October 2012

[Après] Après.

The storm went through
high winds last night
light rain

The biggest surprise
when I opened the blinds
Bare branches

against cloud
brilliant yellow glow
against deep blue

*

Biting

Life I haven’t been able
to write But there is
work and all the other

aspects daily
damned Since moving
across that strange

and arbitrary border,
I’ve tried
affected by the fact

of being American
I doubt that you can
really know unless you’ve

lived elsewhere
for a significant period
of time

Staying out of it
is, of course, impossible
But the alternative

would be so much worse
I’m worried about what
may happen, and dismayed

that no matter
I won’t really feel
my deepest desires

where peace is truly
where the natural environment
where the poor and disenfranchised

where every human being
matters, where money
no longer

calls the shots
know that the border
is just a line on a map

*

Evening

Lemon-yellow, white almond
Autumn vines on wrought iron
After the dark, tree-lined streets

Lunettes sleep in glass cases
In a café, a final coffee
the stools already on their backs

bend forward, straighten up
look past terrain privé
Your hip against mine

No need to speak

*a found poem sequence

 

In response to the cassandra pages: Après, Biting My Nails, Evening Walk.

This entry is part 14 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

That calm: before?
after?— The storm.

The pause
that brackets

the feathered cry
at dawn— The rooster

trills Deny, deny
And still the waters

rush across the pier.
The turnstile

at the station twirls
in place. A wall

is shorn away to show
the flimsy hive.

The branch comes down
upon the roof.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 4 of 22 in the series Alternate Histories

My teacher resembles a flightless bird:
the sky, to him, is an open book
written in a foreign tongue,
his enormous eyes are no bigger
than his three stomachs & when
he sticks his head in the sand, it isn’t
to evade the truth but to remember it
by being alone with his terrors.

How does he get off it before the skies combust in a bloom of fire?

Has there been anything more difficult to comprehend?
There may be situations like this. Or worse,
or easier. It depends.

He is either beside himself with terror,

or beside himself with something else:
joy, longing, sorrow. A pounding in his chest.
Or he is simply beside himself,

quietly regarding the situation.

Or thinking of another riddle—
Is this the way an angel might feel
on the head of a pin?

It is a long slide to the bottom.

It might be a quicker fall.
We are not told if he is wearing a robe,
saffron colored, which he might

spread open like a sail.

His pockets, if he has pockets,
may or may not have a ball
of emergency twine, some wax,

a smear of honey, a feather duster

picked up in previous travels.
From that height, sounds carry
with a difference in textures—

Commuter traffic, domestic arguments,

commerce in the marketplace.
How long before someone will say
finally, Look, there’s someone

on top of that pole?

Get the police. Get the first
responders. How did he get up there
in the first place?

(Reminder: he first appeared in this parable.)

Autumn foliage across the parks,
blazing its message of beautiful wreckage—
as he sits and contemplates the ladders

for his return or escape.

 

In response to small stone (172) and Via Negativa: Squirrel mind.

Paula’s House of Toast:

Consider ecstasy: standing beside oneself. There are things that seem to pull us out of ourselves and our ruminations — or, perhaps I should say “our” ruminations — for there is an autonomous and almost impersonal life to the currents of thought that stream through our consciousness. The weather — the darkening skies, the leaves blown sideways, the ping of rain on glass — attracts and holds our attention and displaces (for a time) whatever tape-loop of anxiety currently seems to be at the top of one’s playlist.

It’s the same thing with taking pictures of weeds, I realized yesterday: looking about with squirrel mind, waiting for the frisson of attraction (red leaf, acorn, berry) to animate the arm that holds the camera and the eye that peers through the lens. I am storing up caches of images against an instinctually anticipated great hunger and long winter night.

This entry is part 13 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

Before I learned geography in school, Hokkaido
was simply my family’s favorite brand of canned
mackerel, opened especially in typhoon weather.
No matter that sheets of cold rain fell and fell,
and indoors we suspected we’d started to smell
a little biblical— And the power went out,
but we had candles, and a can opener!
We could still boil rice in a blackened
pot on the one-burner kerosene stove. Little blue-
fin mackerel, jumping (from which fishing port
off the coast of Hokkaido?) into the net, into
the can and into our steaming bowls awash in black
pepper, white vinegar, and thinly sliced shallots,
you were among the first briny tastes of other
coastlines that entered my mouth. And even now,
whenever rain pelts at the windows and the skies
turn the color of dull aluminum, when the winds
make the trees’ arms rise like wings of cranes
in the marshlands, I think of this word, Hokkaido.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

In my dreams, there is always some kind of bathroom.
Or the difficulty of finding a bathroom,
which upon waking is always the most lucid thing about the dream.
In one, there are corridors lined with doors.
One of them has got to be a bathroom.
A plane is about to take off from the tarmac, a plane I need to catch.
Finally, a door that opens onto a room with tile, a sink, commode—
But I retreat: the copper sink is full of blood.
In another there are people dressed in tuxedos and ball gowns.
The house is full of velvet drapes, plush Persian carpets, marble statues.
A grand piano sits resplendent in the drawing room.
The windows open to a view of hills at sunset.
But everyone is moving around frantically like moths with colored wings.
Everyone needs the bathroom.
And there is no bathroom, no apparatus for privacy or relief.
But there is a bench in front of the piano,
with a hinged top that opens in the manner of a toilet seat.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Semi-lucid.

I used to be embarrassed to call these ridges mountains until I went to Mississippi and saw what they called hills.

*

The end of October, and a dandelion is in full bloom beside the driveway. I recall that the Brits refer to dandelion seedheads as clocks. This one, when it appears, will be some six months slow.

*

Three mornings ago I dreamt I was reading a new-to-me poet. I’m enough of a lucid dreamer that I know when I’m dreaming, most of the time, so I tried hard to memorize a few lines so I could claim them as my own when I woke. But I only managed to retain a single word: “apparatus.”

*

Last night I dreamt I was writing a poem about that Chandler Harris creation the tar baby. Most of us are smarter than Br’er Rabbit, but also more foolish: we know it’s only tar, but we tangle with it anyway.

*

We should wear masks 364 days of the year and only take them off for Halloween. That would be a terrifying revelation.

*

I wonder how many members of think tanks have ever spent time in a drunk tank?

*

The temperature’s right on the line between warm and cool. A fly walking on the windowpane staggers a bit as it crosses a white expanse of sky.

Adverbs are shifty. They slink around. Sometimes they lead the conga line. Sometimes they insinuate themselves in the middle. Whose arms are suddenly wrapped around my hips? Ah. You see? Take simply: Simply being present in the world. Being simply present in the world. Being present simply in the world. I’m thinking too of how, over time, piles of stuff accumulated in the corners, in every apartment we’ve ever lived. Even now, bills in the gravy boat in the kitchen cabinet; books near the rice bin; squares of recycled gift wrap in the piano seat. Adverbs appeal to our sentimental nature. Merely. I’m merely saving for a rainy day. I’m saving merely for a rainy day. It’s merely a rainy day. It’s always a rainy day. Or is it that I haven’t made up my mind? How long have I kept this pair of fragrant candlesticks? They smell of gardenias. Correction: They smell faintly of gardenias. Faintly they smell of the day they sat on a damask-covered table, beside the wedding cake. We ate cake frosted with buttercream and orchids. We nibbled, a little daintily. The poppy seeds mixed with the taste of lemony things, buttery things, on our tongues. It can be simple again, you say. It can be simply this day, then the next, then the one after. One small quantity at a time. No matter: there are days I can see, more lucidly, into the heart of the matter. Lightly row, lilts the song. Yes, lightly. That I want. Lightly, I want.

 

In response to thus: simple things.