You Say You Need the World to be the World Again (a haibun)

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
What wounds, what overgrown fields and blunted 
ploughs. What skies dangling with freefall of 
blasted birds. What broken shelves of mountains 
on which markhor have left behind their winter 
coats, their spiraled horns. What towns of smoke 
and elegy of 9 AM shadow. What strange noons 
of orange fog, an acreage of embers sparking 
into fire. The moon keeps a tally on its chipped 
marble whiteboard: each plank of hewn and stolen 
wood; each pod of pilot whales and porpoises, 
their effort to steer out of boiled saltwater 
to strand upon the coast. And you, mouth that 
did not eat of soups with sea-turtle eggs and 
pangolin flesh, that did not tear the joints 
off buttonquail roasted on bamboo spits, that 
did not dip a spoon into stews of elk— yet 
you dressed your skin in velvet and let them 
dwindle into abandoned shells, sink like rusted 
vessels. Always at dusk, the ancestors visit: 
their wings cleave air you find increasingly 
hard to breathe. What wounds, what fingerprints 
you’ve left on every surface: hard as diamond 
points, scattershot trails visible from thousands 
of miles above the earth.
There’s only this moment. 
Don’t call on stars or meteors.
Don’t speak just to speak.



In response to Via Negativa: Unthinkability.

One Saturday, We Move Quietly through the Unthinkable

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Where are the toys
in your house, asks my grandson
with his face next to the cell
phone screen. The sky's not ash
or amber where we are in the south.
We've barely been outside
these long months. He watches
solemnly as I pick up a little
metal thing with wheels;
pull it back, then let it roll
across the floor. It tracks a wobbly
line that comes to a stop at the far
end by the wall, near the coat
rack and the outside shoes lined up
by the door; next to a shelf of books.
It's mostly quiet in our neighborhood,
but none of us heard when a gust
of wind knocked down the deck
umbrella sometime in the night.
Now and again, the high-up hum
of cicadas. Imagine a sound
like that, magnified by flame
and crackling through dry
hills in the west. The animals'
ears pushed back; each one
alert and unblinking.



In the story of your life,

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
there are too many mirrors
or none at all 

                in hallways 
painted white or green or blue.
The bones of trees resemble 

        of fish picked clean
by an orange mouth and a hungry 
knife and fork. And salt 

                          is the wound
that rubs itself raw until its fingers
are hot like a pan that's just
emerged from a fire. 

                       In the story
of your life, the moon tells the same
story it has told itself and you
for years: that your common 

                 of the air, of towns  
where women sew cunning stars onto moody
fields of indigo, of horses that pause,
nostrils trembling in the dark— 

                                  is the fruit 
whose price you'll pay every time. In the story 
of your life, you will stay not because 
there's nowhere else you could go, 
but because only here

                           could you reap 
the voluptuous fragrance of its rare flowers
when they came; and only here lay its pieces 
on an anvil made strong

                            by tears. But owls
call through sleepless weeks asking the wind 
for anything that used to sing of green,
for mountains whose skirts have not
yet been unfastened— 

                         With your hands
you'll weave again a basket of rushes; 
you'll take from your breast and cover 
the light with a striped blanket 
then bend 

                       down and pray 
to the water to take it downriver, far  
away from here.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
In the streets, people were returning  
with purple indelible ink on their thumbs
after voting in a referendum. 
                  The songs of the scissors-
grinder and bean curd vendor drifted in,
settling like quiet on the pillows.
                 My mother brought a bowl
steaming with the broth of clams to my lips.
My other mother smeared coconut oil
across the dome of my newly
emptied womb. There was a moment when I
          couldn't remember the name attached
to this body, where the plumb line was 
that drifted down and down
through it. They said, 
       that's the price you pay for learning
to call to the moon for another body to tend,
for holding as much of your breath
as long as you can
             until it holds out its mouth
or tells you it wants a name 
shaped like a cloud.

* ~ Ilocano: birth(day)  

American Dream

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Someone was still always washing up
    on your shores, America; or arriving
with that mythical one suitcase, 
    that dollar crumpled in one hand
after having survived countless 
    nights at sea. Someone was still
always praying about forgiveness 
    for taking only what was needed,
for dreaming what others sneered at
    as impossibility or extravagance.
Even as ice rained on the desert, even
    as the skies above California turned
the color of rusted chains, someone
    was still trying to dig out remnants
of that dream. Confused birds tucked 
    their heads under their wings. 
In field after field, garlic and artichoke 
    hearts bent beneath the weight
of all they too could no longer hold. 


After all, the body is still a mystery

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
In the hills, the old
languages are speaking 
to each other, away from 
our habit of interruption.

Clicking tongues, kisses to open
the sealed envelopes of flowers;
hard syllables sleeping 
in libraries of fog. 

The garrulous throats of small 
animals— I long to learn 
their kind of fluency, how 
everything they say

is neither mournful nor 
ecstatic though their chants 
punctuate all the hours of night. 
I want the word for sleep

to hide in its depths 
an oasis of waking; and the word 
for death to carry in its arms  
the shadow of a door.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
So many things are
unbearable, until they pass

        into a different kind of existence:
        forgetfulness, or sleep, or death.

One of my daughters knits         
a bashful mimosa

        into a garment: those leaves
        that curl away from touch, shrink

back to green in the underbrush unlit 
by any except the closest noticing.

        I thought I knew the sound of snapped
        twigs, unseen wings slicing the air—

the waiting between one moment of
uncertainty and another.



Ode to the Little-Used Hammock

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
while the sun of summer

teeters on the cusp of cooler

weather, something taps 

on the edge of my brain

as if to say here

you ought to take 

a few minutes 

to read a book or

close your eyes, quiet

the perennial pounding

in your heart; not even

swing or make any

motion at all, just

lie in this shallow

suspended bowl 

since after all

we have to get up

until we can't.

I Wish We Could be Happy for a While

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
"What has to decline, declines; what 
belongs to us, stays with us..."
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

What is bliss     a bird 
like a high-pitched 
        and repeats in the tree

I bury
my arms in 
           a profusion of weeds

each one with the same
smell of atomic green

I think I still
or what you might call
perhaps     a quickening

Now I can 
watch it press 
               and subside
press   and subside

without yielding at once

Or I lose
my place in the song
                     and stumble 

I am a history
of small   planes 
        toward the edge
of an airport field

                    then stopping short
before a mountain gorge

Yellow flares 
in the darkness
                signaling return—
Someone waving flags
curling in the shapes of fortune
teller fish

Different names for joy

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

“…sometimes I forget, and I do, and when it takes me in I often nearly weep, I feel something breaking a little bit inside, and I think this is joy.” Ross Gay

Tuwa, kasiyahan, 
      galak, ligaya—

each a different kind
of overflow—

             Sudden delight
then months of fitful to no

         trying to remember
            how to enter the space

between each weave

      Once I dreamed 
               of drifting in a small
boat downriver

It was quiet
as I lay on the bottom
               I watched the sky 
                     roll its soft blue cloth

high above my head

          Anything could have punctured
               the silence in the trees

My pockets full of holes

      Sunlight's insistent voice

The moon asking to borrow
more light