This entry is part 30 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011


At a Mexican taqueria with my ten-year-old for lunch: the walls are vivid maize and papaya slashed with green. A family of clay lizards slithers cobalt and lime up the walls: What is poetry? I ask them, because a student has just come to me confessing he has discovered, after all, his poet’s heart. For a while, he was unsure about this territory. They don’t say anything, of course; they merely suspend against the stucco, cool in the noonday haze. If a petal from the forsythia in bloom at the edge of the woods drifts into the dog dish on the porch, what is its first country? In Latin, territorium means land of jurisdiction; with roots possibly deriving from terrere, to frighten. Somewhere the forsythia erupts in arches of yellow flame. Somewhere just beyond the border of my hearing, birds spar in the language of trills. Which one is the homely sibling? There is beauty, and there is work. When the sentinels look away, there is the catch in the throat, an opening yielding words that flutter like flags of secret or undiscovered countries.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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2 Replies to “Territories”

  1. There is beauty, and there is work.


    Of course, pulcra is its own territory:
    Isn’t beauty its only excuse for being?
    When created, it has its boundaries
    defined as edges of petals or blades
    of leaves, twigs of branches, birdsongs.
    And work? Work is the homely sibling.
    Pulcra et utile. Beauty and usefulness.
    When poetry works, there is beauty.
    Where, pray, is the bounden territory?
    Rival trills of a phantom symphony.

    —Albert B. Casuga

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