Fire Line

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Grief is not exactly the same
as desolation: is not the stretch
of space throughout a landscape
that goes on and on as if 
without end. Though we understand
not every blank bristles with 
the resounding echoes of silence,
there is also that hammock of bare
light that swings between a door
and the space before or
beyond it. Perhaps it's no longer
possible to make an accounting
of how we survive our days,
even as winds in the west 
whip up fire with a frenzy 
water can't put out. If that heat
never wished to speak to the earth
again, perhaps what's scorched
might have a chance to survive.

 

Cloister

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
These days, in the mornings
I rise after you've left. 
Cold tile underfoot
in the bathroom, telling me 
I'm awake. From the window,
clumps of ochre and tan
where islands of spores
spring up overnight, 
as if wanting to take
over the world. Reddening 
full moon maple, mint leaves 
shriveled in sun. A small 
animal thrashes across the roof, 
landing in the leaves. Did it 
give itself up to the fall, or
miscalculate what it thought
possible? As the day wears on,
I try to keep ahead of the hours. 
Making and mending, measuring
coffee and pages, I am my own 
vow of silence, the fullness 
of all I haven't been able to say 
in order to defend myself. 
What have I made of a life?
Beside the back steps, 
unkempt plot of tangled 
stems under which the rhizome 
holds its place to replenish
itself in the earth.

Fission

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
The body says lagoon,
and its map of origins 
surfaces in a thicket 

of trees. It says womb,
and fire in the shape 
of a child climbs 

out of the well. A bird
keeps revising the message 
it's been writing  

since the beginning of time:
the dream of endings, clearly
something it doesn't

want to confront. So I will say 
to the body: continue without me,
or lie down in the bluest

hollow of my throat. Press 
your ear to it, and you'll hear 
the rhythmic pull at the oars,  

an endless circling. Otherwise
it is so quiet. So quiet now
that you're the only one here.  


Tenuto*

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
What shapes does the world make,
slowing down? On the green

mall, does the stone lion
still raise one paw 

amid thin streams of water?
Overhead, between layers of cloud  

at dusk, you hear 
the high call of flocks migrating 

and imagine the arrow
their bodies make—

Something in you might turn,
then; and a sliver of light

resembling insight 
ribbon away across water. 

No one is asking you to stay
or to go. You stand there,

waiting for the grass to send
a signal, for the night

flowers to open their throats
with understanding.  






* Musical instruction to hold a note, chord, or rest at its full time value; Italian

kallautang*

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
pale curls of dried        molasses shaped 
like the tops of ionic     columns    salt
scrim shingle              drying on ropes  
of fish     there            where the air 
is a sheaf of        dried tobacco   there
statues of saints               go walking
in the dark                    spit shines   
a shoe of cracked       leather    a brass
buckle curved                like the moon  
your ancestors crossed  rivers to exchange
one history for       another    sometimes
they found the gods      they were looking 
for    sometimes              they blinked   
wondering how they got               there                                   
        

* Ilocano: to drift, to wander

Lost Time

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall


You could say our exile
never ended—though we
can’t say where it began.
Cowslips mark the place
where the fence broke
under the weight of a thing
that isn’t here now,
though we can see
what direction it came from
and where it went.
You can more or less tell
by the droppings in the soil
if the animal is one
that might answer
to the call of a tether,
or if it bellows back
at the blood of the moon.
One sniffs the air
and bolts at the first
hint of smoke. Another
paws at the ground,
rearing its head
for the charge.

 

 

In response to Via Negativa: Temps perdu.

Underworld

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
"...My dear, my dear,
It is not so dreadful here.”
               ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay


First, let me tell you the name
I am called by others is not 
the name I call myself

in the future. Let me tell you
that the smell of bitter green
remains on my hands even after

I've pulled up the vine and 
the root. Who hasn't wanted 
to inhabit a tiny room 

in the soil cushioned by darkness, 
soft and without hurt? For a long 
while I had no name for the thing 

that cleaved me from this pock-
marked plot in the same way
I pulled daughters 

out of the wilderness  
of my longing. When I look
out into the distance, rain

or snow prepares the field
for the agonies of repetition.
I lie awake, counting

with my tongue the hard
seeds I held there, believing
they would be a way to return.

Superstition

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
"When you believe in things
That you don't understand..."
                  ~ Stevie Wonder

The cat licking itself
on the sill or at the threshold,
the fork or spoon that drops 
to the floor; the fiery 
itch on your hands that you
must scratch but also put
straightaway into your pockets,
to cinch the promise of un-
expected windfall. Who knows
how many shirts you wore
inside out until someone
noticed, and that's why 
you've wound up with  
this partner, head full
of silver hair. Salt
spilled on the table, 
ash in the middle of 
a life. Remember to turn
your plate counter-
clockwise, should anyone 
get up to leave in the middle
of a meal. That way you'll
have averted some freak
accident, some truck 
driver running a red
light and plowing into
your beloved's side.
This is the way 
you'll always feel 
the push and pull
between looking forward 
and the admonition 
to never ever look back. 

Library

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
I sort through bookshelf stacks,
trying to figure out which books 
I could donate to the library, 
which ones might go 
to students.

Every two or three, I stop
to read a page, a chapter, recalling
when I bought it and what for: a grad
school paper or assignment, a lecture
in a class on form. 

How many times
a year did I tell myself No more,
there's no more room? 

But to live
in the imagination 
requires as much furniture 
as in real life; perhaps more— 

Not one
but several books for longing,
for pleasure, for pain. You read
at night, before putting your head 
on a pillow which could soon 
turn to stone; but not yet—

Pantoum: Pandanggo sa Ilaw

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
They swing their arms in slow arcs, 
palms cupped around votive lights 
flickering to the trill of bandurrias
and mandolins. Under the trees,

palms cupped around votive lights,
a row of lovely girls. Hair pinned up,
listening to mandolins under the trees.
Full-skirted, they'll sink to the floor:

a row of lovely girls, hands raised up.
Flame-bearing wrists trace halos in the dark.
Full-skirted, they sink to the floor on cue:
a single votive trembling upon each head.

Flame-bearing wrists trace halos in the dark;
they're the ones who stole and saved the light.
A single votive trembling upon each head, 
they swing their arms in slow arcs.