Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

This entry is part 1 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

The season turns again, mother. The names of months end
in chilled syllables. For thin-veined plants, it is almost time
to go under, into the ground where the bulbs will winter.

The red-tailed hawk takes wing, mother. But it’s been weeks
since we last saw the yellow-crowned night herons. Perhaps
they’ve begun their pilgrimage to a coast that’s warmer.

There’s a clump of mint that remains in the pot, mother.
And the stand of rosemary is hardy, and will hold its ground.
But the bee balm is fringed lace, and the lavender thins—

In time, all that remains is their feathery scent.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 2 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

There’s a votive candle with a picture of Santa Barbara
in her teal colored robe flickering in the middle
of our table, and a faded prayer in Spanish on the other
side of the glass. There are swirls of gold and orange
on the chalkboard over the bar, wreathing the names
of the evening’s offer of cervezas: Dos Equis, Modelo,
Corona, Tecate. Between bursts of music, the clatter
of silverware, the steady hum and static of voices.
We lick the last of the guacamole off the appetizer
plate, but we barely make a dent in the pastel
and sweet corn tamales. Is the waitress disappointed?
She brings three plastic take-out boxes and sweeps up the tab.
It’s the middle of the week and almost October; the dark
comes earlier. Somewhere a train is always pulling away.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 3 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

We woke and the world was colder,
the season progressing steadily

toward winter— the line of trees
more shorn of green summer cover,

only the ivy persisting over thin-
skinned clover— as if the bones

of earth were chiseled finer,
our cue to take out sweaters

from the back end of the drawer—
And even the tiny moths I saw

alight upon the still-steadfast, still-
flowering clump of sage and lavender,

slowed their wings in the shadow
of the sun’s pale alabaster—

Nights grow longer; so we learn to keep
best what lasts through now and later.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 4 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

All this beautiful, heavy hardwood furniture—
the slab of polished mahogany that serves
as coffee table, the long-leaved dining table
and its matching credenza from Spain, the grand
piano in the living room that we are thrilled
to play Bach, Gershwin, “Chopsticks,” or
Sondheim on— belongs to our landlady.
To rent her digs, the deal was that we had to live
with all her stuff. We looked around at what
we owned— six folding bookshelves, three
computer desks, a couch, a few lamps picked up
at Service Merchandise or Target, a microwave and
microwave cart, our daughter’s sleeping pallet;
and many, many bankers’ boxes filled with books—
and said something like Easy come… or perhaps
We can’t take it with us when we go. And one
of the friends who took over our possessions quoted
from song or scripture that part about our cares
being worth more than those of white-throated sparrows
singing in the field, all the while assessing
the quality of a set of china on which he had designs.
But it’s ok, really— We look after the place as if
it were our own, and thank our lucky stars for so many
windows— the upstairs ones are great for reading
our books or writing late, by late summer light. We pay
utility bills when they are due, change the batteries
in the smoke detectors, take the lint out of the dryer
screen. We vacuum and mop beneath the beds and chairs,
in hard to reach corners where hair and dust balls
consolidate the interest they will secure in final lien.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 5 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

The call of vendors in the streets,
the yowling of a cat drowning out the chitter of birds;
the early morning rabble of roosters in their cages,
the drip of water into plastic pails;
the diesel drone of jeepneys in the alley,
the bickering of neighbors across the fence,
the crying of a child who can’t go back to sleep—
Any one of these, sounds you might swear
you have not heard in many years.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 6 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

Etymology: also malarky, “lies and exaggerations,” 1924,
Amer. Eng., of unknown origin; also a surname.

You say a large, dark weasel? or was it a mink?
& you stared at each other in mutual disbelief?

I believe you more than I believe
the chronically hyperbolic—

untruths that spring from the mouths
of those with aspirations to lead.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 7 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

I wanted the taste of bitter greens,
of luck that fruited despite the unforgiving soil—
I wanted the smell of cotton in my hair
from pillows woven in the sun—
I wanted the surprising tang of salt,
bursting from tiny clusters of sea-grapes—
I wanted the cloying abundance of scent
spilled from flowers that only bloom at night—
I wanted the scab on my elbows to peel
when they darkened like the skin of plums—
But only the maples redden here, rehearsing
starkness; then drop away with all
that’s brittle, feathered, frail-boned.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 8 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

I come from a land where grief is palpable and raw, where ceremony cannot blunt the shapes of sorrow. I come from a land where omens deckle the very curtains, where a yard white with uncharacteristic frost is visitation from some host— For even before they’ve borne the stricken body back to its ancestral home, it’s hitch-hiked through the early morning streets: bringing a gift, a dream, some sign. Everything is portent: a leaf that spirals through the air, a moth or hummingbird that pins itself upon the mantel; mold that blooms in the shape of letters on the sill. The women’s voices shred the hours. Tears mingle with handfuls of sod as the body’s lowered in the earth. Above ground, the men thrust knives into a trembling animal then singe its skin. The smell clings to our clothes for days. We wash our hands by the door-posts then cross the threshold. We wear black for a year, but don’t look back.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 10 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

Bend your head, I say to the child
who steps out of the bath,

so I can rub this film of oil
on your nape
. And as she does,

her long dark hair falls down;
and in it is the dusk of leaves

from the resinous woods;
and sunlight’s indelible

musk in the softest
spot of the crown.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.