Up, and spent the whole morning and afternoon at my office, only in the evening, my wife being at my aunt Wight’s, I went thither, calling at my own house, going out found the parlour curtains drawn, and inquiring the reason of it, they told me that their mistress had got Mrs. Buggin’s fine little dog and our little bitch, which is proud at this time, and I am apt to think that she was helping him to line her, for going afterwards to my uncle Wight’s, and supping there with her, where very merry with Mr. Woolly’s drollery, and going home I found the little dog so little that of himself he could not reach our bitch, which I am sorry for, for it is the finest dog that ever I saw in my life, as if he were painted the colours are so finely mixed and shaded. God forgive me, it went against me to have my wife and servants look upon them while they endeavoured to do something and yet it provoked me to pleasure with my wife more than usual tonight.

I draw this ink line
no paint so finely mixed and shaded
against the usual night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 22 March 1663/64.

Yes I’m mother too—
though I don’t think I could even begin

to process that pain: the illogic
of a child’s passing before the parent,

the violation of a certain idea of the order
of things. I will argue such sorrow

could be but isn’t truly universal
in all those ways we try to find language

for alliance but always come short; for how
could anyone know? More than this—

whatever one might be expected to say
in solidarity, cannot take the place of.

When my friend says At the moment I saw
the cops at the door, even before they rang

the bell I knew. When the dumbstruck
father of the woman they shot as she ate her meal

on a makeshift table in the street cannot form
any words for a statement. In other words

I may know the pain of a child in pain but not
the terror of losing him in such ways, not

the helplessness of seeing the aftermath of violence,
its blunt disfigurements, its contortions and cigarette

burns, its traumas. Banal obscenity
of final objects they touched, next to

their bodies: the meal not yet cooled, the change
on the counter, the candy that spilled from a bag.

 

In response to Via Negativa: A certain slant of light.

Up, and it snowing this morning a little, which from the mildness of the winter and the weather beginning to be hot and the summer to come on apace, is a little strange to us. I did not go abroad for fear of my tumour, for fear it shall rise again, but staid within, and by and by my, father came, poor man, to me, and my brother John. After much talke and taking them up to my chamber, I did there after some discourse bring in any business of anger — with John, and did before my father read all his roguish letters, which troubled my father mightily, especially to hear me say what I did, against my allowing any thing for the time to come to him out of my owne purse, and other words very severe, while he, like a simple rogue, made very silly and churlish answers to me, not like a man of any goodness or witt, at which I was as much disturbed as the other, and will be as good as my word in making him to his cost know that I will remember his carriage to me in this particular the longest day I live. It troubled me to see my poor father so troubled, whose good nature did make him, poor wretch, to yield, I believe, to comply with my brother Tom and him in part of their designs, but without any ill intent to me, or doubt of me or my good intentions to him or them, though it do trouble me a little that he should in any manner do it.
They dined with me, and after dinner abroad with my wife to buy some things for her, and I to the office, where we sat till night, and then, after doing some business at my closet, I home and to supper and to bed.
This day the Houses of Parliament met; and the King met them, with the Queene with him. And he made a speech to them: among other things, discoursing largely of the plots abroad against him and the peace of the kingdom; and, among other things, that the dissatisfied party had great hopes upon the effect of the Act for a Triennial Parliament granted by his father, which he desired them to peruse, and, I think, repeal. So the Houses did retire to their own House, and did order the Act to be read to-morrow before them; and I suppose it will be repealed, though I believe much against the will of a good many that sit there.

a little winter and summer rise within

and me in the business of anger
I might say anything severe

like a simple rogue
like a troubled king
I sing of the plots against peace


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 21 March 1663/64.

If you dream your mouth rattling
with loose teeth, take a cold shower.

If you dream swimming naked in a pool
as it begins to fill and fill with flotsam,

wake up and scrub the grime from your skin.
In other words: do whatever will keep Death

away for one more day. If it means drinking
a foul-tasting mix of apple cider vinegar

laced with ginger and turmeric, so be it.
If it means forgiving the difference

between someone else’s adventurous, back-
packing life and your circumscribed one

on shore, so be it. Rejoice when the lawn
maintenance guys finally come around

to prune the ragged tree and take away
its overgrowth of limbs. Rejoice

that the moon is visible over the fence,
that a startled rabbit bounds across the path;

that the asphalt you stand on hasn’t melted,
and the air isn’t completely toxic with lies.

 

In response to Via Negativa: All heart.

(Lord’s day). Kept my bed all the morning, having laid a poultice to my cods last night to take down the tumour there which I got yesterday, which it did do, being applied pretty warm, and soon after the beginning of the swelling, and the pain was gone also. We lay talking all the while, among other things of religion, wherein I am sorry so often to hear my wife talk of her being and resolving to die a Catholique, and indeed a small matter, I believe, would absolutely turn her, which I am sorry for. Up at noon to dinner, and then to my chamber with a fire till late at night looking over my brother Thomas’s papers, sorting of them, among which I find many base letters of my brother John’s to him against me, and carrying on plots against me to promote Tom’s having of his Banbury Mistress, in base slighting terms, and in worse of my sister Pall, such as I shall take a convenient time to make my father know, and him also to his sorrow. So after supper to bed, our people rising to wash to-morrow.

a tumor of religion
resolving to die at absolute noon

the fire plots to bury light
in ash


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 20 March 1663/64.

(after Miguel M. Morales)

This poem arrived alone
close to midnight, with no
traveling companions, with two
pieces of luggage that rolled
across the cobblestones, looking
for the address it was given.

This poem sat uneasy in the back
seat of the yellow cab, looking
out at unfamiliar landmarks wrapped
in fog as the driver remarked, off-
hand, You’re a brave one to be
by yourself at this hour.

This poem slept on a couch
in someone’s living room for three
weeks, until they found others like her
to room with, until the first check
from the hiring agency came, less
agency deductibles and expenses.

This poem shyly accepted
the invitation to a church function;
wives and sisters piled her plate
with food. Taking her home after,
one of the husbands touched
her breasts and laughed.

This poem stole an hour
before her workday began at dawn
to write letters to her children
back home: but never did she let on
how many hours she worked, how meagre
the meals compared to the blows.

Back in the day, we knew the names
of everyone who lived on our street.

Now we locate ourselves in the south
on a different meridian, where black-

eyed peas are eaten on the first day
of the year. Are we exotic enough

for you if we have indeed migrated
but did not wind up in some borough

of Manhattan? I don’t mean to sound
bitter or spiteful. It’s just sad no one

really knows what to do with the sapodilla,
with the cherimoya, the dragon fruit,

and then they sit in the grocery bin
like deportees awaiting uncertain fates.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Undertaking.

Up and to the office, where all the morning, and at noon my wife and I alone, having a good hen, with eggs, to dinner, with great content. Then by coach to my brother’s, where I spent the afternoon in paying some of the charges of the buriall, and in looking over his papers, among which I find several letters of my brother John’s to him speaking very foul words of me and my deportment to him here, and very crafty designs about Sturtlow land and God knows what, which I am very glad to know, and shall make him repent them. Anon my father and my brother John came to towne by coach. I sat till night with him, giving him an account of things. He, poor man, very sad and sickly. I in great pain by a simple compressing of my cods to-day by putting one leg over another as I have formerly done, which made me hasten home, and after a little at the office in great disorder home to bed.

all morning in a tent spent
speaking to God
knows what I am
to repent of poor
and sickly simple putting
one leg over another
hasten home


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 19 March 1663/64.

Up betimes, and walked to my brother’s, where a great while putting things in order against anon; then to Madam Turner’s and eat a breakfast there, and so to Wotton, my shoemaker, and there got a pair of shoes blacked on the soles against anon for me; so to my brother’s and to church, and with the grave-maker chose a place for my brother to lie in, just under my mother’s pew. But to see how a man’s tombes are at the mercy of such a fellow, that for sixpence he would, (as his owne words were,) “I will justle them together but I will make room for him;” speaking of the fulness of the middle isle, where he was to lie; and that he would, for my father’s sake, do my brother that is dead all the civility he can; which was to disturb other corps that are not quite rotten, to make room for him; and methought his manner of speaking it was very remarkable; as of a thing that now was in his power to do a man a courtesy or not.
At noon my wife, though in pain, comes, but I being forced to go home, she went back with me, where I dressed myself, and so did Besse; and so to my brother’s again: whither, though invited, as the custom is, at one or two o’clock, they came not till four or five. But at last one after another they come, many more than I bid: and my reckoning that I bid was one hundred and twenty; but I believe there was nearer one hundred and fifty. Their service was six biscuits apiece, and what they pleased of burnt claret. My cosen Joyce Norton kept the wine and cakes above; and did give out to them that served, who had white gloves given them. But above all, I am beholden to Mrs. Holden, who was most kind, and did take mighty pains not only in getting the house and every thing else ready, but this day in going up and down to see, the house filled and served, in order to mine, and their great content, I think; the men sitting by themselves in some rooms, and women by themselves in others, very close, but yet room enough. Anon to church, walking out into the streete to the Conduit, and so across the streete, and had a very good company along with the corps. And being come to the grave as above, Dr. Pierson, the minister of the parish, did read the service for buriall: and so I saw my poor brother laid into the grave; and so all broke up; and I and my wife and Madam Turner and her family to my brother’s, and by and by fell to a barrell of oysters, cake, and cheese, of Mr. Honiwood’s, with him, in his chamber and below, being too merry for so late a sad work. But, Lord! to see how the world makes nothing of the memory of a man, an houre after he is dead! And, indeed, I must blame myself; for though at the sight of him dead and dying, I had real grief for a while, while he was in my sight, yet presently after, and ever since, I have had very little grief indeed for him.
By and by, it beginning to be late, I put things in some order in the house, and so took my wife and Besse (who hath done me very good service in cleaning and getting ready every thing and serving the wine and things to-day, and is indeed a most excellent good-natured and faithful wench, and I love her mightily), by coach home, and so after being at the office to set down the day’s work home to supper and to bed.

shoes blacked for the grave
his white gloves going
up and down

but how the dead have us ready
to love a day’s work


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 18 March 1663/64.

Australian singer and artist Marie Craven is one of my favorite makers of poetry videos, so I was flattered and pleased last month when she surprised me with a video based on one of the first poems in Ice Mountain:

Watch on Vimeo.

She used some of my own still photos for a slideshow-style video with the text in subtitles and an instrumental track by Josh Woodward. It all hangs together rather well, I think. Then today she released another video based on the book:

Watch on Vimeo.

This time, she collaborated with her composer friend Paul Dementio to turn my words into a song, and built the video around it using stock footage. Here’s the text:

7 March

paper birch trees can only bend
so far before they break
under the weight of freezing rain

rhododendron leaves
tough as old scrolls are stripped
by starving deer

but some always resprout from the roots
having who knows how many
lifetimes of practice

It’s always such an honor to have one’s words incorporated into other artists’ work. Thanks, Marie and Paul!

Visit Phoenicia Publishing for more about the book, and to order.