Poems & poem-like things

Original poetry, translations and videopoems by the authors of this blog. (See Poets and poetry for criticism, etc.)

Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, at noon to the ‘Change, and there met by appointment with Captain Poyntz, who hath some place, or title to a place, belonging to gameing, and so I discoursed with him about the business of our improving of the Lotterys, to the King’s benefit, and that of the Fishery, and had some light from him in the business, and shall, he says, have more in writing from him. So home to dinner and then abroad to the Fishing Committee at Fishmongers’ Hall, and there sat and did some business considerable, and so up and home, and there late at my office doing much business, and I find with great delight that I am come to my good temper of business again. God continue me in it. So home to supper, it being washing day, and to bed.

the long game is out
the lottery is in

shall the road and the light
come again to be ash


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 20 September 1664.

Two waist-high jars by the door,
small hulls of frosted glass

carefully detached from a lamp
fixture. On the shelf, a pair

of short lidded boxes: one marked
Sugar, the other marked Flour.

I listened to the woman in the armchair
tell of her walk on the shore last week

and of the beached calves she came upon—
How the water kept licking at their grey

linen forms out of habit. I asked
if they were dead. She said of course

they were. And then: But I don’t know—
don’t they frequently need to surface

in order to breathe? She closed her eyes
then, said she was tired. I cleaned the sink,

wiped the table, put new sheets on the bed.
I tried to move as quietly as I could.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Bedding.

Up, my wife and I having a little anger about her woman already, she thinking that I take too much care of her at table to mind her (my wife) of cutting for her, but it soon over, and so up and with Sir W. Batten and Sir W. Pen to St. James’s, and there did our business with the Duke, and thence homeward straight, calling at the Coffee-house, and there had very good discourse with Sir —— Blunt and Dr. Whistler about Egypt and other things. So home to dinner, my wife having put on to-day her winter new suit of moyre, which is handsome, and so after dinner I did give her 15l. to lay out in linen and necessaries for the house and to buy a suit for Pall, and I myself to White Hall to a Tangier Committee, where Colonell Reames hath brought us so full and methodical an account of all matters there, that I never have nor hope to see the like of any publique business while I live again. The Committee up, I to Westminster to Jervas’s, and spoke with Jane; who I find cold and not so desirous of a meeting as before, and it is no matter, I shall be the freer from the inconvenience that might follow thereof, besides offending God Almighty and neglecting my business. So by coach home and to my office, where late, and so to supper and to bed.
I met with Dr. Pierce to-day, who, speaking of Dr. Frazier’s being so earnest to have such a one (one Collins) go chyrurgeon to the Prince’s person will have him go in his terms and with so much money put into his hands, he tells me (when I was wondering that Frazier should order things with the Prince in that confident manner) that Frazier is so great with my Lady Castlemayne, and Stewart, and all the ladies at Court, in helping to slip their calfes when there is occasion, and with the great men in curing of their claps that he can do what he please with the King, in spite of any man, and upon the same score with the Prince; they all having more or less occasion to make use of him.
Sir G. Carteret tells me this afternoon that the Dutch are not yet ready to set out; and by that means do lose a good wind which would carry them out and keep us in, and moreover he says that they begin to boggle in the business, and he thinks may offer terms of peace for all this, and seems to argue that it will be well for the King too, and I pray God send it.
Colonell Reames did, among other things, this day tell me how it is clear that, if my Lord Tiviott had lived, he would have quite undone Tangier, or designed himself to be master of it. He did put the King upon most great, chargeable, and unnecessary works there, and took the course industriously to deter, all other merchants but himself to deal there, and to make both King and all others pay what he pleased for all that was brought thither.

little to whistle about
in her winter linen

like a cold surgeon curing us
of all unnecessary dust and ease


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 19 September 1664.

to have a heart in— not one that made
graveyards of streets where thousands of souls
rose up with the wings of a deranged congregation.
How terrible to think especially of the young
who’ll never get the chance to practice the simplest
acts of living: mornings in a schoolroom, chanting
the alphabet’s bellweather— M after L, X after
W; every dog belonging to its home, and not
to a shackle and chain. Who spends the days picking
through skins discarded by others, to find one pure morsel not
tainted with decay? Rejoice if you can for those who will see,
a split second before the blast goes off, a vision of their own
fate caught in the crosshairs of history. It’s a gift not easily
come by: to hear above the noise a clear note that summons
remembering; that makes a lake of all the nights we mourned,
over which we bend to surrender the empty boats of our hearts.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Contractor in hell.

~ Mellisuga helenae

It’s so quiet at night.
In these rooms, each one
prays in her own compartment

to whatever gods might listen
this side of the ocean. Don’t you
want to be accounted for too,

invited in: no longer the permanent
house guest, no longer the dark-
skinned maid with the chamois rag,

betrothed to furniture perennially
in need of polishing? The silences
don’t necessarily mean the saints

have retreated into their rose quartz
caverns, lain down in their fern-lined
crypts. If you see a butterfly or humming-

bird drumming on a plume for nectar,
think of what the soul must have been
before it fell into this world.

 

In response to Via Negativa: News Junkie.

(Lord’s day). Up and to church all of us. At noon comes Anthony and W. Joyce (their wives being in the country with my father) and dined with me very merry as I can be in such company. After dinner walked to Westminster (tiring them by the way, and so left them, Anthony in Cheapside and the other in the Strand), and there spent all the afternoon in the Cloysters as I had agreed with Jane Welsh, but she came not, which vexed me, staying till 5 o’clock, and then walked homeward, and by coach to the old Exchange, and thence to my aunt Wight’s, and invited her and my uncle to supper, and so home, and by and by they came, and we eat a brave barrel of oysters Mr. Povy sent me this morning, and very merry at supper, and so to prayers and to bed.
Last night it seems my aunt Wight did send my wife a new scarfe, laced, as a token for her many givings to her. It is true now and then we give them some toys, as oranges , &c., but my aime is to get myself something more from my uncle’s favour than this.

church can cloy
but not a clock

and so I pray
to be true now

give them some toy
but my aim is thin


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 18 September 1664.

Up and to the office, where Mr. Coventry very angry to see things go so coldly as they do, and I must needs say it makes me fearful every day of having some change of the office, and the truth is, I am of late a little guilty of being remiss myself of what I used to be, but I hope I shall come to my old pass again, my family being now settled again.
Dined at home, and to the office, where late busy in setting all my businesses in order, and I did a very great and a very contenting afternoon’s work.
This day my aunt Wight sent my wife a new scarfe, with a compliment for the many favours she had received of her, which is the several things we have sent her. I am glad enough of it, for I see my uncle is so given up to the Wights that I hope for little more of them. So home to supper and to bed.

to see things go old
makes me fearful of change

I used to be old as a settled business
content with any little ore


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 17 September 1664.

Up betimes and to my office, where all the morning very busy putting papers to rights. And among other things Mr. Gauden coming to me, I had a good opportunity to speak to him about his present, which hitherto hath been a burden to me, that I could not do it, because I was doubtfull that he meant it as a temptation to me to stand by him in the business of Tangier victualling; but he clears me it was not, and that he values me and my proceedings therein very highly, being but what became me, and that what he did was for my old kindnesses to him in dispatching of his business, which I was glad to hear, and with my heart in good rest and great joy parted, and to my business again. At noon to the ‘Change, where by appointment I met Sir W. Warren, and afterwards to the Sun taverne, where he brought to me, being all alone, 100l. in a bag, which I offered him to give him my receipt for, but he told me, no, it was my owne, which he had a little while since promised me and was glad that (as I had told him two days since) it would now do me courtesy; and so most kindly he did give it me, and I as joyfully, even out of myself, carried it home in a coach, he himself expressly taking care that nobody might see this business done, though I was willing enough to have carried a servant with me to have received it, but he advised me to do it myself. So home with it and to dinner; after dinner I forth with my boy to buy severall things, stools and andirons and candlesticks, &c., household stuff, and walked to the mathematical instrument maker in Moorefields and bought a large pair of compasses, and there met Mr. Pargiter, and he would needs have me drink a cup of horse-radish ale, which he and a friend of his troubled with the stone have been drinking of, which we did and then walked into the fields as far almost as Sir G. Whitmore’s, all the way talking of Russia, which, he says, is a sad place; and, though Moscow is a very great city, yet it is from the distance between house and house, and few people compared with this, and poor, sorry houses, the Emperor himself living in a wooden house, his exercise only flying a hawk at pigeons and carrying pigeons ten or twelve miles off and then laying wagers which pigeon shall come soonest home to her house. All the winter within doors, some few playing at chesse, but most drinking their time away. Women live very slavishly there, and it seems in the Emperor’s court no room hath above two or three windows, and those the greatest not a yard wide or high, for warmth in winter time; and that the general cure for all diseases there is their sweating houses, or people that are poor they get into their ovens, being heated, and there lie. Little learning among things of any sort. Not a man that speaks Latin, unless the Secretary of State by chance. Mr. Pargiter and I walked to the ‘Change together and there parted, and so I to buy more things and then home, and after a little at my office, home to supper and to bed. This day old Hardwicke came and redeemed a watch he had left with me in pawne for 40s. seven years ago, and I let him have it. Great talk that the Dutch will certainly be out this week, and will sail directly to Guinny, being convoyed out of the Channel with 42 sail of ships.

morning paper
the temptation to stand by
with my heart in a bag

though I have carried a tick
from miles away
into my bed


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 16 September 1664.

Under the table she swings and swings
her feet. They still look girlish, but

for the pucker of old flesh behind each
knee; and the bunion pushing against

the worn fabric of shoe. It pains to imagine
how she gropes her way in the dark from bedroom

to bathroom then lies back down on a mattress
almost as old as me; or longs for a blue flame

at midnight to heat water in a kettle for tea.
Meanwhile the wind whistles through gaps

in the floor: its long trail a daily laceration,
coming from far away. It says when you’re young

you want to make your fame by doing something
outrageous, something that strives for importance.

When you’re older you start not giving a fuck,
not making apologies. And then when you’re old

you want merely not to have to beg to rest your bones
inside the shell of a cup, inside a linen-lined trunk.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.