You’re always writing about rain

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Sometimes it's the streaks drawn 
patiently by hand, slanting across lined

paper. Or a filigree crown that sparkles above 
an open umbrella. You've known its generous 

waterfalls, its unspoken orders to stay under 
the covers. There's no escaping it, not even

when the sun is high in the sky: somewhere 
there are clouds gathering whatever the earth

exhales as water— a tribe of women
stirring, seemingly not tired after months

and months of tending their vessels.
When they rest, it's then that the rain

can be tender; can mean they never
meant to destroy anything in you.   

Brief History of the Sulawesi Warty Pig

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
There it is, sketched in red-
ochre, head lifted and watching. 
Broad strokes of its rounded back
and short legs, found on a karst 
wall in Leang Tedongnge. Now 
it's the oldest-known animal 
cave painting. But why, 
as I read about it, does my brain 
think party pig? Perhaps it reminds 
me of Andy Warhol's Fiesta Pig: 
ballet-slipper-pink, nosing around 
in the excess of some post-bacchanalian 
frenzy. Migration in packs, in the wild,
through curtains of berries and matted
roots. They're mostly feral, but sometimes 
give in. When caught and semi-domesticated, 
penned next to banana groves. As far 
north as Mindanao and Palawan, they've
been found to interbreed with the common
pig. Six facial warts and a bristly 
snout; short ivory tusks. Singed 
and bled, the white understory of fat
renders itself before you plunge 
a bare arm in, then lift out 
garlanded organs dearest to the gods. 
Otherwise, why make a record? Why 
commemmorate what isn't an offering?
No one goes home without a portion.
 
 

Diagramming

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
The subject has a verb 
but there's protocol
to cover before you  
can properly apply it 
to an object. On the way, 
there are little eaves 
where you can tuck 
a modifier or adverb. 
On the way, you navigate
a multi-level house. 
There are low walls
which might separate 
a dog from its bark;  
the loveless salesman
in a story, from the giant 
insect into which he 
transforms upon waking.
A rabid mob roused 
to insurrection, from 
the logic of the law.
A few windows lean 
outward; prepositions 
as well as the occasional 
pronoun have been known 
to use them as slides
or escape hatches. 
War and peace, cake 
and pickles; diplomacy 
and treason. You make 
your way from one element 
to another, seeking a clear 
line against hockey sticks
and divisive indirection, 
out of the need to make 
sense of how exactly things 
relate to each other.

  

A Switchback is a Road with Hairpin Turns

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
"...hill stations invariably owed their origin
and development to colonialism." ~ Robert R. Reed



There being no access at the time,
soldiers snaked up the mountain 
chain with pickaxes, envisioning 
a crown of cathedrals, quonset
huts of corrugated metal;
schoolhouses built of stone
and pine, where their long-
skirted women would undertake 
the duty of teaching poor 
native children the difference 
between primer and bible, naked 
and clothed. On the grounds 
of the country club, a sanatorium 
once stood; there, after bouts 
of coughing blood, convalescents 
found a routine of tea, camphor, 
and bed rest favorable; as well 
as the cold shimmer of evenings 
in those hills, streaked like peacock 
fans. Now, the place which used to be
my home all but creaks from within
the hollows of over-tunneled gold 
and copper mines. Moss can only patch
what hasn't been gutted by concrete
and steel. The lake named after
the famous architect spits out mud
and boat rides; on its oily surface, 
a fleet of rotting swans with rusted
oars. Inside those hills, perhaps
there's still a hurt of cypress
wind, the recitation of vesper
bells, a love you thought 
would outstay the dark braids 
of distance. I took what little 
I could, when I could. I'll measure
it out, try to make it last longer
than the trace of a vanished scent. 
  
 

Timer

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
You're told worry is for things you can  
      do something about; but take care 
to spend only a fixed amount of time—  
      no more, no less— in pockets of panic
and despair. It's almost hard to breathe, 
      watching the mob of white men draped 
in furs and flags of infamy stroll 
      away from scenes of destruction
without reprimand or repercussion. So you 
      try to focus on this small ritual 
of washing and cooking rice. Between
      scooping a cupful from out of the plastic 
box under the sink and pouring the grains 
      sacred to every ancestor into the pot,
when they hit the bottom, you try to listen for
      the brief aria that sounds like rain and not
shards of broken glass flying out of a door-
      frame. When you swish the water around 
with your fingers just as you were taught
      (to loosen any bits of pebble or chaff 
from this pool of pearled glistening), you
      remember how you fed your brown babies 
the sweet foamy boil that rose to the top. 
      How to think of the future? On the counter, 
a nugget of ginger and stalks of green chive
      wait for the broad knife's swift partitioning.
You make the last small cuts and wipe down every-
      thing. The timer chimes. The thing about 
revolutions is how they start from dreams 
      of the not yet seen. The thing about change 
is how the not yet seen are the first to get on 
      their knees and clean up the broken things.


  
  

Naragsac a baro nga tawen*

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Bare, ash-colored 
branches; cold without 
a clean sheet of snow. 
You pull open 
all the drawers 
in the house anyway.

You want the old year
to let go of its icy
grip on your hand. 
With the other, you beat
a frantic tattoo 
on a metal pot lid.

Pelt the past with  
the red wax of cheese. 
Shut the lids of its 
always-looking-back eyes 
with a gold shower
of coins.

Croon sleep to it,
amnesia. How lucky 
you rememebered 
to buff one row 
of window panes
facing east.  


* Ilocano: Happy new year.

Asleep ::

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
meaning grass remains clipped
without need of shearing; and weeds
temporarily cease their program
of rapid military advance. 
                   Farther north,
fish swim closer to the bottom, 
away from newly bulletproofed windows 
of ice. Larger animals begin to cut 
their breathing 
                and heart rate. 
A ceiling of hibernating bats 
can go up to an hour without 
taking one breath.
                    But in bed at night,
unable to fall asleep, the anxious mind
continues to spin from the horrors of 
the day: a mob
                   battering down doors 
with their hate; prelates of government 
flaunting their contempt  
                         for the law.
Science tells us there's the merest pause 
before the brain sends warning signals to 
the adrenal glands. 
                    Then it wakes
every sleeping cell to present danger.
Meaning it becomes impossible
to fall or remain asleep.




Narcissus

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
If it comes back to you, 
it must be yours.

Or it's a trick 
sequence that only pretends
to go somewhere. A hand 

writes itself; a face
bends over its shiny
 
double in the water. 
And if it doesn't 
return?

Pale flower, arching 
its neck above ground. 

Defiler, Despoiler, Pillager

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
While we were not watching
or when we were tired and
falling asleep, who turned 
the key in the lock and threw it 
into the lake of our deepening
misgivings? Who put their lips
to the hose and siphoned the gas,
so all we heard when we fired
the engine was a mindless buzzing
like bees? They run up the steps
of any sacred temple, dressed 
in stolen furs. They smash
the windows in with their horns.
Whatever they touch turns
into bricks or bats or stones.
They straddle every chair as if
it were a sow or a mare. That
kind of naked need: a garish 
yellow on all their faces. 
Hearts made hard by the long-
held fear of their certain
coming extinction. 

Opacity

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Dear world, do you keep
more things closed than open;
do you believe 
                     a large
house with many rooms is better
empty than given to poor
flocks 
          of shelterless birds
or animals limping in from 
the hunting fields? 
That trick of polishing 

the glass on a sliding door— 
the soft thud of bodies 
          arrowing toward its often
lethal surface— light mimics
the quality of truth 
so in this 
             instance becomes 
a lie, becomes a broken
wing or bruised 
throat.