“When we received the cable from Admiral Dewey telling of the taking of the Philippines I looked up their location on the globe. I could not have told where those darned islands were within 2,000 miles!” ~ President William McKinley to H.H. Kohlsaat, Editor of the Chicago-Times Herald

I’m looking at captions of old
newspaper photos from April 1898,

just before The Battle of Manila Bay—
all the language already in place,

as if to make the outcome so: War
in the Orient! American Squadron

Will Capture Philippine Islands and
American Warships Will Fight Spanish

Squadron Near Manila; A Very Desperate
Encounter is Predicted
. And the fleet

of Spanish vessels goes down in flames
or sinks into the bay: the Reina Cristina

and Castilla, the gunboats Don Antonio
de Ulloa, Don Juan de Austria, Isla de Luzon,

Isla de Cuba, Velasco, Argos— while
on the American side, the Olympia plays

“The Star-Spangled Banner” and “El Capitan”
as sailors on the Baltimore, Raleigh and Boston,

the gunboats Concord and Petrel, the revenue
cutter McCulloch, and the transport ships Zafiro

and Nanshan shout “Remember the Maine!”
Admiral Dewey issued strict orders that “no

barbarous or inhuman acts are to be perpetrated
by the insurgents,” by which he means Filipinos.

Artist prints and photographs show no native casualties
of war, no native involvement— except that skirmish

cost the Spanish a 20 million dollar fine: the price
of handing over their former colony and its inhabitants

to the Americans. Who doesn’t love a good war? When news of Dewey’s
victory reaches the mainland, Americans cheer. What does it matter

that most didn’t know what and where the Philippines are,
as long as those darned islands are now the spoils of war?

Up and close at my office all the morning. To the ‘Change busy at noon, and so home to dinner, and then in the afternoon at the office till night, and so late home quite tired with business, and without joy in myself otherwise than that I am by God’s grace enabled to go through it and one day, hope to have benefit by it. So home to supper and to bed.

close to change
to quit and out myself

otherwise I am
by God’s grace bled


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 28 April 1664.

Push back against the hands
arranging the conditions

for movement (meaning barely any),
the narrow confines of a cell

stripped down to minimum
furnishings: cot with creaky

springs, mattress streaked
with sepia stains, cracked

washbowl in the corner. Kick
and scream when they send

the trumped-up summons,
as outside, someone prepares

the spit and starts the fire.
Recall every subterfuge and tactic

for stalling, every scanned
memory of some kind of hinge

or chink in the armor. Yes
your stamina can go beyond

a thousand and one nights. You
can also drive the tip of any sharp

point at hand into the first
blur that hesitates or wavers.

Up, and all the morning very busy with multitude of clients, till my head began to be overloaded. Towards noon I took coach and to the Parliament house door, and there staid the rising of the House, and with Sir G. Carteret and Mr. Coventry discoursed of some tarr that I have been endeavouring to buy, for the market begins apace to rise upon us, and I would be glad first to serve the King well, and next if I could I find myself now begin to cast how to get a penny myself. Home by coach with Alderman Backewell in his coach, whose opinion is that the Dutch will not give over the business without putting us to some trouble to set out a fleete; and then, if they see we go on well, will seek to salve up the matter. Upon the ‘Change busy. Thence home to dinner, and thence to the office till my head was ready to burst with business, and so with my wife by coach, I sent her to my Lady Sandwich and myself to my cozen Roger Pepys’s chamber, and there he did advise me about our Exchequer business, and also about my brother John, he is put by my father upon interceding for him, but I will not yet seem the least to pardon him nor can I in my heart. However, he and I did talk how to get him a mandamus for a fellowship, which I will endeavour.
Thence to my Lady’s, and in my way met Mr. Sanchy, of Cambridge, whom I have not met a great while. He seems a simple fellow, and tells me their master, Dr. Rainbow, is newly made Bishop of Carlisle.
To my Lady’s, and she not being well did not see her, but straight home with my wife, and late to my office, concluding in the business of Woods masts, which I have now done and I believe taken more pains in it than ever any Principall officer in this world ever did in any thing to no profit to this day.
So, weary, sleepy, and hungry, home and to bed.
This day the Houses attended the King, and delivered their votes to him: upon the business of the Dutch; and he thanks them, and promises an answer in writing.

the multitude rising
have been a salve

for the heart simple
as rain in the woods

more in it than any
weary answer


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 27 April 1664.

“…I dress myself for the dust” ~ D. Bonta

As rapidly as I
was made, I will
be unmade. Buttons
and hooks are
timely preface.

Past bloom,
speckled orchids
drop like rumpled
washcloths. Soft-
ness on tile.

The mood is
always preparatory
to farewell— until
the gurgle in the gut
establishes the hour.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Raiment.

black-and-white photos of tree foliage seen from below

To be in nature like a human tree, your desires
spread out like deep, luxuriant foliage, and feel,
on peaceful and on stormy nights alike, the universal
sap flow through your hands. To live with the sun’s rays
warm on your face, drink the scorching salt of sea-spray
and of tears, and hotly taste the joy and then the grief
that fashion foggy human forms in space. To feel
in your own beating heart the turbulence of air and fire
and blood like wind upon the earth, reach for reality
and stoop to mystery, embrace the rising daylight
and the falling dark. Like evening’s purple and cerise,
to let the flame and flood flow from the crimson
of your heart while your soul, like pale dawn resting
on a hillside, sits beside this world and dreams…

 

La vie profonde

Être dans la nature ainsi qu’un arbre humain,
Étendre ses désirs comme un profond feuillage,
Et sentir, par la nuit paisible et par l’orage,
La sève universelle affluer dans ses mains !

Vivre, avoir les rayons du soleil sur la face,
Boire le sel ardent des embruns et des pleurs,
Et goûter chaudement la joie et la douleur
Qui font une buée humaine dans l’espace !

Sentir, dans son coeur vif, l’air, le feu et le sang
Tourbillonner ainsi que le vent sur la terre.
– S’élever au réel et pencher au mystère,
Être le jour qui monte et l’ombre qui descend !

Comme du pourpre soir aux couleurs de cerise,
Laisser du coeur vermeil couler la flamme et l’eau,
Et comme l’aube claire appuyée au coteau
Avoir l’âme qui rêve, au bord du monde assise…

 

From Anna de Noailles’ first collection, Le Coeur innombrable / The Uncountable Heart (1901). A fairly close translation, but lately I’ve been writing dense 14-line poems and this seemed to pour itself so naturally into that shape… More of my translations of Anna de Noailles on Via Negativa are here and here.

Up, and to my Lord Sandwich’s, and coming a little too early, I went and saw W. Joyce, and by and by comes in Anthony, they both owning a great deal of kindness received from me in their late business, and indeed I did what I could, and yet less I could not do. It has cost the poor man above 40l.; besides, he is likely to lose his debt. Thence to my Lord’s, and by and by he comes down, and with him (Creed with us) I rode in his coach to St. James’s, talking about W. Joyce’s business mighty merry, and my Lady Peters, he says, is a drunken jade, he himself having seen her drunk in the lobby of their House.
I went up with him to the Duke, where methought the Duke did not shew him any so great fondness as he was wont; and methought my Lord was not pleased that I should see the Duke made no more of him, not that I know any thing of any unkindnesse, but I think verily he is not as he was with him in his esteem.
By and by the Duke went out and we with him through the Parke, and there I left him going into White Hall, and Creed and I walked round the Parke, a pleasant walk, observing the birds, which is very pleasant; and so walked to the New Exchange, and there had a most delicate dish of curds and creame, and discourse with the good woman of the house, a discreet well-bred woman, and a place with great delight I shall make it now and then to go thither.
Thence up, and after a turn or two in the ‘Change, home to the Old Exchange by coach, where great newes and true, I saw by written letters, of strange fires seen at Amsterdam in the ayre, and not only there, but in other places thereabout.
The talke of a Dutch warr is not so hot, but yet I fear it will come to it at last. So home and to the office, where we sat late.
My wife gone this afternoon to the buriall of my she-cozen Scott, a good woman; and it is a sad consideration how the Pepys’s decay, and nobody almost that I know in a present way of encreasing them. At night late at my office, and so home to my wife to supper and to bed.

like a drunk having
drunk with the Lord
I see birds as letters
of fire in the air
and places of burial
as my office


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 26 April 1664.

(after Bennie Flores Ansell’s “Sprocket Swarm Migration”)

So many squares
cut away from darkness,
untethered from light,
lighter than any wish
that cast us adrift—
Massed where we are,
we form new continents:
room upon room upon room
in tenements that wobble
under the pinned weight
of our labor. From on high,
little squares of laundry
strung on clotheslines
on the balcony. We are
so slight: an army of ants,
echo of some fusillade
still falling over the Pacific.
Flight pattern of starlings:
a million eyelash marks
in the desert, trembling
before or after sleep.

we fall from hell
into a committee meeting
Fall” by Dave Bonta

Before he goes to the department meeting, he watches
old nuclear war movies on the Internet. He fast
forwards to the moment of destruction:
mushroom clouds bloom in the background
as he prepares his notes.

During the meeting, she
finds comfort in the words
of John the Baptist. “I am not
the Messiah.” She repeats
this mantra as she tries
to think through the ramifications
of bad budget numbers.

I realize too late that I should not have listened
to punk music on my way to work.
I emerge from the meeting yearning
to be sedated. Instead, I make another binder
of documents that will yellow
into insignificance. I think of paperless
offices and other promises of a future
yet to arrive.

Up, and with Sir W. Pen by coach to St. James’s and there up to the Duke, and after he was ready to his closet, where most of our talke about a Dutch warr, and discoursing of things indeed now for it. The Duke, which gives me great good hopes, do talk of setting up a good discipline in the fleete.
In the Duke’s chamber there is a bird, given him by Mr. Pierce, the surgeon, comes from the East Indys, black the greatest part, with the finest collar of white about the neck; but talks many things and neyes like the horse, and other things, the best almost that ever I heard bird in my life.
Thence down with Mr. Coventry and Sir W. Rider, who was there (going along with us from the East Indya house to-day) to discourse of my Lord Peterborough’s accounts, and then walked over the Parke, and in Mr. Cutler’s coach with him and Rider as far as the Strand, and thence I walked to my Lord Sandwich’s, where by agreement I met my wife, and there dined with the young ladies; my Lady, being not well, kept her chamber. Much simple discourse at table among the young ladies. After dinner walked in the garden, talking, with Mr. Moore about my Lord’s business. He told me my Lord runs in debt every day more and more, and takes little care how to come out of it. He counted to me how my Lord pays use now for above 9000l., which is a sad thing, especially considering the probability of his going to sea, in great danger of his life, and his children, many of them, to provide for.
Thence, the young ladies going out to visit, I took my wife by coach out through the city, discoursing how to spend the afternoon; and conquered, with much ado, a desire of going to a play; but took her out at White Chapel, and to Bednal Green; so to Hackney, where I have not been many a year, since a little child I boarded there. Thence to Kingsland, by my nurse’s house, Goody Lawrence, where my brother Tom and I was kept when young. Then to Newington Green, and saw the outside of Mrs. Herbert’s house, where she lived, and my Aunt Ellen with her; but, Lord! how in every point I find myself to over-value things when a child. Thence to Islington, and so to St. John’s to the Red Bull, and there: saw the latter part of a rude prize fight, but with good pleasure enough; and thence back to Islington, and at the King’s Head, where Pitts lived, we ‘light and eat and drunk for remembrance of the old house sake, and so through Kingsland again, and so to Bishopsgate, and so home with great pleasure. The country mighty pleasant, and we with great content home, and after supper to bed, only a little troubled at the young ladies leaving my wife so to-day, and from some passages fearing my Lady might be offended. But I hope the best.

war comes from the east
black like the bird who takes sad children

the city conquered play
I have not lived but to fight


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 25 April 1664.