Letters Upon an Arc of White

This is a chain of poems composed in the comment thread to yesterday’s Morning Porch entry. Pittsburgh-based poet and master of enigma of Bob BrueckL started us off — inadvertently, I think — with a poem about the letter A in response to Luisa Igloria’s poem in response to my entry. Luisa followed with poems about B and C, at which point I jumped in and continued down the alphabet. We keep adding to it throughout the day and into the evening, with interruptions to fix supper and the like. In what follows, I have done only a bare minimum of editing, and have chosen only one poem for each letter — there were a few for which we each wrote one. The original thread is also worth checking out for the contributions of regular Morning Porch poet-commenter Albert Casuga, which were in a slightly different spirit but also fun, and one contribution from late-comer Barbara Case.

What is A?
A is A.
It opens, non-
blurry mercy,


And B.
B curls twice
into itself.
mercies — it tucks
the corners into bed.


I miss
you already;
should have kept
my arms closed.


isn’t D
prived of
another half.
Its smile is full,
its single string
is taut with D


E, so regal
in upper case,
it’s easy to forget
how the commonest letters
can close their fists.


I combed
the seashells
out of my hair,
would my songs


Gravitas is
the gooseneck lamp
above the foldout desk,
the grizzled poet poring
over goldenrods or


how I learned to hate
that chair in the hall!


at my
reflection, my


in my I
and waits to be baited.


go straight
to the


begins with E—
like F, except
it keeps what F loses
and thus becomes
so much lovelier.


Primal letter MA
with her mountains
of milk.


was the last
time I clambered
up a slide and
rode it, rapid
down— which


the moon
all round
and endless


plays tennis
on the side.


you make
a quiet
to this


Half rebus,
half hieroglyph,
hoisting its one
good wing.


We were both lost,
though heading in
opposite directions.
“Have you seen my white eye?”
“Have you seen my black?”


Tell me
I’d like
to hear
not two-
way signals
tilting in
the wind.


like a mouth,
like a well
under the stars;
and commas.


In the anatomy
of the ear, this is
the part called
the chantarelle.


Window shaded
with accordion pleats—
wistful is the one
who leans out;
watercolors in the distance.


Whenever the numbers
go on strike,
here’s your scab:
four strong limbs
ready for any value.
No pesky head.


I yield
to you
as to warmer
wind— the two
top buttons
come undone.


We glide
from one axis
to another,
in order to
begin again,


Bob BrueckL: A
Luisa A. Igloria: B, C, F, G, I, K, N, O, Q, T, U, W, Y, Z
Dave Bonta: D, E, H, J, L, M, P, R, S, V, X

Landscape, with an End and a Beginning

This entry is part 48 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


In those days, we too looked to the sky
for omens— away from the burning effigies,
the barricades, the soldiers whose phalanxes
we broke with prayers and sandwiches made
by mothers, teachers and nuns passing rosaries
and flasks of water from hand to hand.
The city was a giant ear, listening for news
of the dictator. Sound travels swift through
a mass of suffering bodies. Snipers perched
like birds on the peripheries of buildings.
Thickening contrails striped the sky.
Two ravens flew side-by-side over the abandoned
palace, trading hoarse commentary. When night came,
the people scaled the gates. What did they see?
Papers of state whirling in the fireplace. Masses
of ball gowns choking the closet, shoes lined with satin
and pearls; gilt-edged murals above the staircase.
Days and nights of upheaval, their new history
alive; the old one writhing on the floor
with a blur around its mouth like hoarfrost.

Luisa A. Igloria

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry. (Remembering the Philippine “People Power” Revolution, in the light of current events in Egypt).

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry: a vital first step

A quiet regular reader of Via Negativa who knows of my interest in such things tipped me off to a new Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry (via Boing Boing). It grew out of the earlier and most excellent “Poetry in New Media: A Users’ Guide” (which is still perhaps a more interesting document, especially to people outside of the United States). Developed under the auspices of the Poetry Foundation, the new document is a first crack at an articulation of Fair Use standards for the American poetry-making and -using community, standards that could not only guide use but could even conceivably influence U.S. copyright cases, because as it points out, courts deciding such cases often take into account “whether the user acted reasonably and in good faith in light of standards of accepted practice in his or her particular field.” Continue reading “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry: a vital first step”


This entry is part 46 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


“That stick in your hand is tracing mansions
in which we shall always be together.”
—Anna Akhmatova

In the dream I am always on a raft, always
floating downstream, the river a voice just
beneath my ear, the heat and haze a coppery
taste on my tongue. The sky is a scroll
unwinding above, blue film cut through
occasionally by green fronds, vivid drapery
on rock walls. Do you know what it means?
I don’t. I am alone, of course. I have left you
behind, or you have left me. But today is another
morning. Where bodies have lain, the bed
is still warm. Outside, it’s snowing again.
I know why the blue jay keeps returning
to the same high limb to eat snow, as if it can’t
find that exact flavor anywhere else.

Luisa A. Igloria

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

Appalachian Barren Strawberry

This entry is part 12 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems


Barren Strawberry by Jennifer Schlick
Appalachian Barren Strawberry by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Waldsteinia fragarioides

“stay together
learn the flowers
go light”
—Gary Snyder, “For the Children

Don’t let the clearing the loggers left
remain desolate.
Grow an evergreen blanket
over the grave
of a tree’s shadow.

Treat each knot as a chance
to sprout adventitious roots
or open a still
& turn sunshine into sugar,
but go easy on the upward mobility:
keep your leaves & flowers

Say grace before raising
your pollen-heavy heads
to the ministering bee.

Neither barren nor strawberry,
keep your fruit small & hard
& your roots non-medicinal
so nobody but the birds will bother you.

Stay together.
Learn the humans.
Stow light.


This entry is part 45 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


“Adoro te devote, latens Deitas,
Quae sub his figuris vere latitas…”
[“I adore you devoutly, O hidden God
truly present under these veils…”]
—St. Thomas Aquinas

The silence of falling snow perhaps is like the hush
that lives somewhere in each moment of great
preparation: as for instance in Pieter van der Borcht’s
medieval copperplate engraving, when you would not know,
unless you read the captions, that the fierce and terrible
mangled faces of the lion and the lioness are from
their desperate expenditure of chi so that their stillborn
cub might live— under the gnarled cypress and rock,
see how its body writhes, stretching and coming to at last
under the double blowtorch of breath. And what of the meal
that the pelican gathers for her young from the cabinet
of her own breast, bright speckled clusters of blood from
the vine? Feathers fragranced with cedar, the phoenix
bursts into flame then crests from its ashes on the third
day; the unicorn comes to lay its head on the virgin’s lap,
and the foliage glistens like a page of illuminated
text. Orpheus knew, afterwards, the dangers of looking
too closely at the silence, of doubting what it might bear.
Think of him ascending from the depths, not hearing
her voice or footfall, not seeing her face. This morning,
also by myself, I bend to attend the furnace’s smolder.
Three deer digging under the wild apple tree
in the garden startle and run down the slope.

Luisa A. Igloria

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.


This entry is part 26 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life


Direct link to video on Vimeo.

When I was young, I did have a few ambitions. I remember wanting to be a tree, or to achieve orbital velocity, or even to fall in love — falling was especially attractive. I remember trying to feel full of potential: an odd proposition, like following the map of veins in the back of your hand, or praying to an unresponsive power company. I hadn’t yet learned how to listen to the silent land. Back then, my mania for writing was only kept in check by my mania for crossing things out, like scratch answering to itch. I kept everything: my papers, you’d say, if I were anyone famous. Leaves from a tree that no longer exists.


I filmed a short walk through the woods during a snowstorm yesterday, but in the absense of image stabilization it turned out to be fairly unwatchable except in short segments. So most of this videopoem consists of game cam footage from our neighbors, Troy and Paula Scott. The cameras are motion-triggered and shoot both normal and infrared, 30-second films. The soundtrack incorporates music by DJ Rkod licensed under a Creative Commons Noncommercial Sampling Plus licence, found at ccmixter.org, which Peter Stephens turned me onto last month (check out his videopoetry on Vimeo).

The power was out for four hours this morning, forcing me to resort to pen and paper, which now strikes me as a very odd way to write.


This entry is part 44 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


Through air leafed with snow,
a large white bird— albino crow, lost
seagull, emperor crane: emissary
of what secret life or mystery?

Today was promised sun, but nothing
even faintly smolders except the tiniest
crumbs in the toaster tray. Impermanent
visitor, infrequent lodger, you stencil

your mirage on every dissolving thing:
salt, sugar, steam; the spiderweb
of lines upon each palm, the starry
tracks that streak the iron dark.

Luisa A. Igloria

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.


This entry is part 43 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


My own, I am I know my hardest
and my most exacting prisoner,
most watchful sentinel braced

against the threshold— And so
in wakefulness sometimes I much prefer
the randomness of sound unpinned

from any explanation— the beeper
of a quarry truck trilling distant
like a digital alarm, the vowels

spelled by dueling chickadees
in the air. Even the ragged fringe
along a line of trees reverses

the abrupt shear where ridge
meets rain-filled sky into
a kind of noise.

Luisa A. Igloria

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

Dutchman’s Breeches

This entry is part 11 of 29 in the series Wildflower Poems


Dutchman's Breeches by Jennifer Schlick
Dutchman's Breeches by Jennifer Schlick (click to see larger)

Dicentra cucullaria

These are no knickers, Dutch or otherwise,
but a yellowed tooth the bumblebee drills for nectar
with her long strong tongue.

Where some see underwear, others —
judging from the common names — see hats,
white hearts or earrings, even butterfly collections.

It’s useful to know what you’re looking at.
Some wasps have learned how to steal nectar
by chewing a hole at the top,
where the Dutchman’s foot would go
into the breech.

I once spotted a white crab spider
hanging from the end of the line
like one more flower,
waiting for an undiscriminating drinker,
the trap of its legs set.

The Menominee used to use it as a love charm,
lie in wait for their crushes & try to hit them
with a well-aimed white heart.

Staggerweed, the old-time farmers called it,
for what the lacy gray-green leaves
could do to a cow.