A pilgrim’s progress

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2015


Even when the clouds parted
I knew no gods would deliver

us from our troubles.
Having made do for so long,

I had only myself for counsel.
In a country where divorce

is not legal, no court-
appointed psychologist

would guarantee I was
afflicted most by the fevers

of irreconcilability.
Rain fell and fell, making

around our dwelling a kind
of moat. Does subsistence

signify an awning
spread over some kind

of life? I used to hide
part of my weekly paycheck

in a pillow slip. I gathered
children in my arms

and built a crossing
of grass and words. Now I dream

that angels with flaming swords
might still sweep down to clear

the way— Perhaps, they live
in the wood; perhaps they are

the ones who tint the skins
of leaves and make whole

groves of trees look lit: on fire,
the hour just before dusk.

~ after “Curious Isle,” Clive Hicks-Jenkins; oil pastel on paper


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Ghost Currency

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2015


Beyond all boundaries, at memory’s undoing—
As when the dreamer sees and after the dream
The passion endures, imprinted on his being

Though he can’t recall the rest…

~ “Paradiso,” Dante Alighieri, trans. Robert Pinsky

Why now, why write again of that place
left behind, or resurrect the ghosts

that nearly languished in long hallways
of forgetting? We never thought

they’d last as long as they did,
keep prowling in the wings, waiting

patiently for their cue to re-enter
the scene. Is it that they haven’t quit

connections, still harbor appetite
for worldly things? I suspect we’ve been

no help, setting trays of sweets, bites
of food, cups of drink in front of their

framed portraits on the mantel— a way
of keeping the porch lights on. No wonder

they take their time, keep coming back,
reminding you of how they used to hurt,

of promises you haven’t kept. My Chinese
friends burn joss sticks, wads of paper

bills, paper houses, paper cars, paper
designer clothes to symbolize the wealth

they want to transfer and that their loved ones
on the other side will need or miss the most.

Even the dead, apparently, now are trendy:
among the paper retinue sent up in flames

are credit cards, paper Happy Meals and paper
vegan options; bicycles, Apple computers,

iPhones, Apple watches. And because paradise
or the ever after apparently is not a place

stripped of action or desire, there are paper
motels whose rooms have paper plasma TV screens.

In the lobby there are paper boxes of Viagra,
paper condoms and dispensers next to the ice

machine; and down a paper alley, paper beer
gardens where the beer is always on the house.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2015


Speak, don’t speak, or keep
your counsel to yourself—
see how to dress

for a few more years
your cache of aches
in neutral wrappers.

But take care
not to leach out all
the feeling— The child

must find a way
to herself among
the fruit that’s fallen

from the tree: say this
or green or gold while
cradling the bruised.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.