Falling

This entry is part 89 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

When I turn on the radio I hear
the story of a dead NASA satellite
about as large as a schoolbus,

which is right this minute falling
to earth and poised to burn in re-entry,
scattering a rain of hefty debris

some time in the next few days.
Where exactly on the six inhabited
continents it will land is anybody’s

guess: though all the wags have
already suggested locations anywhere
from Downing Street to Alaska, to the White

House and Libya. The odds, however,
are about one in 21 trillion that any
of us will be struck by a scrapyard

piece that has actually hurtled
through fields of quietly pulsing stars.
In a manner of speaking, that satellite

has been falling since it was launched
into the atmosphere in 1991, in the same
way mold begins its inevitable descent

upon the wheels of cheese just
lifted out of their cloth, the coarse
brown bricks of bread the baker

slides out of the oven. Even now,
though the season has not truly turned,
the walnut trees have begun to lose

their leaves. The smallest animals
are lining their nests with seed and paste,
preparing to bury themselves in the dark.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Dear meadow vole disappearing into the woods

This entry is part 88 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Meadow Vole, Field Mouse, or Meadow Mouse (Microtus pennsylvanicus)

“…he led them up the mountain’s brow,
And shews them all the shining fields below.
They wind the hill, and thro’ the blissful meadows go.”
— Virgil, Aeneid (6.641)[16]

 

Dear meadow vole disappearing into the woods
in the jaws of a cat who holds her head high
and does not slink, perhaps it is unwarranted

to think of assigning you the role of gladiator
borne away in death, departing through fronds
of grass toward Elysium. But couldn’t I

imagine you an unwilling foot soldier conscripted
daily into war? Casualty fallen anew to the enemy
(as always, as in tragedy, classically mismatched:

bigger, meaner, more cosmically predatory than you),
yes it’s merely nature, neutral as red fox or mink
or short-eared owls that hunt above tufted nest or

burrow. In winter, for short-lived sustenance,
you find, hidden under snow, green parts of plants.
Our lives: mere wingspan of months in the wild;

easy sport, soft, twitching target for the gods.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Panalangin

This entry is part 87 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Kung mayroon mang santo, patron,
o diyosa ng bawa’t kalbaryo,

O mga Panginoon, patnubayan ninyo
kaming mga namamalagi sa pisngi

ng lupa: kapirasong guhit ng buwan,
kay layong anino ng haplos.

* * *

Prayer

What saints, patrons
and goddesses might there be for each calvary?

O watch over
us who merely live on the cheek

of this earth: that sliver-stroke of moon,
its distant illusion of a caress.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Landscape, Roofs Edged with Evening Rain

This entry is part 86 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

And here’s the rain again, my love: silvering
the mouths of gargoyles perched at the edge of the roof—

Such watery abundance pouring down, and no other recourse
but sieve and sieve it through. Who could stay aloof

through such constant battering? See how the rushing crowds
clutch their collars close, looking for the nearest roof

under which to shelter. Eventually it lightens; the curtains
shimmer a reprieve. A waterdrop slides down your cheek.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Harbinger

This entry is part 85 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Dark silhouettes of pine, valleys fanned out
as open-sided buses crest the ridge at dawn.

Frost-trails of breath lingering on the coldest
morning of the month so far. Tin shanties hold

their chilled sides close along the hills.
In one, a naked lightbulb: its tungsten

yellow glow above a kitchen sink,
where a grandmother is heating coffee

and putting the eggs in it to boil.
You glimpse her in the window as the bus

rolls by— lit end of her cigar
poised in her mouth, eyes scanning

the day for what warmth it will bring.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Mobius

This entry is part 84 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

The flower dangles by its stem; the stair-
case peels its progress, plank by plank,

diminishing into that well of light
we call a landing: what shore suspends

midway between the gradual earth,
the gradual sky? Night turns to day,

and day to night, reversing strip that
lightens at the edges. Lovers meet

and then soon part: whispers in the hedge,
while in the air, haloed and beaten,

disc that floats like labor’s emblem, its
coat-of-arms. Burnished and driven, I lip

the rain that poems the smallest flame,
that dangles the flower from its stem.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Asters

This entry is part 83 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

You want to know how many hours remain
on the fringed lilac faces of these clocks—

Oh take heart, unstrap your sandals, walk by
the shore, leaving the animal that’s lowered

its head to nuzzle wet sculpted sand. And then
come back to lay beneath the windowsill—

You’ll hear the honeybee still sharpening
its rhetoric, the far-off notes made

by bodies nested in burr and fiddlehead fern.
The latch of the gate falls close at evening’s

approach. Its brassy little sound bursts
like a small blue blossom puncturing the dark.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Landscape, with Things Falling from the Sky

This entry is part 82 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

It ticks, the iris underneath: the heavy-lidded
eye in its leathered sac blinks open, mercurial,
at the slightest touch. So falls the sky in fable:

as a leaf, as a flutter of feathers, as an acorn
pinging across a table of rock. Fear is the room
where it all echoes; or love. A galaxy is only

a dark umbrella someone opens so rain can streak
the grass. When all the water’s gone, the ribs shine
dull silver. In the spaces far between are stars.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

The word of the day

This entry is part 81 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

is iridescent: sheen of no particular color or shape, but sheen nonetheless— volatile and contractual, dependent on the grace of granite or the voluptuous ooze of oils, the scaled and crusty matter they say is proof that shells shed tears. No matter where it goes, light leaves a trace, some hint of a refrain, slight as a tendril rising from depths no one has neared. No matter how late I rise, or early, there it is in the particulars ringing your face: faint bronze-tipped hairs, the halo of a sigh receding into the pillow; each finger a pilgrim seeking the road, still guided by heat, the last electric body it touched.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Shortcuts

This entry is part 80 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

At church on Sundays, I tend to forget
the right sequence of words in the Nicene
Creed. My ten year old squeezes my elbow

—she thinks I’m skipping words, going too
fast (just like the way I drive), merely
impatient to be done with it and get to

our destination. I’ve tried to explain
that my ability to remember the standard
version was ruined, ever since Father Jean-

Marie Chang of Lourdes Church on Kisad
Road in Baguio had an epiphany many years ago,
and created a thirty-minute “fast-track” mass.

It started at noon and ended in enough time
so folks could make it to the all-you-can-eat
buffet at the Country Club, or back home

a few streets away before the chicken stew
even had a chance to cool. Tucking, trimming,
and compressing, he also delivered homilies no more

than five minutes long. I’m sure the bishops fumed,
but no one could deny his flock soon outnumbered
those at other churches. His busy, practical

parishioners soon learned to cut through
repetitious language, the God from Gods
and Light from Lights, the true God from

true Gods. He’d even thought to streamline
salvation for us (no longer for us men— all this
predating gender-speak). There are times though,

when I make a more conscious effort to slow down,
to remember those parts of the sonorous old language
that make me think of cool vaults and flying

buttresses; and beneath them the molten yellow
of candle flame. And at the altar, sacristans
swinging censers filled with burning incense,

tendrils of smoke stalled somewhere between
fluttering and soaring, just like the hundred
and more petitions of the faithful on their knees.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.