Monday, February 28, 2011

Break Time

"Clouds in My Coffee"
By Joseph Hesch 

Around here, the morning haze clears
by 9:00, but comes back around 10:00,
a man-made miasma returns, that is.
From my fifth floor window perch,
I see these fuming creatures
hanging their clouds out in front of
the buildings across the street. 
In breathless summer heat
or brutal, breezy winter freeze,
they huddle together,
like business-dressed bums
around a fire in an invisible 60-gallon drum,
cigarettes smoking away.
And I shake my head in arrogant pity
at these poor addicted souls,
these weak-willed smoke suckers,
as I sip from my fifth cup of coffee
since 7:00 this morning.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


By Joseph Hesch

I dreamed we faced each other
through the glass partition, labeled
“Do Not Touch”
in a prison visitors room.
Odd, I’m never sure which of us
is the prisoner.
At first, we peered at one another
aslant, carefully.

And there, mirrored on our own sides
of the glass,
we each saw ourselves reflected,
overlaying the other's image.
We were sometimes attracted
sometimes frightened
at how the other resembled ourselves
from our false angle,
in our captured light.

But, as we’ve moved
closer to one another,
I’ve come to see the
imperfect, frightened,
unreflected you.
And I wasn't afraid anymore.

In last night's dream, you closed
your eyes and drew a breath
to tentatively extend
your hand to me.
Pressing my palm to the partition,
I’ve tried reaching you,
but couldn’t.

Somehow—a promise—
we'll break down this barrier,
No, not to touch one another,
but to be touched.

What do we see when we look at one another?  Are we really seeing?  What keeps us apart?  Are our impressions of one another real?  What about the barriers between us? Do we really want to know the answers to these questions? And, if they were answered, what would we do then?  Really?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Into and Out of the Darkness

"The New Path"
By Joseph Hesch

My recognition of the shortness of life
my absence from what life could have been
prodded me on this new path

Before that
I kept it hidden
with real and imagined memories
in a niche
on the dark side of my heart

A little votive in there
helped me find it
when I turned the corner of
my stiffened left ventricle

In our inaugural post, we explained the how and why of setting off on this second-chance journey to a literary life. But we never attempted to write that story in verse…until today.  Sometimes, in order to find the light in our lives, we need to go through the dark.  I can see the light now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Adrift on Social Seas

By Joseph Hesch

They told me if I was going
To make it from this island, 
I would have to venture 
offshore as they did, 
into the sea 
where artists must become mariners. 

It's deep and vast and foggy
out here,
and you can't tell if the other
wayfarers are pleasure craft or pirates.
A dinghy could come off as a racing sloop,
a canoe as an aircraft carrier.
a corsair's galleon seem a bass boat. 
We could pass each other,
in the misty mythic day or night,
not knowing the other was there
or maybe not even caring,
though we should, sharing 
these winds and seas as we are,
a community of solitary sailers.

If I dropped away, just sank 
beneath this sea of zeros and ones,
leaving behind naught but
a slick of tweets, a wake of follows, 
would any of the other vessels 
In this fleeting fleet even know?
Would they even care?
It's becoming quite scary
to brave the swells and storms 
crewless and without a chart 
to guide me to a place 
I don't even know I'll reach. 
Why'd I think I could leave 
my beach?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cold Truth

By Joseph Hesch
Last night the snow
laid its ghostly hands
upon all the horizontals outside.
Some of the verticals and
in-betweens, too,
felt its curative touch.
Fresh-fallen, so softly
whitening the dark,
smoothing the points and edges,
beautifying the uglies that were
too conspicuous before
the fall after Fall.
But, come windy morning,
that which was covered,
and those sojourners
not long passed
have carved their marks
on the once-immaculate.
And with dawn's rising light
they reveal
Winter’s cold truth.

I wrote this poem back in February, right after I began this journey upon the vast sea of zeroes and ones. I think only a few people other than close friends have actually seen it, what with it being "old" and my being just a funny name when I posted it. So, with a few edits, I'm re-introducing "Cold Truth" to visitors at dVerse Poets Pub for the Dec. 27, 2011 Open Link Night, which I happen to be hosting. I think it's a proper poem for this Winter, to remember the past year and my latest journey, leaving my marks, my truth, on pages both white and virtual.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hide or Seek


By Joseph Hesch

You're running again.
Are you afraid of something
or someone? Don't know?
I used to run, too.
I hide now.
I've tons of debris
behind which we can hunker.
If not, we'll build walls.
Did that, too. Still do.

Sometimes I use walls of silence.
They're all soft and cold.
Other times it's noise,
all hot and sharp.  They ward off
attempts at contact.
But running's okay
if you've got the energy -
the fight or flight thing.

One thing I found out
about running is that it's
almost never to…
it's 'most always from.
The course we take tends
to begin and end
in the same damn place,
like a Mobius loop,
where we begin outside,
get down inside and
then end up back out
where we started.

We're left wondering
not so much how we
got there, as why.  That's when
runners get scared again.
That's why I have to
ask, as you begin your trip,
this time.  Do you know?
What are you running from?
Check the rear-view.  That's right.
See that too familiar face, don't you?
But it’s not mine.

Pulled this older one up after reading my friend, the wonderful Canadian poet, Heather Stewart's poem "Walls." We build our own walls all the time even if we don't know how to stack one stone atop another. Sometimes these walls come down, sometimes they get thicker and higher. They protect us, they separate us, they keep us together. They are in the nature of man and woman.

Friday, February 18, 2011

What's on the Horizon

"Storm Developing"
By Joseph Hesch
If you look at those old black and white photos,
maybe something by Adams or Weston,
what appeared as dark grey
actually may have been red.
And so this morning, when I awoke,
time rolled backward to those days
as the weather rolled ahead.
Some unseen printmaker soon developed
the eastern sunrise
from a sparkling glow shaded rose
to a slate curtain of stormy dread.

You'll soon find that I have an unhealthy interest in the weather.  I say unhealthy because it's both making me crazy and -- living year-round in the Northeast US -- slowly killing me. But, as a poet, Nature is one of the prime movers of my creativity.  Along with sleep, age, love (both real and imagined), and writing itself.  So batten down the hatches and prepare for more literal and figurative stormy weather in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gone Fishing

“Gone Fishing”
By Joseph Hesch

I sat in frustration yesterday
and for too many yesterdays before that,
worried if the Joe who did
all those nice poems would again
warm the heart of the Joe
who was doing nothing but
warming this seat.
Bill Stafford never worried like that.
The old poet would stroll to his couch before dawn
and just cast his line into that dark stream
behind his eyes,
not caring if he reeled in a bullhead or a rainbow.
Bill was an angler of words
who knew enough to love the fishing
as much as the prize.
Not that he ever threw
any of those catches back
into the Stream of Subconsciousness
from where they came.
Why do I worry about the straightness of my elbow
when I cast my line,
or what type of tackle I’d use,
or whether the bait was just right?
Today I’ll just tie some string
to a safety pin and snug the other end of it
to a stick. I won’t worry if they’re biting
on worms or grubs or any bait at all. 
Whatever hits the hook will be fine with me.
And that’s what I just did.

How many of you, like I am, are too often blocked from creating because of paralysis by analysis?  The great American poet, William Stafford, addressed this in an essay in his book, "Writing the Australian Crawl." This poem is about how old Bill taught me to "just write." And that's a lesson I believe is "just right" for all writers.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Tanka for Valentine's Day

While I presented (well, I tried to) a Valentine's Day love poem in the previous post, there is always the other side of the love story.

This is my first effort in writing a poem for OneStopPoetry. It is in the Japanese tanka form and tells the story of a my favorite prose subject, the lonely, longing loser.

“I’ll never hurt you,”
Angel carved into my heart –
A promise unkept.
"Never again," she professed,
But all of them do, in time.

Love's Target of Opportunity

Happy Valentine's Day.

For those of you who count "observances" like today as "holidays," here's an older poem about the subject of Feb. 14th's special raison d’être. Or is it?

"Target of Opportunity"
By Joseph Hesch

Once I think I caught a glimpse of it
from the corner of the corner of my eye.
And when I thought I had found it,
it turns out it had found me.
Maybe it was looking for me all along,
instead of the other way around.
I think that’s how it works because,
when you’re looking for it,
you’ll more than likely walk right by
the real thing, like it was an Apache hiding
in the scrub brush, looking like
another piece of the scenery.
It’s waiting to see if you’re worth the arrow.
Maybe that’s why when I think I got close to it,
I felt the hairs on the back of my neck
stretch themselves a little bit taller.
Stupid hair, making me a bigger target.
Stupid me, not knowing that reaction’s
what I should have been looking for
in the first place.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


By Joseph Hesch

Searcher, aren't you?
Too many times not even
knowing what for.
And, if you found it,
there's a chance you'd say
screw it
and walk out the door.
Why do we make it so hard
to live a life of ease?
Why does life find it easy
to hide the what, the who,
the why we may need?
And so I'm left to wonder
in black sans serif tracks
on this white well-worn path,
will we ever find the other,
or just a mirror that shows
the search was us
searching for us
all along.

The First Poem

The first poem I ever wrote--just about three years ago and mentioned in our first post--was called "Night Writer." Since I only felt secure writing haiku, I linked five-syllable and seven-syllable lines into a "real" poem. It summed up the anxiety I felt about not writing, while feeling the primal urge I had to do just that. Maybe some other writers can identify with these feelings and actions (or inactions, I guess).

I submitted it to "Wanderings Magazine" and son of a gun if it wasn't accepted for publication. Still surprises me when I think about it.

"Night Writer"
So much of my best work is done
behind closed eyes
with covers pulled over my head,
waiting for sleep
to snuff out the day's misspent hours.
But in that time,
in the sweet near-sleep's breath and breath,
my artist wakes
and writes great tales in blackest ink
on darkest air.
I hear his words, unseen, unread,
and wish that I
could save them, memorize each line,
or capture them
in my nearby (empty) notebook.
But, lights turned on,
my artist and his words are gone,
the blackness unread, as penned in
milk on bed sheets.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How I Got Here

I'm a writer. That's what I do. It's what I've always done. And I've been doing it for a living since I was 20 years old. That's a long time ago.

All that time, I've been writing for The Man, the boss, putting others' words on paper or my words in others' mouths and committing those to paper. For the past 25 years, I've been writing the equivalent of grey government cheese for decent remuneration and zero benefit for my heart and soul.

Five years ago, my heart rebelled at this self-inflicted sentence and it tried to inform me that each day is a blessing not to be wasted because you may not get a tomorrow. Part of that waste was denying the Writer within me the room to breathe fresh air instead of the climate-controlled breeze wafting over my office cubicle. Near-death experiences can do that to you.

So I started to write for me. Mostly angry, sassy essays that I shared with friends around the USA. Then I knocked off a bit of memoir at my kitchen table one afternoon about the Christmases of my childhood. I submitted it to a publisher who was putting together a Christmas anthology and it was accepted for publication. Paid a couple of hundred bucks, too.

So I continued to write, not for the bucks, but for the discoveries I was making in myself and the world I'd ignored for the previous decades. And then everything stopped.

I can't call it writer's block. It was more that I ran out of gas and sass. I had lost that feeling of creating something tangible from sense and memory, illuminated by the cracked prism through which I view the world. It hurts when that happens.

A dear friend noted that my prose always sounded quite poetic to her. "Why don't you write a poem?" she said.

Uh, no. Grumpy old fallen journalists do not write poetry.

In desperation, I did as she asked. I started out with the 5-7-5 structured hug of haiku. She said it was good.

"You've got a thing for this, Joe," she said. (Foreshadowing alert!  Foreshadowing alert!)

I then wrote a poem about not being able to write anymore, stringing together those syllabic steps. She suggested I share it with some other folks. They suggested I share it with some literary journals, which I did.

It was accepted for publication. As was the next poem. The poetry and the feelings of acceptance I received recharged my fiction machine and I was back in business as a writer. But this time I was really writing for me. No, I guess I was just really writing.

Which brings us around to this blog. My writer friend Jane Tolman suggested I do the Twitter thing to see what other writers do--besides write, I mean. Within my first week, I met a handful of writers who graciously accepted me into their following fold and returned that favor to me. Among those writers was someone I call "the hardest working woman in literary social networking," Emlyn Chand. Emlyn said I better get myself a blog and about a dozen others, including the wonderful author K.M. Weiland and German poet Claudia Schönfeld agreed.

And here we all are.

Now, enough backstory. Yep, I have a thing for words.  They are my tools and my raw materials. Sometimes I use them to build beautiful houses.  Other times I use them like a Cub Scout does, hammering pieces of pine into a birdhouse with bent nails.

But I keep building.

I hope to keep everyone abreast of my present and future as I make my journey through a second-chance literary life. And it all starts NOW...