Not everything can be brought
into a sphere of perfect
understanding—

The father who left many times
in the night, as if each time
was the last time.

The mother who collected
her strings of beautiful
hard tears.

And you too, and you, and you,
hiding in the bathroom
under the sink

until the terrible
waves of wind
have passed.

What is your favorite
movie?
—someone asks.
There is one

which opens with a shot
of lemons on a table.
At last,

there are times
when it can actually
be as simple as that.

In the morning most of my disease, that is, itching and pimples, were gone. In the morning visited by Mr. Coventry and others, and very glad I am to see that I am so much inquired after and my sickness taken notice of as I did. I keep my bed all day and sweat again at night, by which I expect to be very well to-morrow.
This evening Sir W. Warren came himself to the door and left a letter and box for me, and went his way. His letter mentions his giving me and my wife a pair of gloves; but, opening the box, we found a pair of plain white gloves for my hand, and a fair state dish of silver, and cup, with my arms, ready cut upon them, worth, I believe, about 18l., which is a very noble present, and the best I ever had yet.
So after some contentful talk with my wife, she to bed and I to rest.

in the morning of my disease
I itch and pimple

sickness came for me in a pair
of plain white gloves


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 10 February 1662/63.

The moon is pale as buttermilk, watered
down to feed me in school. Oil-stained walls
crumble as I stuff infinity in my mouth. One
stone a year fills my body, engorges pathways
I essay every day through fetid night soil.

There is sand on the bed, hands tremble
as I carve a wedge of dirt from the fingernail —
particles that compose soul leak from a hole
that remains unvisited like the brick house
at the peripheral colony in my home town.

Birds fill my mouth, stir air in the lungs,
levitate vapour of existence that I see hover
above heads of palm trees framed
by the window – a scrap of paper, letters
scrawled like ants they stamp under their feet.

In the dark space between words I hold a torch
for my mother to examine blue toenails,
black calluses, whorls that once mesmerised –
pathways she consulted to map a horoscope
now a poem unwriting itself on the paper.

The book is on the floor face down, arms
splayed, pages like clumps of hair tugged.
My spine broke, among other body parts
as I flung from the chair — I have known
nothing of anatomy, only of distant stars.


The title of the poem is borrowed from Rohith Vemula’s suicide note. The poem is a response to his tragic death.

You can read the full text of his suicide note in The Indian Express. For more about Rohith Vemula and his death, see the Wikipedia.

Kissing-kissing, she said; pah!
What will it get you? Ruin.
She wasn’t the first
to warn of such perils.
Another asked, What difference
is there between a mouth
and a snail?
I shrugged,
thinking of other things:
the changeling moon, the eyes
on the wings of a moth
tuned to whatever strobe
light rudders the dark.

Could not rise and go to the Duke, as I should have done with the rest, but keep my bed and by the Apothecary’s advice, Mr. Battersby, I am to sweat soundly, and that will carry all this matter away which nature would of itself eject, but they will assist nature, it being some disorder given the blood, but by what I know not, unless it be by my late quantitys of Dantzic-girkins that I have eaten.
In the evening came Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten to see me, and Sir J. Minnes advises me to the same thing, but would not have me take anything from the apothecary, but from him, his Venice treacle being better than the others, which I did consent to and did anon take and fell into a great sweat, and about 10 or 11 o’clock came out of it and shifted myself, and slept pretty well alone, my wife lying in the red chamber above.

a pot
to carry away the blood
evening in Venice


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 9 February 1662/63.

What kind of poverty is amplified by stacks of moving boxes?

Somewhere in the depths of one there is a pile of unpaired socks, a spoon without its fork, a book whose frontispiece is missing.

In the grooves of the madeleine pan, a memory that sticks and will never come off.

Are the simplest things the best? In her mind, she subtracts one piece of furniture after another.

He has a turkey sandwich on wheat every single day. She can’t. She needs to mix things up, so her taste buds remember the yellow of pineapples, the bright bitter green of kale.

Where posters were once held to the wall with little bits of putty, now there are oil spots darker than the paint.

Once, as she stood in front of a shop window, the blur of a passing truck wrote letters in reverse on her forehead.

 

In response to Via Negativa: That lost gesture.

(Lord’s day). Up, and it being a very great frost, I walked to White Hall, and to my Lord Sandwich’s by the fireside till chapel time, and so to chappell, where there preached little Dr. Duport, of Cambridge, upon Josiah’s words, — “But I and my house, we will serve the Lord.” But though a great scholler, he made the most flat dead sermon, both for matter and manner of delivery, that ever I heard, and very long beyond his hour, which made it worse.
Thence with Mr. Creed to the King’s Head ordinary, where we dined well, and after dinner Sir Thomas Willis and another stranger, and Creed and I, fell a-talking; they of the errours and corruption of the Navy, and great expence thereof, not knowing who I was, which at last I did undertake to confute, and disabuse them: and they took it very well, and I hope it was to good purpose, they being Parliament-men. By and by to my Lord’s, and with him a good while talking upon his want of money, and ways of his borrowing some, &c., and then by other visitants, I withdrew and away, Creed and I and Captn. Ferrers to the Park, and there walked finely, seeing people slide, we talking all the while; and Captn. Ferrers telling me, among other Court passages, how about a month ago, at a ball at Court, a child was dropped by one of the ladies in dancing, but nobody knew who, it being taken up by somebody in their handkercher. The next morning all the Ladies of Honour appeared early at Court for their vindication, so that nobody could tell whose this mischance should be. But it seems Mrs. Wells fell sick that afternoon, and hath disappeared ever since, so that it is concluded that it was her.
Another story was how my Lady Castlemaine, a few days since, had Mrs. Stuart to an entertainment, and at night began a frolique that they two must be married, and married they were, with ring and all other ceremonies of church service, and ribbands and a sack posset in bed, and flinging the stocking; but in the close, it is said that my Lady Castlemaine, who was the bridegroom, rose, and the King came and took her place with pretty Mrs. Stuart. This is said to be very true. Another story was how Captain Ferrers and W. Howe both have often, through my Lady Castlemaine’s window, seen her go to bed and Sir Charles Barkeley in the chamber all the while with her. But the other day Captn. Ferrers going to Sir Charles to excuse his not being so timely at his arms the other day, Sir Charles swearing and cursing told him before a great many other gentlemen that he would not suffer any man of the King’s Guards to be absent from his lodging a night without leave. Not but that, says he, once a week or so I know a gentleman must go to his whore, and I am not for denying it to any man, but however he shall be bound to ask leave to lie abroad, and to give account of his absence, that we may know what guard the King has to depend upon.
The little Duke of Monmouth, it seems, is ordered to take place of all Dukes, and so to follow Prince Rupert now, before the Duke of Buckingham, or any else.
Whether the wind and the cold did cause it or no I know not, but having been this day or two mightily troubled with an itching all over my body which I took to be a louse or two that might bite me, I found this afternoon that all my body is inflamed, and my face in a sad redness and swelling and pimpled, so that I was before we had done walking not only sick but ashamed of myself to see myself so changed in my countenance, so that after we had thus talked we parted and I walked home with much ado (Captn. Ferrers with me as far as Ludgate Hill towards Mr. Moore at the Wardrobe), the ways being so full of ice and water by peoples’ trampling. At last got home and to bed presently, and had a very bad night of it, in great pain in my stomach, and in great fever.

in a dead hour they take abuse
for their entertainment

a gentleman must lie
his mouth itching to bite

and the ways so full of people
present a great stomach


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 8 February 1662/63.

Who will live in these shipwrecked leper
colonies? The cranes, the workhorse
of the Industrial Revolution, crank
away without ceasing, heaving future walls
into place. Pre-fab has such a different
meaning now, as big trucks rumble
the concrete slabs across a nation.

In my office, I fold paper cranes
the way I learned long ago, at a justice
rally on the 40th anniversary of the Hiroshima
explosion or maybe for an installation art
piece made of stripped branches.

I write lines from poems on the paper
before I make the creases. I tuck these cranes
into the corners of my office building
and the chain link fence around the construction
site. I imagine them coming to life
at night, a constellation made of cranes
in a starless sky, a navigation
device that no one will need or notice.


Inspired by a Facebook post that noted the anniversary of John Carpenter’s “The Fog,” with its plot of ghosts of shipwrecked lepers and Dave Bonta’s “Finding my way In London,” with this quote: “…but the true avian symbol of the city is the crane.”

that gave of its leaves, bountiful
though tinted antique green, dull
as verdigris. In the morning,

she explained: these must mean
greenbacks, crisp bills that guests
would pin on the skirts of the wedding

dress she was sewing for me. I knew
it wasn’t really mine, but each time
she made trousseaus for the town’s

fairer daughters I wondered
if she was practicing too for me.
Drawing and measuring, she pinned

the fabric down to the tissue shape
of shoulders, placing her palm flat
in the rigid valley above the heart.

And yes in time I married, even
carried flowers in my arms. But I never
danced around that maypole of a tree.

Up and to my office, whither by agreement Mr. Coventry came before the time of sitting to confer about preparing an account of the extraordinary charge of the Navy since the King’s coming, more than is properly to be applied and called the Navy charge.
So by and by we sat, and so till noon. Then home to dinner, and in the afternoon some of us met again upon something relating to the victualling, and thence to my writing of letters late, and making my Alphabet to my new Navy book very pretty. And so after writing to my father by the post about the endeavour to come to a composition with my uncle, though a very bad one, desiring him to be contented therewith, I went home to supper and to bed.

office time
is rope

and all the thin letters in my alphabet
pretty it up


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 7 February 1662/63.