This entry is part 45 of 55 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2012


I close my eyes, and you are children again:
asleep then waking in one room to rooster
crow, sharing blankets made unruly

in the night. I have a photograph in which
all of you are reading, a long body pillow
spread across all of your laps, a book

open in each pair of hands: in one story,
the pancake has run away from the hungry
mouths gathered around the table; or is it

a cookie in the shape of a boy, which later
gets eaten up by the animal that volunteers
to ferry it across the river, to imagined

safety? I don’t remember this thing you
insist now: how it was I that taught you
no one can be trusted, not even the warm

closeness of your own gut breathing hard
from trying to run away, or to find a way.
What I remember is I tried to teach you

to listen, keep your eyes open, learn
how the flicker of any epiphany is slight
as a bird, and quicker of wing. Everything

is instruction, especially when the lesson
can’t be neatly laid out on paper. Industry
picks up the chairs overturned by the child,

mops up the porridge trails that dripped
from spoons and the rims of bowls.
One bed is lumpy; the other is hard.

All have linens that at some point have
to be washed. The fox eats the bread— or
the cookie. Or is that the one where the wolf

eats the girl? No, she is smarter, younger,
she knows how to redden her lips and cheeks. She
makes an ally of the huntsman. The wolf gets

the she-crone, the grandmother, the woman who now
lives all alone by herself. Nights she strikes a match
to the stove, to the kindling in the hearth. A flame

leaps up like a tongue, like a flicker of something
bright come back to roost. Where wood meets town,
a hungry girl holds out her hands to stop the river

of milk and porridge. Knee-deep in such thick bounty,
and she cannot remember the words to make it do her
bidding; she cannot remember enough to make it stop.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Letter to the Underneath

This entry is part 44 of 55 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2012


Dear milk and almond smells rising up from skin,
damp rope of hair I now can twist into a knot
from having grown it out since winter—

I look up at the clock and it is past
the midnight hour; still, I cannot sleep.
Books and bills, papers; a watercolor

set, as yet unused, on the desk. In these
late hours, I piece together disappointment
and hurt, remorse and tears; scenes

lashed with rushes of bronze wheat, fog
cloaking green hills, sawed-off limbs
of trees. Long ago now, in my childhood,

my mother kept needles and thread,
all her sewing notions, in an old
biscuit tin etched with lines: ocean

swell, frigate furling all its sails,
armored and fitted for some destination.
Where the billows rusted and darkened over,

I’d take a pin and scratch until parts
of the picture showed again— as if
to reassure myself there was something

that came before: canvas or sky; wing of water
bird, backdrop, color, history. Dear time
prior to this, you must still be there.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Snyder-Middleswarth Natural Area, 2012: life after death

hemlock skeletons

The last time I visited the old-growth stand of eastern hemlocks at Snyder-Middleswarth Natural Area, in central Pennsylvania’s Bald Eagle State Forest, the hemlocks were succumbing to a wooly adelgid infestation, and I figured they’d all be dead in a few years. That was early June 2007. My hiking buddy Lucy and I felt we should go back five years later and see what was taking the hemlocks’ place.

Continue reading “Snyder-Middleswarth Natural Area, 2012: life after death”

Protest and survive

the cassandra pages:

Marching with the students last Saturday was a high point in my life of protest: it was absolutely astounding, at 11:00 pm, to see not only this great throng of demonstrators, but the people in their homes, in their cars, spilling out of restaurants, bars and cafes, all cheering, making noise, smiling, waving their arms, encouraging their children to join in. It was more like a parade than a protest march.


A lot has been going on here lately. Had I not been feeling so reticent, I might’ve posted the following updates to Twitter or Facebook.

A dry high: the best weather for brewing.


The face of an intruder caught in my flashlight’s beam in the tall weeds, pale and out-of-place as a late-season snow.


The night after the burglary, I sit outside for hours watching fireflies in the moonlight, listening to the deer grazing: slow footfalls, loud chewing.


A patch of dead grass where the police car had parked with its engine running, leaking coolant in the noonday heat.


I’ve been actively flirting with disaster. Which is to say, for the first time in years I’ve been driving a car.


The sky before a violent storm turns green just like the face of someone about to vomit.


This entry is part 42 of 55 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2012


I wanted so much to be the girl in a red dress bending to pick a blossom in the middle of a field of poppies; or the woman in a blue dress carrying a parasol through it, with a little girl at her side. Any one of them, actually: girl, woman, child. Each one vivid with color, flushed from the noonday heat, coming or going in the benign countryside. I wanted to be the chipping sparrow emerging from the lilac, wings brushed just faintly with scent. But I confess sometimes I do not want the bird to answer the high-pitched cries of nestlings. Not immediately, at least. You think that’s a terrible thing to say? Well, I feel it sometimes. Their cries pursue her asleep, awake. Each tufted button’s a homing device; rows of them, like lights lining the field in an airstrip. I wanted a house of my own leaning against a hillside. I wanted simple wood floors, wide ledges for sills. I wanted air, a light more generous than milk, spilling through every window. Even wild things know about caution. Even wild creatures need to preserve what’s left of the husks they have, for the coming months lean with cold, lined with the twigs of their brittle age.


In response to Morning Porch and Morning Porch.