Epithalamium

This entry is part 36 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

“There is no one to bless this.”
~ Matthew Rohrer

The velvet of the tongue against the roof
of the mouth, the smell of apple blossom—

I don’t quite remember what was said about
the life we’ve been given, for the touch

of fingers on my wrist. Who will witness
this perfect morning, clear and cool?

Sunlight splinters, translucent in the leaves
like handfuls of flung grain. In the woods,

the animals take provisions to their den.
I sign myself over: I do, I do.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Milagrito: Eye of the Raven

This entry is part 35 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

“Milagros are religious folk charms traditionally used for healing purposes and as votive offerings in Mexico, the southern United States, other areas of Latin America, as well as parts of the Iberian peninsula. …[T]hey can be constructed from gold, silver, tin, lead, wood, bone, or wax. In Spanish, the word milagro literally means miracle or surprise.”

Dear red striated muscle, vascular and
slightly bigger than my two cupped hands,

I saw your image stitched and stuffed as a well-
worn pincushion with the legend “There

is a place in my heart for you”. I cringe
at the thought of needles; and also because

I know that every eye, finger, bone, or body
part left by the wayside altar means something

has been sacrificed, given at cost for another’s
due. Crow feasting on that bit of severed

flesh, do you stop your fevered work to notice
the day is overcast and cool, doused with

the creosote smell of rain? It doesn’t fall,
only makes threats that cast a pall on our

determined plans. And your rejoinder comes alongside
calls exchanged by ravens: how mystery is never led

nor haltered, but even the bird clothed head to claw
in ashes, flashes a tin orb: a jewel in its drusy eye.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Orison

This entry is part 34 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Overcast sky, the rain that falls
elsewhere. The canopy of electric sound
cicadas weave throughout the trees.

You have me scour the pockets
of such moments for some remnant
change— and here I lay them down

and balance them on a rim of glass.
A silver-spotted skipper drinks
from the bergamot and I want

to tip my face toward the flower’s
starburst cup. So long at work,
and teetering from one impossible

task to another. I count and recount
an abacus of spilled grain, water flowing
from a sieve: o gather me now in.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Letter to Stone

This entry is part 33 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Dear constant chafing
under heel and ball
of foot, teach me patience

for the long, slow simmer
under water, in the wild;
teach me the inward-

turning gift of each
lunar hollow, smaller
than the eye could reckon.

Within the pebbled garden
where monks rake labyrinth
upon labyrinth, juniper

and pine open in the wind
to praise. Shingle and shale
upon the beach: buffed

by seafoam and crowned
by the gods’ careless spit,
you’ve promised

like a lover to mold
me smooth, to lilt me
quick across the water

to the other side.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Landscape, with Incipient Questions

This entry is part 32 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Question-mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)

The underside of every moment is a shimmer you
might hear, but not see: curved and silvering
as an echo of bells at sundown, mottled

or muffled from mallet-blows. When the last
of the herd is driven into the barn, the man
latches the gate and washes up at the pump.

Shadows streak the linen on the supper table.
Shadows soften the winged bodies in love
with the dangerous heat from the lamp: listen,

they frame most of the questions at this hour.
In the corner of the room, a woman dozes off
in an armchair. The knitting has slipped

from her hands. The child by the window
has brushed her long, black hair and gazes
at a wilderness of stars in the dark.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Dowsing

This entry is part 31 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

“…and at the iron’s point
there seemed to be a little fire.”
~ St. Theresa of Avila

Sunflower bowing to the east,
tethered to the blazing sun—

Sparse carpet of moss with hidden
tongues desiring volumes of water—

Tell me again the story of the saint,
her every shudder pressed in sensuous

folds of marble; and of the angel standing
above her with his spear of gold—

Red brick dust, planks of weathered
wood crumbling in the courtyard—

No golden dome here but relentless sky
under which everything’s stripped of rapture—

Pots of baked earth, each marked
sin cere, distinct, unalloyed—

I run my hands over the rough, dry clay,
loving best those surfaces whose cracked

veins might lead divining rods to all
the parched suburbs of the heart.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Discordant

This entry is part 30 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Dear jake-brake and tire whine
slicing like a stonecutter’s tool
through the scented dark, it’s been
a while but I know all about your

penchant for early morning throat-
clearing, those loud flushing sounds
you like to make from the outhouse
of out there. As usual they’re

reminders that beneath fleecy
cloud border or vivid blue veins
of water and sky, you’re hard at work
prying the tarp of summer loose.

Oh soon enough, soon enough: we’ll turn
a corner, and the avenues now flushed cerise
and heavy with crepe myrtle will streak
like watercolors left out in the rain.

There you are in the hot heart of pavement,
shimmering like the proverbial mirage. There
you are in every syncopated bird call; chilled
taste of winter tucked in every bite of sour fruit.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Real

This entry is part 29 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

My youngest girl asks for stories—
Real stories tonight, she says, not
made-up
. Like what I did, summers when

I was her age: mornings with the wash billowing
on the line, evenings too humid for clothes
but too buggy for bare skin (smolder and fume

of mosquito coils in terra cotta dishes).
And so I tell her again of sandals kicked off
on the wooden porch, reading Gasoline Alley

and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not in
the Sunday paper, while eating mouth-
puckering green plums dipped in salt

and sugar. Sputter and flare of kerosene
lamps, lizards skittering across living
room walls. Strident cry of a black and

orange rooster tied to the tree in
the yard (its heaped bones decorate
lunch plates the next day). I have

nostalgia for these things, not
necessarily for their pieties.
And she, she wants to smell

the camphor escaping from ancient
wardrobes I pry open; wants to taste,
along with me, the star-shaped indentation

on my father’s pinky finger where the nail
should have been; to imagine the ghost nun’s
shadow beside the bell-pull at school,

summoning souls from the other side.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Letter to Attention

This entry is part 28 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Dear restless, wandering mind, sometimes
you really must try to chisel your focus—

Try to listen to the soft-spoken woman
who leads us through downward-facing dogs,

warrior poses and planks, steeple
mudras, salutations, lunges—

instead of to the growing industrial whine
of your belly, where no other breakfast

but the half-cup of soy latte now sloshes
around, a whirlpool of acids and worry. Keep

count of the breaths as they come through
the branches in the upside-down trees

of your lungs. Keep count as they exit:
the thing to do is turn them into things

with wings— cicadas, perhaps. Or tiny
fireflies throwing their low-wattage beams

at the dark. Effortless effort, the teacher
intones. So don’t let the ten year old’s

giggling distract you as you try and fail
to maintain your balance, coming out

of the dancer’s pose. Are you still with me?
I know you’re tired, and you want to press

your cheek on the mat or stay supine as a corpse.
But the voice nudges you back to the shore, saying

Open your arms and legs like a starfish, open
the cage of your heart; look at the unblinking sun
.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Defiler

This entry is part 27 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011

 

Lymantriidae: family of moths, many of its component species referred to as Tussock moths; Lymantria means “defiler”.

Before Todos los Santos, the Day
of the Dead, armed with whitewash,
buckets, and brooms we visit
the graves of our dearly departed,

to clear the gathered debris of
the previous year— dry leaves
and bracken pushing up through
cracked concrete, bits of amber-

colored glass from broken Cerveza
Negra
bottles. Someone’s grand-
father’s grave has been spray-painted
with graffiti; and the stone cherubs’

wings have been chipped for sport.
What do we know of eternity? What
could we do to stave off the hardening
froth of days? In the groves of trees,

above rows of headstones, cicadas rub
their tymbals and sing their heated songs
of courtship. Two months later, all of them
will die, leaving behind eggs that will emerge

in seventeen years. Among the skeletal branches,
the tussock moth caterpillar is busily at work.
For every mouthful of leaf, a tufted crown; red-
light glands on its back signaling imminent

danger: dazzling mystery: inevitable conclusion.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.