Fountains

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
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.

Dear solitude,

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
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.

Nocturne

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
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.

Landscape, with Notes of Red

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
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.

Blue Stone Blues

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 16 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

Here we are again, the eye skimming along the grid
of what it’s given, then doing its calculus—

this overcast morning, lingering over
the lightfast, loving what’s stable;

but also what shimmers into a range
of forms. Though damp and rain

have drained the green out of the trees,
a scrape of bark yields copper undertones,

or ultramarine— extracted from stones once
more expensive than vermilion or even gold,

the blue of lapis lazuli’s a sheen
that royals what it’s smeared upon.

Sometimes I want to hold even a fleck of it
in the back of my throat: oh little pebble I

might lick for luck, tasting of sulphates or
blood, tumbled smooth by rough-toothed days.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Landscape, with a Glimpse of the Soul as it Leaves the Body

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 17 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

My girlfriend, telling of her mother’s
last moments, describes the gaunt
frame they prop on pillows in the living

room, windows they slide open to a view
of mountains behind a curtain of gold leaves.
The cancer has chiseled her features close

to bone, but still she struggles to listen.
Hearing is one of the last senses to go;
and so they shush the relatives

that have come to start chants of ritual
mourning at her side. A son-in-law
slides a bow across a halting serenade

of viola strings. Grandchildren whisper
in her ear, urging her to the crossing.
And at the end, my friend swears

there is a split-second glimpse of wisping
breath— leaving the white-throated body
behind, slight tear like a wing in the air.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

How I Came to Writing

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 18 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

In a faraway city in the mountains, monsoon
rains descend and it is soft typewriter sounds

on the roof all day and all night, rain
and fog all month; not a sliver of sun

returned, in a carriage or otherwise. Dark
pink bougainvillea blossoms give up

and plaster themselves closer to the wall.
Crevices flourish with signatures of moss.

They might not know it, but even they
have stories to tell. All is elegy,

departing or gone; incessant rain,
language the earth understands.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

When does the hunger abate;

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 19 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

and in the woods, the downward flight of leaves, when does that cease? Even in dreams we move from window to window, waiting for morning, for the light-tipped crowbar to break the seal. We’ve eaten the bread, we’ve spooned the soup, we’ve burrowed into the bedclothes stripped of all but last night’s crumpled wings. Oh tender moths brushing against our sleep, even the gravel on the walk has multiplied. Harder than rain, I’ve prayed to the wish-granting gods though you see my lips forming only words like yolk or honey or dust, coin or sparrow or coal.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Dear errant winds at dusk,

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 20 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

what do your long fingers
want to trace? Downtown,
at the intersection, a woman
walks with her marine in a dress
of gathered green. Its silk
petals flutter, and she
is an artichoke whose heart
shelters under overlapping
eaves, listening to the sounds
of the orchestra tuning up,
feathering; cradling the throats
of wood or brass for warmth;
and in the end, putting away
notated sheets, packing up
or dismantling instruments.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.