Ghazal, Beaded with Rain

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 6 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Forms and strictures, rules. Fill in the blanks, shade in the bubbles, color inside
the lines. For instance, use green for this picture of a lizard beaded with rain.

Dry and veined, presaging October: maple leaves cover one side of the porch.
Dull browns, yellows, reds— a leafy blizzard in June, unbeaded with rain.

In art class, one of the girls from Peru is blind in one eye. She’s come to America
to see the doctor wizards; and by summer’s end, a whole windshield beaded with rain.

Which chef was being interviewed on the radio this morning? A woman’s voice woke me—
she spoke of being excited by caramelized gizzards; of summer picnics beaded with rain.

Nearly unbearable heat today. And night air thicker than butter; no relief from water
or cricket sounds— But what can you expect? Not even a lizard, back beaded with rain.

Scorched earth smell, sky shimmering like the surface of a lake or a mirage. Dementor-
like, a buzzard circles overhead. Not one poetic prickle, no beaded sound of rain.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Ghazal, Between the Lines

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 5 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


The gap, the space, the state of neither here nor there, the hazy interval that
hasn’t quite revealed what it contains: it makes you want to read between the lines.

A bridge suspends across two spans of earth: a flimsy thing, woven of rope and slats
that rattle when we walk. We do not need to peer too closely between these lines.

Space yawns beneath, drops deep from blue into yet more blue. Behind, perhaps
the generosity of sand; ahead, the unparsed trees to read between the lines.

But I grow weary of traveling to and fro, of leveling the way then finding it un-
tenable when I’ve turned around. Hard work: deciphering between the lines.

How hard is it to understand what the heart really wants? The body’s feathered
with nostalgic veins resembling lines. Listen hard, read between each line.

No, the butterfly exploring your palm with its proboscis isn’t necessarily
a symbol for anything else. You cannot read too much between the lines.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Ghazal, with Cow Burial

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

“There are only 31 horse burials in Britain and they are all with men.”

Out of a pit, they’ve found a woman’s bones— whittled by time,
beaded with dust, clutching the ambered remains of a cow.

Was she matriarch, widow, wife? Did she die struck by illness or blight?
Archeologists say her wealth and status are proven by this cow.

Some days, I quip to friends and family that my name might as well be
Bob (short for Beast of Burden): but, life’s yoke being heavier than a cow,

would I really want to take it with me? In Chinese burials, the dead
(their spirits, that is) are ferried to the afterlife: not on cows

but in paper limousines inked with symbols for wealth; stuffed with coins, bills,
sweets, cigars, what one liked here enough to take to there; but not a cow—

In the winding Cordilleras I call home, the dead are neatly tucked among
the hills, with jars of betel nut and agate beads— never with a cow.

And a friend writes to remind me: in Hindu myth, should the population
be in danger, they’ll save the women, children, and their cows.

The cow that in this life was cow, does it remain the same? Does it dream
of feathered grass in the fields, of gnats, the low symphony of fellow cows

chewing their cud? They poke at beetles the color of jewels
—embellishment on face plates of sleeping mummies. The cow

as sacrifice, as plenty, as months of food and fat and solid warmth.
And the woman: how was she loved, missed, valued more than cow?


In response to Cow and woman found ... in Anglo-Saxon Dig.

Names, Words, Names

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Some words are only names, but some
are grenades of color— How else to explain
the corrosive red of dragonfruit, tart

and scaly pucker in each syllable of rattan,
pale, warning-light diminutions of the loquat,
lightning fire asleep but rousable in cobalt,

fermenting sweetness in ambrosia (and oh,
Ambrosia, weren’t you the long-legged girl
every boy on the street fell in love with

and could not wait to date)? And some names
are not merely words but decoys popping up
on the shore of bland expectation,

paint a little off, or streaking, or applied
to all the wrong places— For instance,
the students tonight doing freewrites

on language, begin to share: one says,
The guy I work out with at the gym
is Evian; his sister is Dasani, and all

his other siblings are named after
bottled water
. And the student
whose mother works as a nurse

at a clinic pipes up, Once there was
a girl who pronounced her name like this:
Shi’thay-ed; Shi’thay-ed, but on the form

it read “Shithead.” And the class by now
has burst into uncontrollable farts
of laughter. And all the rest

of the evening they shake their heads
and ask, Really? Who names their child
Shithead, Shi’thay-ed, Shithead?


In response to Via Negativa, Remembering Rio.

Rest Stop

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 3 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Dear one, you in that slouchy, shoulder-baring top and skimpy shorts, me in my work shirt and jeans— here we are at a pause, hitch-hiking through the Pacific coastline of our lives. I glance in your direction every now and then to watch the nonchalant way you hold up a thumb in that universal gesture that says I don’t care, just get me outta here. I can understand that, because even at my age, there are times I don’t know where I want to be either; or anymore. Some dreams still come back from a similar time in my youth: me sweating in sheets and tossing in bed, or wanting to swing an arm out in anger but finding that I can’t move. Or working the throat toward a catapult of sound, only to discover my mouth taped shut. Oh I wanted so bad to get to that cool and clear, that threshold where the woods stopped and the rest of the vibrant world began. To tell you the truth, I can hardly remember how I got here. Only that for every sonofabitch, there have been more that were kind; for every wrong turn, there have been way stations with at least a bench or a working bathroom, a vending machine. And all this walking and wandering has made me tired, but let me not forget to say thank you—even to whatever might have led me here by mistake.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Passing Storm

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Courage and fear, those alternating currents. Like whips of lightning that stripe sheets of rain, the boom of close-by thunder. A rattly noise on all the roofs and windows: and we realize it’s hailing— I imagine chunks of ice like dice rolled in a cup, bouncing on the pavement, into the ditch lined with weeds. It’s hard to see on the road, through rain’s white noise and the Friday evening rush: everyone wants to get home, to flee to somewhere dry and dim, backlit by tea lights and amber-colored bottles of beer. Somewhere, a siren. A police car flashes its emergency lights every few seconds, steering motorists away from the flooded underpass. Umbrellas are no match for the wind. Secretaries from the engineering building wade into the flooded street, their high-heeled sandals tucked into their lunch bags. Be careful, someone yells out a window. Are you almost here? texts my friend. It may take a while, I say. We’ll get there when we get there. Nothing to do but ride this out, observe: we’re here, we’re here, still here.


In response to small stone (103).


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 2 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


How do you do it, I want to ask the mothers gathered at the table, nearly identical in silk hose, cool, marbled jewels at their throats— but I would probably be accused of being over-earnest, of making too much out of nothing. The secret’s in the shortening, someone offers. Don’t overwork it, says another; have some more pie, the blueberries are especially sweet this season. Who notices the butterfly that seems to keep changing sizes, that turns out to be two butterflies among the ivy? Someone is delighted. Someone says How lovely, how sort of like a tortoise-shell hair ornament! I need a miracle, or something close to one; if this is a sign, that one wing falling away to unmask the other, I’m willing to grasp at it. I’ll bow my head, stand very still and wait for the slightest dusting of pollen on my lashes. I’ll keep wakeful watch through the night, whisper shreds of prayers I can still remember. You may not hear them, but I want to believe they’re there: imperceptible currents traced by a banded wing, orange and red against a field of dark black.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 1 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


“The spleen is 1″ by 3″ by 5″, weighs approximately 7 oz, and lies between the 9th and 11th ribs on the left hand side.” ~ Wikipedia


“Falsely, the mortal part we blame
Or our depressed, and pond’rous frame…”
~ Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, “The Spleen” (1709)


Should I hollow out one more secret
space beneath the swarm of organs

pumping out their rhythms, should I
carve a door under the floating disks

of threaded bone that ladder up
the spine— What if I should find,

after all, that the liver’s field
of indigo blooms with asterisks

on the machine? And what if the spleen’s
lopsided house is sown with husks

that tumbled, crumbling from the eaves
above? And what if the kidneys

spread their wings like butterflies
and wrote a silver question mark?

Fireflies glint like signals along a street
lined with magnolias— dusky but for their

faint edge of white, their creamy perfumes
heavy in the heat of this first summer night.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.