What We’ll Remember

This entry is part 16 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


We’ll remember this as the summer when hail rained down as large as peaches, when whips of lightning tore through the humid air. We’ll remember this as the summer when we woke and looked up to see a sky filled with clouds in the shape of women’s pendulous breasts; when every day as we walked from one end of the field to the other, it seemed the cicadas’ agitated chirping might rival the noise of oncoming trains. And we’ll remember this as the summer of startling sightings: wild birds far from home, a man-of-war sailing into the harbor, cannons firing in salute; and a body washed up on the river’s edge. A cerulean warbler sang incessantly in the yard, and doctor’s reports recommended the cutting away of some parts. We’ll remember this as the summer of swiftest change: how we walked, mornings and evenings, past fences overgrown with wisteria— their opulent scent already balanced on the rim of decay.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 15 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near…” Matthew 24: 32

—and the clouds gather into scrolls over the foothills
—and the crepe myrtles fall on the pavements as if it were spring
—and meadow plants turn limp, while some stiffen as though they were bristles in winter
—and the river’s surface is flecked with bits of foam and plastic, and shadows of wading birds
—and passing trains pitch their whistle to the winds
—and afternoons are hardest, for their shore is the in-between


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Stress Test

Dress comfortably, but not in last night’s negligee.
Nothing by mouth after midnight: personally,
I don’t really like the taste of nothing. I am reminded
of sawdust, or of certain fiber residues a.k.a. lint
from the dryer. Everything, therefore, should be
permissible. The treadmill will incline in the correct
direction if you can successfully use the word
cardiovascular as a slant rhyme. If you cannot use
your legs, you will be allowed to crank a bicycle with
your arms. If you make the electrodes click to the rhythm
of Tico-Tico, the test results may become unreadable,
or perhaps more readable. This is very serious, I am not joking.
It is important to know the measure of certain things in regard
to the heart: whether the blood, loosed like a caged animal
no longer used to the wild, will be able to return through
corridors narrowed by an abundance of grief and care,
or made dense with neglect; whether it will consent
to lie down in chambers that have grown too small,
their walls opening to looped circuits without end.

Ghazal, with Onions, after Midnight

Methodical clicking, light metal against another surface: and I think that someone
in the kitchen is slicing an onion— this sound that wakes me after midnight.

For a moment I don’t know the day, don’t know the hour— But I am almost perfectly sure
that on the red and white chopping board, an onion is being diced, after midnight.

The night lights are out, only the clock’s green numbers float on the ceiling.
Outside: raindrops like tiny pearl onions, dark baguette of sky at midnight.

The rain has peeled away some of the heat. But there are always more
layers underneath, like an onion. And now I’m sleepless, after midnight.

I wish I knew how to tell which spiral leads into another. Then perhaps some things in life might be
simpler. And why I thought of the onion, I don’t know. But now it keeps me awake after midnight.

So many thoughts that unroll like parchment in the mind. And a poet I love once wrote in praise of
the onion and its honorable career: for the sake of others, disappear. All this, past midnight.

And long ago, someone spoke to me of marriage, bringing me home at dusk. I fingered the latch at the gate,
unable to put a finger on some vacant unease, tiny space at the onion’s heart. I think of it too at midnight.

It’s true there are worse things in life that bring tears, and that fumes from candle flame
help dissipate an onion’s sting. But what remedy for the soul’s unease, after midnight?


In response to small stone (107).

Charmed Life

This entry is part 13 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


The yard is dusty, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The chickens have scratched a path from one side to the other, where it is coolest under the sayote patch and the bayabas trees. I cannot sustain a thought as long as the sentences they write all day in the gravel, back and forth, forth and back, punctuated only with commas and long dashes. The honeysuckle bends under the weight of its fragrance. The laundry hangs on the line, nearly dry. Late last night, coming home on the road, the car headlights caught swarms of tiny moths in startled flight. They had such flimsy wings, kabsat— they stood out like pale chiseled ovals, the only movement in the dark. What message were they bringing? I want to know; or if, high up in the trees, the spirits watch, waiting to spill their basketful of charms as we pass.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Still Life: A Cento


Sweet-gum, what good your Latin name
I say, who barely remember your common one—

And though the fig tree may not blossom
nor fruit be on the vines, I dig

and prune and water for promise: thread
of what language could offer up for me

or you— if you are out there— perhaps.
And through the patchwork grass, all morning

I have been scattering insects
with the noise of the lawn mower—

I’m sure they are right about me.
Humans and concocted gods— they dot the I’s

and hierarchically reshuffle. And if we two,
sprawled below on the sand, are burned

and offered, it is to no god we will name.
Seagulls perch on the rafters in the shadow of cypress,

or move from column to broken column submerged in water:
a Greek temple where no one now remembers the name of the god.

From moment to moment the world becomes memory,
a still life, what the French call nature morte.



NOTE: A Cento is a poem made up of parts from other works; late Latin, from Latin, patchwork garment; perhaps akin to Sanskrit kanthā, patched garment; first known use: 1605 (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Source texts of lines in this cento:

Debra Greger, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Flora”
Habakkuk 3:17-19
Kaspalita Thompson, comments on Dave Bonta’s (note to self)
Quincy Troupe, “Listening to Blackbirds”
Julie Martin, comments on Dave Bonta’s (note to self)
Dave Bonta, (note to self)
Rosanna Warren, “At Villeneuve-les-Maguelone”
Hayden Carruth, “Song: So Why Does this Dead Carnation”



In response to (note to self).


This entry is part 12 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Dear mother, what was that paste you made from some blue tincture, into which you dipped swaths of gauze? I’d burned for a week with a fever. My voice shrank in my throat like a snail into the coil of its shell. And was that a dream as well?— At the height of my delirium, I turned and saw three women at the foot of my bed. One recited the rosary, the other watched the gathering shapes of melted wax from a taper. The other rubbed crushed wild garlic into the hollows of my elbows and behind my knees. I fell asleep, it seems for hours and hours. I drenched the sheets with sweat. Night turned its red throat away from the window. When I woke all I wanted was water: to feel its long, cool hand reach down into my new-old insides; to lie back on the sheets, remembering how to breathe.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Landscape, with Chinese Lanterns

This entry is part 11 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Some places might visit you only once, but their color stains you: one night lying
in a field of stars that prickled your nape, your head pillowed by the grass—

Or the cool of a morning, long ago in Provence: you flung the windows open and there it was,
Mont saint Victoire. I cupped my hands to my ears and listened to the wind in the grass.

Only a few days, not even a week: the road to town lined with Mexican cantinas, posters
of girls peeling from alley walls. Then the fountain of dolphins, and manicured grass.

Crowds in each sidewalk cafe; doves purpling the air. Water flowing toward
the sea, under the aqueducts. Ancient trees shading long avenues of grass.

And in St. Petersburg, beneath Kazansky’s shadowed colonnades, gypsy children
rushing at tourists reminded me of Manila: heavy air, dry wind in the grass.

And in the market, in Cotabato, bright threads tightly woven into malongs
by women’s hands. The smells of ripe jackfruit and durian, denser than grass.

I’m not there now, nor in the backyard of my childhood home— green fruit suspended
like ornaments from the trellis, the hum of insects screened through the grass.

In the heat, clusters of Chinese Lanterns rattle like pods; they sing This is it,
there is no rehearsal.
Gently I gather their coppery bones from the grass.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Mortal Ghazal

This entry is part 10 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


My friend sent me a lei of strawflowers from the city of our childhood:
brittle corollas of yellow undercut by orange that we called Everlasting.

I remember the slides in the park, and the kiddy train one summer: it looped around its
periphery, a blur of red and orange. Just a few minutes, but the ride seemed everlasting.

And women from the hills, their baskets filled with dried snipe, amulets, herbs;
their woven skirts striped vivid orange (the sound of their voices, everlasting)—

In that world, everything seemed possible; in that world, time seemed almost too slow.
Now I’m brought up short in the shoals as the sun reddens in a sky unrelenting—

At sunrise, two birds call— heraldic, but fleeting. Such tender things in the world:
smudged with blue, capped with little streaks of rust. Glyphs from the everlasting.

Tell me I haven’t done too little, that I’ve made some difference to you;
even if in the end I might be judged wanting, unhinged: mortal, not everlasting.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.