Fascinator

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2016

 

Today this old-
fashioned word in a novel
I’m reading trembles

into view— fascinator
and immediately I remember
how my fingers fashioned

years ago from feel,
from scraps of ecru brocade
and lace, a little pillbox

of a hat with a hint
of veil, for my cousin
Cristy. She wore it pinned

to one side of her head,
to top off a modest skirt
and suit of plain beige.

It was a rushed wedding,
before her papers cleared
for her transfer to a hospital

in Saudi, before the seams
of her white nurse’s uniform
started to strain

at the seams around her belly;
before we learned the man
she thought she married

was already someone
else’s spouse. All she’d ever
wanted was a life outside

her mother’s tiny two-
room flat a street away
from where we lived,

a life for which she’d saved
every last coin toward that
plane ticket out.

It was she who’d taught me
how to wrap the blood
pressure cuff around

my father’s arm, pump
the bulb, slowly loosen
the valve then wait

to read the two
points where the needle
came to fitful rest

on the manometer’s face—
Systolic pressure in the arteries
when the heart muscle contracts,

diastolic pressure between beats
as the chamber fills with blood.
Two syllables separated

by barely the space of a sigh;
head slightly tilted to one
side as if already weighted

with ornament. If she
who was so good at listening
had not been able to catch

all that lay
beneath the surface,
how could I have hoped in my

own time to intercept the messages
that spun in circles, that would seem
to scintillate for me and me alone?

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

At some latitudes they say night is curiously indistinguishable from day

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2016

 

In Europe that summer, tourist
shops awash with midriff-baring
Britney Spears tops, painted

scandal matryoshkas of Bill
and Monica, Paula and Gennifer
and Hillary, ending with a cigar.

But at the grocery store,
no one made eye contact or bagged
my few purchases: three bananas,

two cups of yogurt, a small carton
of juice. Later, someone explained:
They must have thought you

were Chechnyan. It hadn’t
occurred to me. I mused on this
passing through streets lettered

in Cyrillic, emerging from the shadow
of a cathedral. Even the grandmothers
shuffling along, clutching their string

bags with arthritic fingers— they
didn’t see me. How could they not
know about my kind of dark?

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

peripherals

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2016

 

those shoes
dangling by their laces
high on an electric wire

the wedding band, the glass eye
that rolled under the bleachers
at a crowded concert

once, the pink semicircle
of dental lowers caught in the maw
of the grocery store’s automatic doors

somewhere underground, plots
of joint- and finger bones, gold
teeth, winking in the dark

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Hydromancy

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2016

 

Sun-blasted, sun-scorched,
leaves from the African violet

have fallen limp across the edge
of the pot— But feed it too much

water and it could drown inside
its own cells. Too much sorrow,

too much joy, and it’s as if time
saws one off one more limb

in the unseen canopy. Sometimes
you don’t know exactly where a storm

is passing, only hear the deep
bassoon in the grey distance,

while the heart floats like a pickle
in the juice of its own fears.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Who names the insects singed by flame?

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 8 of 9 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2016

 

They live along train tracks
or at the river’s muddy edge

At midday it glints
a glossy brown, clogged

with debris and flecked
with crumpled soda cans

and plastic shopping bags
It doesn’t seem to run

to the sea anymore
It swells its banks

in a hurricane and washes
flotsam into makeshift homes

There where streets
are narrow and the light

is often dim, day
is a rope which might not

make it to the other end
Jeepneys and pedicabs

hurtle through the throng
Bravado of plastic pennants

and chrome horses clipped
to their hoods, mud flaps

lettered with the drivers’
children’s names

And didn’t you hear him
call out for mercy

Should it have been
his time to die

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Extrajudicial Ghazal

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2016

 

Daily, the toll rises. Cradled by the ones who love them,
the bodies sprawl in blood, on the streets, as the sky darkens.

Photos in the news show what naked grief looks like: just like
the Pietà, but rawer. Not beautiful or marble, as the sky darkens.

There was the little girl who waited for her father, afternoons on the stoop.
Who’ll wear the boots and raincoat he promised her, as the sky darkens?

The family sat down to their meagre meal. Was it fish and rice?
The bullet sang through the open doorway, as the sky darkened.

The gunmen are anonymous; only eyes show above tightly cinched bandanas.
They pull up on motorcycles, aim, then drive away as the sky darkens.

How does one know who’s truly guilty, who’s accidental casualty?
All are easy targets for the flimsiest charge, as the sky darkens.

The one in power says Fuck human rights; urges people to take
things into their own hands. The sky weeps blood as it darkens.

The fast buck, the swindle, the easy lay, the profit from every little
skirmish or big war. The poor don’t get commissions as the sky darkens.

Rain, incessant floods, the terrible traffic that chokes the streets:
cemeteries of poverty where the living dead reside, as the sky darkens.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.