Only in old-time cathedrals
do they have them now—

tiers of candles flickering in rows,
waiting for the supplicant’s coin

and the next addition to their ranks,
waiting for the prayer breathed

in the silence of the nave—
And in seething counterpoint, the hubbub

of votive sellers just around the door,
boys hawking lottery tickets or cures

to swill from bottles of neon-
colored liquid. Shreds

of incense trail into the dark,
cadre leading the charge on heaven.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Forest Fire.

“…To thee the spring will be a harvest-time.” ~ John Keats, “What the Thrush Said”

I listened to a man speak in a radio program
of how he threw together all the leftovers
from Thanksgiving that no one wanted—

bits of brussels sprouts, carrot, onion, celery;
overlooked beets, wands of beans and wilted
parsley; desultory nuggets of turnip and sweet

potato turning into mash. And of course,
the carcass of the roasted bird. All these
he kept simmering in a stock pot on the stove’s

lowest setting, night and day, for a whole
week— until even the bones of the animal
softened to meal. Parts of things fell away,

disintegrated, liquefied— their outer husks
become indecipherable from chiseled versions
of themselves, as in Osias Beert the Elder’s

Still Life of a Roast Chicken, a Ham and Olives
on Pewter Plates with a Bread Roll, an Orange,
Wineglasses and a Rose on a Wooden Table
,

where the glistening life of things rises
through three glass nodes into flutes of clear
and rosy wine; and the knife suspends above the hard,

yeasty surface of a piece of bread: all that rich,
lovely bounty caught in the moment before the invisible
mouth descends and the petals darken on the rose.

…and slept hard till 8 o’clock this morning, and so up and to the office, where I found Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten come unexpectedly home last night from Portsmouth, having done the Pay there before we could have thought it. Sat all the morning, and at noon home to dinner with my wife alone, and after dinner sat by the fire, and then up to make up my accounts with her, and find that my ordinary housekeeping comes to 7l. a month, which is a great deal. By and by comes Dr. Pierce, who among other things tells me that my Lady Castlemaine’s interest at Court increases, and is more and greater than the Queen’s; that she hath brought in Sir H. Bennet, and Sir Charles Barkeley; but that the queen is a most good lady, and takes all with the greatest meekness that may be. He tells me too that Mr. Edward Montagu is quite broke at Court with his repute and purse; and that he lately was engaged in a quarrell against my Lord Chesterfield: but that the King did cause it to be taken up. He tells me, too, that the King is much concerned in the Chancellor’s sickness, and that the Chancellor is as great, he thinks, as ever he was with the King.
He also tells me what the world says of me, “that Mr. Coventry and I do all the business of the office almost:” at which I am highly proud.
He being gone I fell to business, which was very great, but got it well over by nine at night, and so home, and after supper to bed.

an unexpected mouth
fire comes to eat the bark and takes all
with the greatest meekness

and is as thin as ever
after supper


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 23 December 1662.

…six or seven o’clock and so up, and by the fireside read a good part of “The Advice to a Daughter,” which a simple coxcomb has wrote against Osborne, but in all my life I never did nor can expect to see so much nonsense in print. Thence to my Lord’s, who is getting himself ready for his journey to Hinchingbroke. And by and by, after eating something, and talking with me about many things, and telling me his mind, upon my asking about Sarah (who, it seems, only married of late, but is also said to be turned a great drunkard, which I am ashamed of), that he likes her service well, and do not love a strange face, but will not endure the fault, but hath bade me speak to her and advise her if she hath a mind to stay with him, which I will do.
My Lord and his people being gone, I walked to Mr. Coventry’s chamber, where I found him gone out into the Park with the Duke, so the boy being there ready with my things, I shifted myself into a riding-habitt, and followed him through White Hall, and in the Park Mr. Coventry’s people having a horse ready for me (so fine a one that I was almost afeard to get upon him, but I did, and found myself more feared than hurt) and I got up and followed the Duke, who, with some of his people (among others Mr. Coventry) was riding out. And with them to Hide Park. Where Mr. Coventry asking leave of the Duke, he bid us go to Woolwich. So he and I to the waterside, and our horses coming by the ferry, we by oars over to Lambeth, and from thence, with brave discourse by the way, rode to Woolwich, where we eat and drank at Mr. Pett’s, and discoursed of many businesses, and put in practice my new way of the Call-book, which will be of great use. Here, having staid a good while, we got up again and brought night home with us and foul weather. So over to Whitehall to his chamber, whither my boy came, who had staid in St. James’s Park by my mistake all day, looking for me. Thence took my things that I put off to-day, and by coach, being very wet and cold, on my feet home, and presently shifted myself, and so had the barber come; and my wife and I to read “Ovid’s Metamorphoses,” which I brought her home from Paul’s Churchyard to-night, having called for it by the way, and so to bed,…

I never did expect
to turn drunkard

shame is my white horse
I fear myself more

hide from the night and foul weather
of my metamorphoses


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 22 December 1662.

That restaurant shingle promising Free Crab tomorrow.

That fresh start sudsing with promise, easy as the reset button on a laundromat machine.

The voice of 9 year old Lea Salonga in Repertory Philippines’ “Annie,” betting her bottom dollar on the sun pre-climate change.

Every apocalyptic movie we’ve inhabited for the space of a large buttered popcorn and soda combo.

Rain forecast, and increasingly warming temperatures on until Christmas day.

How we kept saying we’d just pick up a fresh Christmas tree at the last minute, and when we did all the lots were out.

How we settled for “like real” 7.5 foot Colorado spruce in a box, petroleum-based plastic that bacteria will leave alone the next 400 years, or virtually forever.

The ear opens and shuts
like an awning. Each of its little bones

has a name. No, not hammer, anvil, stirrup.
Names like the hope poured on a child’s head

as she emerges, pushing with her elbows
through the tunnel, swimming against the current

of the upside-down world.
What are the chances of landing

straight in the lap of florescence?
Don’t look now. Listen

as hard as you can especially when
the blood rushes through your head.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Dusk and Rebecca Horn: Concert for Anarchy.

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed, so up to Church, and so home to dinner alone with my wife very pleasant. After dinner I walked to my brother’s, where he told me some hopes he had of bringing his business to pass still of his mistress, but I do find they do stand upon terms that will not be either fit or in his power to grant, and therefore I did dislike his talk and advised him to give it quite over.
Thence walked to White Hall, and there to chappell, and from thence up stairs, and up and down the house and gallerys on the King’s and Queen’s side, and so through the garden to my Lord’s lodgings, where there was Mr. Gibbons, Madge, and Mallard, and Pagett; and by and by comes in my Lord Sandwich, and so we had great store of good musique. By and by comes in my simple Lord Chandois, who (my Lord Sandwich being gone out to Court) began to sing psalms, but so dully that I was weary of it. At last we broke up; and by and by comes in my Lord Sandwich again, and he and I to talk together about his businesses, and so he to bed and I and Mr. Creed and Captain Ferrers fell to a cold goose pye of Mrs. Sarah’s, heartily, and so spent our time till past twelve o’clock, and then with Creed to his lodgings, and so with him to bed, and slept till…

alone with my pleasant rot
I will not be fit

like talk from upstairs
the rough music of the heart


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 21 December 1662.

street art by RUN - face of a person holding a head on a stick

When you wake in the night again
and the temperature’s dropped
and you’re frosted with anxiety

and you reach for unconsciousness,
but it won’t come because someone
started throwing stuff around

in your aching head, pulling out
one ghastly scenario after another
and waving them in your face so

you try instead to summon all the
places you’d rather be, the walks
you dream of taking, the countries you

long to visit, the beloved who, sensing
your distress, would of course leap
out of bed to make you a cup of tea and

you wonder if imagination is a blessing
or a curse and wish your wondering,
wandering mind would just


Photo: mural by RUN, Dulwich Village (detail)

Up and had 100l. brought me by Prior of Brampton in full of his purchase money for Barton’s house and some land. So to the office, and thence with Mr. Coventry in his coach to St. James’s, with great content and pride to see him treat me so friendly; and dined with him, and so to White Hall together; where we met upon the Tangier Commission, and discoursed many things thereon; but little will be done before my Lord Rutherford comes there, as to the fortification or Mole.
That done, my Lord Sandwich and I walked together a good while in the Matted Gallery, he acquainting me with his late enquiries into the Wardrobe business to his content; and tells me how things stand. And that the first year was worth about 3000l. to him, and the next about as much; so that at this day, if he were paid, it will be worth about 7000l. to him. But it contents me above all things to see him trust me as his confidant: so I bid him good night, he being to go into the country, to keep his Christmas, on Monday next.
So by coach home and to my office, being post night, and then home and to bed.

full of land as a mole

done in with war

how much this day will rust
in the country of night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 20 December 1662.

Protocol, they say in no uncertain terms,
must be observed; leather-bound,embossed

ledgers consulted especially for any
manner of infringement. Of course,

this does not seem to prevent
the strange appearance of a single

bullet in one’s combination-locked
carry-on luggage. Like all mysteries,

they count on this one being managed
through a hefty bribe. But the real gods

don’t like afterthoughts as gifts. You know
they have been provoked when they begin to raise

their arms at the end of the runway, carefully
articulating each pleat in the space

arcing from the hip joint to just beneath
the shoulder— If you see one of them

as you wing it through border control, find some way
to let them know you are fugitive too, and on the same side.

 

In response to Rebecca Horn, Mechanical Body Fan.