It’s human nature to seek
the short cut, the cool side
of the pillow, the nearest cave
with dimmed lights and no noise
when the sledgehammers of everyday
despair return to their favorite
construction sites in the brain.
But it’s also human nature to want
to know who else might be in a similar
or maybe slightly worse predicament:
to slow down as you drive past the truck
that flipped over this morning at the inter-
section of Hampton and Bolling, the engine
visibly steaming, blue lights and sirens
blaring toward the scene. Don’t look,
my father might have said that day
years ago as we passed the mangled heap
of a pedicab hit by a bus on the highway,
the driver’s body flung across the ditch—
fearful that the sight of blood and mortal
wounding might undermine my faith
in the world. And then there are those
who leap out of their own vehicles, run
straight into the accident site, go down
on hands and knees, searching through
broken glass for any visible signs of life.
that no one taught the bee
to thread its humming again
through the door of any hive;
that in some fields, blue
begins to stipple its way
through green. On hillsides,
the yellow of beggarticks,
the open mouths of dogwood.
Don’t doubt the rain, don’t walk
under signposts that point
elsewhere, away from the ordinary.
Should icicles yield their spears
from the eaves as you pass, take it
as a sign that ponds are starting
to brim with gurgle— That shimmer
in the rushes, perhaps your
many acres of sorrow folding.
and under our breath
to pass through the garden,
through any stretch of strung
vine and moss-speckled trail
kept by unseen spirits.
We mean no harm, we said
as we plucked a buttercup
or mimosa leaf that drew back
into itself at our touch.
when the wind clears a path
overhead. What we see
are the scales that it sheds
as it goes— spiked
like pods from the sycamore,
or shred into tassels
like wings of drooping
pine. Whose footfall
do you hear in its wake?
First you want to know
why I don’t write poems
in my own language—
Which tongue was mine
though, before you
tore it from its bed?
Torque is the instance
of force that causes
something to twist
against the trellis
to which it’s been lashed.
Here I am: I’ve lived nearly
more than half my life
away from what you call
In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.
is not the body though it
is of the body:
of used clothing as well
as dented furniture,
that one shank
with your teeth all
the way to the bone.
I like to say I come
from a town whose main street
is bookended by the post
office at the top
& the market at the bottom.
I like to take my coffee
with a little cream
& sugar, & now usually
nurse it through the day.
I like to smooth the covers
after I get out of bed, just
for the pleasure of feeling
there could be a small, smooth
space later, between the day’s chaos
& the night’s hoped for oblivion.
“Sometimes, happiness is all we have left.” ~ Alberto Rios
I am trying to remember:
do I still know how dark
green curves open to a frill
on the backs of winged beans,
how pale streaks bloom
on long-bellied gourds
as if a child scribbled
on a rough piece of slate
with chalk? Under the old
grandmother’s window we
lined up empty soda bottles,
pouring water from the tap,
pushing crushed petals in
to mimic rose and turmeric.
I don’t know if there is a name
for the moment when a sundial’s blade
is wedged between noon and night;
I forget. And yet, decades after,
I remember how I grew still when a hand
not mine shaded the sun from my eyes
while the other hand made the road
buckle so it ribboned away and away.
[Etymology, gnomon: From Latin gnomon, from Ancient Greek γνώμων (gnōmōn, “indicator”), related to γιγνώσκω (gignōskō, “I know”) and γνῶσις (gnōsis, “knowledge”].
At the conference, during a break,
someone calls for a group picture.
The most famous writer, hair greying,
newly widowed and rumpled in khakis,
is led to the seat in the front row,
center. The woman who said earlier
in the day that she is a mystic
edges closer. And at the coffee
service, she said to you, her eyes
growing smaller: You shouldn’t try
so hard. Walking along the lake
on the side of the hotel, you’d found
the swans so tame they waited
to be fed pieces of bread left over
from the breakfast buffet. A man
expressed concern at this— at how
too much bread or grain could give them
angel wing: feathers sprouting sideways,
instead of following the supple length
of the body. You understand awkwardness;
deformity, however slight. You also get
how something clearly bad for you
can taste and smell so much better
than any ambiguous future no one
can see. And the photographer raises a hand,
says Smile, everyone: at the count of three.
Suffer, mid-13th century: to allow
to occur or continue; in the Anglo
French, suffrir; Old French sofrir:
to bear, endure— Is this why
in the open I want to be hidden,
to slip into a space where no
supplication can follow; or why,
hidden, yet my ears will prickle
at the sound of soft rain on window-
sills? Why am I always neither
here nor there, floating
in the gap of a soliloquy,
head turned by any hint
of rose or musk or wounded
by the merest remnant
of kindness? Is it my body
I inhabit, or do I only haunt
a country whose maps have grown
unreadable? Once, a fortune teller
turned my palms over and said here
and here is where this line
comes to overlap with others.
In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.