Butterfly Loop 4

See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

common milkweed with beetles 3

As I near the southwestern end of Butterfly Loop, a monarch catches my eye. He circles a few times and heads straight for a small clump of common milkweed I hadn’t noticed, half-hidden behind a locust tree. He stays only for a couple of seconds before moving on, however — perhaps because the flowers are covered with various species of beetles, busy feeding and mating and clambering over each other in their excitement. It’s interesting the extent to which one can find quite distinct gatherings of insects in neighboring milkweed patches. I imagine it’s a combination of which stage the flowers are in and what other sorts of plants they adjoin, but who knows, really? Continue reading “Butterfly Loop 4”

Landscape, with Chinese Lanterns

This entry is part 11 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Some places might visit you only once, but their color stains you: one night lying
in a field of stars that prickled your nape, your head pillowed by the grass—

Or the cool of a morning, long ago in Provence: you flung the windows open and there it was,
Mont saint Victoire. I cupped my hands to my ears and listened to the wind in the grass.

Only a few days, not even a week: the road to town lined with Mexican cantinas, posters
of girls peeling from alley walls. Then the fountain of dolphins, and manicured grass.

Crowds in each sidewalk cafe; doves purpling the air. Water flowing toward
the sea, under the aqueducts. Ancient trees shading long avenues of grass.

And in St. Petersburg, beneath Kazansky’s shadowed colonnades, gypsy children
rushing at tourists reminded me of Manila: heavy air, dry wind in the grass.

And in the market, in Cotabato, bright threads tightly woven into malongs
by women’s hands. The smells of ripe jackfruit and durian, denser than grass.

I’m not there now, nor in the backyard of my childhood home— green fruit suspended
like ornaments from the trellis, the hum of insects screened through the grass.

In the heat, clusters of Chinese Lanterns rattle like pods; they sing This is it,
there is no rehearsal.
Gently I gather their coppery bones from the grass.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Mortal Ghazal

This entry is part 10 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


My friend sent me a lei of strawflowers from the city of our childhood:
brittle corollas of yellow undercut by orange that we called Everlasting.

I remember the slides in the park, and the kiddy train one summer: it looped around its
periphery, a blur of red and orange. Just a few minutes, but the ride seemed everlasting.

And women from the hills, their baskets filled with dried snipe, amulets, herbs;
their woven skirts striped vivid orange (the sound of their voices, everlasting)—

In that world, everything seemed possible; in that world, time seemed almost too slow.
Now I’m brought up short in the shoals as the sun reddens in a sky unrelenting—

At sunrise, two birds call— heraldic, but fleeting. Such tender things in the world:
smudged with blue, capped with little streaks of rust. Glyphs from the everlasting.

Tell me I haven’t done too little, that I’ve made some difference to you;
even if in the end I might be judged wanting, unhinged: mortal, not everlasting.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Butterfly Loop 2

See Part 1.

Butterfly Loop Trail

Here’s what the meadow looks like from the first loop of Butterfly Loop Trail. I want to jump ahead and start with this photo today to make the simple point that, while scenic views are nice, and have a lot to do with why people like visiting or even living in the country, they don’t tell you all that much. Stand back and squint and this could be almost any field. A farmer would recognize that this hastn’t been planted or used for pasture recently, and would probably recognize the dominant “weed” as goldenrod, interspersed with non-native perennial grasses (mostly brome). But even a farmer would have to get quite close to see that it hasn’t been cultivated in a very long time, as indicated by the presence of things such as moss, polypody fern and ground pine (lycopodium). Continue reading “Butterfly Loop 2”

Mid-year Ghazal

This entry is part 9 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Streets and parks, surprisingly empty this fourth of July— heat index past the hundreds,
humidity. Later in the cool of evening, crowds will watch fireworks at nine o’clock.

Nights wrapped in somnolent heat: the mind wanders familiar terrain— Watching
those I love in pain is suffering’s keenest dirk. And I can’t turn back the clock.

Voluptuous in their blue-purple spill: wisteria and lilacs among trellises here,
Neelakurinji carpeting the Western Ghats… I’d shirk a day of work just to tend these clocks.

But mostly I plow through each day’s heft and mystery, plant one foot before the other.
Anxious, trembling, the heart’s a poorly paid clerk, racing against the clock.

There’s never enough coal in the grate, never enough heat; too meagre resources
to bankroll dreams. I’m no longer that young turk unfazed by the dictum of clocks.

See the river’s face soften at twilight— Oil from passing boats has stippled its waters
with metallic sheen. Let’s you and I walk before nightfall’s murk, ignoring the clock.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Butterfly Loop 1

Indian hemp

Meet Indian hemp, A.K.A. hemp dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum), the more common — and less showy — of the two species of dogbane on the mountain. Why “dogbane”? The Latin name gives a clue: Apocynum means “toxic to dogs”… though people aren’t exactly immune, either. Why “Indian hemp”? “Apocynum cannabinum was used as a source of fiber by Native Americans, to make hunting nets, fishing lines, clothing, and twine,” the Wikipedia article informs us.

We’re standing right above the barn, at the beginning of Butterfly Loop. I aim to give y’all a guided tour of some of the commoner plants blooming in the meadow right now, if you’re up for it. This could take a while. Continue reading “Butterfly Loop 1”

Derecho Ghazal

This entry is part 8 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Derecho, Sp., adverb: straight ahead or in a straight line


Near the end of his life, incontinence had become a problem for my father. Out
with the driver one day, he gripped the seat back and rasped, Derecho, derecho!

What he meant was, Drive back home, straightaway— and our driver had the delicadeza
to turn around, never once making a comment on fluids he passed: no stays, derecho.

Early on, in Geometry, that’s what we’re taught: the shortest distance between two
points is a straight line: chalked stripes, taut strings of floss: derecho.

Do you know the tailor’s trick of a string wrapped around your wrist? Doubled twice,
it gives you the circumference of the neck. Plumb line in the body’s grasp, derecho.

In the trees, some raucous wrens engage in a kind of relay: touching bills,
passing a winged morsel. How will they share such a small repast, derecho?

At the clinic, a woman flings a chart to the floor and sobs. The doctor interjects,
but Don’t beat around the bush; give it to me straight, she gasps: derecho.

All along the southern corridor, people are picking up debris from the storm. A dark
roll of violent wind, they recount. Hail. Hundred year old oaks tossed by the derecho.

We cleaned him up, hosed down the seats in the car. I coaxed socks over his ankles.
All doors open to the wind, the body’s hinges unloosed at the very last: derecho.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Night Heron, Ascending

This entry is part 7 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Through the window by my desk, I see a poem light in the branches
of a tree. It roosts awhile, then leaves— Night heron, ascending.

My friend thinks it an omen for something good and rare. I regard the question
mark of its neck and back, its feathered cap streaked with pale saffron, ascending.

Last season’s big storm flung a nest with young herons to the ground.
Perhaps this is one of them, out of the rhododendrons ascending.

In The Conference of The Birds, what fate befalls it as the flock undertakes
the journey? A blur past oak, ash, and willow; past reddened crags, ascending.

From that height, boats are specks on the water, and we, even smaller.
Which dark craft at the river’s mouth is Charon’s, swiftly descending?

In this summer light, some things look struck by gold: mythic, emblematic.
Portentous spirit, wings outlined with neon— tell me of ascending.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.