Geography in a Coffee Cup

Each cup a landscape with a horizon line,
wind-swept desert, earth-colored mountains,
coffee dregs and in-between blank shapes:
bodies, letters, numbers, animals, trees.

Not my future to be told in browns,
but a map of the homeland
I have been dragging in my mind.
An imaginary homeland by now

its map shredded into a pile and reshaped
into a heart made of torn paper boundaries.

Does a poet have to live on a perpetual
border in order to see?

Portrait Gelatin Print
City Gelatin Print

What of the Medlars?

I was convinced it was persimmons,
in the austere yet exquisite Dutch paintings,
I was thinking about every year when I lined up
the fruit on the kitchen counter to ripen.
My gems, teach me patience, become luscious.

I was convinced. I had made up a sweet story
of how their skin resembled the blemished
persimmons from the trees in my childhood home.
Now I am torn between my story and the real story
of the fruit composed with utmost care
with quince and grapes in the old still lifes.
They are medlars. The prostitutes of the fruit bowl.
They must rot to a brown pulp before they ripen.

Imagine the feeling of having missed the truth
of something or someone for years.
How many times?
Who am I?
I don’t have a word for this haunting feeling,
perhaps the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows will have an entry.

On Language II

Do birds sit or stand on trees in your mother tongue?

You gaze at the night sky, I sew my eyes to the stars, we share
their atoms and minerals, they are in us, I tell you.

Do you have two hearts? Blood-heart and soul-heart?

You take pity on the ones who never look up.
My soul-heart burns for the ones who are forgetful.

Would you pass on or go to your own world in death?

You wish to make limitless amends before you die.
I say Do something, take your wrongdoings out of their soul- hearts.

Did your mother ever say You are the light of my eyes?

At daybreak, I give you two suns in small vessels
you take salt, pepper and the eggcups to the table.

Did anyone ever circle a raw egg over your head
chanting names to pop the eye that wounded you?

My soul-heart had become a speck for you, you say.
You really, really had missed me.

Pen and ink drawing


Between attraction to the sun,
submission to embrace of gravity, the tree
you planted grew.

You prune the curve of the crown
imagining a new contour, an old
poem comes to mind:
      …the light cannot get through
because at the far end of the tunnel
a pomegranate tree is growing.
It feeds on light. It stores light.

Pruner blade, hook and cord
thorns, and blood on your hands
pull you out of the stories in the old tunnel.
You tell yourself:
Stay with the scent of bruised herbs