March 2017

Have you ever had to prove
who you are before you
can buy a ticket, a cup
of coffee, a hard roll?

Weren’t we just saying:
why is it so hard to understand
the need to object to the depiction
of our pain by others?

This is not about abstraction:
history as a thing we can talk
about, freedom and the the so-
called purity of rights.

No one should get to decide
but the ones who’ve bled
in the trenches that this wasn’t
a skirmish but a war.

No one gets to decide
but the one who’s suffered
what color is its closest
approximation.

Up, and going out saw Mrs. Buggin’s dog, which proves as I thought last night so pretty that I took him and the bitch into my closet below, and by holding down the bitch helped him to line her, which he did very stoutly, so as I hope it will take, for it is the prettiest dog that ever I saw.
So to the office, where very busy all the morning, and so to the ‘Change, and off hence with Sir W. Rider to the Trinity House, and there dined very well: and good discourse among the old men of Islands now and then rising and falling again in the Sea, and that there is many dangers of grounds and rocks that come just up to the edge almost of the sea, that is never discovered and ships perish without the world’s knowing the reason of it.
Among other things, they observed, that there are but two seamen in the Parliament house, viz., Sir W. Batten and Sir W. Pen, and not above twenty or thirty merchants; which is a strange thing in an island, and no wonder that things of trade go no better nor are better understood.
Thence home, and all the afternoon at the office, only for an hour in the evening my Lady Jemimah, Paulina, and Madam Pickering come to see us, but my wife would not be seen, being unready. Very merry with them; they mightily talking of their thrifty living for a fortnight before their mother came to town, and other such simple talk, and of their merry life at Brampton, at my father’s, this winter. So they being gone, to the office again till late, and so home and to supper and to bed.

the old men of islands
never discover ships

observe the sea
only for an hour

talking of thrifty living
and the winter ice


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 23 March 1663/64.

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.