Mortal Ghazal

This entry is part 10 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


My friend sent me a lei of strawflowers from the city of our childhood:
brittle corollas of yellow undercut by orange that we called Everlasting.

I remember the slides in the park, and the kiddy train one summer: it looped around its
periphery, a blur of red and orange. Just a few minutes, but the ride seemed everlasting.

And women from the hills, their baskets filled with dried snipe, amulets, herbs;
their woven skirts striped vivid orange (the sound of their voices, everlasting)—

In that world, everything seemed possible; in that world, time seemed almost too slow.
Now I’m brought up short in the shoals as the sun reddens in a sky unrelenting—

At sunrise, two birds call— heraldic, but fleeting. Such tender things in the world:
smudged with blue, capped with little streaks of rust. Glyphs from the everlasting.

Tell me I haven’t done too little, that I’ve made some difference to you;
even if in the end I might be judged wanting, unhinged: mortal, not everlasting.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Landscape, with Chinese Lanterns

This entry is part 11 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Some places might visit you only once, but their color stains you: one night lying
in a field of stars that prickled your nape, your head pillowed by the grass—

Or the cool of a morning, long ago in Provence: you flung the windows open and there it was,
Mont saint Victoire. I cupped my hands to my ears and listened to the wind in the grass.

Only a few days, not even a week: the road to town lined with Mexican cantinas, posters
of girls peeling from alley walls. Then the fountain of dolphins, and manicured grass.

Crowds in each sidewalk cafe; doves purpling the air. Water flowing toward
the sea, under the aqueducts. Ancient trees shading long avenues of grass.

And in St. Petersburg, beneath Kazansky’s shadowed colonnades, gypsy children
rushing at tourists reminded me of Manila: heavy air, dry wind in the grass.

And in the market, in Cotabato, bright threads tightly woven into malongs
by women’s hands. The smells of ripe jackfruit and durian, denser than grass.

I’m not there now, nor in the backyard of my childhood home— green fruit suspended
like ornaments from the trellis, the hum of insects screened through the grass.

In the heat, clusters of Chinese Lanterns rattle like pods; they sing This is it,
there is no rehearsal.
Gently I gather their coppery bones from the grass.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 12 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Dear mother, what was that paste you made from some blue tincture, into which you dipped swaths of gauze? I’d burned for a week with a fever. My voice shrank in my throat like a snail into the coil of its shell. And was that a dream as well?— At the height of my delirium, I turned and saw three women at the foot of my bed. One recited the rosary, the other watched the gathering shapes of melted wax from a taper. The other rubbed crushed wild garlic into the hollows of my elbows and behind my knees. I fell asleep, it seems for hours and hours. I drenched the sheets with sweat. Night turned its red throat away from the window. When I woke all I wanted was water: to feel its long, cool hand reach down into my new-old insides; to lie back on the sheets, remembering how to breathe.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Charmed Life

This entry is part 13 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


The yard is dusty, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The chickens have scratched a path from one side to the other, where it is coolest under the sayote patch and the bayabas trees. I cannot sustain a thought as long as the sentences they write all day in the gravel, back and forth, forth and back, punctuated only with commas and long dashes. The honeysuckle bends under the weight of its fragrance. The laundry hangs on the line, nearly dry. Late last night, coming home on the road, the car headlights caught swarms of tiny moths in startled flight. They had such flimsy wings, kabsat— they stood out like pale chiseled ovals, the only movement in the dark. What message were they bringing? I want to know; or if, high up in the trees, the spirits watch, waiting to spill their basketful of charms as we pass.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 15 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near…” Matthew 24: 32

—and the clouds gather into scrolls over the foothills
—and the crepe myrtles fall on the pavements as if it were spring
—and meadow plants turn limp, while some stiffen as though they were bristles in winter
—and the river’s surface is flecked with bits of foam and plastic, and shadows of wading birds
—and passing trains pitch their whistle to the winds
—and afternoons are hardest, for their shore is the in-between


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

What We’ll Remember

This entry is part 16 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


We’ll remember this as the summer when hail rained down as large as peaches, when whips of lightning tore through the humid air. We’ll remember this as the summer when we woke and looked up to see a sky filled with clouds in the shape of women’s pendulous breasts; when every day as we walked from one end of the field to the other, it seemed the cicadas’ agitated chirping might rival the noise of oncoming trains. And we’ll remember this as the summer of startling sightings: wild birds far from home, a man-of-war sailing into the harbor, cannons firing in salute; and a body washed up on the river’s edge. A cerulean warbler sang incessantly in the yard, and doctor’s reports recommended the cutting away of some parts. We’ll remember this as the summer of swiftest change: how we walked, mornings and evenings, past fences overgrown with wisteria— their opulent scent already balanced on the rim of decay.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 17 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Overheard lunchtime conversation: Longing is a color, just as much as a state.
And as I turn to the window, goldfinches pass through the trees like a yellow wind.

Along the boardwalk, shops sell puka shell bracelets, batik sarongs, T-shirts silkscreened
Virginia is for Lovers. Skateboarders on the street, zipping by like day-glo wind.

See the parasailers aloft in their tethered vests. Waves roll in and crash, then roll out
again. The beach is dotted with collapsible tents, ochre-striped flaps open to the wind.

From someone’s radio, the dance theme from Slumdog Millionaire. I’m seized by
a craving for lemon rice, mango chutney, some hint of chillies and saffron in the wind.

Some days are impermeable, asbestos. Other days spontaneously combust. The thing is,
there’s no warning panel with lights flashing yellow, no siren blaring into the wind.

Amarillo‘s another name for the blossom of the Caraiba, Tabebuia, or Araguaney:
long-throated flowers emerge after leaves have shed, rustling like gold foil in the wind.

Dear sunflower, you are too faithful, following that scorcher all day— Has he ever
bent to kiss your hot golden head? No? But rain’s been kind; and the cool wind.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Throttle Ghazal

This entry is part 19 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


In the heart of the downtown section, a stretch of cobblestone streets:
they stop motorists from gunning through them at full throttle.

Don’t put the cart before the horse, don’t jump from the frying
pan into the fire: in other words, don’t go at full throttle.

Who finds caution in the wind? Who gleans the stitches
from the timid rhyme? Not the young, going at full throttle.

In the school parking lot, I skirt the second speed bump when I can. They’re there
for a reason
, says the youngest daughter: to keep you from going full throttle.

On my bookshelf is a History of Doubt, filled with stories of ancient thinkers and
medieval cynics: anyone who might have said Not so fast, not at full throttle.

Who pays heed anymore? Three birds in succession thunk against the glass. Which
one is pursuer, which pursued? Danger and excitement. Dance at full throttle.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.