Plummet of heart to foot-sole —

Plummet of heart to foot-sole—

Of wing to thinnest skin,
blue strip of still
flowing water—

O for the countless times
I’ve tumbled through that hole
in the floor—

Gold tassels and cord,
billowing skirts, curtains
I thought surely curtains—

Down and into the sooty
dark, so far so far
I thought—

Bring me a measure
of that square of paper
where someone’s drawn

a constellation,
string rosy with knots
of light on which I hoist

myself up and up
as all things must
obey what comes

after the fall


In response to Via Negativa: Dropping.


We may or may not go off the fiscal cliff at midnight, but if we do, it’ll be part of a proud American tradition of dropping things from high places on New Year’s Eve. Most famous, of course, is the ball drop at Times Square, but there are many others, according to the Wikipedia. I’m not sure that anyone’s ever tried dropping anything quite so large as an entire electorate, but that’s what makes this so exciting! The secret to American greatness, after all, is that we make everything bigger. (Well, O.K., maybe that’s not so secret.) And hey, you know what else has dropped? “Congress’ approval rating is perilously close to the margin of error for none at all,” reports the Roll Call.

I’m proud to say that Pennsylvania has the most New Year’s Eve droppings of any state. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows the state’s history as Landfill Central and industrial sacrifice area for energy extraction and production. The same civic leaders who endorse the dropping of giant French fries, pickles, lollipops and stuffed goats on New Year’s are happy to invite other states and multinational corporations to leave their droppings all over the commonwealth. The party’s on us! The only way we could make the forced gaiety and over-indulgence of our annual New Year’s celebration more festive would be to dance around a bonfire of state forest trees, clear-cut to build fracking well pads, compressor stations and transmission corridors.

In other news, tens of thousands of virtual pets were snuffed out by Zynga yesterday when it shut down PetVille. If only it had waited 24 hours, we could have dropped them off the tops of virtual buildings. Because nothing says Happy New Year like the electronic squeal of a falling puppy.


This entry is part 5 of 29 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2012-13


Where are you now? Here
is the obvious answer.

But where? A brown body
with ragged wings rests

in the fork of a branch.
It won’t stay. Immigrant,

diaspore, forever
arriving or departing

on the shore of mixed
expectations. When

does its permit expire?
Intently, from within

the window which holds
my own countable hours,

I watch for cues,
for turns toward more

hospitable weather:
hedging time until

renewal of the lease,
until some wind-

fall rearranges
calculations on the slate.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

White Night

Bones aren’t this color.
Their darkness is on the inside,
not the outside.

This is the white of a tunnel
in a paraffin candle
from which the wick has been pulled:

burning isn’t an option,
you have to keep moving to stay ahead
of the cold on its pale horse.


This entry is part 4 of 29 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2012-13


1620s, from Fr. feston, from It. festone; a festive ornament, apparently from festa, celebration, feast

Every day, the neighborhood and its routines with only slight variations: the man who works for the newspaper brings his only daughter to the corner to wait for the school bus, then gets into his white Jeep and drives away. There are not many young children her age around here, but that might change in a few years. The music professor who lives in the last brownstone on the row walks a dog, a golden retriever, around the triangle and back. This dog is a loaner; it is not the same dog who was his longtime friend and companion but had been given or sold— I forget— to a different family on this street. This dog, the one he loved the best, returned to him when the daughter married and moved away; it wanted to die in its old home. He is stooped and walks more slowly now, but he still gives private lessons to college students. He inclines his head thoughtfully in a way that suggests he is always listening for music. Each New Year day, the couple in the middle of the row open their home and hold a potluck. Everyone was surprised to learn they had just gotten married last Saturday, after 29 years together. Week before Christmas, the woman who lives with her husband on a boat docked in the river was trying to put up Christmas lights. She was on a tall ladder, up near the mast; wild current coursed through wire and her tiny frame. She says, she could not unclench her lips even to scream. It was early twilight, no one was about. By some miracle or weakened pulse in the circuit, she broke free, threw herself off and into the water. We are near the coast, not too far inland. Otherwise there might have been fresh snow, branches laid over with crystalline webs obviating any need for lights.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 22 of 22 in the series Alternate Histories


Because the electric guitar had no hole,
in the middle of a song
the old bluesman lowered his mouth to it
& plucked the strings with his gold-
capped teeth.

Because the sawhorse had no head,
it didn’t know which way to run
when a plank saddled it,
& it let the saw whinny
for both of them.

Because the hermit had no wife,
he bought a clock
with a loud tick
& wound it faithfully once a week
with a little brass key.

Because the trailer had no cellar,
its inhabitants rushed out
& threw themselves into a ditch
when the tornado came howling
its one blue note.

Niños Inocentes

“By by, lully, lullay…” ~ Coventry Carol

“someone if asked would find nothing remarkable in today’s date…” ~ Dennis O’Driscoll

It’s evening, and raining. The parents have gone inside, the grandparents, the aunts and uncles, the cousins visiting from out of town who remind us not to believe everything that other people say, nor lend out any amount of money on this feast day. We get to work, setting aside torn wrappers, ribbons, boxes for delayed trash pickup Saturday or for recycling next Tuesday. Someone says, as dishes are rinsed and put away, Can you imagine returning gifts you bought for Christmas for your little one who will never walk through the door again? The last thing we ate was a square of yellow cheese, a piece of plain bologna. Nobody touched the carrot cake. Blobs of holly, dark red clusters droop over the neighbor’s fence. Some shingles on the roof will need replacing. The gutter may need to be cleaned. And water runs continuously in the tank of the downstairs toilet. I used to have a number I could call; no matter, tomorrow will serve just as well. My friend on a cruise down the banks of the Rhine emailed to marvel at the Christmas markets and bazaars in town after little town, the wooden toys, the cookies flecked with pepper and warm spice. My son came to me in a dream last night, she wrote; in the dream, he was very young, he was laughing and running down the main street of our home town. I gave chase, caught up with him. I woke breathless, as if it were true and he hasn’t been gone now for 9 long years. When I woke, the light was pale yellow through the window. Dear G, here, where I am, it is long past evening; but even in the dark, there is something musk-tender; a little sad, solemnly sweet.


In response to Via Negativa: The slaughter of the innocents.