After Rilke

ice feathers

Every angel is falling—not like a skydiver
rushing toward reunion
but like a fish leaping above the calm surface of a lake,
entering a new universe of knives & eyelids.
Imagine being born at the height of your powers.

force field

One rainfall & your chalk outline
disappears from the curb.
One hurricane and half the population
of your migratory species
vanishes over the Atlantic.

ice island

I don’t believe in angels, but I believe in their falling,
their helplessness against evil.
Nobody is watching over us except
for the blessed satellites, most of which
are in stable orbits.

green birch polypores

We point our dishes at the farthest stars,
searching for any crumb of meaning.
Who but the most downwardly mobile,
undocumented aliens
would turn unjaded ears toward the earth?


The first line is of course a riff on the opening of Rilke’s second Duino Elegy, “Every angel is terrifying.”

Because it is years since I last saw you

This entry is part 4 of 73 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2011-12


Mother, the yard’s a-glitter with frost,
and fleecy strips of cloud reflect

off the sheen of an iced-over puddle.
All’s white on white, save for the raven

flash of a wing, creasing the air as it
passes over. I rinse the cups and plates,

I put the folded linens away. Your grand-
child cranks out notes from a tiny music

box: they sound like water drops, perfect
in their brief, round plinking. I think

about the rings you used to wear on your
fingers— the cold cut of diamond chips

inlaid in gold, raised crown of the ruby
pushing up from its leathered chair.

We’ve learned to hold the tastes of fruit
in our mouths, mulled and spiced for winter.

I’m growing out my hair again: it pushes
past my nape, falls in a circle about my

shoulders. At night, in sleep, my right
hand cups my cheek; from habit I turn

toward the window. Behind night’s
lowering net, miles and miles of quiet.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Venison meatballs in coconut milk

I was looking for a holiday supper main course for just three people. Our neighbor had kindly gifted us with some extra pasta salad, which was delicious, and we also had a green salad and my mom’s crustless pumpkin maple cheesecake for desert. So here’s the recipe I came up with. I should mention that the venison was also a gift from the same neighbors, Troy and Paula Scott, from a deer they shot here on the mountain sometime within the past few weeks.


1 lb ground venison
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tsp minced garlic
1 12-oz can of coconut milk
3/4 cup whole-grain rye bread in large crumbs
1 egg
1/2 tsp ginger powder or 2 minced slices of fresh ginger root
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1 tblsp Hungarian paprika
lots of fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp salt


With a fork or some similar implement, stir and blend the coconut milk into something resembling a liquid, then pour a bit of it onto the bread crumbs in a mixing bowl to soften them up. Dump the rest into a large kettle on the stove and heat on medium low until it simmers. Beat the egg, add it to the breadcrumbs, then add all the rest of the ingredients and mix with a spoon or your fingers until you’ve produced a more or less uniform mass. Shape into eight to ten balls and place them in the simmering milk, which should submerge them about half-way. That’s O.K., because you’ll turn them over every ten minutes or so to prevent them from sticking. They should be done in 40-45 minutes, and you’ll be left with just enough sauce to spoon over top.

I was going to add dried currants, but forgot. Chopped almonds might’ve been a nice touch, too. As for the lack of a photo: they were meatballs. Presentation was not a central concern.

Silent night vigil

Hoarded Ordinaries

On this night before Christmas—a night Christians see as being more holy than most—it comforts me to know that someone, somewhere, is sitting in front of a phone, invisible as God, ready to offer an empathetic ear to the lonely, lost, and distraught. What better vigil for a Silent Night in which both finches and owls fluff and hunker against the winter chill?

Secret Santa

In dark December, sink
into the memory of childhood
like a bog man into the peat.
Drink too much & sing.
Gather all your small griefs,
your long-bearded regrets
& grotesque humiliations,
dress them in red & set
them to hammering. This is
the season of fresh starts
& the slaughter of innocents.
Remember to cut air holes
in the top crust & don’t stint
on butter. Wear sensible boots.
Go out into the long night
& learn the names of the stars.

A Carol

This entry is part 2 of 73 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2011-12


What’s there to be so worked up about? Is it
an upset stomach, a crumb of moldy cheese,
an underdone turnip, a ponderous chain
that clanks with every careworn step?
Let the snow fall amid the stenciled
branches, let the winds swirl like spirits
whose coming is always foretold, but who
cannot linger. They’re here, they’re here,
they’ve never left. They watch us who weigh
everything by gain, point to the shadows
of things that are yet to come. Curse
or blessing? May you be happy in the life
you’ve chosen
. Remember what passed between
us: clear, bright, cold. I know this place,
this tune, down to the last mince pie and dance.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Landscape, in the Aftermath of Flood

This entry is part 1 of 73 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2011-12


This is the way it often is, after calamity:
sudden gust of quiet, or spool of open air;

a few hundred feet of nothing. Nothing moving,
nothing doing, gray stasis of between-one-thing-

and-another. Until: closer view of the aftermath—
human figures daubed with mud, pinned under the ruins.

Did you not move quietly? Didn’t you take care not
to rouse the gods, or the duendes, or the anitos?

When you passed a large outcropping of rock,
didn’t you keep your head down? Didn’t you stop

short of teasing the makahiya into folding up its
leaflets? Didn’t you whisper, pagpaumanhin po ninyo ako?

Pray that the river does not rise again, does not reach
its muddy arms to take you in your sleep. Whole

cities have just gone under. When the wind bears down,
every frond bristles with the recent memory of voices

calling children from supper and to bed, singing
simple lullabies, saying Yes, tomorrow.

It’s all you can do to keep from giving yourself to
oblivion. If not for taking the living in your arms.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Apocalyptic dreams

Sherry Chandler

I dreamed I was taking clothes down from the line on a windy day and a sweat suit blown into my body by the wind wrapped its arms and legs around me like a child and held on. I carried it indoors and laid it on a narrow cot. The thing begged me to let it go, saying it would never really be Bob Dylan.