Love Poem with Skull and Candy Valentines

This entry is part 62 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


“…And everich of hem did his besy cure
Benygnely to chese or for to take,
By hir acord, his formel or his make.”
—Geoffrey Chaucer, “Parlement of Foules” (369-371)

In Cosmedin, Rome— in the Chiesa di Santa Maria,
a flower-wreathed skull sits preserved in a shrine
more ornate than any foil-covered box of candy—
that’s Saint Valentine himself, as the hand-lettered
strip of bandage across his brow proclaims.
“Protector of love,” martyr of Terni, he got
couples hitched at a time when (would you believe)
it was illegal to marry. The stories say he was “beaten
with clubs and stoned; and when that failed to kill him,
he was beheaded” outside the Porta del Popolo.
Poor Val, his aquiline nose may even have been broken.
But he seems to have kept most of his teeth, which rest
(some gaps between, though they say that can be sexy)
just inside the edge of the reliquary frame. His gold box
resembles a 1930’s RCA TV, or the consoles in the Dr. Who
episode where an alien disguised as a woman is trying
to take over the world. Even here, the theme is love
and monsters; or love and sex, lust, appetite, desire–
everything you want but can’t actually have, so naturally
you want it even more. On the eve of the festival
of Lupercalia, young Roman boys and girls wrote
their names on slips of paper and put them into jars;
then they held a grand old raffle to find out who
they’d walk hand in hand with the next day, share
a honeyed sweetmeat with, maybe spoon a little,
golden in the olive grove. Did the trees make noise
under the cloudless sky, touching in ways we
rarely do? Everyone loves a little sugar every
now and then; why not them too? Cushioned
in red and gold, the saint would understand
the meanings of excess: candygrams and chalky
conversation hearts (“Sweet Dreams”, “URDGR8ST”,
“Be Mine”, “Big Hugs”), little mounds of milk
chocolate goopy in their maraschino centers,
cardboard boxes lettered with their swirly
tic-tac-toe of X’s and O’s; lacy thong, slinky
sarong, velvet codpiece. Welt of pepper and spice,
ascetic stripe of sea-salt on the hungry tongue.

Luisa A. Igloria
02 14 2011

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

Letter to Arrythmia

This entry is part 61 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


Dear arrhythmia, dear perennially
side-stepping, asynchronous and rapid
tachycardia, I’ve learned not so much
to fancy up my footwork than to fake
a passable improv: not even time
to do my nails, check my hair or lines
for an audition call— but here we are
again in the molasses of a telenovela,
gliding from moments of near hysteria
then shimmying to the Copacobana
as doors revolve like windmills
in the background… And it’s true, then,
what they say about you: how you break
knees, break hearts, and then ask
Will you dance? Sometimes I want to stop,
just be the wallflower, enjoy the view— be
the one the waiters come and tend to,
their silver trays bobbing with fancy,
pileated tufts of napkins. Oh but I’ve never
known the ease of a downier partner:
only you dealing and dealing it out;
sometimes, more than I can muster.

Luisa A. Igloria
02 13 2011

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

Landscape, with Mockingbird and Ripe Figs

This entry is part 60 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


Like a wren, like an oriole, like the quail—
there’s the mockingbird improvising in the grass.
Chittering call of a Cooper’s hawk, jay that calls
and calls until his double answers. Who
hears my voice crying out in the middle of the day,
who knows to tell the echo from its answer?
The Japanese beetles have gored open
the sides of figs velveting the tree.
You picked my hair clean of shadows.
You dropped little stones in the beaker
so the water rose and I could drink.
Sweet smell of clover, sweet-fingered fruit
ripening to rot upon the sill.
Above the sheets, a spider couples
with its prey. In their eyes’ prismed glass,
our limbs bond into brittle sugar.
That isn’t steam beneath the ceiling.
Outside, small birds continue feeding.
A strangled cry. Finally, the jay calls like a jay.

Luisa A. Igloria
02 12 2011

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

What She Wants

This entry is part 59 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


Nearly noon, but only a few
hours since I washed my face
upon rising. The day needs
to bloom harder, needs more
roundness— The swell of plucked
bandurria strings, the glisten
of corn chaff flying, soft
stripes of light dipped in saffron
wash; this thin milk passing for air
bursting instead with pollen,
as if some goddess had carelessly
flicked the dust off her sandals,
as if it were August, and all
she wants is the green-gold
mango hanging from the tree.

Luisa A. Igloria
02 11 2011

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

After Luisa: two poem sequences

Yesterday and today, Dale Favier left poems in response to Luisa Igloria’s poems in the comments at the Morning Porch, and both times it prompted a further exchange between Luisa and me as time permitted. Here are the results.

Jessie’s wearing a knit belt,
a band of vivid pink.

She whistles the beginning of something
again and again.

I glance down at my coffee.
When I look back up

she’s pulled on a gray sweater
and gone to look at the sky.

—Dale Favier


(This made me smile in two ways at once. Well done!
—Dave Bonta)


Things That Make Me Smile
In Two Ways At Once

Flounced ruffles
Swagger-me boots
Lost and found capers
A long drink
of something mint
Dimpled time
A lie-in
Bright circlet
inside a small hour
Homing like
the hummingbird
That little dish
of nectar partly
hidden in
the leaves—

—Luisa A. Igloria


Jessie’s wearing boots of mint. She whistles the hummingbird out of the leaves in another story, one without curved bakery cases and metal tubes that hiss into small cups. In this dimpled time, nectar drips from gold cages, & a sad lawyer feeds himself to a lie-in. She hums & taps her toe. She homes in.



Bedtime Story

But what if she hasn’t learned how to whistle? Will the hummingbird come out of hiding, will it part the leaves for a pucker, for a yodel, or if she crooned? Will it flutter its wings more rapidly than eyelashes? Summer is a long way away. Summer is stripes of vermilion, the plumage of birds of paradise. She looks out where the wind has started sifting fine snow again. The birdbath is an upturned bundt pan ringed by tiny marzipan leaves. Knock on its sides and the echo circles the garden. When it’s cold, we want to suck everything down to the marrow, forgetting the fire in the feathers, the smolder in the song. The sad lawyer in the canopy bed stops alternately tossing in the sheets and sitting up to smooth them. She regales him with stories, pretending she is Sheherazade: short of the endings, before daylight, she braids their ends and coils them flat as coins. Laughing, she tells him he must find them himself. She hides them underneath the mattress, then wishes she were a florin, a ducat, a coronet dollar piece.



(three tanka)

That ache in the lungs
on a very cold dawn—
I almost enjoy it.
The blue near the horizon
is the earth’s own shadow.

Half-in, half-out,
a leaf flaps
from the frozen birdbath.
I pluck an unsightly hair
from the bridge of my nose.

In the post office window,
the clerk & I compared
ten dollar bills.
1001 spam emails
vanish with one click.



That ache in the lungs
on a very cold dawn,
that blue near the horizon—

Across the counterpane
I’ve chased my shadow
half-in, half-out of sleep—

I fill the chamber with ink
and the nib presses
against creamy paper—

Ink color named after a battle,
cornfields bordering
Antietam creek—

That ache in the wake
of language, words like pennants
marking what can’t ever be held—

As in a roomful of people
where I find I’m still always
speaking to you—


* * *

In the massage room is
a trickle-water fountain
which pricks the Reiki music
with little pings of drips.

That high harsh sound
of something tearing
is only my tinnitus.

I believe for a desolate moment
she is going to lay her head
down on my oiled chest.



A man built a city
in his basement out
of balsa wood, all so
the model people
riding round & round
on his train wouldn’t
get bored. Look!
There’s a fountain,
as artificial as in
real life! And trees
with an ageless foliage
that won’t show dust.
I crouch down & peer
under the table.
A rat trap has been
baited with what looks
like catfood. We have
just been introduced
to his wife’s collection
of orchids, & I am
still agog: all those
ornate enticements
for special lovers who
will never find them,
so far into the country
of winter in their hot
glass house.



So far into the country
of winter in their hot
glass house they find
the abandoned piano,
a yellowed score and jazz
notes drifting overhead.
She follows the scent
of ginger and he follows
her down the winding
corridor. The air is cool
in rooms carved from old
wood. He looks for twigs
to whittle, happiest finding
stray pieces that the wind’s
blown in, or that the surf
washes up on shore.
No matter, they can both
admire the heavy tapestry
embroidered with a garden–
all the vines and brambles,
clusters of fruit shot through
with gold thread; the lovers
outlined in white and sienna,
each with their haltered
animals: they bend toward a chink
in the wall that separates them,
press ear and mouth against
the place they might align with
the other; they hear the short
relay of filtered breath.


Landscape, with Water Fountain, Small Clouds and Endless Lyric

This entry is part 58 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


In the foyer, I’ve installed
a tabletop fountain: four
gradated stone-like bowls
balanced lip to bottom, one
atop the other; water pouring
from a fluted edge down to
the basin, where a tiny engine
drives the stream up and up
again. Miniature homage to
perpetual motion, its murmur
audible until we pull the plug
before we go upstairs to bed
at night. And it will never
ice over, never fill with pond
scum, floating koi or iridescent
insect bodies, its purpose simply
to distill some part of what teems
without cease outdoors, without
relief but only momentary stay—
Today, bitter cold; high wind
at sunrise sends small clouds
in search of sun— perpetual errand,
as leaves keep trying to transmute
the thin, harsh sounds of tearing
before they flutter to the ground.

Luisa A. Igloria
02 10 2011

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry, via Blackberry. And now Dale Favier has posted a response to Luisa’s poem…


This entry is part 57 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


Dawn: a thin band of vivid pink. I glance down at my coffee,
and when I look back it’s gone, the sky is gray.

In the crowded station, volatile citrus spray.
I look around but cannot find the orange rind.

New girl at the coffee shop— Between taking orders, her brown
barrette glints like a clipped accent from somewhere else.

Where did the four green slices of starfruit go?
The pineapples on the serving plate are silent.

Last night, in my living room, the poet who wrote of temples
and butterflies slid off his sandals and padded barefoot to the dinner table.

Luisa A. Igloria

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

UPDATE: Some more poems happening in the comment thread over there.

“Last night’s wet snow…”

This entry is part 56 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


Last night’s wet snow sticks here
or there, creating alpine trails
beneath the shadow of low walls,
leaving blank spaces where the wind
has drawn its hasty maps and then
like some cartographer unsure
of where the continents might lie,
erased them… In one of these
pockets drawn as wintry latitudes,
bergamot heads confer, a little
brotherhood of toques blanches.

Luisa A. Igloria

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

Monday Landscape, with Clocks Borrowed from Dali

This entry is part 55 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


“Caeditur et tilia ante jugo levis…”
(“A light linden-tree also is felled betimes for the yoke…”)
–Virgil, Georgics I

Inside, all the clocks are blinking,
as though even time could not fully
wake to Monday morning. Should I walk
down the hall and flip each limp clock face,
counting and stretching in succession?
They droop along the mantel’s edge, unstuffed
quesadillas before the hot comal and the salsa picante.
Did you know that if you put ham and cheese
between two flour tortillas, you have instead
what they call a syncronizada? Cut into pie-
shaped wedges they might resemble six
two-hour bites of the clock, which might explain
the reference to time-keeping. Or perhaps
it’s simply from our habits of always
keeping time, watching the clock: no more
than three minutes in the shower, five
to grab a coffee and banana, an hour to get
the kids to school and ourselves to work
if we should be so lucky; an hour for lunch,
a morning for sifting through the flour
and meal of correspondence… Who
has the time anymore to notice the squirrel
tunneling back into the icy snow, the neighbor
walking to his truck a quarter mile away?
Above our heads, the rough-hewn hours
shift into shapes of ploughs. Soon,
along the avenues, leaves will mottle
the linden trees: whole libraries of green
lifting their faces in a chorus to work and time.

Luisa A. Igloria

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry.

Ghazal of the Open Water

This entry is part 54 of 95 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2010-11


Bird silhouettes go up and down the laddered
dogwood branches; in the ditch, a strip of open water.

How do they thrive upon so little?
Their shadows ripple like blooms upon the open water.

Riding back from the city on a train, swaths
of farmland, then the flash of open water.

The days, so cold and riddled with damp rain.
And still I’d rather have the clarity of open water.

These months and years have strung their tears
and prayers together: o grant us passage now to open water.

Luisa A. Igloria

In response to today’s Morning Porch entry (via Blackberry).