It is winter/ and we speak/ with passionate hands

—always, about the past. Always,
about histories which follow us
like wraiths out of the mist;
neediest, like ghosts and old
lovers, when the cold sets in
and strips the landscape
to the bone.

When you look at statues
in the shade, obelisks or plaques
overlaid with fleur-de-lis; or a marker
saying on such and such a date
arrived so many men— strange, wild,
picturesque
— you see with your winter eye
their color like that bronze into which
a small proportion of gold is worked

by the molder

how they tested the winds
pulling through the galleon’s rigging
by holding up their fingers before they
jumped ashore, shedding chains as they went.
Lacrustine, wrote Lafcadio Hearn of their village
on stilts in 1883, listing in the current:
a secret guarded by reeds and waste—

vicious crabs, alligators
slinking through mud, their jaws
unhinged. Chickens with one leg,
limping along.  Not even the post
ventured here, where clouds
of mosquitoes reigned and made
a sound like the boiling of
innumerable caldrons. 

Rumors persist about the deep
green of their eyes, the way
they danced with the shrimp,
their bodies supple as fresh-water
eels. 
I didn’t come by boat or ship,
and the only card game I know
is matching pairs—

but when I read that on stormy
evenings the card-dealer called out
22 as Dos paticos en laguna, I can see
the poetry in his eye: the way I learned
to describe the world. That’s
how 
all migrants and seafarers

must think: not knowing
the words in a foreign tongue—
for gale, for ice, for snow— they’ll look
for ideograms in the bodies of
whelk and birds and fish; they’ll talk
with their eyes, with their hands.

  

 

In response to Via Negativa: Blizzard.

Blizzard

(A holyday). Lay long; then up, and to the office, where vexed to meet with people come from the fleete at the Nore, where so many ships are laid up and few going abroad, and yet Sir Thomas Allen hath sent up some Lieutenants with warrants to presse men for a few ships to go out this winter, while every day thousands appear here, to our great trouble and affright, before our office and the ticket office, and no Captains able to command one-man aboard.
Thence by water to Westminster, and there at the Swan find Sarah is married to a shoemaker yesterday, so I could not see her, but I believe I shall hereafter at good leisure. Thence by coach to my Lady Peterborough, and there spoke with my Lady, who had sent to speak with me. She makes mighty moan of the badness of the times, and her family as to money. My Lord’s passionateness for want thereof, and his want of coming in of rents, and no wages from the Duke of York. No money to be had there for wages nor disbursements, and therefore prays my assistance about his pension. I was moved with her story, which she largely and handsomely told me, and promised I would try what I could do in a few days, and so took leave, being willing to keep her Lord fair with me, both for his respect to my Lord Sandwich and for my owne sake hereafter, when I come to pass my accounts.
Thence to my Lord Crew’s, and there dined, and mightily made of, having not, to my shame, been there in 8 months before. Here my Lord and Sir Thomas Crew, Mr. John, and Dr. Crew, and two strangers. The best family in the world for goodness and sobriety. Here beyond my expectation I met my Lord Hinchingbroke, who is come to towne two days since from Hinchingbroke, and brought his sister and brother Carteret with him, who are at Sir G. Carteret’s. After dinner I and Sir Thomas Crew went aside to discourse of public matters, and do find by him that all the country gentlemen are publickly jealous of the courtiers in the Parliament, and that they do doubt every thing that they propose; and that the true reason why the country gentlemen are for a land-tax and against a general excise, is, because they are fearful that if the latter be granted they shall never get it down again; whereas the land-tax will be but for so much; and when the war ceases, there will be no ground got by the Court to keep it up. He do much cry out upon our accounts, and that all that they have had from the King hath been but estimates both from my Lord Treasurer and us, and from all people else, so that the Parliament is weary of it. He says the House would be very glad to get something against Sir G. Carteret, and will not let their inquiries die till they have got something.
He do, from what he hath heard at the Committee for examining the burning of the City, conclude it as a thing certain that it was done by plots; it being proved by many witnesses that endeavours were made in several places to encrease the fire, and that both in City and country it was bragged by several Papists that upon such a day or in such a time we should find the hottest weather that ever was in England, and words of plainer sense. But my Lord Crew was discoursing at table how the judges have determined in the case whether the landlords or the tenants (who are, in their leases, all of them generally tied to maintain and uphold their houses) shall bear the losse of the fire; and they say that tenants should against all casualties of fire beginning either in their owne or in their neighbour’s; but, where it is done by an enemy, they are not to do it. And this was by an enemy, there having been one convicted and hanged upon this very score. This is an excellent salvo for the tenants, and for which I am glad, because of my father’s house.
After dinner and this discourse I took coach, and at the same time find my Lord Hinchingbroke and Mr. John Crew and the Doctor going out to see the ruins of the City; so I took the Doctor into my hackney coach (and he is a very fine sober gentleman), and so through the City. But, Lord! what pretty and sober observations he made of the City and its desolation; till anon we come to my house, and there I took them upon Tower Hill to shew them what houses were pulled down there since the fire; and then to my house, where I treated them with good wine of several sorts, and they took it mighty respectfully, and a fine company of gentlemen they are; but above all I was glad to see my Lord Hinchingbroke drink no wine at all. Here I got them to appoint Wednesday come se’nnight to dine here at my house, and so we broke up and all took coach again, and I carried the Doctor to Chancery Lane, and thence I to White Hall, where I staid walking up and down till night, and then got almost into the play house, having much mind to go and see the play at Court this night; but fearing how I should get home, because of the bonefires and the lateness of the night to get a coach, I did not stay; but having this evening seen my Lady Jemimah, who is come to towne, and looks very well and fat, and heard how Mr. John Pickering is to be married this week, and to a fortune with 5000l., and seen a rich necklace of pearle and two pendants of dyamonds, which Sir G. Carteret hath presented her with since her coming to towne, I home by coach, but met not one bonefire through the whole town in going round by the wall, which is strange, and speaks the melancholy disposition of the City at present, while never more was said of, and feared of, and done against the Papists than just at this time. Home, and there find my wife and her people at cards, and I to my chamber, and there late, and so to supper and to bed.

it is winter
and we speak
with passionate hands

in the world beyond
there will be no ground
that is not white

I go bone by bone
through the whole
strange city


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 5 November 1666.

Warrior

(Lord’s day). Comes my taylor’s man in the morning, and brings my vest home, and coate to wear with it, and belt, and silver-hilted sword. So I rose and dressed myself, and I like myself mightily in it, and so do my wife. Then, being dressed, to church; and after church pulled my Lady Pen and Mrs. Markham into my house to dinner, and Sir J. Minnes he got Mrs. Pegg along with him. I had a good dinner for them, and very merry; and after dinner to the waterside, and so, it being very cold, to White Hall, and was mighty fearfull of an ague, my vest being new and thin, and the coat cut not to meet before upon my breast. Here I waited in the gallery till the Council was up, and among others did speak with Mr. Cooling, my Lord Chamberlain’s secretary, who tells me my Lord Generall is become mighty low in all people’s opinion, and that he hath received several slurs from the King and Duke of York. The people at Court do see the difference between his and the Prince’s management, and my Lord Sandwich’s. That this business which he is put upon of crying out against the Catholiques and turning them out of all employment, will undo him, when he comes to turn-out the officers out of the Army, and this is a thing of his own seeking. That he is grown a drunken sot, and drinks with nobody but Troutbecke, whom nobody else will keep company with. Of whom he told me this story: That once the Duke of Albemarle in his drink taking notice as of a wonder that Nan Hide should ever come to be Duchesse of York, “Nay,” says Troutbecke, “ne’er wonder at that; for if you will give me another bottle of wine, I will tell you as great, if not greater, a miracle.” And what was that, but that our dirty Besse (meaning his Duchesse) should come to be Duchesse of Albemarle? Here we parted, and so by and by the Council rose, and out comes Sir G. Carteret and Sir W. Coventry, and they and my Lord Bruncker and I went to Sir G. Carteret’s lodgings, there to discourse about some money demanded by Sir W. Warren, and having done that broke up. And Sir G. Carteret and I alone together a while, where he shows a long letter, all in cipher, from my Lord Sandwich to him. The contents he hath not yet found out, but he tells me that my Lord is not sent for home, as several people have enquired after of me. He spoke something reflecting upon me in the business of pursers, that their present bad behaviour is what he did foresee, and had convinced me of, and yet when it come last year to be argued before the Duke of York I turned and said as the rest did. I answered nothing to it, but let it go, and so to other discourse of the ill state of things, of which all people are full of sorrow and observation, and so parted, and then by water, landing in Southwarke, home to the Tower, and so home, and there began to read “Potter’s Discourse upon 666,” which pleases me mightily, and then broke off and to supper and to bed.

silver-hilted sword
like a cold slur
against all seeking

I grow drunk
and drink with nobody
but you

no miracle
that dirt should come
to the rose

lodging in that cipher
the present is what
I foresee


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 4 November 1666.

Pilgrimage

If we traveled 
on the speed of our desire,
where would we be by now?

The moon's milky glaze on the road
leads to the sea: and every window's
antlered with light—

but if you knocked on the doors
to ask for lodgings, they might
or might not open.

Evening falls in the countryside.
A donkey brays and farmhands
round up the sheep.

We all come back
in the night to gnaw
at something.

In the middle of the field
lies the heart of a saint,
or the bones buried by the dog.

There's a name for the kind
of hunger that can't stop eating
only because the mouth is lonely.


Printing press

This morning comes Mr. Lovett, and brings me my print of the Passion, varnished by him, and the frame black, which indeed is very fine, though not so fine as I expected; however, pleases me exceedingly. This, and the sheets of paper he prepared for me, come to 3l., which I did give him, and though it be more than is fit to lay out on pleasure, yet, it being ingenious, I did not think much of it.
He gone, I to the office, where all the morning to little purpose, nothing being before us but clamours for money: So at noon home to dinner, and after dinner to hang up my new varnished picture and set my chamber in order to be made clean, and then to the office again, and there all the afternoon till late at night, and so to supper and to bed.

is love a print of passion

is the frame so fine
we exceed the sheet

are amours made clean again
at night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 3 November 1666.

The gods

always have best choice, first choice, 
and they're allowed to change their minds
but we can't ever be fickle— we're mere
mortals after all, and fools to invoke
some sort of urgency like the heart,
so if winter has been here forever,
how much do you think spring
will cost because from experience,
the cleaners always make a killing
once they're corporatized, though I
would so like to be a woman of more
than domestic and womanly service
and sacrifice of parts because I know
in the end, Death redeems nothing; and
still the gods always have the best
choice, a choice in weapons for war
and for marketable words; in women,
in wives, in boys they also take
pleasure in as well as animals
in the forests and fields like dogs
or oxen or pheasants or swans,
anything with a neck that can both
bend and snap; and the waterways
are littered with the afterhusks
of all the choices they made
before they changed their minds
before a previous set of choices
so now we have to talk about
resilience and climate change
and ocean rise while they keep
harping on their days of glory
when people and things knew
their place and the parties,
the parties, weren't they wild
and fabulous— though it's not
clear anymore if there was a true
before and after, because we also
got confused: and didn't Yoda say
Always two there are, no more
no less: a master and an apprentice
and we know he was talking about a Sith,
so what's up with how the gods always
have at least two sets of names, one
supposedly for use in those kingdoms
overshadowed by whitewashed palaces
against skies and seas of tourist blue,
one for that kingdom from which our
notions of legislation and law
and the virtues of the middle way
were supposedly drawn— but who
actually knows why Hercules was
Heracles, Artemis was Diana,
Mercury was Hermes, who's also
associated with Prometheus... or
am I mixing them up and being
an unreliable witness, and I say
witness for haven't they also come
interfering in my own affairs, some
cop on beat peering lewdly through
the open car window to ask if everything
was alright as I sat, right breast exposed
and feeding an infant on my lap; then
there'll be those making impossible demands
like which half of your child or dog or cat
or house or some other form of beloved
would you most wish to keep after it
has been severed in half or kidnapped
by some tyrant of darkness, but if
your hand so much as flew up to cover
your mouth in fear or alarm or made
a fist as if to strike out or protest
then god help you, they'll say, god
help you, which you know is code
for you are so so very on your own.

Poem of Roots and Spores

Veined, my limbs long for the dream of undulation as jellyfish, for a latticework of mangroves in which to play at hiding and being found. They crave the dusk that settles beneath closed lids, respite from the moon’s floodlight parading like a noisy wheel, a carousel on repeat, a steel drum. Cool lengthening in moist earth, pearl tooth of a radish manufacturing roots. Once, after a storm, I reached behind the cauterized stump of a tree and found a cascade of brown scalloped fins. They were beautiful as all fruiting bodies are that grow from lightning: a burst of cells, a frantic multiplying as answer to the threat of their obliteration.

Fruitcake recipe

Up betimes, and with Sir W. Batten to Woolwich, where first we went on board the Ruby, French prize, the only ship of war we have taken from any of our enemies this year. It seems a very good ship, but with galleries quite round the sterne to walk in as a balcone, which will be taken down. She had also about forty good brass guns, but will make little amends to our loss in The Prince.
Thence to the Ropeyarde and the other yards to do several businesses, he and I also did buy some apples and pork; by the same token the butcher commended it as the best in England for cloath and colour. And for his beef, says he, “Look how fat it is; the lean appears only here and there a speck, like beauty-spots.”
Having done at Woolwich, we to Deptford (it being very cold upon the water), and there did also a little more business, and so home, I reading all the way to make end of the “Bondman” (which the oftener I read the more I like), and begun “The Duchesse of Malfy;” which seems a good play.
At home to dinner, and there come Mr. Pierce, surgeon, to see me, and after I had eat something, he and I and my wife by coach to Westminster, she set us down at White Hall, and she to her brother’s. I up into the House, and among other things walked a good while with the Serjeant Trumpet, who tells me, as I wished, that the King’s Italian here is about setting three parts for trumpets, and shall teach some to sound them, and believes they will be admirable musique. I also walked with Sir Stephen Fox an houre, and good discourse of publique business with him, who seems very much satisfied with my discourse, and desired more of my acquaintance.
Then comes out the King and Duke of York from the Council, and so I spoke awhile to Sir W. Coventry about some office business, and so called my wife (her brother being now a little better than he was), and so home, and I to my chamber to do some business, and then to supper and to bed.

take forty brass apples
pork and beef fat
pears like cold little trumpets

teach them the discourse
of rot and sin and supper


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 2 November 1666.

Poem with a line from Ilya Kaminsky

What is silence? Something of the sky in us.
A rift that opens, so two not speaking

can step through to find a street
still blunted by rain, part

of a fence leaning against another
part that isn't broken. There's no need

to point out what needs to be done.
Once, on a mountain road wide enough

for only one vehicle, two
met in the middle, unable

to proceed. I don't know how each
made its way to its destination:

if passengers got down from the bus,
shouldered their belongings and made

the trek to town on foot. It's not
so easy to return to the beginning

when something keeps nudging you
forward. A stone thrown over the edge

falls for a long time, and you strain
your ears to hear the sound it makes.