In the Room

Here in the room the breaths come
maybe every ten seconds apart,
snoring sounds from a mouth agape,
now voiceless, beneath eyes mostly closed,
but probably unseeing.
She doesn’t hear the talk in the room.
We think. We hope.

Above the bed, a little plastic bag
of morphine perches like blessed fruit
from a swirly silver branch atop
the six-wheeled tree they’ll roll
out of the room whenever her spirit does.

Here in the room we watch, we wait,
hearing only the sounds of the family,
of the bubbling O2 humidifier,
the beeps of monitors and machines,
the murmurs and shoe-squeaks from staff
in the hallway on the fifth floor
as the hospital awakens this morning.

And punctuating it all come
the snorting gasps of a life dwindling away
every ten–no, fifteen–seconds.
We think. God help her, we hope.

– Joseph Hesch
© 2014, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Rules of the Game

The rules of the game
are set in stone.
You can read them
written on each slab
out there on the field.
The great game is summed up
in four numbers on one side,
and four on the other,
of a grooved hyphen.
Funny how those hyphens,
from end to end,
are the width of an N or M,
but a life may be wider
than a thousand thousand alphabets
or as narrow as an I.

You think of these things,
the unwritten,
the randomly ordered
string of letters,
of words, of stories,
of a life lived in
what seems like a hyphen,
a momentary there to here,
then to now,
once to once,
when you sit by a deathbed,
in front of a casket, or
at a graveside.
That’s where they post
the rules for all to see
and no one’s ever broken.

– Joseph Hesch
© 2014, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Sweet Grass

Sweetgrass HillsSweetgrass Hills in Montana from Red Rock Coulee
Source: Wikipedia

“His father’s father was Métis, you know…rode with Riel in 1869 and his father fought with Dumont at Duck Lake and Batoche in ’85,” Sheriff Hank Reynolds said as he pulled the glasses off his nose after reading the arrest report on his desk.

“That may be so, Sheriff, but it doesn’t give Liberté Beaubois license to ride into Montana, hunt protected buffalo and take a couple of shots at my head, does it?” asked Reynolds’ new deputy, Linus Philkin.

Reynolds wiped a few drops of coffee off his graying mustache and walked back to the holding cell, where he stared at a buckskin-clad man sleeping on the floor, face to the wall, on a mattress he’d pulled off the cot.

The sheriff rubbed his hand across his bald spot and recalled wind blowing through his hair in the long-ago when he, Liberté and some Piegan boys from over Milk River way would ride hell-bent for election chasing buffalo that would wander onto his father’s place. It was in those days before the Somme, before Liberté came home with a Victoria Cross and Croix de guerre in exchange for his childhood, an eye and, some said, his mind.

“I’ll take care of this,” Reynolds said, and loaded Liberté into his Ford pickup truck and Liberté’s horse with his into the trailer behind it. They drove from Chester up to his old man’s place outside Whitlash, where they mounted and pointed their ponies north, all the while howling like twelve-year-olds, chasing memories through the Sweet Grass back into Alberta.

A true mash-up of prompts went into this little story. First was Lillie McFerrin’s word of the week, Freedom. Then I decided it worked with Canadian writer Sarah Salecky’s daily prompt, which was “His father’s father was Métis.” I can never let a chance to write a North American historical piece go by. Then, as luck would have it, the first Story-A-Day May prompt was Going Home. And there you have it.

– Joe Hesch 
© 2014, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Shadow of a Heartbeat

You ask me where these come from,
and I can’t say with certainty,
because there is nothing certain
about our days. Sometimes
the shadow of a heartbeat,
the sound of a color,
the taste of the darkness,
the touch of solitude,
they come to you from
over your horizon.
And horizons know
no direction. There’s
no east or north in you,
no sud or oeste.
There’s only ever-moving circles
surrounding you,
encouraging you
to sense the inspirational It
between yourself and
the infinite, to tell its truth
as you will know it.
We’ve not stumbled upon
one another yet. This is
just another page
in the journal we’ll share
when we finally do.

– Joe Hesch 
© 2014, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

This, These, This

In the dark, ceiling-staring
into the nightly abyss,
I became not-alone.
Twilight dreams before sleep
projected a life of never be,
but would never leave
in the soft dawnlight glow
behind my hooded eyes.

I lie there thinking of
the living, the dead
and the one beneath
those covers who was neither.
With one more sigh,
t’was then I saw them,
short strings of expression
rising from my body,
five knots in the first,
seven on the next.

They repeated over and over,
a rope ladder I climbed
past soft women,
and hard worlds,
elevating my spirit
and body to a near-waking
breath and breath
exhalations of unrhyming song.

The blood-rush in my ears,
wave upon wave, sounded like
“Wish, which, wish,.”
To which I replied,
“This, these, this.”

© 2014, poem, Joseph Hesch, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Empty Nests

Raking up winter’s debris next to the house
I found the tiny basket, a fallen relic of lives
born, nurtured and winged off to make their own ways.
I almost overlooked it among the twists of twigs
and dry grass, but for the intricacy of its weave,
the palm of a hand knit to hold expectations.

Miniscule aquamarine mosaics peppered its walls, like
photos of a neighbor’s children, forgotten.
I plucked bits of fluff from within and
slipped them into my wallet between my
cracked but held-tight memories of little ones
who once cried and grew and flew here, too.

– Joseph Hesch

© 2014, poem, Joseph Hesch, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Touching Horizon

I’ve always been one to stare
at the sunrise and sunset, the days
slipping out of and into their
respective bedsteads.
But true horizons are funny things.
They are 360-degree dreams
like Dorothy’s Kansas,
flat and unattainable except
in books or feel-good movies.

Perhaps I stand and scan
those horizons, those reclining
brushstrokes of something
always out of reach,
the encircling collection
of a great artist’s vanishing points,
of all our todays and tomorrows,
because I wish to grasp that
there is a beginning and
there is an end to everything.

And in my life there are things
I can never touch, ever,
until they reach out
to touch me first.

– Joseph Hesch

© 2014, poem, Joseph Hesch, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Where Memory Becomes Forever

Shed
Out the big basement window, the wind
slathers the snow like cake icing
up against the trees as if they were
birthday candles, and smooths it over
the roof of old Cliff’s gingerbread shed,
where the rabbits would hide.

But I don’t see the path we’d carve
in those drifts, from this place to our place.
I can imagine high-stepping through
the knee-high purity of it all, though,
smell that clear and evocative smell,
as chaste as the expanse ahead of me.

If I were to fall, splat face-first into
the stinging reality of it all, I think
I’d roll onto my back and watch those
long trails of flakes and let them
redden my face. They’d be like kisses
from that place where memory becomes
forever.

– Joseph Hesch

© 2014, poem, photograph and portrait, Joseph Hesch, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Beyond the Pines

Once, a squirrel could travel from here
to the place the Kanienkehaka called
Beyond the Pines and never
touch the ground, not leave a track
for the People of the Flint to follow
like they stalked the white-tail deer.
From the River Muh-he-kun-ne-tuk
to Schau-naugh-ta-da the trace ran,
where I follow these tracks each day.

I see where the geese have penned
their cuneiform tales in the pond-side mud,
edited by the turtles’ tail-writ script.
I read the tracks of the students
on the running trail–the one
that runs for a time toward
that western place–like I’m one
with my Mohawk brothers,
trailing Englishmen from the Hudson’s shore
to where they’ll hew more and more pines
and tear down more of this
Haudenosaunee world.

Do their heels weigh heavier
in the dirt than their toes? Walking.
How deep? Carrying books.
Are their toes dug in, tossing behind
a spray of the history of their passing? Running.
Narrow feet? Girl. A pair side by side?
Someone stood to watch soccer practice.
Four feet, two narrow, two wide?
Perhaps a longer story than this moment.

Two squirrels cross my trail,
skittering across the ground
into their place there
behind that one lonely pine. I stopped
to parse their tiny prints, and
wonder about who will pause one day
to ponder all this jumble of tracks
I leave.

– Joseph Hesch

© 2014, poem and photograph (below), Joseph Hesch, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Cold Comfort

In one hand, the ruddy-faced,
ragged wanderer wraps a coffee cup
and his smoke. The other he keeps
in the pocket of his third-hand Mets jacket.
Whether he’s grasping something within
or just trying to keep it warm
is a mystery. Chances are 4-to-1
no cash shares those five fingers’ berth.

Joyous, the drifter throws smiles
like sunbeams right into the faces
of the straight-life, shivering souls with whom
he coasts these stark morning streets.
Their eyes are up too, but they focus
past the runny-nosed no one shuffling nearby,
seeing instead only the faces in the
steamed-up coffee-shop window.

The same familiar, frowning reflections
as yesterday’s.

– Joseph Hesch

© 2014, poem and photograph, Joseph Hesch, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Rapture in Rivertown

Discarded tree 1

With January’s ice-scrim mist,
this riverside neighborhood
turns back to photo-proof
black, white and gauzy gray.
Holiday colors have faded
like mid-September memories.

Tinder-dry once-evergreens,
erstwhile harlequin window beacons
for passing ice-breakers,
now lie exhausted on streetside,
snow-dusted Christmas gravestones,
waiting for the herald crash and call
of the trash collecting Rapture.

And ice-darkened perennial trees,
stand sentinel nearby
at snow-footed attention,
lean black cemetery guardsmen,
their uniforms on backorder
until a too faraway Spring.

This poem came from my walks and runs along the Hudson shore over the past 20 years. During the holidays, you could see the gumdrop-lit Christmas trees in windows over in Rensselaer. By early January, they were gone, the snow had come and the ice had choked the river. “Rapture in Rivertown” is what I recall and imagine of those days.

– Joseph Hesch

© 2014, poem and photograph, Joseph Hesch, All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.

Silent Night in Arbor Hill

Sheridan Avenue, Albany, N.Y.
Sheridan Avenue, Albany, N.Y. (Photo credit: chuckthewriter)

I saw them emerge from the shadow of shadows
that blanketed the alley connecting
Orange Street to Sheridan Avenue,
a vacant-eyed lane of abandoned houses
you wouldn’t wish to travel in
well-strapped daylight. Into the hazy edge
of a lemon-light circle beneath the lone
strobing street lamp they edged,
this young couple and their baby.
Behind him, the young man dragged
a shopping trolley that held a suitcase,
some groceries and a few presents.
The young woman held her infant close
against her breast to protect it—
from the cold or the city, I couldn’t judge—
as the snow decided it was its time.
As I drove past, upon the railings
of the darkened doorways, tiny lights
blinked and from within one a familial
brightness shone as they entered.
A once-a-year peace came over all
of us in that place, at that time,
and I thought “What a fine night,”
that silent night in Arbor Hill.

© Joseph Hesch 2013

This is the true Christmas Eve story of leaving my office in the old Times Union newspaper building during my years working there, inside the eastern edges of the Arbor Hill neighborhood in downtown Albany. I couldn’t believe what I saw, either. But there they were, this tiny family. That tableau has stayed with me for seven years. And today, between noon and 1:00, it became yours, too. A most peaceful and joyous of holidays to you all, friends.

– Joseph Hesch

© 2013, poem,  Joseph Hesch,  All rights reserved

Hesch Profileproduct_thumbnail-3.phpJOSEPH HESCH (A Thing for Words) is a writer and poet from Albany, New York , an old friend of Bardo and a new core team member. Joe’s work is published in journals and anthologies coast-to-coast and worldwide. He posts poems and stories-in-progress on his blog, A Thing for Words.  An original staff member at dVerse Poets Pub website, Joe was named one of Writers Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer’s “2011 Best Tweeps for Writers to Follow.” He is also a member of the Grass Roots Poetry Group and featured in their 2013 poetry anthology Petrichor Rising.