffee cup and his smoke in one hand.
His other hand he keeps in the
pocket of his third-hand Mets jacket.

Whether he’s grasping something within
or he's just trying to keep it warm
is a mystery.  Chances are 4-to-1
no cash shares those five fingers' holey berth.

Joyous, head high, the urban drifter
throws smiles like sunbeams right into the
faces of these straight-life, shivering souls
with whom he coasts starkly bright morning streets.

Their eyes are up, too, but they focus
past the no one, the nothing, that drifts near them,
seeing instead only the faces in the
steamed-up coffee-shop window.

That’s the one framing the same
familiar frowning reflections as yesterday.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Impatient Harbinger

"Impatient Harbinger"
By Joseph Hesch

It's March 1 and a tiny
crimson pennant flies atop
the evergreen flagpole out back
signaling All-Clear
for Spring to return from
Winter quarters.
I hear a song I recognize
from it's loud chorus:
"something, something,
bweep, bweep, bweep."
Around these parts,
that's the equivalent of sounding
reveille at 3:30 AM.
You're painfully premature,
but I admire your enthusiasm,
little cardinal.
I've been humming that tune
since mid-January.
Sing on.