Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Making Me

By Joseph Hesch

It’s so strong this
whatever it is I feel
but choose not to name.
I’ve learned to accept it’s there,
a part of me like my skin
and the blood going in and out of
my scarred and stiffened heart.
For the first time in my life,
I didn’t try to know the why
or how of something.
I don’t categorize, analyze,
or even adverbize it.
It makes me sad and
it makes me glad and
I don’t mean to rhyme
but this is my poetic confession
so you’ll just have to let me slide.
But most of all, this feeling,
this thing you don’t even know
you pour over me,
most of all it makes me

I have been remiss in my duties in not letting you know that this poem was posted as one of almost 150 poems for dVerse Poets Pub's Open Link Night. In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm proud to be one of the poets who hosts this weekly get-together.  My favorite part of running the poetry bar? Hitting the siren when I get tips!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Weight of Days

By Joseph Hesch

He’s dressed in a black coat and hat,
winter or summer,  this old man
I pass every day on our pre-dawn walks.
He comes from beyond those trees,
then up the hill road. 
From there, I don’t know where he goes. 
I don’t have the time to wait
the significant amount of a half-hour
it takes him to get to top of the hill.
His gait is not quite a shuffle. 
It’s maybe half of a shuffle. 
It’s a shuff. 
His left foot, barely skimming the blacktop,
glides forward about ten inches
and then plunks down. 
The right foot follows, dragging forward
to a position of parallel big toes. 
Then a breath. 
Repeat.  Again. Again. Again.
Glacial, relentless in his path …
I have seen him stop a few times. 
To rest?  Catch his breath? 
Retrieve a memory?  
He grips that large black duffle bag,
slung diagonally upon his shoulder. 
With his feeble bearing, I can’t tell you
how heavy the bag really is. 

The bag looks full of something.
Maybe that’s where he carries the memories.
Even memories have weight,
some more than others. 
He shoulders this burden every day,
focusing through silver lenses
on some point along that hypotenuse–
his line-of-sight–
from his often drippy nose,
to the front of his left boot.
He turns his head neither left nor right,
nor looks for assistance in his effort.
He’s become something more than
an old man inching upward
like a black sun at dawn,
neither pounding out in front of,
nor gasping to catch up with,
that crowd of want-to-be’s
or expect-to-be’s.
I guess he’s his own Alpha,
on the way to his Omega. 
Still shouldering his weight,
climbing that hill, to get to his somewhere.
Always forward. Always there.
Always my shadow between me and the sun.
Maybe my fore-shadow.
I don't look back to check.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gray Lady

By Joseph Hesch

This porch’s cracked and dry boards show
the greyness of its age through what once
was a smooth coat of russet color.
She’s like a sleepy, sunning,
henna-rinsed Palm Beach dowager,
facedown and well-done,
with the top of her bikini unhooked.
If that lady were mine, I’d make sure
she kept her SPF high and fresh
and an umbrella between her
and prying eyes.
I would call that protecting
my investment and maybe a
little neighborhood dignity.
But I live with this ragged deck instead,
and I’ve dawdled much too long,
the time for preventative protection past,
the sun leaving incurable scars
and lesions on her.
This do-it-yourself deck dermatologist
will make her back smooth and true again.
I will respectfully conduct this surgery,
in deference to the old dear’s age,
with a gentle hammer and
a dignified circular saw.

Photo by Bill Frazzetto

I posted this poem today because I haven't done much over the past week--a week of vacation--other than work on a lengthy to-do list. I had no idea that my dVerse Poets Pub colleague Victoria Cereto-Slotto would ask for a poem based on Texture as part of her Poetics feature this afternoon.  I'd say "Gray Lady" fits the bill. Don't you?  Careful of splinters!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


By Joseph Hesch

I thought you were my forever muse.
When we were new, odes and heartsongs
flowed from me like exhalations.
And then, despite my obsessions,
or maybe because, you were gone.
Your golden memory faded and
so too the words I once cast
as easily as my shadow.
Just when I thought I’d never
speak to the page again,
the page spoke to me.
It called me, invited me to play,
to discourse on love and nature
and all those people in the world
besides you.
See, I learned that a muse is a crutch,
an alibi, an excuse for not being
who I am and what I might yet be.
Thanks for that inspiration, at least.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


At twilight, just before Christmas,
I visited the old neighborhood.
Parking a couple of blocks away,
I peered around the corner
where a gauntlet of gray sentinels stood waiting,
their windows staring dead-eyed apathy at me.
These were still my streets, though, 
just older and uglier,
like me, the boy who used to run them.

For a second I thought of running again,
not through them, away.
Hanging back near the stoop of a dingy,
boarded-up brick dowager,
I despaired over the changes,
the darkness and strangeness
of a place I couldn’t remember
from forty-some Christmases ago.

The snow began to fall,
turning the parked cars into
four-wheeled wedding cakes,
looking for all the world like
they were waiting to be topped
by young brides and grooms
who would stand in “I-do” fidelity against this
backdrop of “no-you-won’t” transience.

Without warning, but with a flash or two
from humming street lamps
and the gumdrop blush
of snow-covered Christmas lights,
my changed neighborhood changed again,
if only for a short time.
It took on the glow of something new,
something right out of the box,
instead of the decaying piece of Albany
we had both become.

Staring at it all for one more minute,
like I was an old box camera--
a long, long exposure--
I burned a picture
I wanted to keep of something wondrous
I wanted to remember of something wonderful
that didn’t exist anymore or maybe
never did at all.

Here's a little longer one in response to the prompt for a CITY poem posed by my friend Claudia Schoenfeld at dVerse Poets Pub. She's running the Poetics shift this week.  This is about Albany and change and light. It's a look at my old neighborhood in a quite different light, with an older set of eyes and a newer heart. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Taste of It All

By Joseph Hesch

Before I became what you would call
a man, I was a rapacious predator,
tearing at and gulping down
great chunks of life
and what I thought was love.
The years have drained away
some of my strength and even
some of my yearning for the hunt,
but they have also taught me to nibble
and sip at life, as well as at
the rippled and scarred bowl of you.
I’m not sure if it is to savor them
as I never did in my youth,
or just to make such moments last longer.

This was not the poem I intended to post today, but Claudia Schoenfeld and Diana Lee teased it out of me. So here it is, all aproned-up for my first hosting of Open Link Night at dVerse Poets Pub. Feel free to comment on it (wince). And please visit and comment on the work of poets who are linking up with the community tonight over at dVerse.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


By Joseph Hesch

“Touch me,” they say and
sway, purring, beneath his fingertips,
consuming their warmth.

“Touch me,” they say and
sway close-eyed to his words that
knead their needy souls.

 “Touch me,” they say and
sway in laughter at their Fool’s
self-deprecate jest.  

“Touch me,” he pleads
to his swaying obsessions,
who merely echo:

“Touch me.”

My colleague Mark Kerstetter is wrangling this weekend's Poetics gig at dVersePoets Pub, offering a prompt based on the art work of the Italian Surrealist Giorgio de Chirico. A little research into this artist and I found Le Vestali: La Statua Si Muove (The Vestal Virgins: The Statue Moves). The rest is a Hesch slant look at the art and reversal of roles.

The Glow

By Joseph Hesch

My history is one of setting my sights too high
in matters of the heart.
I am the Fool and I moon so fully
that I forget my hopes are always
destined to be dashed.

See, I have a tendency to blindly idealize
the ones that I love
(that emotion I always lie and say
is just a shadow, an illusion),
but reality shows that I invest too much of my heart
in them or in our misty mythic relationships.

Which is why I never see past their rosy glow,
to the blinking, red-light warning
of the danger they always become
I guess, someday I’ll learn,
nobody's perfect.

Except, for a time, the next one.

The Glow was written from a request for submissions by Falling Star Magazine.  The topic was "You've got to hide your love away." I was lucky enough to see it selected for publication.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Poems I Never Wrote

By Joseph Hesch

Did you know that I used to
write poems to you every night?
I had to write them there on the ceiling
because I could never get these words out
in conversation with you,
my heart frozen so it could not pour,
held fast by unbreakable icy bonds,
my mind scrambled by
your blessed (damned) proximity.

I penned these words in invisible ink,
that formed at the corners of my eyes
and ran down past my ears
to fill the well of my pillow.
Every morning-after,
they had evaporated,
as did my half-dreamed hopes
for something forever to be unseen,
to be unfelt, and, for all you know,