Gleaning Song

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 84 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

These are registers on the staff
of days: grains of dust that gather

like vellum in summer, the high and lazy
whirring of ceiling fans. Drifts of yellow

petals falling from the tulip trees, pitch
and warble of birds. Gather and gather,

lisp the ants and worker bees; pluck
and scour
. The season lilts like a song

working the route to its coda. Lyric by lyric
the mouth learns the intricate passages:

where the rests are, and the furrows.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Pantomime

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 85 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

It is the hour after noon. At the sandwich and ice cream shop I sit in the car before coming inside to join you, waiting for the call with the test results from the doctor’s. Colder today, but behind the window glass I count at least three old men— silvered hair, baseball caps— ordering double scoops: butter pecan and chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, butter pecan and strawberry. They walk out of there slowly, licking those ice cream cones like nothing else matters; we should all be so lucky. Women and children out early from school sit on counter stools eating pulled pork sandwiches, fries, onion rings; guzzling limeades or shakes. The place is packed, but only the cash register rings the air. Gulls bluster around the entrance, unfazed by traffic. Amid the trees edging the parking lot, some fates are being decided too: a catbird chases the rival of its mate in silence. And I– I cast a tiny prayer into the foliage, then watch to see what might descend.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Anniversary

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 86 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

“Summer specializes in time, slows it down almost to dream….” ~ Jennifer Grotz

I too was bent on it, eager to jump
out of the pockmarked skillet and into

the heated cauldron of marriage— Hurry,
hurry
, said the wind, all the while boring

escape hatches in the tall reeds. Hurry
said the lilac, and the jeweled hummingbird

that revved the throttle on its small engine.
Oh, I let them sing their songs of scorching

and I rushed to drink the wine. And oh,
my fingers bled from threading silk

into the needle, from slipping on
my rings of twine. The dish of nectar

tilts from the brittle branches, and the weeds
remain the feathery vagabonds they are… Now

I try to learn the gold-slow rhythms of afternoons,
the thrift of hours from the longer bones of time.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Chaplet

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 87 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

Garland of flowers and beads, of prayers
and breaths, rosary of alleviation—

even the gnats dancing in deep shade
figure somehow into this calculus.

But today I am past counting.
Today I want only to inhale

what comes to musk, especially
at evening. Even the crow flicks open

its dark parasol and wings away.
The river stones lie quietly under water:

not quite weightless but small
enough to turn and bevel at the edges.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

1990

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 88 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

The Hubble telescope lifts into space to take luminous photos of the heavens.

And that summer, on the eve of the World Cup Finals, the three tenors sing under the stars in the ancient baths of Caracalla.

Less than ten days later, the earthquakes in our city, the number of dead exceeding the number of caskets and funeral parlors. Tent cities in the park surrounded by little moats of mud. The scramble for drinking water and blankets, powdered milk for children. Flies, not technology, lead rescuers to those trapped in rubble. Later they speak of drinking rain, dew, piss.

Fallen beams, cracked firewalls: the house we lose. And lose again, after the second loan and desperate sale. But the jasmine continues to bloom, the rampant bougainvilleas climb the walls.

The spotted owl is added to the threatened species list.

My father, fallen into a coma, is rushed to the hospital. I remember he was wearing his saffron yellow bathrobe threaded through with ochre. There would have been a novena to St. Pancratius in one of its pockets; and his rosary of cracked wooden beads.

Just the evening before, we’d dared to return to disheveled rooms to lie down on our beds. We did not take off our shoes because of the aftershocks. He’d stood in the doorway then, saying little, smiling in his solemn way. Which was almost not smiling at all unless you knew him.

The first contraceptive implant is approved by the FDA. Smoking on domestic airplane flights is banned. And Jack Kevorkian assists his first patient to die.

And then in August, Iraq invades Kuwait and war is on everyone’s lips, even there. My friend B. changes into camouflage-print dungarees and says over and over again, “This is it, Maria. This is it.” In the streets, the sound of blasting, drilling, jackhammers.

Grocery store shelves empty from spasms of panic buying. As if the fragile balance of the world rested on the number of tins of canned meat in the basement, the bottles of hoarded water, the sacks of rice. The neighbors are guarded; they take care not to mention how much they have.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Dream Time

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 89 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

“O how sweet to be reincarnated as dreams,
Dreams that help us forget,
the resentment awaiting between the bow and arrow.”
~ Buland Al-Haidari

Ambivalence: The sun puts in its first
appearance. The cricket in the garden
adjusts its bow and twangs.

A memory: I am seven, dressing for school, trying to push
one foot into my patent leather shoe. Bump in the toe:
out jumps a hairy spider the length of my little finger.

Enchantment: The mirrored lyre shapes
on the neighbor’s garden gate. The golden
retriever that used to walk with its owner every day.

Desire: When I have my own garden I will plant
a Golden Rain Tree and a Keffir Lime,
a row of slender Gingkos.

Emerging: Some leaves will turn from flamingo pink
to green then melted butter at the close of summer.
Some leaves are dark with a glossy sheen.

Dreaming: I’ll pluck long branches hung
with orange husks of paper lanterns.
I’ll line the air with zest of skins.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Landscape, with Repeating Sounds

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 90 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

Listen closely. Small halos dropping out of the leaves, little tambourine

sounds. A catbird mimics the wood thrush. Follow it into the thicket,

follow it into the vines. Or sing to it, to make it come.

Ghost of a call, ghost of an answer. A music teacher

told me once, Phrasing is all. But also I love

what falters and stops, starts again. Trying, always trying.

Water so green, it’s audible. It wants so much, because it can.

At night, lamps are lit at the kitchen window and the dark

spools behind like a trail for moths. Here they come,

drunk with the light and beating their lovely wings.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Epistle of the Leaves

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 91 of 92 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2011

 

“Take courage, Holy Parents of Pharcitae, udes adonitas — no one is immortal.”
~ Inscription in the Cave of the Coffins, Beit She’arim


Bindwood, lovestone, grief’s greenest eraser:

see how the slightest wind ruffles the ivy.
See how they flourish on walls, erupt

in every breach, more unruly than graffiti.
So many signatures, cascading. In the trees,
a bird sings one, sad note and snaps

a brown moth out of the air. Who
authors the scope of what can be seen
or told? I read how Newton took a bodkin

and put it betwixt the eye and the bone
as neare to the backside of his eye as he could
.
Imagine the circles of color that pulsed

beneath his lids on the verge of light:
white darke, blewish darke. The eye
was not hurt, he wrote. Though at the fall

of feathers, a sifting of soft dust
from the sill or the eaves, the hand
instinctively flies up to cover the face—

So the green tendrils pin their fragile
geometry against the gate, admitting
what the soul has done in its defense.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.