Simple

Not one or two but several layers
of complicated tastes and fragrances—

cassia and anise, coriander, fennel,
fenugreek: why can’t sugar be sweet

and salt be itself, even bitterness
be green distilled from herbs

grown hardscrabble in the soil?
Sometimes, I want the straight-

forward thing, no break hinged
between skin and seam.

Sometimes I want the flat side
of paper, not anymore its curl.

Luisa A. Igloria
10 08 2011

Landscape, with Notes of Red

This entry is part 15 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

Bright red enamel of a teapot through the window,
brick red of a roof. Ask the weather vane twisted

in the shape of a whale which red it was that drew
fire from the earth’s belly, which red planted

seeds that burned in the mouth of the girl—
she held out for half a year without seeing

the black-throated blue warbler, without hearing
yellow-throated vireos speckling the air with

their song. So stark, these trellises of bark and steel-
cut grays. Whose white scarf has caught in the trees?

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Nocturne

This entry is part 13 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

Scrounging around in the kitchen tonight
to make lunch for my daughters,
I find there’s only the end slice
left from a loaf of wheat.

But there are dry noodles in the pantry,
and in the vegetable bin a few
green onions, some carrots. And
leftover chicken, which I can cut

into strips! Into the boiling water,
a few drops of sesame oil impart
such a rich fragrance; soy sauce
deepens the color of stock.

A car door slams somewhere down
the way. Across the rooftops, thin
stroke of a train whistle. Who’s going?
Goodnight or goodbye; and love to you.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Dear solitude,

This entry is part 12 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

what is it like to live by oneself?
I can no longer remember, or if I ever
truly did. Surely it can’t have been

in the short month intervening after I
graduated from college and then got married,
believing that was the only way I might

finally make a life, something of my own.
Neither can it have been in the years
I went to graduate school, the first time

after my second child was born; and then again
when my third child turned three— Roommates
down the hall sharing the bathroom,

sharing the fridge and kitchen (though also
cleaning duties). And at home, with growing
children and extended family, never any

door that one could keep closed for too long.
I didn’t really mind, but also welcomed
summers when I could slip away by myself

to visit a friend, go to a writing retreat,
work free of the coils of schedules and
routines for two short weeks. Oh the joys

of breakfast at 11 and bedtime at 3, a walk
with no other purpose than the walk itself.
On the other hand, my pathologist friend

in Chicago, who’d lived by himself for over
thirty years, sometimes told me how he wished
for human sounds in the middle of the night,

in the empty bedrooms of his tastefully
furnished flat— how he’d scan the trees
bereft of birds and their call and response,

how sometimes he’d flush the toilet in the guest
bathroom at random times of day, just to hear
the water gurgling before eddying away.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Fountains

This entry is part 11 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

Who’s always nuzzling, always guzzling,
lowering the nose and mouth into folds
of clothing or skin in search of something
warm and delicious? Tonight I see a photograph
of a woman suckling her infant at one breast;

at the other, an orphaned fawn. The woman’s
destitute, though not emaciated. The edge
of her red sari is smudged with grime; her nose
ring’s a wire bangle sharpening her features.
But the caption says she cannot refuse: noble

motherhood makes it impossible to refuse
such hungers. There is no hurry to wean.
So then I learn of fountains all over the world
that celebrate lactating motherhood, portraying
goddesses of one sort or another, lifting

and pointing their many-petaled breasts
into the sun, all of them squirting white
streams of water: Artemis’ fountain at Villa
D’Este in Rome, Our Lady of Perpetual Lactation
in Guatemala. What do the tourists think

as they open their mouths wide, their faces
drenched in the spray? As a new mother reading
Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care from cover
to cover, I remember a section describing
the child’s first discovery of the world

through her mouth— nipple, finger, chew
toy; blanket, spoon, then sliver of apple
in whose belly the fragment of a star
is sown. At my children’s christening
party, their grandfather hurried

to tear the tongue off the roasted pig
and bring it to their lips. Instinctively
they closed upon the bit of charred
muscle and sucked, crying for the milk
that would not come. Good, good,

he crowed, They’ll learn to speak up
for what they want!
I wonder if the same
was done for me; though I don’t wonder now
at how strong the instinct (I want it too)
to fold myself into my mother’s neck—

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Tableaux Vivants

This entry is part 9 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

After Yola Monakhov’s “Lebende Bilder”

These five finches are no longer here,
nor is the barred owl with only a dark
socket where its other eye should be—

Neither the loose strife of leaves,
pale green beneath their crown of paler
flowers; nor the clustered apples

high and cold on the branch, their blush
beginning to shade with blue. There is
no grass to match the colors of the

mountain vireo, dun brushed with light
cadmium yellow. You could not get
such feathers from a kit: no diorama

could hold them so, except the eye
that follows the gash of scarlet upon
the pileated woodpecker’s brow, and notes

the torque in the neck of the chipping sparrow—
rust feathers splayed against a background
of white, its dusky eyebrow and dark eye-

line arrowing toward something gone: a thought,
the ghost of some accident or encounter
before the shutter whirred and closed.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Listening to Chopin’s Prelude in D-flat Major, Op. 28, No. 15

This entry is part 10 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

“What if I find nothing but moonlight?”

“Then you will have found the reflection of a reflection.”

                           ~ attributed to Chopin and Delacroix

Listening to the Raindrop sonata
this afternoon, now that the temperature
has taken a sudden plunge and it feels

truly like fall, I think of how the composer
alternately burned and languished in the last
years of his short life, traveling to or from

Vienna and Paris, then Mallorca and Scotland:
afflicted by nostalgia, weakened by what
burns in genius— flame at both ends

of a wax taper, slim as any of his fingers.
Too spent, in the end, to even go up and
down stairs on his own, did he miss

the view of quiet streets in the morning—
the way light rimmed the limbs of cherry trees
in the garden and cobblestones in the square,

or glinted off Warsaw’s cathedrals at noon;
the prescient gaze of cats whose owners
did not allow them to roam the streets,

watching anyhow over all they regarded from
the sill, behind curtained windows? At the end
of a Japanese role playing game for Xbox and

PlayStation called “Eternal Sonata”, the spirit of
Furederikku Furansowa Shopan rises out
of his body to play the piano one last time.

However his name is said, its syllables
linger a little: sostenuto, the way water-
drops slide down the glass panes, the way

each prismed surface looks sheathed in another
skin; the way each bud in the garden might be
a heart embalmed, floating in a globe of fluid.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Fables

This entry is part 8 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

What is the story you keep trying to tell,
the thread that keeps poking through
the fabric of every poem you write?

The setting might change, the season,
the number of figures in the tableau,
the time of day— Perhaps there is

a deer standing in dim light at the edge
of the woods, her ears swiveling toward
the east, where plumes of dark smoke

are rising and where her fawn has lost
his way. Perhaps there is a king
who has taken to his bed, and three

sons or daughters who must cross seven
hills to bring back the song of a bird;
thread a bolt of silk through a needle;

breathe stone statues back to life.
Perhaps there is the eternal lover— man
or woman, it does not matter which—

who patiently scours the earth to piece
back the other’s severed limbs, or journeys
to the afterworld to lead her back, now

ransomed. Whatever it is, this
thread colors everything: lures you
forward through the dark like a trail

of crumbs that gleam in moonlight, fans
open in the underbrush like a hundred
feathered eyes; dulls all the senses

but the one which knows to bend toward
the banks of the jelly river, knows
to listen for the dangerous sound

of feet in pursuit; hungers for good,
bright scents of milk and bread and water,
rising above gingerbread, blood, or bone.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Heart Weighted With Cares

This entry is part 7 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

“The feeling heart does not tire of carrying
ballast.” ~ Jane Hirshfield

But at the end of the day it does
want to complain, even just a little—

so long having borne the heft of metallic
plates, having had to stand in a stream

of electric current in order to stabilize
its flow. Beneath the train tracks,

layers of crushed rock and gravel; and on
each ship that cruises past the harbor,

weights of wood to keep the sails aloft.
It isn’t easy trying to be always

good, always generous, choosing virtue
over selfishness or spite. And there are

so many gaps in each day, so little time
to get all of it right. Even the leaves

of the tiny heal-all have turned into orange-
tinged lace, now riddled with holes. How long

have I been trying to make a little more time
every day? After the dishes are washed,

I chop and slice, cube and simmer two more
dinners to freeze. I tell myself, If I do

Saturday’s laundry now perhaps I can actually
have a weekend
; or, If I stay up to finish

this report, perhaps I can get a full night’s sleep
tomorrow
. And through all this, the weightier

demands of time filter through the practical
work of minds and hands: suffering and longing,

desires that have not yet been met. Some days,
the heart is exhausted before it can even lay

itself in the arms of sleep or love;
most days it peels back the covers

and pushes itself again into its shoes—
thick, sensible soles made for work

or walking, anchors to keep the body
dreaming of flight, close to the ground.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.