is the bead I finger all
night long, the bone
made smooth from constant
plying; it is the drops
that fall down the gradated
steps of the motorized
before they climb up again;
it is January’s recycled sorrows
come to haunt the mind in April,
the prayer flags that flutter
squares of color in uneven wind.
Up early to see my workmen at work. My brother Tom comes to me, and among other things I looked over my old clothes and did give him a suit of black stuff clothes and a hat and some shoes.
At the office all the morning, where Sir G. Carteret comes, and there I did get him to promise me some money upon a bill of exchange, whereby I shall secure myself of 60l. which otherwise I should not know how to get.
At noon I found my stairs quite broke down, that I could not get up but by a ladder; and my wife not being well she kept her chamber all this day.
To the Dolphin to a dinner of Mr. Harris’s, where Sir Williams both and my Lady Batten, and her two daughters, and other company, where a great deal of mirth, and there staid till 11 o’clock at night; and in our mirth I sang and sometimes fiddled (there being a noise of fiddlers there), and at last we fell to dancing, the first time that ever I did in my life, which I did wonder to see myself to do. At last we made Mingo, Sir W. Batten’s black, and Jack, Sir W. Pen’s, dance, and it was strange how the first did dance with a great deal of seeming skill.
Home, where I found my wife all day in her chamber. So to bed.
A black hat
and some shoes
could not get up
a ladder, and fell
the first dance,
the first great kill.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 27 March 1661.
It’s the first petrichor of spring—
that musk the soil gives off after rain,
strongest when long delayed.
So who wouldn’t choose
a day like today for dancing?
Side by side, cackling softly,
the two pileated woodpeckers
hitch their way down a tall locust tree
all the way to the ground.
For a fuller description (and pictures) of this unusual pileated behavior, see Rachel’s blog post.
Almond the shape of my eyes; lotus
the width of my hips or the soft
inscrutability of a half-smile.
Virtue the act of sitting still,
going nowhere, being a stick-in-
the-mud. Or being pliable: sucking
the tummy in, filling it out with breath
or bread. Give me the bread, the bowl
of milk, honey from the hive, water
from the well, wine from the skin
that loosens all tongues and turns
every fool into a resident sage.
—Luisa A. Igloria
03 28 2014
In response to Via Negativa: Butsuzo.
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.