Yes, or No

“When the bee comes to your house, let her have beer.
You may want to visit the bee’s house someday.” ~ Congolese

Or it may be that the honey in the cells
has foamed to froth, has risen above
walls that could no longer contain
that sweet— So the hand that tried
to stay the overflow withdrew, gold-
sheathed. May such abundance visit
your heart today: not rue, not pity.


In response to Via Negativa: A beer thinker's guide to life.


This entry is part 35 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Today, ambiguous rain. Clouds that screen the view— dark, light, broody, indecisive. Through my fourth floor office window at noon, the screech of tires carrying from the boulevard. Water scales and fish-tails down the panes. Who sees our faces from this height, behind refracting layers? I too am often pulled in several directions, though this is how most of it should go— the daily work taken up and borne, repeated, repeating. Long hours, hot taste in the mouth, the tremble in the tired and fevered wrists. My children’s godmother writes: This is how we made our way: one suitcase in each hand, an envelope with letters of introduction; a nondescript address, a name. A taxi ride at midnight after a 21-hour flight. The driver pointing out the monument— a spire gleaming across the river; bridge, underpass, and finally a chain-linked driveway at the destination: Good luck, lady, this as far as I can take you. At such an hour the long view of years has not yet kindled. Bills and change, counted out. Pockets full of change that can be used at pay phones, even for long distance; that could buy fruit from a corner store, toiletries, water. The little metal wheels clattering as you pulled your luggage in the dark.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Late Summer: A Cento*

Under the leaves, a chorus
like strings: Don’t flinch.
Don’t join in. …something
that I know so thoroughly I can’t
imagine or describe it, though it fills
my eyes. And the birds with those long
white necks? Lust— like love lost—
was the catalyst: exquisitely expedient,
unchanged. Then heat. Then rain—
all uncontained.


*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: Deborah Paredez, “Wife’s Disaster Manual;” John Koethe, “Book X;” Billy Collins, “Report from the Subtropics” (Poetry, September 2012)

Also see another cento I wrote in July 2012.



In response to small stone (137).


This entry is part 34 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


In the depths of the freezer case at Four Seasons
Asian Grocery, a tray of cooked, frozen grubs:
the cashier tells me they are really

the carcasses of silkworms, harvested
in the hundreds, maybe thousands,
after they die from their labors

spinning threads that women
in Chiang Mai or Dalat will unravel
as strands of silk… So many bodies

burrowed in hive-like baskets—
What would you do for the promise
of wings rising over a bamboo porch?


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Essay on White

“Could it be, …that radiance tires of itself?” ~ D. Bonta

Albumen sheen, not the asphalt that is
bitumen— Yes to radish-tinted, textured,

coarse linen; or to carded fibers not yet
dipped in dye. I hanker for the simple:

effortless grace unaware of itself,
flaws braided into the weave;

grain stenciled without apology or
hurt across the surfaces of wood…

Impossible to list, catalog,
jot down all occurrences

known to us, of white— Ecru, stucco,
lace formed by webs of frost on cold

mornings; iridescent inner lining,
nacre coating the dark lips of mollusks.

Overlay of primer on blank canvas,
patience before the first drawn breath of

qi. (Not that radiance hasn’t been appropriated,
reduced to cliche, some current and marketable

shorthand.) Still, I understand— How
tiresome it must be to wear the same

unblemished habit, always be the pearlized
vellum that stones must try to skip across.

Wanting has more variegated colors;
exits are rarely lettered in pastel.

You know the garish red of Stop and Danger signs; and
zebra stripes that tell us where to cross the street.


In response to Via Negativa: Fulgurite.

Reversed Alphabet of Rain

This entry is part 33 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Zero buyers till now, for our old home in the middle of the city—
You wrote, too, how in the last monsoon, there was hardly a dry spot:
xerox copies of leaks in every room, even inside the closets.
When we first moved there in ’63, you said there was a frame of
varnished mahogany hanging in the foyer; a portrait,
unexpected— the former president of the Commonwealth,
tints brightening on dull canvas after dusting and
scrubbing lightly with a cloth. Where is it now? In those days,
rain also fell for months on end. The neighborhood below Rock
Quarry always flooded every year. Lining up for relief goods,
people shivered in queue at the barangay health center:
oil, rice, sardines, powdered or evaporated milk for babies.
No one knows when the area first came to be known as The Lagoon.
Mostly “squatters” there— meaning, people setting up homes on
land they did not own; they reasoned, who else would build there,
knowing how flood-prone and inhospitable it was each season?
Just think of that kind of transience, living in a danger zone.
I remember how we used to pull our mattresses into the living room,
huddle in the dark of power outages. Sans batteries, candles threw
garish shapes on walls as our hands put on puppet plays—
fanned-out butterfly wings, a bird, a dog’s barking head.
Evening stretched into the long uncertainty of night.
Do you remember how every sound was magnified?
Candle wax pooled on the floor and hardened.
Bright sweeps of sudden light from trucks on the road;
arcs of memory on a more interior windshield.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


to take heart, invigorate, freshen, turn (a sail) by means of a brace:: to make stronger, reinforce, fasten tightly, bind against the wind; to fathom— against the nervous trees and their supply of questions— the lifting fog, the grace of a few thistles by the road. What is the length of a day? Two arms can measure only so much. But obey:: lift your head against the haze of cool blue clouds. Here’s the scope of what might be achieved:: perhaps not so much to bend ends back to their beginnings, as to stroke repeatedly until the needle points back to steady.


In response to Morning Porch and small stone (134).