This entry is part 1 of 55 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2012


On the wall, a poster of the body’s meridians: every point on the palm, on the sole of the foot, a little signal that knowing fingers can decode.

The shoji screen is paper and wood. Or if you like, grain threshed, pulped and pressed into a frame; tensile bamboo coaxed upright from leaning too far out over water.

Face down on the table, I can feel knob by knob how the rungs on my spine lengthen, align.

The spicebush sends up its haze of yellow, the magnolia its tumble of sweet pinks. Underneath the scumble of bark, parts of wood look shiny, as if washed in egg.

Face down, I breathe through the paper towel laid across the headrest and think of how in the water, this might look like a dead man’s float.

Do you notice how one side of every face looks slightly asymmetrical in relation to the other?

I bought a pair of metal earrings from an artisan at a fair: one engraved surface said “un”, the other “usual.”

My hair has grown longer. Mornings are too quickly warm. On the porch, through a haze of hair, I like to listen to things that warble.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Bel Canto

This entry is part 3 of 55 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2012


Courage is the first of the virtues,
because it makes all others possible. ~ Aristotle


Sweet wind that trembles the first shoots sprouting
from cracks in the walk: it is such little things
that most undo me. For instance, I know it wasn’t
the a capella voices in the high school choir we heard
singing Laudate Dominum tonight, that ruffled the leaves
or brought on the sudden evening shower. And yet, each
young face, so plaintive and perfect above concert black
and white, pulled at the edges of reverie. From open mouths,
notes of praise hovered, poured full before descent and
dissolution. Isn’t it true there is hardly anything
unconnected with any other thing
? So I must believe
that there is nothing merely in the manner of a tangent,
that each bud blooms in the way a code becomes more
and more apparent. In my palm I cradle a phone that
only hours ago, carried a message from my mother—
I am so sad, she wrote. I want to ask for your help,
whatever you can send
. What heart would not sing
everything it could muster from the depths, every
tendril, even the ones just beginning to turn green.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 4 of 55 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2012


ap·o·tro·pa·ic – intended to ward off evil; from the Greek apotropaios, from apotrepein, to ward off : apo-, apo- + trepein, to turn.


What have you got, what have you got
to trade for my stash of bitter pains?

A hoard of bitterer greens to test
fortitude and the swallowing reflex.

Garlic for fevers trapped in the limbs.
Comfrey for the womb’s most complex pains.

Eucalyptus for ease of mind: then follow, follow.
Roselle, hibiscus, sorrel: names to brighten the tongue.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

In the Summer Capital

This entry is part 5 of 55 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2012


Going through boxes of old books, you come across
a postcard: here is the president’s summer residence,
the pillars flanked by bougainvillea awash in cerise
and magenta. Here are the scrolled gates, the two
guard houses, the lawn with low foliage spelling
Mansion House. Here beyond the gates where
horses saunter at a distance, is a reflecting pool.
The arms of trees are mirrored there; and the bright
striped costumes of the locals; and the gaggle of tourists
who want to pose in souvenir pictures. They have on acrylic
sweaters picked up at the market (they’ll likely wear them
only once a year); they’re toting tubs of strawberries,
carrots thick as their wrists, bundles of straw brooms.
Vendors will try to sell one more box of peanut brittle,
one more carved man-in-the-barrel with a hidden spring.
For all you know, the president’s mother is in the mansion
with her ladies— rumors have it she can outdrink them all,
outdance them all, boogie until dawn in the big ballroom
with crystal chandeliers. Even the skittish horses festooned
with bells and ribbons feel the phosphorescent heat
of here and now. Carve it quick on the side of a bench.
Buy a handful of tinted postcards showing pine trees
and winding roads, before sliding back into the bus.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

The Hourglass

This entry is part 6 of 55 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2012


So much is slight,
and therefore that much
more significant: white
petals that detach
from the tree to number
the grass with asterisks,
thin points of a weathervane
that intersect with sky;
the shy words of a child
who longs to speak and so
has learned to crease paper
into birds; the man who
polishes a knob of driftwood
and teaches it to harbor
birds. A drift of fine
sand passing from one
glass dome to another:
without so much as rising
above a whisper, yoking
this fractured moment
to the next.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 7 of 55 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2012


What sounds detach from the rim of a cloud? Tikkittik of a fork against enamel, rippippip as chaff might fly into the sun from grain. Slim ankles of lawn chairs stand in puddles of last night’s rain. Every surface is mottled, like rubbery silk on the backs of frogs. The bees, still drowsy, rise out of their gold-stitched cells. Skins of fruit, just ripening, provide the frontispiece. For the pages of her journal, the youngest daughter gathers leaves. With cellophane tape she conjugates them: verbena, hydrangea, lemon basil, sage. Kumusta ka? we prompt. Mabuti, mabuti. The hummingbird feeder rattles slightly in the wind.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Frost has silvered the grass

This entry is part 8 of 55 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2012


that darkens with moisture, then dries
as the sun comes up; and steam that rims
the spout of the metal kettle condenses on
the surface of a spoon, as the woman bends
to stir sweetener into her coffee. And yesterday,
as she pulled away from traffic and into the church
parking lot, the sun glanced off the steeple to fracture
into green the day’s mosaic of near misses: you would never
even know, except from running a finger along the lower edge
of the bumper: how the truck, coming down the bridge, careened
into her as she waited at the intersection for the light to change
from red. Just enough, thank God, of an impact— hardly noticeable
except for thin jagged strips in the paint; then the muscle aches
when she woke hours afterward, walking back from the bathroom.
So she sat awhile in the pre-dawn hours at her desk, faint
slivers of light from the occasional passing car crossing
the gaps in the blinds. Downstairs, the desultory hum from
the fan in the broken refrigerator; beside it, the white
microwave oven with the loosened plastic handle. Through
the house, tiny parts of old machines gearing up for
another turn, tension springs coiling for the alarm.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Fragment of a Poem Disguised as SPAM

This entry is part 9 of 55 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2012


Fill in the blanks: Hello ___,
I am ill and would die

having been diagnosed with ___.
I want to distribute my ___

to ___ in your country
through you. Please respond

for more ___. Respectfully, ___.
I am ill as you know and ill-

prepared for the day: read to me
again those lines that say how

All that is wild is tamed by love
though I can tell you when even

the sun struggles to shine,
when even the birds refuse to eat

from the same tree as their mates.
Like new money, the blooms

of the locust tree weigh down
the branches. I am certain

it is you I seek: the coin
of an answer, before all is lost.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.