This entry is part 3 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014


(October is Filipino American History month)


The fly spins
madly in its net of silk.
The frogs croak in the shallows.
When fog lifts, the fields reveal
their stenciled grids
as if they’d never
been co-opted.


What are you
writing again, there
by the window, there
like the rain?



How the high school math teacher was good enough
to wash dishes in a restaurant kitchen,
but not to draw up lesson plans—

How the surgeon who’d practiced for twenty
years is now a lab technician, and how my
college English teacher has become a nurse—

How the student I asked one day about her history said,
Oh my parents are not like those Filipinos on the west
coast or Hawaii, my parents were educated—

How everyone cheers for the boxer or the Dancing
With the Stars
champion, but news of poetry
and stories falls into a well of silence—


For we have had to reinvent
the very notion of invention,
and we have had to shelter
our wounded pride—


And darkness gathers
exquisite blooms: we know
their scent, even if
we cannot see them.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 4 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014


Coming home from school, I ran
my fingers through fronds that bordered

one stretch of road: guileless green;
and lightly etched in the distance,

clotheslines sagging with the weight
of sheets and clothes that fluttered

like flags of one domestic territory
whose floors were scrubbed and waxed,

whose kitchen sinks and stoves
were tended, where fish and fowl

were gutted and scaled by women’s hands.
And once, when I was just a little older,

in the crowded darkness of a movie house
I felt the blind, insistent fumbling

of unknown fingers around the back
buttons of my blouse. I squirmed

and tried to inch away but could not see
from where this invasive spider

had climbed down from its sticky web…
Out in the tremble of latticed daylight,

I did not know the words to speak for what
just happened: just as when I held up my hand

to my face and saw rather than felt
the crimson gash from the unseen stroke.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Once upon

This entry is part 5 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014


a blue moon, blood moon, I wanted

to see: but either I woke up too late
or the moon had by then finished

its brief shadow play—
And I wondered about those lovers,

the ones whose paths cross in the sky
only once a year because in the story

they are cursed, or their love
is forbidden, or someone decided

a story acquires pathos if cruel fate
is written into it— What happens

if they miss the great once a year
rendezvous because the train is late

or the alarm is set wrong or the same
old, same old ritual doesn’t quite

cut it the same as before? What if either
one starts to wonder whether it might be

better to announce Hey I’ve decided
to throw my name into

Only a saint could have that much
patience; no one could be that much a fool—

In other words, what is the nature
of a true, great love? No one’s

been able to figure it out yet,
here below as above.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 6 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014


What are you supposed to feel
when asked to preside over
a ceremony— to move

or be moved
without warning
or preparation just

after coffee and toast,
the ride on the trolley
or train, identical hands

zipping up jackets
and straightening ties,
touching a button or collar

or badge, folding a newspaper
under an arm, shielding the eyes
from the too-bright sun?

Here is the guard,
ceremonially robed in black,
bearing the silver sword

and golden mace
across the threshold
of a hall bathed just

yesterday with the blood
of assault. And the reporter
notes how the heads

of the houses of Parliament,
more accustomed to disagreement,
break ranks across the aisle

to shake hands, to touch—
circumstance urgent enough to prise
hearts from their catacombs.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 7 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014


Alembic: an apparatus used in distillation;
something that refines or transmutes as if by distillation

Time’s a flask, narrow at the waist or neck
depending on who swings the apparatus— Who gives
the order to intercept the ordinary citizen
on his way to or from work, salvage the journalist
called to witness; open fire on the NGO convoy
in pickup trucks loaded with rice, canned goods,
medical supplies, used clothing? In hamlets live
the poor and dispossessed, the ones whose farms
swelled, flooded; and drowning, made way for dams
in the government’s new hydroelectric project.
Their votes don’t count. Or do they? Their number
slight, equivalent to the powdered ash that falls
from wings of bodies that nightly hurl themselves
into the lantern’s crucible of trembled light.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 8 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014


The sorcerer’s voice calls out in darkness:
Hold your head steady, as if the apple were not
about to fall in clean halves to the ground, as if
its shine and crimson were not once again the target
for arrows and knives aimed from a distance— as if
their whistling, as they ribbon the air, were done
in good sport, not from deliberation. You don’t
always see who it is that raises an arm, the moment
the string draws back, taut to its full extension.
Behind you, the plank of painted wood is nicked
with a tally of misses, a history of lucky evasions.
A monkey on a leash claps brass cymbals and cycles
in its rhinestone tutu. For authentic spectacle,
the audience has paid. And from watching and waiting,
you know how to spring the blade loose
from its cage, how to send dark warnings
with only your eyes; how it takes one flick
of the wrist to release its lethal intention.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 9 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014


Walking in loops around the church and the school this morning, after everyone has gone in for the opening bell, I think about the purposes of repetition.

A quilter gathers scraps to make a granny square. A fisherman has his knots.

In this, too: the acts of naming establish small differences in field after field of sameness, establish some kind of love.

The alternating blocks, the formal abutments. The slip and the halter and the noose.

Centuries ago, who first thought to observe time by the way stars crossed the meridian?

What is the name of that bird who makes one small flick in a flag that ripples?

I marvel at their subtly changing color as they all wheel and turn— one desire and its cream-colored underbelly, subsumed into the inaudible machine.

Within the drawer’s lined recesses, the gold watch that no one has remembered to wind.

How far has this instance drifted from universal time?


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 10 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014


In the Book of the Dead
I write two names this morning

that they might be remembered
even by those who did not

actually know them in life— Looking
over my shoulder, in the church foyer,

my daughter points to the second,
saying Was that her name? I nod

and say it aloud: Cresencia. And she sees
and hears three clear syllables— lunar

body, grandmother shape that slips
briefly into the arms of this moment.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.