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Manoa 17.1 (2005) 17-22

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Five Poems

Labrador Tea

Labrador leaves in a jar with a kerchief lid
release an arctic aroma when simmered on a stove.

Yesterday when fire broke out in the bosque,
the air had the stench of cauliflower in a steamer

when water has evaporated and the pot scalds.
Although Apache plume, along with clusters of

western peppergrass, makes fragrant the wash,
owls that frequent the hole high up the bank

of the arroyo have already come and gone.
Yesterday, though honey locust leaves shimmered

in a gust, I marveled no wasp nest had yet
formed under the porch. Repotting a spathiphyllum,

then uncoiling a hose, I suddenly hear surf
through open slats of a door. Sprinklers come on

in the dark; a yellow slug crawls on a rain-
slicked banana leaf; as the mind flits, imbibes,

leaves clothed underneath with rusty hairs
suffuse a boreal light glistening on tidal pools. [End Page 17] [Begin Page 20]

The Chromatics of Dawn

Navel oranges ripen on branches near the steps
to a porch. He recalls zigzagging along a path

marked by white stones through a lava flow
to a beach where violet morning glories flared.

Up the coast he once peered into the water
but could not make out the underwater shrine

frequented by black-tipped reef sharks.
He tries to delineate the sheen of rolling waves,

chromatics of the hour when light pales
the unfolded paper shades to the south-

facing French doors. Last week they rolled up
architectural plans, along with sun-bleached

red paper inscribed with gold characters,
and torched them in the hearth. As they remodel,

they ponder how a floor of repeating strips
of bolted oak and cement can be replicated;

but, at his fingertips, he knows nothing can
be replicated: neither the hair in her hairbrush,

nor the hole in his sock, neither the hue
of sunrise, nor waves of opalescent spring sleet.


She who can't sleep takes a sleeping pill,
then another, then another. A crab apple
in the yard blossoms along the curve

of spring. Along a stone wall, we yearn
for a line of Japanese irises that do not appear.
Who glimpses a body on a stretcher loaded

into an ambulance? In the winter of spring,
a neighbor frets over air-pollution vectors;
a teenage girl worries her horse slashes [End Page 20]

its neck along barbed wire. Prevailing winds:
west-northwest. As a physicist posits
all languages have a single root, I weigh

arête, yardang, strike canyon, ciénega,
tsé bit'a'í:
Shiprock, the rock with wings.
But is there bedrock? Scent of your

breasts and hair. Who is of the Bitter Water Clan?
A red tulip in a glass droops within hours.
Tremor at how z, x, y puts form into danger.


Stopped at an intersection,
ruminating on how, in
a game of go, to consider all
the possible moves until
the end would take a computer
longer than the expected
lifetime of the universe,
you flit from piccolo
to stovepipe in a letter,
to scrutinizing faces
while standing in line
at the post office, to weather
forecast—does a snowflake
have an infinite number
of possible shapes?—
consider, only last weekend,
a wasp threaded along a
screen door in south light;
mark the impulse to—not
see this, do that—water
leafing pear trees along
a curved driveway, relax
the intricate open
work mesh
of spring; recall lifting
a packet of flax seeds
off the counter, and, checking
for an expiration date,
note—red light, green light—
sow when danger of
frost is past,
then go, go. [End Page 21]

Departures and Arrivals

An accountant leaning over a laptop
frets: I have botched this, bungled that—
he is not focused on numbers or accounts;
a taxi driver at an airport has no time
to contemplate rippling shadows of ginkgo leaves
but swerves between a van and truck;
a reinsurance analyst obsesses over a
one-in-ten probability that a hurricane

will scour the Florida Gulf Coast, while
an air-pollution expert is assigned