By Joseph Hesch
I painted my name on a bridge today.
Tagging, the kids and cops call it.
It’s a young person’s game that
guys of fifty-something years
probably should not do.
And they definitely shouldn’t be caught doing.
Not that the aforementioned cops
wouldn’t have an easy time netting
an old dude gripping the outside of an overpass
and his breath
with one hand and exhaling urban art
out a can of spray paint in the other.
I painted my “Jo-Ho wAs heRe” in red and yellow,
not because they’re my gang colors, but
because black, white and gray are what my life
has become – the stuff of row upon row of
blurry obituary gravestones on a newsprint field.
The Great, Mediocre or Poor American novel
never sprung from my mind and fingers, nor did
anything else of note or semi-permanence.
So I decided to autograph the bridge where
each day for fifteen years I’ve rat-raced past
“Bobby & Lou ’72.”
Thirty-eight years of notoriety seems
like a lifetime -- and an instant -- to a guy
who life tagged in black and white and gray
too long ago. Yeah,
and I willingly held its hand and
slipped it the cans.Tag, Life, now I’m IT.
The first line of "Tagged" came to me one morning on my commute to Albany. It's the first line of one of my favorite songs by my favorite band, Over the Rhine. The line banged around in my head as a "what-would-it-be-like" idea and I just ran with it, listening to its vacuum sucking up dust and sensation around my brain. (While I should have been doing the straight job, I must confess.)
The poem happened pretty quickly, as most do. I liked it right away, as most don't, and submitted it to Boston Literary Magazine, whose editor, Robin Stratton, selected it for publication in the Spring 2010 issue.
As I said, I liked the concept and that line, so I used them as the first sentence and theme of a short story. As a writer, I don't waste anything! Wonder of wonders, the story "Tagged" was selected for publication as well, this time by Foliate Oak Magazine.
On May 2, 2011, I came home to find a manila envelope in the mail from Foliate Oak. Inside was the publication, "The Best of Foliate Oak - 2011." In that publication was the story "Tagged." So, in honor of the little line that could, I give you "Tagged."