Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

This entry is part 1 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

She tells me
about the hive of bees in her ears.

Their dialect of drone and fuzz
drowns out everyday sounds—

water from the tap
overflowing the bathroom pail,

kettle straddling the blue
stove flame on its highest setting.

I knock and knock on the metal gate,
hoping the radio network

of nerves translates the signals.
She tells me she’s sold

or pawned off most of her jewelry.
But she puts in my hands a box

in whose tissue folds twin
silver peacocks dangle

from French wire hoops,
their tail feathers trembling.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 2 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

I am glad for the door
with its deadbolt and chain

and for the sleeve of paper
that filters coffee in the machine.

I am glad for the little ties
in the duvet’s four inside corners

and for each window’s double pane of glass
that keeps more of the cold outside.

I am glad for the discs of rubber
that stick to the feet of chairs

and keep them from scratching
too deeply the heart of the wood.

And when I first arrived in this country
I was perplexed by how most living

room ceilings were smooth and plain,
without any visible light fixtures

though lamps flanked each armchair
or sat beneath shades on side tables—

By which I gradually came to understand
that for all that prides itself on being

forthright, we still like to keep a little
space between ourselves and the thing in question:

like the vinyl lining that takes the spray and not
the actual shower curtain; or the rubber mute, slipped

onto the instrument’s bridge, that dampens sound
and makes it possible to practice late into the night.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

What we wanted was quiet.
What we wanted was salt packed in the marrow of bone.
It was slow and cold for an entire season.
But now, trees explode with asterisks of white.
The tongue tires of the heavy oils in meat.
We admire the trembly crowns of parsley
and the gash of moonlight above the gardens
where people are walking among multicolored lanterns.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 4 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

—we hear it at the same time, ask
about the source. And in the group,

there’s always someone who self-
assuredly knows, it would seem,

the answer to everything from color
to weight and habitat, mating

rituals. And not just birds:
the subject’s not the issue

so much as how it’s offered—
that bit of smugness floating

its oily film beneath the words,
the chance to show. Or show off.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 5 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

Who left me,
if I was too young

to know? I look into
the bathroom mirror

and touch the forehead’s
porcelain shelf, the twin

arches of brows floating
in the shape of stilled

metronomes. These lips
a boat, a pod set loose

with cravings for salt,
green tea, pork rinds,

cracked black
pepper chips— Who left

in me this strain,
this penchant for looking

out of windows, probing
the soil for any trace

of indigo? Every day
the backyard quietly

erupts with spring.
And for each flag

hoisted from the depths,
I salute the cost.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

Last night I woke again
from fitful sleep and heard
the wind’s high whistling—

white-throated, mouth pursed
on its way from one end of that
unimaginable island called infinity

to the other. Which is to say,
I’ve heard before this song
it sings, always an octave higher

than the notes I ping on the rim of my
dented cup. And if it is indeed infinity
that feeds this cycle of wailing, this

song conjuring elegy upon elegy,
where does it learn to make things up?
Night opens its caves of hungry cries

in search of any warm breast
to drink from— With effort I remind
myself I’m not being called by name.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 7 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

Once, greeting me at the door
at midnight when I’d come home

again after my week after week
of working in the city, you took

my bags and led me to the table.
You took from the refrigerator

a few green peppers, a handful
of mushrooms, a small onion

which you diced into quarters.
A slick of oil sizzled in the pan.

You crushed a clove of garlic
and sautéed the medley, soy-

spattered, which I ate and ate
until nothing remained

in the bowl of rice. I think
of that meal sometimes and try

without success to bring it all
back together on my stove.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 8 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

The clear sky has turned white.
When did the roots of your hair begin

to reflect the distance of the road
from moonlight? Supposing we did

what we said we would not do?
Perhaps I would not be secretly

looking for the pale blush
of squash flowers in each new

greengrocer I visit. I taste
your lips each time I drink

the salty broth. When a dragonfly lit
on the porch, I counted birthday

after birthday on the grid of its belly
pressed to the screen. Still with me,

the idea of you is close enough to touch
like the nubs that rise at the ends

of the strut between my shoulder blade
and sternum. The textbook says:

The clavicle is the only long bone
in the body that lies horizontally.

It says nothing of how things lie down
before they say goodbye or go to sleep.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 9 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

At the army hospital, whose nipple
did they put in my mouth after I
slid out and through her? That first
night and the rest that came after,

whose arms received the wrapped
bundle of me (in those days before
Pampers or vinyl diaper covers),
that soon I must have soaked

with my own effluvia? I know
they never were farther apart
or closer than that day; later,
through the winding years, one

always in the next room,
or at most a floor below
in the split-level bungalow
we shared. To this day,

what they knew suspends
like a gauzy drape above my head,
around my shoulders as I sift
in my own rooms, trying to write

again toward their secrets: older
and younger, sisters yoked by that
most domestic space of the womb
and what issues from it.

In what way and what did it signify
how each in turn or at the same time
was loved by my father? —for he
is the other shadow in this

unfinished tale. Two being dead,
only one of them perhaps could put
my questions to rest—but she sits
in the house of her diminishing

faculties, unconscious
of the echolalia that’s crept
into her speech… In a moment
I’ll put these threads aside,

as the hour grows late. But never
do they leave me completely alone—
at table, at the stove, attending
to my work or my own

housekeeping, I’ll feel the fierce
press of their shadows in the old
ways: triumvirate to all I do,
dreaming, sleeping, waking.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 10 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

In the yard, the fig tree has begun to put forth fruit.
They look like little green lightbulbs affixed to the branches.
The leaves, too, put forth their distinct five-fingered green.
The light these days seems kinder, somehow more golden—
late afternoons outlining things with a kind of halo.
Some days I feel almost on the edge of that familiar
brimming over. Some days the shiver that runs up
my spine seems like a summons I don’t need to fear.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.