Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2014-15

This entry is part 2 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2014-15

Old heart, tired heart
counting this cold morning
the beads that gather on the grass—

Sometimes it’s hard
to keep track of how many
promises you made, fueled by hope

of their full return: each time
felt real, was real— O how you
wanted to empty your draw-

string purse of all
your savings, and spend them
on the greatest love of all.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 3 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2014-15

as if what flesh once desired
found embodiment in this opening.

Sudden as epiphany, though not
earth-shattering— A square of paper
come to light again after many months

hidden in a drawer, inked lines
of handwriting. Despite such careful
unfolding, all that language

cannot dress beyond compression:
shimmer of what called our names
even after the curtain was drawn.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 4 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2014-15

the child grows up and learns the word for what was done to her

the marks she gouged into the wood of the window-frame are found

the tongue that boiled for hours in the pot has softened

the pale nubs on the underside are stripped away

the wound is white and seamed where blade met skin

the sheets are bleached and hanging on the line

the ghosts are dead that have no place to go

the cabinet that smells of mothballs gives up

the letter that piece by piece retrieves the history

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 5 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2014-15

Forget the scolding for the milk
that curdled in the jar, the whites
of eggs that would not rise—

Forget the lapse in weather
that made you, too, forget the time
beneath the haze of heat and open windows—

The water skims and purls,
retreating after it washes over rocks.
That is the rhythm of all approach:

that halting, uncertain, sideways track
toward what the heart wants so very much
not to frighten away with its need—

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 6 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2014-15

It was also my father’s city, legend
at the edge of the bay, walled
before history’s dismantling
as bombs fell from the sky.

I do not recognize
how it looks in vintage
photographs: the graceful
boulevard, the parks and plazas

from another century,
blueprint of someone’s colonial
dreams that flowered in delirious
heat. And it is hard to reconcile

these images— avenues with neat,
lettered signs: botica, sombrerería,
panadería
; itinerant but well-
dressed vendors— with choked fumes

from standstill traffic, the stench
of a city rotting from the weight
of all it can no longer bear,
but from whose dwindling

stores the greedy want
to ferret every bit of shine
and wealth, snuff the strength
to spit in the face of the state

and its lies. Most of all, the poor:
vagrants who knife, sharp-shinned,
through narrow spaces between cars to knock
on sealed windows with fevered palms.

I used to walk from work late at night and see,
huddled under a bridge or by a canal in the glow
from a nearby high-rise, bodies seeking
repose: the old, the young, infirm—

sheeted in newspapers, mumbling
in sleep. How could we want any differently?
Don’t we know how it feels to lie, so public
and helpless, beneath the heel of a dream?

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 7 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2014-15

Dear father, I remember when you
first said this to me: we were walking
along the road that led from Palma street

to the City Hall where you worked, and we passed
the pink house that no one ever lived in except
in summertime, when its rich owners came

from the big city and the wrought iron gates swung
open to their VW van and black Plymouth Barracuda—
They had no mastiffs on guard, but every other house

had a dog snarling and chained to the stoop;
and mangy strays that lurked in alleys might circle
our heels, their ribs like sad dry accordions

running out of air. My small hand in yours, a cry
ready to fly from my mouth: but you lowered your voice
and taught me to steady my walk, not to show them

the fluttering pulse like a moth they might tear
from the throat of my fear if I gave them a chance,
if I gave them the chance to come that near.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 8 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2014-15

After you left, what did you think
about the world that lay beyond the rim

of the only city you’d lived in almost
from birth? What did you think of the sky

you found extended beyond the tips
of airplane wings— that it would sift

snow fine as dust, whiter than flour
on your coat-sleeves, and still

you would never grow cold? What
did they tell you of how to endure

the solemn procession of years, the small
interregnum of time, the nip in the waist

and catch in the throat before the hourglass
spun to measure the grains all over again—

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 9 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2014-15

There is always one
burnishing with rosin
or turning a peg
in the soundboard,
while another clicks
the row of red, yellow,
and green on a Rubik’s
cube to warm up the hours,
repeating a scale or that
same passage from one
of Vivaldi’s Seasons—
cuckoo clearing its throat,
spangles of ice thawing
from the roof, wheels
of a carriage turning
heroically in the mud,
and the rider pressing
his mount onward to that
breathless destination.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 10 of 28 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2014-15

I know the shadow cast by the thing
is not equivalent to the thing itself

and that the sheen of some pearls
does not betray their hearts of paste—

But I have also been taken aside
for such lectures too often: how in my case,

to be forthright is seen as speaking
out of turn; to ask for my due, ingratitude.

After a lifetime and a half of service, the quality
of my speech and learning is still to be held

for further scrutiny: and there is always one more
Assessment before the Welcome or Enter sign.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.