Redolence

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 66 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

Delicacy: The faintest tinge of flavor, the way
I know what words can make you blush.

Mostly for their smell, last summer I planted
verbena between the mint and roses.

The weeds look almost tipped with silver
and the moon is a penny, coppered thin.

I sit in the window bay waiting for the heat
to dwindle, to sweeten in the clover.

Do you know why the green herbs stitch
their tiny shadows on the sill?

After the storm last night, all the lights
went out, down the length of the street.

Warm amber, warm musk, sweet
hook: your scent in the dark.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Visiting Ty Isaf

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Ty Isaf front view

Ty Isaf is not merely a postal address and a property of moderate grandeur and repute; it is also a work in progress, a collaboration between Clive Hicks-Jenkins, Peter Wakelin, their team of highly skilled workmen, and the various wild and domesticated beings they share the property with, including a small colony of pipistrelle bats in the attic and a noisy rookery in the treetops adjacent to the house.
Continue reading “Visiting Ty Isaf”

Letter to What Must be Borne

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 65 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

Dear patience, crown of flowers whose root
is the same suffering we give the name
of love— We learn that the afternoon’s
passing storms, broody with thunder and
petulant with hail, have ripped the night

heron’s nest from the trees, and flung
its young upon the cobblestones. None
have survived. Is it to make amends
that the first irises open in the dark,
confessing the wounds on their tongues?

Red and yellow, stained crests of violet—
here is how the heart’s delivered from
one injury to another. Our limbs thrash
in sleep, swimming toward the promise
of an island of repose. Come, wind

with your interchangeable songs of virtue
and endurance— Come any way through
the windows; cool these overheated rooms.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Incognito

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

London blogger meetup

Sometimes for various reasons the best photo may be the one that conveys the least information. I believe this is the only digital artifact from a May 12 get-together of six bloggers at a London pub which can be shared without upsetting any of the parties involved. Continue reading “Incognito”

From the Leaves of the Night Notebook

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 64 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

On the common fleabane, the leaves
clasp their stems and the spiraled
white lashes close on their one
yellow eye for the night. What
does it see, peeking through
the fringed curtains?

*

In his Flora Suecia, Carl Linnaeus
wrote of a Russian soldier
cured of dysentery by fleabane
decoction. Burn the plant,
hoary head and all, and be rid
of fleas, insects, and other itches.

*

The night-blooming cereus
spreads its ivory skirts to reveal
its corded saffron petticoat.
For a few hours of such
intense fragrance, what
would you not unravel?

*

Legends describe a soup
prepared from entire flowers,
and fed to warriors and lovers
with thinning breath. In other tales,
the flowers are called Job’s Tears.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Three Improvisations

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

1

The clouds are sheets of cotton pulled thin between our fingers.

Translation: At the lake, villagers are harvesting
shoals of tiny fish, their bodies an inch long, the dark
pupils of their eyes no bigger than pinpricks.
The water ripples like oil.

2

You lean forward and say, Don’t move. There is an animal in the tree above you.

Translation: The nuns in the school I attended
made us walk, single file, up and down the narrow
wooden staircases: Only on the balls
of your feet, girls
, they commanded.
Lightness is all.

3

Where can I go to feel sand under my feet, watch the rush of water tint them sable?

Translation: The Japanese irises wear thin
wrappers of color; they’ve had too much heat
and now they’re shriveling in the evening air.
A cricket twangs its strings in the shadows,
oblivious to the deep vermilion pouring over
the harbor. Not me— I want to drink it up.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Woodrat Podcast 40: A walk with Clive Hicks-Jenkins (Part 1)

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Clive Hicks-Jenkins
(l-r) view of Llanilar, Clive and Jack at table, three Welsh cows

Join me for a walk with the Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins and his dog Jack. Clive and his partner Peter Wakelin live a few miles from Aberystwyth in a beautiful old place called Ty Isaf, which I’d been reading about on his Artlog for a couple years now, and was lucky enough to visit — and even stay three nights in — earlier this month.

I thought it would be fun to record a tour of Clive’s neighborhood for the podcast, allowing us to hear how a major artist relates to, and finds inspiration in, the land and people around him. For those unfamiliar with his work, it’s worth mentioning that specific places have always featured prominently in his paintings. Even elements which I had assumed to be fanciful, such as castles beside the sea, turn out to have been common features of the local and regional landscape. (For more on the sense of place in Clive’s work, see the essay by Andrew Green, “The Place of Place,” in the new monograph simply entitled Clive Hicks-Jenkins, from the British art publisher Lund Humphries in cooperation with Grey Mare Press.)

Podcast feed | Subscribe in iTunes

Be sure to check back next weekend for the conclusion of our walking conversation, in which I prompt Clive to talk about his journey from the theater world to art, what he looks for in painting, and more.

Theme music: “Le grand sequoia,” by Innvivo (Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence).

Landscape, with Wind and Tulip Tree

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 63 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

Here is the season of growing, so you are digging
somewhere in a garden, your hands turning warm

soil and putting in seed. Even those without a yard
can put up wooden boxes on their back decks

and pour sackfuls of rich brown earth. Such neat
rows, each headed by a tiny plastic triangle listing

how much water, how much shade; naming
what comes out of the harvest moons later—

heirloom tomatoes, stoplights of bell peppers,
cinnamon basil, sweet bee balm. My mother never

planned too hard about what things should grow,
or where— after chopping vegetables for stew,

she threw the seeds that clung to her hands
past the kitchen door, and months later we’d see

her thrift multiplied among the zinnias and
nasturtiums, latticed across pearled gravel.

I think of these tiny patches of almost wilderness
as a breeze stirs the tulip tree from top to bottom

and my heart picks its way among detritus of fallen
blossoms, their deep pink underbellies and the four-

fingered green of leaves like hands smoothed
open, ready to catch what might fall from the sky.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Balm

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 62 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

Honeysuckle in the shade, the day’s
hot store of oils cooling gradually into dusk;

then unexpected rain: thin drizzle a screen
through which late sunshine sifts,

the kind of rain we were told as children
was the spray of tears from God’s eyes.

And the mingled smells of heat and coolness
rouse the blades of memory from their hiding places,

where the musk of your breath mingles with
my own. Each glaucous leaf of the bleeding-heart

cradles its perfect droplet of moisture,
and the air is full of questions. Sometimes

I cannot bear to think past them, to pry them
loose from their trellis of hope and doubt and fear.

The volatile tea-green smells of soap rise up
from the little drawer where I keep fragrances

among the linen— I take out just one leaf
of scent and give myself permission to loosen

the stays from their clasps, the buttons like stars
plucked at cost from their hammered settings.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.