holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

When a traffic light is blinking, it means be careful. When the clock is blinking, it means the time it shows is incorrect. When the answering machine is blinking, it means there’s a message. I wake sometimes & struggle to remember where I am: rapid blinking usually brings it back. It’s easy to forget there’s a mountain under me—a low one, to be sure, but one that stretches all the way to Georgia, its name changing every 25 miles.

How many times a minute does a hummingbird blink? I watch one hover over the red porch floor made glossy by wind-blown rain. A catbird on a dead limb tilts its head to eye the clouds. Soon enough, they’ll both be gone. The mountain, on the other hand, barely moves, like a snake that has just swallowed something huge & toothy. I wake sometimes at four in the morning & go outside to listen, just in case.

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 76 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


Everywhere is a mirror, if you care
to look: red porch floor made glossy

by wind-blown rain, hummingbird
hovering over its surface. Round

soup spoon skimming, dipped
beneath to snare a disc

of ginger, coarse ruffled leaf.
Your eyes: across these bowls

of cooling tea, dark irises
enclosed in softer brown. Late

risen moon: careless coin, forgotten
wish tossed into shallow water.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

The Summer of the Angel of Death

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 75 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


It started out simply, a game
of little questions as she ironed
a stack of laundry in the afternoons

while I colored pictures at the table
and rain drew circles on the windows—
What would happen if you went to school

and discovered you’d left your lunch
and had no money in your pocket?
What would you do if you came home

and the doors were locked, and no
one was here?
I don’t remember when
the hypothetical problems became

more difficult to ponder, or if my mother,
pausing in the rhythm of her labors,
considered the metaphysics of these

further tests. Next, she asked questions
that seemed to be about other persons,
say, the neighbors next door: What

do you think would happen if one day,
you woke up to find your parents
had died?
I’m sure it was only

to prepare me for the difficult
uncertainties of life, to begin
to teach my mind to cultivate

the detachment which comes
of acknowledging what it can’t
ever control. I can’t remember

if my dreams were suddenly
clouded with locusts and plagues,
if blood bubbled upon the waters;

or if I ever saw in them the angel
of death waving a sprig of rosemary,
walking on the grass and passing

beneath the trees which trembled
slightly, even those whose leaves
were toughened by a long summer.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Sleeper Cell

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 29 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life


Let yourself in—
use any key that fits.
Be kind to the parrot in the mirror
who doesn’t know what he’s saying,
there in that cage that looks
so much like your face.
No one is on this, not even you.
Call the numbers you find
on certain benches in the park
& leave messages consisting of
precisely timed moments of silence.
Words can’t be trusted.
Be sure to forget your dreams
immediately upon waking
& remove all traces of any nocturnal emissions.
If sleep apnea develops,
treat with a didgeridoo
to reboot your breathing:
go deeper.
Let yourself down
with knotted bedsheets, gingerly,
through what used to pass for moonlight
in the age of aluminum.

Bearing Fire

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 74 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


We get up to rain and fog; or rather,
smoke— the swamp still burning

in the month-long aftermath of
lightning strike. Not even a hurricane

could put it out. Whatever else one
might say, it is a form of dedication.

Name your materials, then: peat and fossils;
ethyl alcohol, grains soaked and swirled

in a silo of glass. Little clutch of wood
shavings; cone of paper, puff of breath.

Coals in a tempered dish. Some light
to take you past the midnight hour.

At a conference many years ago,
a Persian poet I didn’t even know

looked at me and said, Your stomach
is tight; don’t try too hard

And it’s true. Don’t we want,
so many times every day, to unclench?

The world looms close. Only look up
at the brilliant fall sky

and the silver gleam of a plane
glancing off the buildings.

Somewhere in the woods, a bright
clearing where a tree came down.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 73 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


Glyko Karythi: Green Walnut Spoon Sweet [Greek]

What falls, will fall of its own accord
because the season dictates it— acorns
and chestnuts on the ground, leaves now
beginning their russet plunge. No sword

needs to sever the filaments, no word
except what blows, mostly unseen, through
the late hours. Sometimes the light thud
of a globed body: hard green pear, gourd

bitter with unripe longings. Fall’s rewards,
we think, are tinted scarlet: apples, late-
blushed nectarines we gather, moving from tree
to tree. But also the rough, raw, blurred.

A stinkbug on the railing drops, not quite unheard,
to the porch floor. The seed’s housed in a shell
that cracks to metaphor. I marvel at how walnuts
packed whole in honey were once hard, uncured;

but yield all, steeped long in sweetness, complex art—skin,
flesh, bone you could cut, clear to the wrinkled heart.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Reprieve (videopoem for Luisa)

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Watch on Vimeo – watch on Youtube

Luisa A. Igloria turned 50 today. Online birthday commemorations usually strike me as fairly pointless, but I wanted to do something special for the genius poet who has contributed so much wonderful content to Via Negativa over the past nine months, and what better than a videopoem? I’ve shied away from envideoing Luisa’s poems until now because they struck me as rather too challenging for a videopoemographer of my basic skill level, being both rich in imagery and usually fairly long. But I saw some cool footage at the British Film Institute the other night, free for non-commercial use under something called a Creative Archive Licence, and today I went through Luisa’s poem archive here until I found one I thought might work with it: “Reprieve,” from back on August 2. Then for the soundtrack, I floundered around on SoundCloud for a while until I got the idea of searching for something with “kisses” (a central image of the poem’s) in the title or description, and the first track that came up worked brilliantly, I thought.

I wish I had a higher-resolution version of the film clips to work with, but beggars can’t be choosers, as my mom always says. It was fun to cut and splice and see how well I could make filmic and poetic images line up. Happy birthday, Luisa!

Dear recklessness, dear jeweled

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 72 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


O, to grace, how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be.
Let Thy mercy, like a fetter
bind my wandering heart to Thee.

~ “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Dear recklessness, dear jeweled
hummingbird buzzing into the teeming
garden, I’ve followed your dizzy trail
these many years: from bed to bed, down
mountain trails, across oceans, to the last
bergamot flower’s four thin flagons nearly
wilted in the shade. So long I’ve dreamed
of climbing into a harness and zipping
across swaths of hidden forest, where
no one has yet catalogued the dream-shapes
of ferns and flowers beneath the canopy;
or dropping from a little plane with you—
one quick tug, and the pocket of silk
billows up like a mellow flame, its
rustle an ineffable name, to bear me
back down to checkered ground.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

International Rock-Flipping Day 2011 is September 11

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

International Rock-Flipping Day badge
That’s right, folks: it’s time once again to gird your loins, polish your cameras, and vulcanize your boots. The world’s largest annual rock-flipping blog carnival is almost upon us! British Columbian nature-blogger Susannah Anderson at Wanderin’ Weeta (With Waterfowl and Weeds) has volunteered to be the point-person again this year, which means that all blog links should be emailed to her, and she will then assemble, publish, and keep updating a list of participants, which all other participants will be encouraged to reproduce on their own blogs so everybody links to everybody, and we all have a rockin’ good time seeing what’s under everybody’s rocks. Er, you know. It’s actually a very family-friendly exercise in nature education, assuming you can pry the little wombats away from their video games and mobile devices long enough to go outside and flip a few rocks.

If you’re new around here, you may be wondering what this is all about. Please go read Susannah’s post and all should be made clear. (You can also browse past IRFD posts here at Via Negativa, where it all got started five years ago.) If you’re on Flickr (whence the cool badge in this post, courtesy of Jason at Cephalopodcast), please join the International Rock-Flipping Day group and add your photos and videos to the pool next Sunday (or Monday, if you have other things going on that day). We do allow schoolteachers only to adjust the date and participate on either the preceding Friday or the following Monday. Everyone else should do their rock-flipping on Sunday. If you are a religious Christian and are wondering if this kind of activity is permitted on the Lord’s day, Jesus assures me that it is.


In other blog carnival-related news, the latest Festival of the Trees is up at Slugyard. It’s a back-to-school edition: Slugyard University. As Dave Barry would say, I swear I’m not making any of this up. Here at Via Negativa, slugs, sowbugs, and other creatures that live under or around rocks are held in high esteem. As indeed they should be. Jesus said they are going to inherit the earth.