river in November light between bare woods and mountain
We do it the old-fashioned way again: 
pen and paper (not GPS), you looking at
the map and me writing down the turns
I should take when I have to drive you

to and from early morning surgery
next week. I recall an evening
over two decades ago when we
were new in town, leaving the car

dealership— You drove the rental,
slowly leading the way so I could follow
in the just-bought blue compact car, lights
blinking on in row houses that we passed.

It wasn't my first time behind the wheel,
but my first time to drive in this new country
of four- or more-lane highways and unfamiliar
street signs. My heart did its best to keep

from pounding or being flustered, to not
be distracted by fast traffic. We pulled into
the lot of our new apartment. I loved how you
smiled, how I was proud to have done well.


Sam Pepys and me

Up to Huntingdon this morning to Sir Robert Bernard, with whom I met Jaspar Trice. So Sir Robert caused us to sit down together and began discourse very fairly between us, so I drew out the Will and show it him, and [he] spoke between us as well as I could desire, but could come to no issue till Tom Trice comes. Then Sir Robert and I fell to talk about the money due to us upon surrender from Piggott, 164l., which he tells me will go with debts to the heir at law, which breaks my heart on the other side.
Here I staid and dined with Sir Robert Bernard and his lady, my Lady Digby, a very good woman.
After dinner I went into the town and spent the afternoon, sometimes with Mr. Phillips, sometimes with Dr. Symcottes, Mr. Vinter, Robert Ethell, and many more friends, and at last Mr. Davenport, Phillips, Jaspar Trice, myself and others at Mother –— over against the Crown we sat and drank ale and were very merry till 9 at night, and so broke up. I walked home, and there found Tom Trice come, and he and my father gone to Goody Gorum’s, where I found them and Jaspar Trice got before me, and Mr. Greene, and there had some calm discourse, but came to no issue, and so parted. So home and to bed, being now pretty well again of my left hand, which lately was stung and very much swelled.

in the air between us
I drew a heart


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 20 July 1661.

The Dream

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
There was that dream in which 
I led my white-haired mother
out of a labyrinth of spears—
we crouched behind boulders
as spectres patrolled the field.
When I woke, I was so sure
it meant her coming death.
But when I think about it again
now, and remember how her face
shone as she looked back at me,
I'm not so sure anymore who was
the guide, who was being led.

Bitter End

This entry is part 38 of 38 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté


Page 41 of Max Ernst’s Une Semaine de Bonté

Less than half
human the large
language model
struts down
the runway
immune to aging
as trains derail
cargo ships crash
into bridges and
planes fall out of
the sky (where
else?) while
people who work
with their hands
begin to seem
as passé as
the body itself
a species of non-
luminescent firefly
with its dead ember
of an abdomen
the sturdy stone
in an avocado
having evolved with
giant ground sloths
will still sprout
and bear fruit
belly tattoo expanding
under washboard ribs
the darkness at the heart
of the galaxy wears
a blazing ring.

Prayer Warriors

This entry is part 37 of 38 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté


Page 37 of Max Ernst’s Une Semaine de Bonté

Sunday again: jellybeans
in a bowl. The golden calf
has sent a representative.
We are safe from the lions
of high noon, who lie
and digest like pundits.
The children must be taught
to pray for victory and not
worry about all the losers.
They must love their country
without thinking, mind
like a weed-free lawn,
pristine as astroturf. Purity
is the object here. If it’s power
you want, get an injection.

On Celebration

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
All the used clothing in drawers; the underwear; a mystery fez;
bandannas, socks, scarves, wrist warmers. Shirts that barely

close anymore when you button them—couldn't fix,
didn't want to take the trouble. Things were once new;

everything sparkled, often bought in duplicate: leitmotiv
for this culture of excess. I fear becoming a portmanteau,

ghost of previous and imagined selves. But I was always taught
history doesn't tell a dispassionate story. Who gets the spoils

is landlord, treasurer, archivist; barrister, warden, exterminator.
Jane, my friend, reminds me to always watch my back. LOQ:

keep personal information safe, preserve your self-authorship.
Like a marathon, this is a race hard to run, requiring bravado.

My resolve is not to shatter under the weight of colonization,
not to be erased, not to drown in the waters of futilitarianism.

Our daily oracle directs us to the voices of the ancestral,
pray for their protection; believe in the power of the potluck,

quash rumors of our failure to survive. So we celebrate birthdays: Benj,
Regin, & Ron—three cakes, relatives from east & west coast; sashimi,

sushi, oysters, & martinis. After seasons of mourning, we brandish
the gumption to cheer loudly, twist & shout, stuff the leftovers in one bag.

Until it's over, it's not over. Yeah, why not wear that frothy puff,
velvet vest, polished shoes? Confession: I wasn't born before my time,

want to party as hard as the rest of you; twirl beribboned.
Xylophones tinkle to signal the ice cream truck's arrival. Epic

yearning = epic expression (sometimes). So let's do without that club
zigging around in the electric slide—anything else, tell the orchestra.


river in November light between bare woods and mountain
We were at a cedar barn for the wedding 
of our nephew, with rows of chairs set out

on either side of a trellis overlooking a man-made
pond. The left was for members of the bride's party,

and the right for us; except we were vastly outnumbered by
her family's many relations and friends. All this made me recall

stories about my parents' marriage—it must have been a feat
of rhetorical and other kinds of persuasion, considering how long

my paternal grandmother held out before she gave her grudging
consent. My mother was only a farmer's daughter. But she was

aware of the ways of a world that wanted to put people in their
imagined place. My parents' union lasted over thirty-five years,

until my father's death. My mother, never the favorite
to begin with, counted as victory every year she outlasted.


river in November light between bare woods and mountain
You know what it's like when you step into a room 
and every head swivels in your direction? How quickly

the comfort you've become used to as you move around
in your skin, in this world, can be unsettled. You follow

the GPS map, wondering why a wedding rehearsal dinner
would be held near a cemetery—but this is a small town

in the midwest, blond as the silk wrapped around the corn
growing thick and high in summer. After three wrong

turns, you pull into a driveway hoping to ask for directions.
There is a subgenre of horror whose elements include

an isolated rural setting, superstition and suspicion;
folk who band together against outsiders stumbling into

their community. This is the point where the odds are
even: either nothing could happen, or anything could happen.

You'd hear the wind blow through the fields, an animal bleating
in the trough; the click as a weapon is chambered and cocked.

Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 28

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. You can also browse the blog digest archive at Via Negativa or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack (where the posts might be truncated by some email providers).

This week: the seeds of books, glamour and poverty, a gull funeral, the green of geckos, and more. Enjoy.

Continue reading “Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 28”