Gleaning Song

This entry is part 84 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

These are registers on the staff
of days: grains of dust that gather

like vellum in summer, the high and lazy
whirring of ceiling fans. Drifts of yellow

petals falling from the tulip trees, pitch
and warble of birds. Gather and gather,

lisp the ants and worker bees; pluck
and scour
. The season lilts like a song

working the route to its coda. Lyric by lyric
the mouth learns the intricate passages:

where the rests are, and the furrows.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Gardenia

This entry is part 83 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

Walking to the waterfront in hopes
we might watch the fireworks show tonight,

one of us kicked aside the sun-bleached
carcass of a bracken leaf. In the pagoda

garden, fireflies lit the ochre undersides
of leaves on the Japanese maple. Heat

hung like a bower of creosote flowers
in bloom, presaging rain. And sure enough

thunder rippled in the sky across the water,
rain came down in sheets. The only

smoldering on the horizon, a barb
of ragged light every now and then,

outlining the spires of ships. We sat
at an upstairs table in the crowded

restaurant where people had rushed
for shelter. Someone pushed open

a sliding door on the veranda and the cooled
air came rushing in, musty as the planks

on the wooden pier. But somewhere in the currents,
a vein of remembered scent; and I said, Gardenia.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Parable

This entry is part 82 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

They say not the dove first but the raven,
sent out to fly back and forth across the earth
all in shadow, until the waters had dried up
and the penitent returned with their paired
beasts and the seeds of future gardens
pressed in the crevices of their palms.

But memory, long and bright in the sun,
shrivels in darkness or solitude. In the stories,
the bird is only a herald: it brings back
proof that something in the void sustains,
with wings that change color too: not always

sooty or dark, but touched with flame
like a breast or the fruit of a heart
offered up to the soul. And oh it wants
so much to be dissolved in the hour of its
most brooding need— what it seeks in the cup
not charity but some form of kindness, mercy.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

*and after Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ “The Prophet Fed by a Raven”

Vespertine

This entry is part 80 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

So yellow, so open now—
as though the evening primroses

had soaked in morning’s heat
and saved it for the darkest
hours of night.

What do they have
to teach me of grasping and letting go?

Even the bee is forced to make its visits
cloaked in the dressing-gown of dusk.
The claw-shaped shadows cross

like weapons; retract, and yet remain.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Landscape as Elegy for the Unspent

This entry is part 77 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

In memoriam, Jeffrey H. Richards

The bulbs that wintered in the ground
have ripened their hoard of secrets:
all is color, ruinous color, overpowering
scent. Balm grows in soil that has stained
the gardener’s hands, sweetened the tea
his wife must have brought sometimes
for him to drink. Cerulean, croons the warbler
whose shadow crosses the yard; flame orange,
hibiscus, mauve, lime— And for all this,
nothing is ever spent.*
In the cool afternoon
his friends gather in a courtyard
to remember his days. They sing a hymn
about the apple tree in a seed, the flower
in the bud. Between the church and town,
long-legged birds wade in river water. So much
like them, we’ve moved against the current,
shielded our eyes against the sun, straining to read
the letters scripted by some hand on the sides
of boats rocking gently in the pier.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

* from “God’s Grandeur” by G.M. Hopkins

Proof

This entry is part 76 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

I pull away every now and then,
when the world’s too hot, too bright,
too bitter; too cold, too merciless

in its inconstancy. Too rough, too
callused, too grainy, too stubborn
to answer the hand that pulls

at its ends and begs it heed. See
the ease with which the robin finds
a bright green morsel to spirit

out of the woods? Above the treeline
it flies, little beak a caret marking where
some buoyancy or joy’s gone missing.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Layers

This entry is part 74 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

Sulfur and sweetness, relish and bite:
you know it’s that good when you cry
from pleasure. Light a single votive

as you chop and mince: it helps to muffle
tears. The husk is a paper tunic, a skin
to wear like another language—

like the woman in Oregon who woke
from dental surgery surprised,
speaking with a foreign accent.

It means the house for what we think
we know is made of swirly layers—
see all those rings that fall away

on the cutting block when you
slice crosswise through? I like to think
that everything we’ve touched,

touches back; and vice versa.
See how a bug has left a red
swelling between my knuckles—

I’ll put some salve on it
until it subsides; then finger this
new site of rescue absently for days.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Mineral Song

This entry is part 73 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

“There are tears at the heart of things, and men are touched by what human beings have to bear.” ~ Virgil, Aeneid

Oh love I want to lie in your lap full in the sun,
to bring everything I have that’s querulous,
tremulous, divided from this air dripping
with nectar from the tulip trees in bloom.

Will I remember what this moment
might have been? So often the world
overturns in the bowl of the spoon.
Its silver flashes like a warning at noon.

And still I forgive its afflictions,
what it sows, hard and bright:
salt and ore in the heart of things.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.