This entry is part 10 of 73 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2011-12


From branch to branch, past the old garden, a bird drums high then low.

Translation: Compact and green, unripe
like plum before the idea of plum.
Deceptively quiet, the trellis
alive with energy. First day
of the year: did you feel
the switch? Something sings,
reaching through each
register. The aperture
never closed.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 11 of 73 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2011-12


Everything gets scrubbed with an old towel
torn in two, then soaked in water and soap
and bleach: baseboards, the kitchen walls,

the stone tile backsplash behind the stove.
Then bulbs are replaced in light fixtures,
the closets emptied of clothes that have

outgrown their use or usefulness.
Someone mentions that this furious
cleaning at the start of the year

has reference in the Bible, but I have
no memory of what chapter or verse. All
I know is the old soul wants to slip

away from its old moorings and into
a clean new outfit that smells of laundry
on the line. Thinned of last year’s flaking

whitewash and scoured of any traces of mold,
it wants to travel abroad and check itself
into a little hotel in a country it’s never

been to, slide the key card in the door
of a room where the sheets have been
turned down just so, and fluffy towels

wait on the rack. There are two perfect
chocolate bonbons laid out in welcome on
the pillow; and outside, the whole city waits

to be explored by morning’s first light.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

My mother turns 78 and texts

This entry is part 12 of 73 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2011-12


her first cellphone chain letter: This
January is very special! There are 5
Sundays and 5 Mondays in 1 single

month— this happens every 823 years!
According to Chinese feng shui, you must
send this message to 9 good women you love,

and money will appear! Those who stop
won’t get anything. Good luck, now
you’re on the list and something

will make u happy. I got her multi-
part text shortly before New Year’s eve,
along with a p.s. about remembering

to eat tomatoes and broccoli and not
stress out too much, to help my liver
heal— And now I realize I’ve let 3

full days pass without doing anything
about these instructions. On one hand,
she’s always been the optimistic

though slightly superstitious sort;
and on the other, she’s never been
one to shy away from buckle-down-

hard-work. She had carpenters tear up
the floorboards in our living room,
because the grain of the wood flowed

in a vertical direction, certainly
taking all good fortune out the door.
More than a couple of times, when I

was a child, I watched from bed
as she sat night after night with pins
in her mouth and a tangle of stitches

before her, seed pearls, satin, and rick-
rack, sewing a trousseau and outfits
for an entire bridal entourage.

She texts me often nowadays, saying she
goes to church and prays she’ll find a buyer
for our old home, so she can come and live

with me. She remembers her grand-
daughter here, from the last time she
came for a visit and my child was still

in pre-school; how she arrived at the tail
end of summer and marveled as leaves changed
to rich bronze colors of ball gowns

in fall; how disappointed she was her visa
extension request was denied before there
was even enough snow to cover the grass.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Dark Body

This entry is part 15 of 73 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2011-12


Dark-promised, soot-colored, life-size statue of the Nuestro Padre Nazareno— Clear sky, bright sun that stripes his rickety carriage, borne on the shoulders of hundreds of men. Carpenter, boat-builder, cop and cobbler; plumber, electrician out of work, not yet sober tuba-drinker; husband, overseas worker, skirt-chaser, wife-beater. They’ve all come to touch this visage of coal, this visage of charred ship lumber. Fire translates into scars on the body’s timber. Any piece of clothing will do to daub its flesh-like surfaces: torn t-shirt, scrap of cotton, burlap sack, polyester, old gym towel. They pull on ropes, conveying this likeness cloaked in saffron and red velvet. In the choked streets, see how urgent the desire to touch, be touched, be filled with fleeting grace. Some have fainted. Some have lost a finger, crushed a rib, a clavicle. For miracle, what does it matter that one might be trampled?


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 16 of 73 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2011-12


The woman in the cafe wearing red lipstick that matches her red boatneck sweater under a grey raincoat says, The poet is someone who is more a voice overheard, not speaking directly. Not spoken to, of, for. If I hold my head like this, if I hold my head perfectly still, if I hold my head aslant. There is a whiff of a voice that curls from the next table like a wisp of cigarette smoke, though smoking has been banned from restaurants and other such public places. Slide a white porcelain cup filled with hot coffee across the oily film of the counter. Run a fingernail across the velvet-covered upholstery and everything is still there: summer’s burnt caramel and diesel, morning’s toast; sriracha, lemon drop, partly sucked licorice whip. Above the curtains I can watch the sun move through a sky shorn of wildness, which is what some might mean when they say untrammeled. She is right, then. About lyric being a form of lilting paraphrase. Shorthand written in pencil, never ink. Code produced by the faithful stenographer. Careful. A stroke in the wrong place makes unintended meaning. But more, also. If it is spare, it prepares for tenderness. At least, the promise of a listening.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 17 of 73 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2011-12


This verb cannot be reflexive.

But there on the springhouse roof is a thing
fluffing out its feathers, probing under its wings.

Little promise of flight,
ascending and leaving behind—

The verb is not reflexive.
In many languages, the reflexive is rendered
by the transitive verb followed by a reflexive
pronoun +self e.g. “She threw herself
on the bed.” or “Weeping, she threw
herself on the ground.”

This verb is not reflexive.
It prays to be spared, but if that is not to be,
then it prays to be taken quickly.

I’m moved to get down on my knees.
I’m not even sure what is there.

But if you are, you know the heart
does not exist solely for the purpose
of pumping blood.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 18 of 73 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2011-12


“Who trammels whom?” ~ Dave Bonta

Look at the screen: do you see
the bird in the handle of a cup?
do you see the snail curled in

the floral organs of a cornice? and
that one, all shy and shifting, that
is a human in the shape of a tree.

Wings collapse and flutter open amid
the branches. Sweet orange blossoms turn
into paper fans. Their scent is best

in the morning. When nights are hot,
sometimes they bring to mind the corpse
flower and its perfumes of rotting flesh.

Too sweet, it putrefies the faster. Pour
something cool down the throat’s sticky lining.
The leaf tends to pull away, startled by a touch.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 19 of 73 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2011-12


The hour will come, oblivious to your noticing,
when you’ll look back and see that the shore
is truly far away and the boat you’re in,

bobbing miles from any clear destination.
From that distance it will be hard to tell
what the sunlight strikes hard and

fractures: the chrome edge of a pair of
sunglasses, the unibrow of the man
wearing it, the neon stripes of the beach

umbrellas that now look ridiculously small
and crowded around the rim of a dirty
yellow margarita glass. And you will ask,

stranded in the middle of it all, whether you
really still need sunblock or if the little
stencils of color floating before your eyes

are a sign— everything that once
pinned you to the business of diminishing
returns, has called it quits. Now only this

expanse, its lesson unrolling like a sutra:
unfurnished, unambiguous, pithy,
comprehensive; continuous, without flaw.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.