Teeth

I have heard more               than one
identical story            of immigrants
being told to get        all their teeth

pulled out before coming      to America
My friend wrote      in her memoir about
her father, an eye doctor        who had 

all his teeth taken out   before he came
to the States           My mother-in-law
did the same thing         at the advice 

of her friend, before         she joined 
my father-in-law              in Chicago
Because in America      the men who look 

into your mouth to fix        your teeth
will take away   your money, leaving you
nothing to save or feed    your children

In America           in the waiting room 
of the dental clinic          a magazine
lies open at an article        Its first

sentence reads        The third strongest
feature of an American        identity is
having good teeth           I want to ask 

what the hell   are the first and second?
 

Modernist

Up, and after an houre or two’s talke with my poor wife, who gives me more and more content every day than other, I abroad by coach to Westminster, and there met with Mrs. Martin, and she and I over the water to Stangold, and after a walke in the fields to the King’s Head, and there spent an houre or two with pleasure with her, and eat a tansy and so parted, and I to the New Exchange, there to get a list of all the modern plays which I intend to collect and to have them bound up together. Thence to Mr. Hales’s, and there, though against his particular mind, I had my landskipp done out, and only a heaven made in the roome of it, which though it do not please me thoroughly now it is done, yet it will do better than as it was before.
Thence to Paul’s Churchyarde, and there bespoke some new books, and so to my ruling woman’s and there did see my work a doing, and so home and to my office a little, but was hindered of business I intended by being sent for to Mrs. Turner, who desired some discourse with me and lay her condition before me, which is bad and poor. Sir Thomas Harvey intends again to have lodgings in her house, which she prays me to prevent if I can, which I promised. Thence to talke generally of our neighbours. I find she tells me the faults of all of them, and their bad words of me and my wife, and indeed do discover more than I thought. So I told her, and so will practise that I will have nothing to do with any of them. She ended all with a promise of shells to my wife, very fine ones indeed, and seems to have great respect and honour for my wife. So home and to bed.

give me the road
over a walk in the fields

our art is modern
and against landscape

an only heaven made
in the room of it

now is better than then
to work is to pray

our words have nothing to do
with any hell


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 20 April 1666.

Speech

When the next door neighbor's daughter caught
       her pinky finger in the hinge of the door
before someone slammed it hard, she lost
       her voice. She was just six. The finger  
itself, against all odds, was saved: someone 
       having the presence of mind to run 
for a towel packed with ice as they rushed 
       her to the ER. After that, her speech 
was never the same again; when she opened  
       her mouth, words came out nearly
mangled beyond recognition, as if the throat
       or voice box was pressed forcefully 
through a rolling mill. But as she grew 
       into her girlhood, her beauty  
swelled beyond our own capacity to fix
       in language: she learned to smile
again, to sign in air those quick, 
       bright flashes we'd always be 
slower and less adept at comprehending. 


Unwelcome guest

Lay long in bed, so to the office, where all the morning. At noon dined with Sir W. Warren at the Pope’s Head. So back to the office, and there met with the Commissioners of the Ordnance, where Sir W. Pen being almost drunk vexed me, and the more because Mr. Chichly observed it with me, and it was a disparagement to the office.
They gone I to my office. Anon comes home my wife from Brampton, not looked for till Saturday, which will hinder me of a little pleasure, but I am glad of her coming. She tells me Pall’s business with Ensum is like to go on, but I must give, and she consents to it, another 100. She says she doubts my father is in want of money, for rents come in mighty slowly. My mother grows very unpleasant and troublesome and my father mighty infirm through his old distemper, which altogether makes me mighty thoughtfull. Having heard all this and bid her welcome I to the office, where late, and so home, and after a little more talk with my wife, she to bed and I after her.

morning warhead
coming in like a moth
my old temper


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 19 April 1666.

Evolutionaries

[Up] and by coach with Sir W. Batten and Sir Thos. Allen to White Hall, and there after attending the Duke as usual and there concluding of many things preparatory to the Prince and Generall’s going to sea on Monday next, Sir W. Batten and Sir T. Allen and I to Mr. Lilly’s, the painter’s; and there saw the heads, some finished, and all begun, of the Flaggmen in the late great fight with the Duke of Yorke against the Dutch. The Duke of Yorke hath them done to hang in his chamber, and very finely they are done indeed. Here is the Prince’s, Sir G. Askue’s, Sir Thomas Teddiman’s, Sir Christopher Mings, Sir Joseph Jordan, Sir William Barkeley, Sir Thomas Allen, and Captain Harman’s, as also the Duke of Albemarle’s; and will be my Lord Sandwich’s, Sir W. Pen’s, and Sir Jeremy Smith’s. Being very well satisfied with this sight, and other good pictures hanging in the house, we parted, and I left them, and [to] pass away a little time went to the printed picture seller’s in the way thence to the Exchange, and there did see great plenty of fine prints; but did not buy any, only a print of an old pillar in Rome made for a Navall Triumph, which for the antiquity of the shape of ships, I buy and keepe.
Thence to the Exchange, that is, the New Exchange, and looked over some play books and intend to get all the late new plays. So to Westminster, and there at the Swan got a bit of meat and dined alone; and so away toward King’s Street, and spying out of my coach Jane that lived heretofore at Jevons, my barber’s, I went a little further and stopped, and went on foot back, and overtook her, taking water at Westminster Bridge, and spoke to her, and she telling me whither she was going I over the water and met her at Lambeth, and there drank with her; she telling me how he that was so long her servant, did prove to be a married man, though her master told me (which she denies) that he had lain with her several times in his house.
There left her ‘sans essayer alcune cose con elle’, and so away by boat to the ‘Change, and took coach and to Mr. Hales, where he would have persuaded me to have had the landskipp stand in my picture, but I like it not and will have it otherwise, which I perceive he do not like so well, however is so civil as to say it shall be altered. Thence away to Mrs. Pierces, who was not at home, but gone to my house to visit me with Mrs. Knipp. I therefore took up the little girle Betty and my mayde Mary that now lives there and to my house, where they had been but were gone, so in our way back again met them coming back again to my house in Cornehill, and there stopped laughing at our pretty misfortunes, and so I carried them to Fish Streete, and there treated them with prawns and lobsters, and it beginning to grow darke we away, but the jest is our horses would not draw us up the Hill, but we were fain to ‘light and stay till the coachman had made them draw down to the bottom of the Hill, thereby warming their legs, and then they came up cheerfully enough, and we got up and I carried them home, and coming home called at my paper ruler’s and there found black Nan, which pleases me mightily, and having saluted her again and again away home and to bed apres ayant tocado les mamelles de Mercer, que cran ouverts, con grand plaisir.
In all my ridings in the coach and intervals my mind hath been full these three weeks of setting in musique “It is decreed, &c.”

at sea we imprinted
on the shape of ships
taking water as a master

but like fish
beginning to grow legs
we go up into the full music


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 18 April 1666.

Fractality

When I am overcome
        I don't know what sounds
I make. At the intersection
        on the way to my daughter's school,
often there is a soft 
        brown body: dried  
blood, mangling pressed 
        to asphalt. Did it make a muffled, 
bitter sound, a small
        surprised squeal that grew in size
until it reached the trees 
        newly flowering along the sidewalk--
But then the momentous
        often lasts just a few seconds:
the jarring that wells up
        from inside the earth 
or from something raking over it
        ripples out again, 
whatever ambition it had
        newly redistributing. 

Widow’s walk

Up, and to the office, where all the morning. At noon dined at home, my brother Balty with me, who is fitting himself to go to sea. So after dinner to my accounts and did proceed a good way in settling them, and thence to the office, where all the afternoon late, writing my letters and doing business, but, Lord! what a conflict I had with myself, my heart tempting me 1000 times to go abroad about some pleasure or other, notwithstanding the weather foule. However I reproached myself with my weaknesse in yielding so much my judgment to my sense, and prevailed with difficulty and did not budge, but stayed within, and, to my great content, did a great deale of business, and so home to supper and to bed. This day I am told that Moll Davis, the pretty girle, that sang and danced so well at the Duke’s house, is dead.

who is fit to go to sea
in the heart

some other weather
I ache so much to sense

but I am old

the pretty girl that sang
and danced is dead


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 17 April 1666.

Punishment

Unshipment
is anagram for punishment— 
            meaning the package 
sent overseas never arrived,
every square inch filled with made-
or-bought-in-the-USA goods; meaning
the smells of 100% 
                 percale, clothing
from outlet stores & discount 
racks, shampoo & instant coffee 
                 pilfered or stolen
& never declared. & after
all that, you are considered
     the selfish one, the one
who forgot her roots in coming
to this 
      America that everyone still
thinks is the land of plenty,
where everyone eats 
the food 
        of the gods 
& is never on welfare or coming out 
of a bankruptcy.

*

Isn't it peculiar
how the gods always interfere 
     with human affairs: 
                      jealousy & lust,
chasing after maidens in a Looney 
Tunes universe where they 
      turn into showers
of gold or bulls or swans— 
                        Ten humps in,
the appetite fires up again, restless
for the next conquest. Meanwhile the girl
is rooted to the spot or turned 
into a lowly creature hanging 
                       by her own
thread. 
     Net, hum, spin— & it is
a woman as well that's blamed
    for lifting the lid of the box: without
        a sound, a cloud of ailments
rises into the world & circles
every outpost. One last thing lies
    pent, hums in 
             the dark bottom— there
it is but you don't want to be 
                       the one to call it hope.




Undercover

Up, and set my people, Mercer, W. Hewer, Tom and the girle at work at ruling and stitching my ruled book for the Muster-Masters, and I hard toward the settling of my Tangier accounts. At noon dined alone, the girl Mercer taking physique can eat nothing, and W. Hewer went forth to dinner. So up to my accounts again, and then comes Mrs. Mercer and fair Mrs. Turner, a neighbour of hers that my wife knows by their means, to visit me. I staid a great while with them, being taken with this pretty woman, though a mighty silly, affected citizen woman she is. Then I left them to come to me at supper anon, and myself out by coach to the old woman in Pannyer Alley for my ruled papers, and they are done, and I am much more taken with her black maid Nan. Thence further to Westminster, thinking to have met Mrs. Martin, but could not find her, so back and called at Kirton’s to borrow 10s. to pay for my ruled papers, I having not money in my pocket enough to pay for them. But it was a pretty consideration that on this occasion I was considering where I could with most confidence in a time of need borrow 10s., and I protest I could not tell where to do it and with some trouble and fear did aske it here. So that God keepe me from want, for I shall be in a very bad condition to helpe myself if ever I should come to want or borrow.
Thence called for my papers and so home, and there comes Mrs. Turner and Mercer and supped with me, and well pleased I was with their company, but especially Mrs. Turner’s, she being a very pretty woman of person and her face pretty good, the colour of her haire very fine and light.
They staid with me talking till about eleven o’clock and so home, W. Hewer, who supped with me, leading them home. So I to bed.

my ruling itch
cannot find me

with my company face
the color of a clock


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 16 April 1666.

Sisyphus Blues

~ Resurrection: from Anglo-Norman 
resurrectiun, from Old French resurrection 
(French: résurrection), from late Latin

resurrectionem (accusative of resurrectiō), 
from Latin resurgō (“I rise again”), 
from re- (“again”), + surgō (“I rise”) 



*


What does he think of the hard
labor he's been assigned— pushing
that boulder uphill, knowing 
gravity wins out every time 
and he'll have to go back
to square one? 

             A stone
that size is what they used
in those days to seal 
the burial cave out of which
Lazarus, four days dead,
was summoned— perhaps
to keep out tomb raiders, wild
animals that might be lured 
by the mulch-vinegar
smell of decomposing 

                   flesh. But 
in Sebastiano del Piombo's painting,
the only echo of stone dwells in
grey arches spanning the river;
or along the banks where some towns-
people are washing 
           endless loads of laundry.  

There isn't any slab, only the hard,
sculptural body of the recently dead: 
         Christ with no halo gesturing
toward that miracle torquing out of white
winding cloths. 

             And 373 years later, in Van Gogh's
depiction of the same story, an ashen Lazarus  
emerges out of quicksand or the stony 
ground, the vibrant stripes and green 
of his sisters' dresses and their coral
and black hair pulsing beneath 
the gold-stroked, restorative sun.
           
            Eternity is time we're told
we can't imagine. But Sisyphus came
close, tricking the lord of the underworld
with his own handcuffs: while under house
arrest, Death couldn't carry out 
his sentence— Imagine the maimed 

getting up from bloody pews in churches
where bombs have just gone off, showing up
for work or school on Monday; and whales
with bales of plastic in their bellies
forced to writhe 
               indefinitely on the beach.

But time catches up, as it has a habit
of doing: thus the stone that Sisyphus
must keep rolling. And yet, with every fall 
that's an undoing, he comes back—
He always comes back.