A male hummingbird
circles the metal pink
flamingo in my garden,
circles & touches it
with its all-purpose bill.
Amazed? Perplexed?
Combatative? Appalled?
The sun sinks behind
the trees & the first
katydids start calling
as the hummer zips
in for a landing on
the single rusty leg,
perching sideways
just below the tail,
& taps the pink wing
with its diviner’s
wand of a bill.

Getting There

This entry is part 25 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


This horse chafes at the bit: it wants
no rider, only its own hard will astride

the saddle, urging the road to go faster,
the encroaching landscape to spin into a blur

greener than hummingbirds at the feeder.
Do you wonder why it always seems faster

coming back? Speeds clipped by cobblestones,
by stops and starts, false obstacles— why

does it take so long to get there?


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


Never challenge an onion to a game of strip poker. ~ D. Bonta

Ashes can substitute for black pepper in a pinch.
Best used fresh, like everything else; and only sparingly.
Carbon: it all breaks down into carbon anyway—
don’t worry, no need to bring out the syrup of ipecac,
expectorate, induce. What’s the most odious thing you’ve had to eat?
Foie gras, shudders my friend the wealthy doctor. Ducks fed
grain by gavage— two to four times a day, the animals
held, their throats expanded under a funnel fitted to a tube.
It’s this wild dilation and overfeeding that renders
king-sized livers: two lobes of mousse-like, buttery consistency.
Leafed out like that upon a plate, punctuated with a dollop of
mustard cream or raspberry confit: could you bear to eat with
nary a twinge of conscience or remorse? It may be that a stew
of carrots, lentils, and potatoes is neither innocent: some hand
pulled tubers out of the soil, peeled or pared and sliced them into
quadrants on the chopping board. You know how dominoes cascade,
rush river-like? Caveat: they fall at the merest touch. Why
sing to pickled things in a minor key? For
the ice sheet in Greenland that has almost all melted, for sea
urchins that, even if they might not be currently endangered, could
very soon wind up on that list: admire their powerful scraping jaws
which I found out are called “Aristotle’s lanterns.” None will be
exempt from ruin and devastation— so quit behaving like
you’ll have a golden ticket out. Heed the poet who points out
zen in the onion’s innermost chamber: stripped clean, empty.


In response to Via Negativa: How to cook.

Constituencies of death

Just as the lightness of sleep overtakes me, I hear the phrase, “Death has its own constituency.” I wake to read of the tar sands pipeline potentially delayed by a critically endangered species of carrion beetle, the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus).

With its shiny, black and fiery body and orange-tipped antennae, the American burying beetle is a vibrant beauty of the bug world. The insect’s occupation, though, is a little less glamorous. After sniffing out a freshly dead animal from up to two miles away, the beetle joins a mate in burying the carcass, stripping it of fur or feathers, rolling it into a ball, and covering it in oral and anal fluids to preserve it as a shelter and food source for the pair’s litter of lucky larvae.

A newspaper article reporting on the possible delay prompts the predictable reactions from readers: “Step on them.” “A couple of cans of RAID and the problem is OVER.” “Drill baby drill!” One ignoramus even goes on a rant:

who cares about a beetle really, this is as bad as not growing produce in Calif. because of a little 2 inch fish that died in the aqua duck you think either one is more important then people lives and feeding their young children..NO NO NO the answer will always be NO, even God made insects and animals to eventually die out for what ever reason, so get a grip on it folks this is trash talk to step on you as a person and your rights….

No matter many times I hear this kind of ignorant callousness disguised as piety and concern for human beings, I still turn cold with rage, and before I know it I, too, am harboring violent fantasies…

How ironic that our penchant for unearthing the byproducts of ancient deaths, to the detriment of the planet, endangers a beetle whose role in the ecosystem is to help recycle the dead to the benefit of us all. As the CBD puts it:

The American burying beetle is one of nature’s most efficient recyclers, feeding and sheltering its own brood while simultaneously returning nutrients to the earth to nourish vegetation and keeping ant and fly populations in check.

It seems unusual for a habitat generalist to suffer such precipitous declines in population across its range, but, says the Encylclopedia of Life entry:

[E]vidence points increasingly to a cascade of changes in vertebrate communities resulting from habitat fragmentation and other human-caused disturbances. Loss of the largest mammal predators has resulted in increases of smaller mammal predator-scavengers that are more likely to compete with [the American burying beetle] for carcasses of still smaller mammals or birds.

In other words, our extirpation of top predators across North America, including wolves and cougars, may ultimately be to blame. The beetles themselves have no known predators, and appear to have a symbiotic relationship with a species of mite that helps keep them clean of microbes and fly eggs in return for access to carcasses. Even more remarkable is their habit of caring for their young:

American burying beetles provide care for their young from the time of birth until adolescence. This type of behavior is typically not observed among invertebrates outside of social bees, wasps, and termites.

Prior to birth, both parents regurgitate partially digested food in the nesting chamber, which accumulates as food for the larvae. They continue to do so until larvae are able to feed directly from the carcass. Parents also regularly maintain the carcass by removing fungi and covering the carrion ball with antibacterial secretions.

Let’s see—there’s a phrase for that sort of thing in American political discourse, isn’t there? Oh, yes: family values.

It’s sad how many people who describe themselves as conservative have, in service to corporate agendas, forsaken the most conservative principle of all: First, do no harm. “Because the American burying beetle has a highly vulnerable status in the wild, the two known natural populations (Block Island, Rhode Island and eastern Oklahoma) should be protected and maintained,” says the Encylopedia of Life. In recycling the dead, the American burying beetle helps preserve and extend the cycle of life. In advocating for its elimination, conservatives show themselves to be staunch supporters of what Pope John Paul II labeled the culture of death.

How to cook

This entry is part 35 of 39 in the series Manual


Know your ingredients. Take them out for drinks.

Follow recipes as closely as you can without being detected. Wear a disguise if necessary.

Buy fresh, buy local. If you are broke, search only in the ripest dumpsters and patronize your local food bank.

Ashes can be substituted for black pepper in a pinch.

Never challenge an onion to a game of strip poker.

Give names to each of your knives and talk to them frequently. This will guarantee few interruptions while you work.

Don’t serve anything you wouldn’t eat yourself. If you enjoy pain and humiliation, for example, feel free to serve a knuckle sandwich.

When cooking with gas starts to lose its luster, try turning into a pillar of fire by day and a pillar of smoke by night.

There are only three bodily secretions you should consider cooking with: milk, blood, and tears. The last is an excellent seasoning for pork.

Open sesame with a mortar and pestle. Magic imparts a sour taste.

Sing to pickled things in a minor key.

Never buy processed foods. Instead, stock up on artificial sweeteners, preservatives and stabilizers and make your own.

The rituals of food preparation can imbue your everyday life with holiness. Visualize each muscle in your body as a choice, sacrificial cut of meat.

Like the O’odham Indians, go on an annual pilgrimage for salt.

Artisinal bread is simply bread that has been shouted at.

Keep a dog under the table at all times.

Add more garlic.

I grow old, I grow old

Slow Reads:

So much of what I’ve written before feels like innocence.
I could no more write it again than the earth could cool.

How did I find this pencil? Was I reaching in the kitchen drawer
for a twist tie, or did I fish it out of my old shorts?