Three (More) Improvisations

This entry is part 10 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


[see earlier “Three Improvisations” from the Spring Morning Porch series]


Hail raining down on lake water means I have hurt you.

Translation: The burn that makes no noise,
the scarlet inflorescence of the skin.
The moon’s neon sign reads smolder. Why
do you think you hear fire sirens in the valley?
But you don’t move, you stay.


And the leaf was no longer a leaf but a trellis of itself.

Translation: Coming back from a walk
in the woods he spoke of a ribbon of floating green;
of how, going closer, he saw the near-invisible
spider silk, its tether to the canopy. Say lace,
say beautiful flayed skin.


Light is always liminal.

Translation: Spittlebug striped cinnabar and clove,
frothy beard caught in the hollows. Nearby
is beebalm, nearby is sage. Such overdrawn
tenderness we cannot help. We finger each
slick bubble, think we hear the tiny pop.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

In Loving Memory

This entry is part 5 of 20 in the series Highgate Cemetery Poems


In Loving Memory

The stone idols of our ancestors
lie face-down across the graves
they were made to watch over.
Lips worn whistle-thin
by the corrosive breath of engines
seek relief in the soil, where perhaps
the live wires of nematodes
might revive them, or ivy cover them
with feathers that actually move.

Only a few feet down the crowd awaits,
growing more anonymous by the year.
Perhaps they can reach those winter trees
through dissolution, like stalactites.
They shape the darkness
in their own image: a mask of dirt,
a vessel, a full breast.

Woodrat Podcast 42: Tea with Fiona and Kaspalita

Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita on the waterfront at Aberystwyth, Wales
Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita on the waterfront at Aberystwyth, Wales

Brew yourself a nice cuppa and join Fiona Robyn, Kaspalita and me for a conversation about writing, religion, spirituality, science, small stones and more. We met on May 7 in Aberystwyth, Wales; Fiona and Kaspa subsequetly tied the knot on June 18th, and starting on July 1 they will again curate a month-long river of stones, with contributions from around the world.

Fiona Robyn is a novelist, a blogger, a therapist, and a creativity coach. She is very fond of Earl Grey tea and homemade cake. Kaspalita is a Pure Land Buddhist priest, a sometime blogger and is still learning to play the ukulele. Together they are on a mission, they say, to help people connect with the world through writing. In addition to the river of stones (see the aggregator blog) they also host the Writing Our Way Home forum and run e-courses on writing, spirituality and connecting to the world. Fiona has even written an e-book, available as a free download, called How to Write Your Way Home.

Podcast feed | Subscribe in iTunes

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

El Sagrado Corazon

This entry is part 8 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


“Before they call, I will answer.” ~ Isaiah 65: 24

Close to midnight, and it’s raining again.
This hushed: no noisy exchange of crows,
no yellow-billed bickering of cuckoos.

All day I merely counted out, did inventory:
cups of strong coffee, clink of silverware; bread
and butter, pink and white circles of radish

on the dinner plates. Now the rain’s
a flickering curtain, blue-green outside
window glass. On my desk, an old prayer card

where a heart crimson as a globe of fruit
is ringed by thorns, gold-leafed in flame.
Imagine if I took it in my hands,

laid it on the sill or hung it from a branch.
Imagine a ripe fig washed clean by rain,
glistening for the hand that chooses it.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 7 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


The pressure of a wheel turning on soft gravel,
a window sliding open. What sound is made

when something slips away and the hand closes
and opens on nothing but cool air in its wake?

The man stirs in the dark and sees the fog
caught in the treetops, the water beyond

just beginning to catch the light as it rises.
He’s restless, or he’s preoccupied with worry.

It begins to rain but he takes his bike
out of the garage, thinking he might follow

the distant chirping of quarry trucks to their source.
It’s early, and even the dog won’t go. Too early

for the dog; it won’t go, but watches him
pedal away in the rain to try to trace the sounds

that roused him, back to their source— not birdsong
though a restless wingbeat rises in the air, and the light

begins to catch at the edges of water. It passes
like fog through the treetops, through his hair;

it passes like a hand closing and opening. That’s
the heart missing what it wants to hold fast.

Look out the window— flicker of narrow
tires on the road; rain, soft earth, loose stones.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 6 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


Perhaps because I know how salt
is paired with flame and flame’s a welt

that licks the skin with thorn and bone,
I’ve always loved what knows to fold

the piquant tendril in the sweet—
ginger with anise, torn basil with lemon,

the iron bite of bitter gourds lingering
long after summer berries have left

their juice and stain on fingers, lips.
Reptile-skinned melons blush orange

like daylilies at their core, and the moon’s
poor copper in exchange. Once, I spooned

a tincture of jasmine flowers and my mouth
transformed into an old cathedral

against whose rose-veined marble walls
sheets of candle smoke lifted, swirled.

Once, I slipped thin slices of the carambola
on my love’s tongue, so he could understand

how some stars burn greener in their
passing. Shake the purple rind of the grenadilla,

the yellow globe of the maracuyá— the audible pulse,
the ticking seeds: exquisite sweet, waiting to explode.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Boneyard Dogs

This entry is part 4 of 20 in the series Highgate Cemetery Poems


Her faithful pet

for RR

How does one lay out a dog for burial?
Do it wrong and its ghost will circle
endlessly, unable to lie down.


Live dogs aren’t permitted in the cemetery.
We look for their stone snouts among the angels.


Has anyone considered that dogs may not want us
with them in heaven?
That we would frighten the wolves?


A cemetery is the last refuge of invisible friends.
Here’s someone with a map to celebrity gravesites.


Trees at Highgate need not fear the lifted hind leg.
They go wild, permitted
every extravagance except death.


I write these notes six weeks later
in a silence greater than any in all London,
sitting in the darkness,
trusting my faithful pen to find the way.


This entry is part 5 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


We drive through neighborhoods to look
at houses leafed in dusk-light, noting which
have corbeled windows and which

have shutters turning to the river,
where the sky has tinted the waters mauve
and wading birds touch the current

lighter than a skimming lure.
Is there a walk edged with green,
leading to a door of beveled glass?

Is there a span of yard
where old leaves on the evening
primroses graze the fluttery

new leaves on the witch hazel?
No one lists these other views:
the curl of chrome around

the refrigerator handle, the tiny
speckled orbs of orange scattered
across kitchen tile. I look

for your image reflected from
the shiny green side of a toaster,
listen for the future echo of footsteps

dancing up from the wooden floor.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 4 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


As if we knew enough to name
with certainty what creeps
dark-eyed under the canopy;
as if the sky were not
already overcast and cooled
by night’s long rains.
As if the arms of trees
did not hold cryptic
messages, letters
that lovers once carved
in bark for one another.
And so the scar:
shadowy fingernail,
sickle shape radiating from
the center of the breastbone,
as though a hummingbird
smote the spot and worked
in frenzy to perfect that one
eyelet: little god, hovering above
an altar of imperfections.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.