Volunteers

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Later that morning, after borrowing 
the neighbor's ladder to pluck an errant plant
         growing in a corner of the roof's 
front gutter— I decide to also clear 

the weeds tangling the mouth of the downspout.
                My other neighbor across the street
uses the word "volunteer" when she's talking
about plants that show up in her tidy

garden as if from nowhere. 
          A stand of curling fern, for instance—
which she didn't put in the soil herself.  
Or wildflowers she kept

                      because they were pretty,
and closer to the sidewalk's edge. I'm tempted
to ask if these plants know what 
they're volunteering for: you know, like many  

citizens in the community 
        who've signed up to be poll workers, even if
most of them are over the age of 60 and understand
they're in a group 

more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. Young
people too, properly masked, armed 
           with clipboards and flyers, going door 
to door, reminding people how important  

it is to register and vote in the coming 
elections. And the volunteers stocking community
food pantries, the school children fanning out
                    across public parks and beaches

to collect trash thoughtlessly tossed 
       by others in the bushes or on the trails—
This is where, often, someone finds small
animals: turtles, possums, seagulls,

herons, ducks, their heads caught in plastic
six-pack rings, legs wound
in plastic twine. As for migratory birds
                            that have been seen 

falling out of the skies across the south-
western states in the hundreds of thousands, 
        I don't think they freely offered to take
part in their own mass extinction. 
     
                      Between raging wildfires
and unseasonable cold snaps, how long 
did they reel through the sky until
they couldn't, until they hit

the ground, reduced to feathers and bones? When I
            find under the rosemary a bird's narrow skull
of mottled ivory, it's not so much the brittle 
hollows of its eye sockets or the wanting 

to know whether it was flycatcher, 
swallow, or warbler that comes over me  
              but that there's still a softness
in the hinge that used to work its bill.

resetas*

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
4

there's likely a reason for why you might read 
ginkgo in place of gelato, anger for ginger,

wound for word— the air tips the hourglass
to the other side as if everything could begin  

again: the mouth remembers the child's thumb;
the shoulder, her homesick head— what you want 

to know is which of the vowels you sounded never
stopped ringing in her ears even as she fell asleep
 



* prescriptions; Tagalog

resetas*

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
3

observe deep silence in the hours after moths congregate
someone brings a bowl of water, a candle, an egg

the soft scritch of a match signals the beginning of rescue
you hear it from afar like a hammer striking an anvil 

you were on the burning plain or in moss-curtained forests
you were at the place where the sun stuck its coin in the poor-box

gently you pick up the soft body folded across the path
you put its arms into coat sleeves, its feet into your shoes 


* prescriptions; Tagalog 

resetas*

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
2

raven-blood, dog-blood, heated just below boiling
the formal ceremonies of owls after dark

salt pearl, rice pearl; bud from a particular time of year
old love, a lozenge dissolving slowly under the tongue

smear of red earth and water, controlled uprising of bees
prayer summoning what you exiled, naked, to ice or snow  

lie down and let the hands of the ancestors rove
get up as a lioness to shred the sheets you soiled

 
* prescriptions; Tagalog

resetas*

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
1 

cut out the dead herb growing spirals inside your chest
inside the sour plum, find a seed with the initials of god

see how the mouth hungers for the unwritten century
collect, if you can, the honey left by ants on the road

in the morning, run and unfasten the gate to the sea
keep the first feather that brushes against your throat

with the second, make a tincture of eucalyptus and gin
don't join the crows in heated discussion of headstones  

* prescriptions; Tagalog

sintomas*

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
4

the hair: its toothed iron sheets, its lacquered walls
the elbow: its never-gloved, stair-stepped midtown tunnel

the ear: its widespread auricle, its tin cup held out to the ocean
the hip: its switchback curves and wings; its carved, vacated cradle

the muscle: its wild-haired resident tailor with deteriorating eye
the ankle: its heeled oscillations and dreams of immortality

the brain: its limbic planets, its wells of desolation and nostalgia
the skin: its fires and disasters, its basement telephone exchange  


* symptoms; Tagalog


sintomas*

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
3

the thigh: its speckled landscapes and faun-like moods
the tongue: its love of idle industry and minor angels

the throat: its splintered caves and hidden rivers 
the cheek: its aches, indecipherable from engagements

the forehead: its balconies of constant dreaming
the nape: its squeamishness and fear of wooden blocks

the arms: their pale whipped froth and custardy insides
the groin: its marshy bogs and and mists of gasses


* symptoms; Tagalog

sintomas*

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
2

the nose: its diving headfirst into wind, its lift and flop
the chin: its love for hammocks, its pyrrhic aspirations

the vein: its unsteady arrows in single lanes
the eyebrow: its cliff hangers, its plein air sketching 

the philtrum: its silence concerning the wisdom of the world
the suprasternal notch: its quiet alley, its nest of fallen birds 

the bladder: its muffled trumpets, its watery bleats
the hand: its genius at picking locks, its open softness


* symptoms; Tagalog

sintomas*

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
1

the heart: its palpitations in molasses and vinegar
the liver: its hooded falcon and perforated clouds  

the spleen: its doubled fists and banked fires
the spine: its naked chandeliers and broken lamps

the mouth: its one red dress and oyster bed
the stomach: its allegories of milk and vellum

the ear: its copper clocks and restless constellations
the eye: its fenced lagoon and roving windlass

* symptoms; Tagalog