Open wide, says the dentist’s assistant
to the Buddha; I’m going to stretch your mouth
a little bit more, ok? She blinks at the overhead
light; the xylocaine with the bitter bubblegum
taste and scent has taken effect, and the dentist
plunges the tip of the needle into her lower gum
and jawline, pulling at her cheek for effect.
When the drill begins to widen the broken
enamel of her tooth to prepare for its filling,
she closes her eyes and tries to pretend
she is on a lounge chair poolside, and
the noise and discomfort are merely effects
of a nearby construction project. She’s marveled
at small glimpses caught in the mouth mirror,
her jagged teeth miniature rows of mountains
receding in a ridged landscape. She remembers
a black-and-white film she watched long ago:
“The Passion of Joan of Arc,” how she found it
impossible to tell whether it was rapture
or suffering that crossed the stark face
of the girl martyr played by Maria Falconetti;
how the tipped-back head, wide eyes, and parted
lips might signify both agony and the most
exquisite pleasure. And she can see it’s true
from the faces of people buckled into their seats
as the roller coaster picks up speed before
the plunge, from the way the lovers writhing
in the sheets approach their climax: how thin
is the line that separates one state from
another, how quickly pain might transition
to the joy of release then back again.
Up early to do business in my study.
This is my great day that three years ago I was cut of the stone, and, blessed be God, I do yet find myself very free from pain again. All this morning I staid at home looking after my workmen to my great content about my stairs, and at noon by coach to my father’s, where Mrs. Turner, The, Joyce, Mr. Morrice, Mr. Armiger, Mr. Pierce, the surgeon, and his wife, my father and mother, and myself and my wife.
Very merry at dinner; among other things, because Mrs. Turner and her company eat no flesh at all this Lent, and I had a great deal of good flesh which made their mouths water.
After dinner Mrs. Pierce and her husband and I and my wife to Salisbury Court, where coming late he and she light of Col. Boone that made room for them, and I and my wife sat in the pit, and there met with Mr. Lewes and Tom Whitton, and saw “The Bondman” done to admiration. So home by coach, and after a view of what the workmen had done to-day I went to bed.
Three years ago I was stone,
free from pain, content—
no joy or urge.
I had a great deal of light,
and I sat.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 26 March 1661.
Most of the goldenrods still standing
at winter’s end are topped
by the empty habitations of wasps.
Dried half-pods of milkweed
cluster three to a stalk,
a Baroque superfluity of arch and wing.
From the woods, a drumming grouse
reminds me what real wings can do—
that accelerating heartbeat.
After a hundred years of reaching
for the same, small portion
of filtered sunlight,
these three witch hazel trunks
have begun to merge. The ground bulges
over their common roots.
Back home, you stretch
a measuring tape from hand to hand
along your outstretched arms.
these days, tears come easily and often, in public, at
inappropriate times; or without preamble as she drives
the car to or from work, so sometimes she has to pull up
by the curb to wipe waterfalls from her eyes— she doesn’t
want to ruin her spotless driving record, much less cause
injury to another creature on the road. Ask your doctor
about hormone replacement therapy, says her girlfriend.
Maybe get your thyroid checked, says another. Nothing
wine can’t cure. Or a vacation. Plus mani-pedi- and a Thai
massage: those are the best! A full Thai massage session
typically lasts two hours. Someone walks up and down
the length of your back and cracks your knuckles, pulls
your fingers, toes, and ears, rotates your arms and legs
and kneads your skin until it glows. The Buddha tries
to remember when the last time was that she could say
she glowed, when anyone said she looked good in whatever
kind of light, when the lines around her eyes laughed
then turned into quilled ribbons at the ends—
A long time. In college, she’d read about the paradox
of motion: how that which is in locomotion must arrive
at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal—
She remembers thinking then, as she does now, how this
was either the smartest way to talk oneself into tackling
daunting goals and distances in manageable increments,
or the dumbest reason for staying home since any progress
was doomed to impossibility from the start. And in the case
of this potential mid-life crisis, the middle is the middle
of the middle of the middle from the moment
anybody ever took their first breath here.
—Luisa A. Igloria
03 26 2014
In response to Via Negativa: In Good Light.
(Lady day). This morning came workmen to begin the making of me a new pair of stairs up out of my parler, which, with other work that I have to do, I doubt will keep me this two months and so long I shall be all in dirt; but the work do please me very well. To the office, and there all the morning, dined at home, and after dinner comes Mr. Salisbury to see me, and shewed me a face or two of his paynting, and indeed I perceive that he will be a great master.
I took him to Whitehall with me by water, but he would not by any means be moved to go through bridge, and so we were fain to go round by the Old Swan.
To my Lord’s and there I shewed him the King’s picture, which he intends to copy out in little. After that I and Captain Ferrers to Salisbury Court by water, and saw part of the “Queene’s Maske.” Then I to Mrs. Turner, and there staid talking late. The. Turner being in a great chafe, about being disappointed of a room to stand in at the Coronacion.
Then to my father’s, and there staid talking with my mother and him late about my dinner to-morrow.
So homewards and took up a boy that had a lanthorn, that was picking up of rags, and got him to light me home, and had great discourse with him how he could get sometimes three or four bushells of rags in a day, and got 3d. a bushell for them, and many other discourses, what and how many ways there are for poor children to get their livings honestly.
So home and I to bed at 12 o’clock at night, being pleased well with the work that my workmen have begun to-day.
I work to begin
the making of me
out of dirt and morning,
a face of water, an old mask
of my father’s, and three
or four discourses
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 25 March 1661.
(Lord’s day). My wife and I to church, and then home with Sir W. Batten and my Lady to dinner, where very merry, and then to church again, where Mr. Mills made a good sermon. Home again, and after a walk in the garden Sir W. Batten’s two daughters came and sat with us a while, and I then up to my chamber to read.
Church and church again
where mills made a good walk
in the garden aught.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 24 March 1660/61.
This is for the numbers pried from all
the house posts up and down the street
This is for the crack on the beveled
mirror when it comes loose from the wall
This is for the white porcelain plate and its chipped edge
which will not have its weight measured out in gold
This is for the heart’s awkward and painful arisings,
overturning layers from its dormant earth
This is for its muffled palpitations
calling out amid the green
—Luisa A. Igloria
03 25 2014
In response to Via Negativa: Terminology.
All the morning at home putting papers in order, dined at home, and then out to the Red Bull (where I had not been since plays come up again), but coming too soon I went out again and walked all up and down the Charterhouse yard and Aldersgate street. At last came back again and went in, where I was led by a seaman that knew me, but is here as a servant, up to the tireing-room, where strange the confusion and disorder that there is among them in fitting themselves, especially here, where the clothes are very poor, and the actors but common fellows. At last into the Pitt, where I think there was not above ten more than myself, and not one hundred in the whole house. And the play, which is called “All’s lost by Lust,” poorly done; and with so much disorder, among others, that in the musique-room the boy that was to sing a song, not singing it right, his master fell about his ears and beat him so, that it put the whole house in an uproar.
Thence homewards, and at the Mitre met my uncle Wight, and with him Lieut.-Col. Baron, who told us how Crofton, the great Presbyterian minister that had lately preached so highly against Bishops, is clapped up this day into the Tower. Which do please some, and displease others exceedingly.
Home and to bed.
All the alders
with singing ears
that roar and clap.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 23 March 1660/61.
On a maple’s pale bark,
a zigzag ladder—old tooth-marks
from a wandering snail?
Green islands of moss
beckon across a fluttering sea
of brown leaves.
This cloud-filtered sunlight
is perfect, says the photographer
as her cheeks slowly turn red.