This entry is part 1 of 18 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2013


We keep things in drawers after we’ve pared them down
and turned them into miniatures: stamps, folded letters,

photographs— one of them shows there used to be a fountain
in the middle of the lake (in summer, a ring of lights

flashed at its base like fireflies). There’s a matchbox
from a museum in Prague that someone else (not us)

has visited; a baby tooth, a hair pick of coiled silver.
There are cords green as bottle glass, buttons from old coats

that have departed this world of usefulness and rue. There’s a pen
with a tip shaped like a lily. There are shells that we picked

from the littered shore, stones we’ve arranged on the sill—
citadels of some hidden city now overgrown with grass.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 2 of 18 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2013


Do not look for illumination.
Mostly there is the twitch that precedes
gesture, the button’s resistance
as you try to slide it into the too-small

aperture slashed in a finger-width
of cloth. And yes, I know it is hard to disregard
how tiny and even the stitches are,
how they ring the space

that had to be opened first
to make way for the fastening.
Don’t feel betrayed
if there is only silence

in the trees, months of near
continuous rain. Thoughts sometimes rush
to collect at the bottom of the drain pipe.
Other times they vaporize in the heat,

fall for the voices warbling discontent.
When it rains, I am oddly comforted.
The rain soaks through, asks me to give up
a little of myself. Asks me not to be so hard.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Memory: A Tonic

This entry is part 3 of 18 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2013


You’re wrong, I do remember.
Behind every voice is your voice
disguised as some creature’s hiss or call,
behind every quicksilver shape your shape

disappearing into the bramble—
Is it that we rearrange the facts
to suit the memory, the memory to suit
the purposes of the heart, that organ

ripped out of the body of a snake
but still pumping at the bottom
of a clear shot glass? It’s waiting for you
to take it into your mouth and drink it in,

whole, warm, beating;
it’s waiting for you to swallow
this difficult thing mixed with blood
and liquor like it were nothing.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 4 of 18 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2013


Something is growing in the garden bed
alongside the jasmine, alongside rows

of bittermelon that not even the aphids
will touch— Weed or wildflower, hybrid

or accidental, portmanteau of slug
and flower? I’d ask the clear-veined

dragonfly, I’d ask the hornet
but for its sting. I’d ask the night-

blooming cereus but it shows
its face only once a year.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Orality: Little Treatise

This entry is part 5 of 18 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2013


Yesterday a friend inquired: Is it literature,
is it considered text when it is oral?

By which was meant the stories passed around like little bites
at a potluck: Who made these? they’re delicious! Like that, oral.

In graduate school I read texts dense with words: polysemic, intertextual, carnivalesque
— they made me think of markets in my childhood, alive with colors, textures, the oral.

How does the rumor of something sweet travel through the air? Beneath the limp leaves
and their shimmer, the hummingbirds make for the half-hidden feeder: nectar and the oral.

Teach a child the world through the mouth: first taste of flesh, round globe of milk
speckled with salt and sweat. Someone croons a strain of lullaby, and aural is oral.

The snake sends its tongue through narrow runnels; the point of the divining rod
presses, thirsty mouth at the source of water— Score another for the oral.

The mouth connects to the throat, the throat to the gut, that mainframe linked
to the body’s workstations and peripherals: don’t take it for granted, the oral.

There have been so many who dared disturb the order of the universe— You read of them
in history books, or in tales with many variants that come down to us via the oral.

Some were punished: like William Wallace in 1305, hung till nearly (but not yet) dead;
then disemboweled, then made to witness the burning of his own entrails. Visceral and oral.

In old colonial texts, the Cordillera hill tribes are described as heathens, as headhunters.
Let’s not debate; I only want to say, you eat what makes you strong; that too is oral.

The sages warn: be mindful what crosses the threshold of the lips— in that space, a whisper
might be housed; endearment, echo, secret, scream. Both power and tenderness, in the oral.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Dearest one, I am Prince Ashily Quatama

This entry is part 6 of 18 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2013


and I am in desperate need of your assistance.
Please email me back.
Dear “Prince A,” you can kiss

my ass. You have got to be kidding me— why would I
wire you large sums of money from my bank account

for promise of a larger reward, to extricate you from
your obviously manufactured distress, especially when

your message is from an unverified IP address?
Even the leaves of a green money tree

would not turn over in shock or awe, pity or fear,
which Aristotle reminds us are the absolute essentials

of tragedy, that mode of imitation whose power
lies in narrowing the gap and moving us to human

sympathy for another. And in the perfect tragedy,
we all know the hero: he or she was always

one among us, the golden boy or girl who grew up
on the block, everybody’s sweetheart, most likely

to succeed; the one we envied for getting the most
valentines, the one whose yearbook overflowed

with XOXOXs and signatures. Nice gal,
all around sort of chap. Upright,

well-meaning yet he fails from some blind spot,
some flaw of character or judgment and so

stumbles doggedly toward what he thinks
is love or truth or justice, though ultimately

it leads to his downfall or demise. False prince,
this sort of difficulty therefore is hard to fake:

it’s existential. And there are just
too many holes in your narrative.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Every Death

This entry is part 8 of 18 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2013


“…so hard to hear the music of what happens. Every day some poet dies from the strain.” ~ D. Bonta

Did you slip away when we weren’t looking,
did you see a white wading bird? Did you hear
the water arguing with itself, its longest

and most faithful lover? Did the branches
hang low over the water, did the reclusive
fish lift their heads to see? Did the dry

circle in the middle of the field burst
into flames at noon? Did the flood
rise step by step through the halls

and cathedrals of our towns?
Did you feel the warmth of fingerprints,
faint florets of breath so recently left,

it seems, by those who peered
momentarily through the glass
before turning and moving away?


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

There are words and there are words:

This entry is part 9 of 18 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2013


in every language a surfeit of words— words for bread and hunger,
words for pain and cry, for rain and sleep and sunlight; words
for milk and salt, a baby’s spit, an old man’s phlegm, a night-
bird’s cry; words for the way the wind sounds, whipping
and soughing through the trees; words for cuss and cough
and kiss, words for flame and burn, blood, heat—

There are words and there are words, for sometime in the past
someone must have seen a white snakeroot glowing in the meadow,
a seed burst into flower or shrivel into dust; or heard
the tinny orchestra of tree crickets warming up at dusk,
oily bassoon of frogs in the river’s sludge-filled mouth
which must have moved him to work his lips into a shape

mimicking their sound, yet every sound he made
was always shadow— And is this why we want to throw
ourselves at the elusive, burrow into the music: press the wrists,
the fingers of the hand into the board; draw the bow’s whole length
across the string as if by quivering, it’s possible to leach
more of the quickly fading summer light we love?

~ впиватьса (vpivatsia)

For Pavel Ilyashov


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.