Praise for the Porchbed

Praise for the porchbed is praise for SLEEP.
Wrapped in cricket and cicada-sound sleep.

Rapt in rain sleep. Worry and all-trouble erasing
sleep. Smoothed-out sleep.

Counting sheep and Bo Peep sleep.
One two three four five six seven
sleep and go to heaven where all your good

new friends are fixing deviled eggs.
Hey good lookin’ what you got cookin’?
Deviled eggs. First you boil four eggs.
Take your noonday pill. Then crack them
out of their shells, crush them and mix with spices.
Put the solid yolks in a bowl. Lots of pepper and curry
and basil, my three sisters. One of them took this
hospital picture, of me and her about to leave 
the hospital from my second stroke. The third’s a killer.
My brown hat says Magellan on the front.

He-who, he-who, he-who first circum-
navigated this blue globe. And discovered
his very own dangerous straits, and made
it through, O ferdinand! You were killed, shot by one
of your mutinous crew-friends, and buried
in the Philippines before they were ever
called that. Mindanao, I would guess, Mindanao
I would guess. Magellan is, believe it or not,
the title of a Mary Oliver poem that no one knows,
but you. It has danger in it, and some very heavy, waterlogged,
17th-century ships. You know the kind. Jesus
is driving one home in the lead, his hands at 10 and 2,
good boy. It is very fine to have a photo
to go along with this. Look how earnest she is,
both of us, in our scarves of such beauty. Was he
the first ship’s captain murdered with a pistol. I guess.
As now Jesus is driving our Victory home, his hands
at 10 and 2. Good boy, but with a pistol stashed
in a special pocket in his robe. This time of life (82)
any sleep could be my last. Deathbed nap
on the ole porchbed (gladly taken). There was 
a meticulous log kept on the longest journey that
ended in a Mindanao jungle grave. I could re-write
that log, give it color and vivid excitement. But that
would not be good. I know nothing of life on board
such a ship. I got seasick crossing the English Channel.
I would die on Magellan’s heroic ship. People do die
of seasickness. Vomit. Vomit. Such exploration now is done
with enormous telescopes. George Chapline,
a physicist, claims that his Event Horizon Telescope
has “an effective diameter of the earth.” He has been
pointing it for several years now at Sagittarius A.
The astrophysicist community expects that eventually
he will see signs of a black hole. He may even take
pictures of the black hole’s singularity, whose
gravitational pull is too strong for light to escape.
It must be said here that George does not believe
that black holes are real! He would rather call them
“dark energy stars.” He will discuss this at the Kavli
Institute in Santa Barbara. He says that the next
physicist who looks through and studies data
from his telescope “will be confused by what he sees.”
I guess that might be said also of Magellan’s
skeleton crew as they re-entered the harbor of Seville
after three years.


Coleman Barks, professor emeritus at the University of Georgia, has since 1977 collaborated with various scholars of the Persian language (most notably, John Moyne) to bring over into American free verse the poetry of the thirteenth-century mystic Jelaluddin Rumi. This work has resulted in twenty-one volumes, including the bestselling Essential Rumi in 1995. He has also published eight volumes of his own poetry, including Hummingbird Sleep: Poems 2009–2011 (2012) and Winter Sky: Poems 1968–2008 (2008), both from the University of Georgia Press.