Tuesday, May 3, 2011


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."


  1. The image here is hilarious by the way. I don't know whether to laugh or cry about the disconnect between an artist's need to communicate and the audience's need to not listen, so possibly a little of both are in order.

    Excellent! :D

  2. love it joe - yes - spray paint your name in all colors of the rainbow on all the bridges and walls in all cities of the world...i'm going to grab a spray can and join you...congrats on the publication as well..

  3. Joe, you always offer us amazing works, without fail. I am so sorry I've not been commenting as much as I like...but I've been sneaking reads! :) This is another piece that screams your wealth of talent so colorfully...and I can not help but smile at the image that has sprayed from your can :) Wonderful, living, breathing, life filled piece that leaps away from the black white and greys! Bravo, poet friend!

  4. I really enjoyed reading this. I too have driven past a similarly tagged railroad overpass for years. the tagged couple long gone & mostly forgotten except for their names still emblazoned overhead. I can also relate to wanting to break free from the set confines and expectations of a "50 something" and be spontaneous. Thanks for sharing this reminder that it is okay sometimes to break that mold and not act our age! Nice piece.

  5. nicely spun joe...what will we leave behind, only a name on a bridge...will anyone really read or care...i think so maybe in our verse...maybe...

  6. Great introspective poem ! Reminds me of the time I wrote inside this cave: OSAMA WUZ HERE.

  7. as you say your poem happened pretty quickly, most do...oh, how i envy you...i love poetry and without it i fear our lives will surely crumble...maybe it's when one doesn't try so hard...they let words flow and go and the magic just happens...but it surely happened in your poem and congratulations on your success with your publications...great write...

  8. loved it ! loved the poem the concept and the feeling of some kind of achievement in such a lawless act thanks for sharing

  9. The visual of you gripping the overpass with one hand and spray painting with the other is at once hilarious and inspiring. What a wonderful write.

  10. well done Joe...sometimes as we age, we need that boost of irrational youthful action (or simply to imagine doing it)...to remind us that we are so much more than the black white and gray columns...neatly boxed in...we are still full of color and passion!

  11. Great poem, Joe. What impresses me most is how much of the speaker's life it covers. While it comes full circle with the tag, the entirety spans aspirations, realities, and the ever-present inclination to not give up in making one's mark on the world in a rebellious, personal way.

  12. Loved the visual you give the reader in the poem
    hanging on trying to tag the bridge

    Joe this is Worth a "tagging" celebration
    How exciting and Tag away

    moonie smiles

  13. This poem really captures how it feels to spend your life doing things that you do not want to do and to finally break free. Good work!

  14. This made me smile. And it made me want to follow my 'what if...' scenarios into a poem or two!

  15. this was a wonderful read. thank you for sharing :)

  16. Amazing image - a wrinklie tagging - I loved this. The first line grabbed me and I had to read to the defiant end.

  17. I found this such a hopeful piece... that the speaker would still seek a spark and act on it, thus coloring his life away from monotony. Beautifully said. Congrats on getting recognized for this! :)

  18. This has an honest authenticity which I found instantly engaging. You have a very distinctive voice here and I enjoyed the sentiments, so brilliantly expressed.

  19. Loved this the first time I read it, and second time round even more. It's unique and so accessible - an easy read but not an easy write I'm sure.

    19 comments? Who you paying??? :-)



  20. Very visual. Could really feel the grayness of his life. Makes me hope his adventure inspired him to live life in color.

  21. That's beautiful and inspiring!
    Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed the visit. :)

  22. It bears the stamp of truth, which adds impact...

  23. Thanks for linking this up to the graffiti feature - was brilliant and fun to read... I enjoyed it a lot!

  24. Very thought provoking and introspective. Means more each time I read it. Grat write,

  25. Joe...this one gets better and better everytime I fall into into it! Still smiling at the thought! :) (Sorry, but the imagae REALLY sticks!)

  26. I enjoyed this poem a lot. I'm a graffiti art fan. We all want to leave our mark in some way.

  27. Great way to live on. I enjoyed images of you tagging in your poem.