Trace

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 22 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Wind that moves in the tree behind the tree,
that leaves a spoor of unnameable scent
then dissipates— It’s strongest when spent
and all that remains is filament, memory:

like love that desired what the other desired
but somehow forgot its errand. Your fever breaks;
then the longer route home, blue-girdled by lake
water that bears prints of leaves fallen, still flushed.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Unending Lyric

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 21 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Zealous at long rehearsals, tenacious at audition— the brushed
yellow-olive, drab-coated vireo hangs upside down then
exits the tree with a prize: red berry or dun kernel, blur of
winged insect disappearing down the hatch of its throat.
Valediction isn’t its song: not a saying farewell, not the
up-swelling notes of a soprano— just the same
tremulous question and answer all through the day.
Sound shivers like a string when plucked. I learned
rote-singing, then followed the pencil across the staff:
quarter-notes, eighths, sixteenths; the rests like little
puffs of breath propelling onward. And yes it’s work,
opening the chest to let the air of longing out for that
nimbus of release, though brief and incommensurate.
My audible heart wants a nest like a cup in the fork of a tree.
Lit up at night, in that forest of softened trills, who
knows how the air might shear its stuttering refrains,
join the failed parts of songs as leitmotif?
I practice and practice though nobody hears.
Hoarse from effort and nearly at empty, I
gloss sometimes over difficult parts that
find a way of coming back, sliding into another
edge of passage. Nothing ever stays still:
do you see how the moon shimmers, then
clears a path for the screech owl’s call?
Bright, brassy, or somber rounding in the mouth—
answer that burns salt shapes on the tongue.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Heart you Want to Lead in from the Cold

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 20 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

What might have been a heart
whose warm outlines were seared

in the clay— What might have
searched through dank underbrush

for a homing beacon, some fingerprint
flecked with gold— But for now you hear

only the naked blade of a voice, keening
among the brambles, rending its hair

and beating its breast in the fetid
air. Doesn’t it sing this way only

because it’s known the difference? Easier
to chide or scold, spurn it and say it reeks

of pure ungratefulness. Who’d want to marry it,
take it to sup at table, to warmth in the bed?

Wings like glass windows whose sections are soldered
cellophane, the yellow hoverfly courts the bloom

on the stalk. Remember it eats of brittle matter
long decayed; but also of pollen, nectar.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Petition to Fullness

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 19 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Heart grown gray, heart
tressed with care: tell me why
the bowl never seems to fill
though I’ve poured all the sweet
water I could find, countless trips
through the years— And winters,
I’ve cut off my hair and bartered
its gloss for coin to line it with broth
or glistening fat and the russet
of vegetables grown rich in the soil;
and in summer I’ve waited beneath
the trees to catch what gleanings might
thicken, of wood thrush or cardinal
song: but still you will not eat—

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Defense

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 18 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

In the morning, the new sprouted leaves
of basil in the earthen pot have been chewed
to lace. I’m not sure how it happens, for I
never see the slugs, though I’ve read
of a woman’s account of how she
watched one for months while bedridden,
and could hear it chewing on a leaf
of celery. I wonder, why don’t they defend
themselves? The yellow roses have
their spurs. The broad leaves of comfrey
are mean enough to drop into a salve
or tincture. Even the hordes of wild
garlic heads aim their spears at a sky
that threatens another day of rain.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 17 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

[ Also a partly found poem after Brian Doyle’s Joyas Voladoras; with thanks to Lina Sagaral Reyes for the link ]

I don’t know whose translucent wings those are
twitching, disappearing into a knothole in the ceiling;

but in the throes of great uncertainty I am
asked to consider the miniature:

– A heart the size of a pencil eraser, beating ten
times a second, hammering faster than we could hear.

– A heart that fuels flights more than five
hundred miles without stopping to rest.

– Hot heart that kisses at least a thousand flowers a day
but cold, slides into a torpor from which it might no longer rouse.

– Oh my constellation of fears, shamed by a wingstroke
smaller than a baby’s fingernail, thunderous as the world’s wild waterfalls.

– Heart like a race car engined by color, buffered
by wind, stripped for nothing but flight.

– Chant of bearded helmetcrests and booted racket-tails,
violet-tailed sylphs and crimson topazes.

– Rosary of charismatic names: amethyst woodstars and
rainbow-bearded thornbills, pufflegs and spatuletails.

– You’ve found me out: I have a bag of tortoise coins. I’ve spent them
like a miser, hoarding each little bit of copper against that one stupendous day.

– I’ve lived mostly alone in the bricked-up house of my heart,
but a wind teeters at the door, smelling of skin and apple breath.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Happiness

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 16 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Sometimes what changes is what makes
the landscape finally familiar, why it never
is becalmed for long: the way the air’s clarity—

stabbed with golden light and glistening
like new skin on the birches— can’t stay
that way. A blur’s already unlatching the frame.

I know this even as my friend turns to me
and says, But surely you deserve some
happiness too
? I’m rueful, I know. In that

still life by the window, for instance: my eye
is drawn not to the table with the creamy damask
and the plain but heavy silver. It’s the ochre veins

streaked through the magnolias, it’s their ivory
skirts beginning to droop from the lip of the urn.
It’s the crayon line of fuzz that outlines the too-

soft peaches in the bowl; and beside them, it’s the fly
that’s drowned and gone to heaven in their honey.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

What Cannot Eat

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 15 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

[ With thanks, too, to Nic S. and Dave Bonta for this… ]

How long does hunger hold? Or joy
forestalled? I know that hunger climbs

the trunk of the tree, persistent at its task.
If only each open cup, each well

of blossom had drink enough to douse
that flame— If only the moth that scrolled

its richly tattered cape across
the bark had a mouth; if only its four

half-moons were radiant feast,
enough to settle my restless songs.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Talon

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 14 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

At the harbor front, thick roll of banked clouds; beyond, deeper than velvet, the theatre curtains of night. Across the park, a row of street lamps comes on. Their light is butter-yellow, their light is flicker-dim. A half hour of pelting rain, then finally the boom of fireworks above the river. Silver and gold, blue and lilac and gold. They burst into tendrils like spider plants in the air. Their force is tender, and my chest is a cage of hollow echoes, small winged creatures riding blind and bumping against the walls. Gone the sheer white morning, sky thin enough for the sun’s milk to shine through. Everyone turns away after the last flares flicker and wane. We all want something stronger to tear through the murk and silence, we want to be the hawk that sails clear across the canvas, talon widening the rip from one edge of this world to the other.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Goldfinch in the Garden

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 13 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

All is gold and green in the garden now,
all humid earth beneath a profusion
of honeysuckle. The brass bell in the tree

is quieter than the foragers that come
tracing deliberate arcs through the foliage,
intent on water or sugar or seed. And I,

I want to sort through the inchoate
tumble of words I’ve written and erased,
erased and written again. My mouth

is heavy with salt, numb from wanting even
a drop of honey. And I want so much to tell you
but don’t know how: perhaps this is the only

way to go on: this never-ceasing work
of cobbling from what was given as loss, regret,
or sorrow: pushing it back into the soil, laying it

out in the sun. The coneflower stem breaks under
the goldfinch’s weight, but he moves to another,
probing the darkest center for a hint of seed.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.