September 2012

This entry is part 4 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

All this beautiful, heavy hardwood furniture—
the slab of polished mahogany that serves
as coffee table, the long-leaved dining table
and its matching credenza from Spain, the grand
piano in the living room that we are thrilled
to play Bach, Gershwin, “Chopsticks,” or
Sondheim on— belongs to our landlady.
To rent her digs, the deal was that we had to live
with all her stuff. We looked around at what
we owned— six folding bookshelves, three
computer desks, a couch, a few lamps picked up
at Service Merchandise or Target, a microwave and
microwave cart, our daughter’s sleeping pallet;
and many, many bankers’ boxes filled with books—
and said something like Easy come… or perhaps
We can’t take it with us when we go. And one
of the friends who took over our possessions quoted
from song or scripture that part about our cares
being worth more than those of white-throated sparrows
singing in the field, all the while assessing
the quality of a set of china on which he had designs.
But it’s ok, really— We look after the place as if
it were our own, and thank our lucky stars for so many
windows— the upstairs ones are great for reading
our books or writing late, by late summer light. We pay
utility bills when they are due, change the batteries
in the smoke detectors, take the lint out of the dryer
screen. We vacuum and mop beneath the beds and chairs,
in hard to reach corners where hair and dust balls
consolidate the interest they will secure in final lien.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 34 of 34 in the series Small World

At first, in the fallopian tubes,
the zygote is little more
than a clump: morula,
named for its resemblance
to a mulberry.
Then fluid fills it
like a balloon, a whole
lot of nothing.
That’s when the mother’s
body moves it
& it takes root in the womb.

This is the call & response
of matrix & matter:
for creative work to happen
you need that opening
without & within.
The stem cells form,
ready for anything.

*

I think this may be the last post in the Small World series. (If you’re reading via RSS or email, here’s the link to the whole series.)

This entry is part 3 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

We woke and the world was colder,
the season progressing steadily

toward winter— the line of trees
more shorn of green summer cover,

only the ivy persisting over thin-
skinned clover— as if the bones

of earth were chiseled finer,
our cue to take out sweaters

from the back end of the drawer—
And even the tiny moths I saw

alight upon the still-steadfast, still-
flowering clump of sage and lavender,

slowed their wings in the shadow
of the sun’s pale alabaster—

Nights grow longer; so we learn to keep
best what lasts through now and later.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Watch on Vimeo.

I had fun watching and filming a woolly bear caterpillar this morning. The text of the haiku occurred to me as I was filming. The word “frass” may be slighty obscure, but I hope it’s obvious from the context what it means. Caterpillar droppings are hard and dry — not at all the image that “shit” or “excrement” conjure up (though my mother does have a t-shirt with a drawing of a caterpillar and the message “frass happens”).

As with other videohaiku I’ve done, I find that, in contrast to regular videopoetry, a straightforward, “naive” relationship between footage and text can succeed as long as the text is saved for afterwards. The effect, I hope, is to reproduce something of the process by which a haiku is born: close observation yielding a sudden insight (though in this case, arguably, my insight was not especially profound). This is the first time I’ve added music to the soundtrack of a videohaiku; usually I just use the ambient sound, but that was marred this time by the camera scraping against the concrete.

The time equation might be of interest. In all, it took me three hours to make the video and an hour and fifteen minutes to upload it. Of that time, only about three minutes were spent polishing the text of the poem. So the filmmaking took about 60 times longer than the writing. (And then I spent some 25 minutes adjusting the settings on Vimeo and composing this post. Sure would’ve been easier just to post the damn haiku!)

This entry is part 33 of 34 in the series Small World

(Lens culinaris)

Until the lentil lent
its Latin name, the lens
went unknown among us,
despite being the apple
of our eyes. Now it is
the legume that lags
in popularity:
we’re more apt to wonder
what microscopic folk
might be peering blindly
up from the soup,
& suspect every
lenticular cloud
of hiding a flying saucer
from the distant bulging disc
of an armless galaxy.

You couldn’t stare, open-mouthed,
at the pock-marked moon
, expecting
an amulet to drop like dawn’s first perfect
pearl of dew, did you? And you didn’t think
the heart of the lotus— or that red, red heart
hidden in the fronds of the tropical tree—
would give up its treasure without exacting
a price from you? Who knows how many nights
you’ll need to stand there, just like in
the legend: opening your mouth, your guts,
your insides to the punishing dark,
before some jury says Enough, no more,
she’s done her time, let her off easy now
?
The only thing I know most days: that stubborn
pebble called hope, impossibly stuck in my craw.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Thimble.

This entry is part 32 of 34 in the series Small World

The first thimble was the tanned hide
of an enemy’s thumb. Whisky
had yet to be invented, but
needles were employed as lances
in desperate finger-to-finger combat.
Battlefields were so numerous,
they were stacked into other battlefields
like Russian dolls. Soon, brass
was pressed into use, & one armorer
began dimpling the surface
to ward off smallpox.
Prostitutes made their Johns (then
still called Jacks) wear thimbles
on every finger, because who knew
where those hands had been?
Meanwhile they were measuring ale
with the horns of bulls. Guts
were spilling from unprotected abdomens.
If you didn’t want a sorceror’s tongue,
you couldn’t stare open-mouthed
at the pock-marked moon.

This entry is part 2 of 41 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2012

There’s a votive candle with a picture of Santa Barbara
in her teal colored robe flickering in the middle
of our table, and a faded prayer in Spanish on the other
side of the glass. There are swirls of gold and orange
on the chalkboard over the bar, wreathing the names
of the evening’s offer of cervezas: Dos Equis, Modelo,
Corona, Tecate. Between bursts of music, the clatter
of silverware, the steady hum and static of voices.
We lick the last of the guacamole off the appetizer
plate, but we barely make a dent in the pastel
and sweet corn tamales. Is the waitress disappointed?
She brings three plastic take-out boxes and sweeps up the tab.
It’s the middle of the week and almost October; the dark
comes earlier. Somewhere a train is always pulling away.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

underwing moth

For some reason, the names of many moths in the genus Catocala have bizarrely soap-operatic names. Here are some of my favorites, as encountered in the wonderful new Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America by David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie:

  • The Penitent (Catocala piatrix)
  • The Betrothed (Catocala innubens)
  • The Old Maid (Catocala badia coelebs)
  • Obscure Underwing (Catocala obscura)
  • Widow Underwing (Catocala viuda)
  • Tearful Underwing (Catocala lacrymosa)
  • Oldwife Underwing (Catocala Paleogama)
  • Youthful Underwing (Catocala subnata)
  • Sad Underwing (Catocala maestosa)
  • The Bride (Catocala neogama)
  • Once-Married Underwing (Catocala unijuga)
  • Mother Underwing (Catocala parta)
  • Darling Underwing (Catocala cara)
  • The Sweetheart (Catocala amatrix)
  • Magdalen Underwing (Catocala illecta)
  • Sordid Underwing (Catocala sordida)
  • Wonderful Underwing (Catocala mira)
  • Charming Underwing (Catocala blandula)
  • Connubial Underwing (Catocala connubialis)
  • Girlfriend Underwing (Catocala amica)
  • The Little Nymph (Catocala micronympha)

I suppose the way these moths lift their forewings to reveal bright pink-, red- and orange-striped hindwings suggested something feminine, like a petticoat, to the lepidopterists who named them.

I’m a little embarassed to admit however that many of the underwings look pretty much alike to me, even with the help of a field guide, so I’m not entirely sure which species is pictured above. (Maybe the Sweetheart?) This is the one I saw back on September 2, and my mention of some of these names prompted Luisa to incorporate them into her poem for the day, “Telenovela” (which is Spanish for “soap opera”).