July 2011

This entry is part 41 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed…
~ Joshua 10:13

Here is the country of all
set-aside longings, the place

where non-leap year days go to bide
their time; here is the island

where minutes shaved off from each
early appointment have come to rest,

alongside every stitch in time
that saved nine. In spring

and summer (except in Texas or
St. Petersburg during White

Nights), each day delivers
an extra hour of daylight,

along with the newspapers
and milk. Barely any winds

disturb its flags, hoisted
on threads light as thistle-

down. Barely a tremor twirls
the weather vanes in the shapes

of planets and stars:
they merely revolve, calmly

in place— mouthing mantras
of patient waiting.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


Watch on VimeoWatch on YouTube

I made another video with one of Nic S.’s readings, this time for a poem by Nicelle Davis, “Cuba and Coltrane,” from her Whale Sound audio chapbook, Studies in Monogamy. I may not have any personal familiarity with marital discord, but who can’t identify with a relationship built on a shared longing to be elsewhere and otherwise than we are?

Process notes

As is almost always the case, this started with me noticing that something looked cool and needed to be filmed: in this case, the cattails blowing in the clear morning light with my new pink flamingo garden ornament slightly out-of-focus in the foreground. So I set up the camera on Saturday morning, knowing too that at some point someone would drive up the road and pass between cattails and flamingo. Once I had the footage, I began looking through Nic’s Whale Sound material for something appropriate, and “Cuba and Coltrane” immediately struck me as the best fit. Cuba, after all, actually hosts a breeding population of flamingos, unlike — say — Florida. And the blowing cattails were nothing if not jazzy.

I contacted the author for permission before I got too far along in the editing, gave her a rough outline of what I wanted to do, and linked to my videopoetry album on Vimeo. When she wrote back, she mentioned that she and her 3 1/2-year-old son had watched all of my videos, which was astonishing, and added that her son actually requested more of them this morning in preference to cartoons! High praise indeed. I remember just how addictive cartoons were when I was that age.

Maybe it was the mention of cartoons, but I got the idea of putting in some clips from slapstick comedies of the silent film era to illustrate the domestic conflict a bit more graphically. This may be a bit of overkill, I’m not sure. But it gave me a good excuse to browse through the online Edison Motion Pictures collection on the Library of Congress website.

I also thought it important to include some Coltrane in the soundtrack, and one way to do that without breaking copyright laws was to find a cover of a Coltrane tune licensed for remix/reuse under the Creative Commons. I decided to try SoundCloud this time, and hit paydirt right away with a great cover of “Naima” by a group called The VIG Quartet. SoundCloud has advanced search capability within Creative Commons-licensed material, so searching for tracks with the word “Coltrane” in the title, description or tags was quick and painless. I duly added SoundCloud to my page of web resources for videopoem makers at Moving Poems.

This entry is part 40 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

“… Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” ~ Psalm 17:8

We wake when the light has touched
the window-blinds, or to the sound

of wheels skimming early across asphalt.
And it is as though another day opens,

one door among many in passageways so long,
even the industry of carpenter ants might

falter. It is so hard to heft a pannier
of provisions from one gallery

to the next— But sometimes I think
I glimpse a familiar figure up ahead, robed

in saffron: gesturing Get up, shoulder
the load; keep pace, keep moving along
.

Time teaches a lighter tread: or
the body bound to gravity must shed

layer after layer. What progress is tracked,
comes only in the manner of what’s discarded:

powdery frass, fine shavings of wood
highlighting paths we’ve tunneled.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Broken broken broken
my high gray room.

How did it happen?
My hill on wet stilts.

Who made off with
the sudden searing roots?

They were showing us
how it feels to belong.

Thus a hermit thrush
at the end of summer,
whose bog occupies the spot

where 8000 years ago
a castle of ice dissolved
into a watery keep.

Latter-day invaders have left
their jagged ladders
for the woodpeckers

& perfectly preserved
in the tannic waters,
their empty nets.

This entry is part 39 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

Yes we are fierce, yes we take our
possessions with us wherever we go,
especially the ones you cannot see.

In the city at dusk, in a one-room apartment:
the former teacher remembers his childhood
friend and childhood sweetheart, and is moved

to write a poem; there is rain in it, and rice
fields. At a restaurant: the woman who has not
seen her child in years, hesitates as she lifts

a soup spoon to her lips. How does a bowl
transform into an ocean of salt and misgivings?
Its shallow depths are the sign of constant

uprooting, its ripples the sites
of the sloughing off of many skins.
Where will you be tomorrow?

Just when I thought you would stay, a letter
arrives with another forwarding address.
Have you a grandmother, a babushka,

a lola, a nonna? She sits in a doorway
or on a porch, feeling the light on her lids.
Sometimes, pennants of color and noise flit

through the trees, like words in another tongue.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 38 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

“Earwigs, of the order Dermaptera. Dermaptera is Greek in origin, stemming from … dermatos, meaning skin, and pteron, wing. It was coined by Charles De Geer in 1773. The common term, earwig, is derived from the Old English eare, which means ear, and wicga, which means insect.”

Despite the throbbing in your temples and
the growing migraine heat behind each pupil,
your job is to find the second alley to the right
in the direction of the old Hangar Building.

You will pass the butchers and meat-sellers,
their garlands of sausages hanging from hooks
surrounded by adoring flies. You will pass
the widows with their baskets of bitter

melon, banana hearts sheathed in purple
husks, yellow squash flowers wilting
in the heat. The one with the glass eye
tells fortunes. If you find yourself among

the sellers of grain, you will have walked
too far. Turn back and look for a narrow
passageway between the noodle shop and
the shoe repairer. Watch for the weathered

green door and follow the steps to the third
floor landing. Don’t mind the old men smelling
of tobacco smoke or incense hunched on the bench,
eyes closed, motionless as tokers. The acupuncturist

waits under a naked bulb in the room. He bows and holds
a pair of silver calipers aloft like a wizened insect.
He swabs the inside of each ear with a cotton ball
dipped in sterile fluid, and picks the tiniest

tacks from the tray of needles. He twirls them
into the rubbery folds of skin where they’ll lodge
for a week under the topmost crease of your ear
and probe the meridians of your hidden pains.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 14 of 20 in the series Highgate Cemetery Poems

Split gravestone

Kummerspeck (German) Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.
15 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent

Strip of blubber
sputtering on
high heat,
red stripe
that whispers
to the whip,
curling like
a tongue
at touch of
something bitter,
shrinking
& shriveling like
a spent cock
or drought-
struck leaf,
turning brittle
as the cover
of an old pulp
magazine,
ah bacon—
if I were to
bring you home,
it would be
as a flag
draped over
a coffin,
red & white
& red,
or some
long rash
I’d feed with
nervous nails.

This entry is part 37 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.” ~ Hebrews 11:1

I am the sheen of the egg after it has dropped its sun
into the heated pan. I am the cool underlining the day.
I am the dry, cracked bodhi leaf that fell from the tree

under which the sage closed his eyes and made a perfect
circle with his finger and thumb, and now lies in a frame
bought at the temple gift shop. I am the trill of a cricket

craning its body toward autumn in ninety degree heat.
I am the hunger that swerved like a bus on a switch-
back trail, so the hens and the goats being taken

to market broke out of their makeshift cages,
scrambling into the bushes to safety. I am
the tremble in the arc of the pendulum weight

as it hums from the tension in its silver wire.
I am the dream that flickers beneath the eyelids
of the child who wakes then names the events

that unfold. I am the filament that lodges
in the throat, tasting of salt and bone. And I,
I am the clock that stops just short of despair,

the zipper’s train whistling to the end of the track
and back; the shirt that fastens all the way to the top
so fingers can loosen the tiny buttons a little, or a lot.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


Watch on VimeoWatch on YouTube.

I took a break from berry picking yesterday to record this important message for anyone considering making the trip to Bear Meadows to pick highbush blueberries. (I didn’t have a tripod with me; I just strapped the camera to a sturdy blueberry bush.) The patch is completely over-rated. In addition to all the dangers I enumerate in the video, it’s also quite easy to get lost if you try to take the scenic route back through the state forest, as my mother and I discovered yesterday. One wrong turn and we became hopelessly disoriented, despite the fact that I’ve visited this part of the forest many, many times, on car and on foot. The state forest roads all look pretty much alike. Conclusion: please stay at home and watch cat videos on the internet. Thank you.

This entry is part 36 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

“There is no one to bless this.”
~ Matthew Rohrer

The velvet of the tongue against the roof
of the mouth, the smell of apple blossom—

I don’t quite remember what was said about
the life we’ve been given, for the touch

of fingers on my wrist. Who will witness
this perfect morning, clear and cool?

Sunlight splinters, translucent in the leaves
like handfuls of flung grain. In the woods,

the animals take provisions to their den.
I sign myself over: I do, I do.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.