Vita Nuova

Up betimes and in my chamber most of the morning setting things to rights there, my Journall and accounts with my father and brother, then to the office a little, and so to Lumbard Streete, to borrow a little money upon a tally, but cannot. Thence to the Exchequer, and there after much wrangling got consent that I should have a great tally broken into little ones. Thence to Hales’s to see how my father’s picture goes on, which pleases me mighty well, though I find again, as I did in Mrs. Pierce’s, that a picture may have more of a likeness in the first or second working than it shall have when finished, though this is very well and to my full content, but so it is, and certainly mine was not so like at the first, second, or third sitting as it was afterward.
Thence to my Lord Bellasses, by invitation, and there dined with him, and his lady and daughter; and at dinner there played to us a young boy, lately come from France, where he had been learning a yeare or two on the viallin, and plays finely. But impartially I do not find any goodnesse in their ayres (though very good) beyond ours when played by the same hand, I observed in several of Baptiste’s (the present great composer) and our Bannister’s. But it was pretty to see how passionately my Lord’s daughter loves musique, the most that ever I saw creature in my life. Thence after dinner home and to the office and anon to Lumbard Streete again, where much talke at Colvill’s, he censuring the times, and how matters are ordered, and with reason enough; but, above all, the thinking to borrow money of the City, which will not be done, but be denied, they being little pleased with the King’s affairs, and that must breed differences between the King and the City. Thence down by water to Deptford, to order things away to the fleete and back again, and after some business at my office late home to supper and to bed.
Sir W. Coventry is returned this night from the fleete, he being the activest man in the world, and we all (myself particularly) more afeard of him than of the King or his service, for aught I see; God forgive us! This day the great newes is come of the French, their taking the island of St. Christopher’s from us; and it is to be feared they have done the like of all those islands thereabouts this makes the city mad.

broken like a violin
played by a great composer

our passionate life
and the differences between us

this night and this day
like islands about a city


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 18 June 1666.

Portrait with Carbs and Head-on Shrimp and Hungry Ghosts

Noodles with bread, rice
with bread—just part of
our inscrutable, redundant
nature. Or, is it that cheap
sources of starch are easier
for the immigrant to come by,
compared to cuts of meat and
filets of fish? We go to
Asian markets where salmon,
bass, and shrimp are cheaper
per pound than at regular
grocery stores, where the price
of one bag of bell peppers is
equivalent to the price of just
one at Harris Teeter or Fresh
Market. We gut and scale
the fish ourselves, and keep
the heads on shrimp for the bits
of precious orange fat in their
cheeks. We are the original
inventors of snout-to-tail,
having used through history
every part of the animal
to sustain us in our need.
Every birth and death
and occasion in between,
we mark with miles of blood-
stuffed sausage and rice cakes
smoked in banana leaves; and
always, we set aside mouthfuls
for all our ghosts, shake
drops of wine on the ground
for wandering spirits and
guardians of our hunger.

Old Oak Common

Watch on Vimeo

Yes, Virginia, there is a hellmouth. Old Oak Common is where the planned (and entirely unnecessary) High Speed 2 line will link up with Crossrail and the Great Western mainline to form the busiest station in the UK, in the process building one of the largest underground structures in the world. Currently it’s a massive plot of destroyed earth adjacent to Wormwood Scrubs, a rather bucolic conservation area less than two miles from where I live in northwest London. For more on the deconstruction, see this article in the Londonist. Anyway, enjoy the nice haiku.

I come from

I come from a country where you can look 
at the sky and know what kinds of fish
you'll find in the market

I come from a country where one
blind man can lead another
down the sidewalk, both
of their canes tapping

I come from a country where old
newspapers can be exchanged
for compost, which helps the farmers
grow their beans and cabbages

I come from a country where hands
are useful: they plant the rice,
they harvest rice, they pick up steamed
mouthfuls though other hands fight
over land and air and water

I come from a country where
the words save and salvage
can mean abduct and murder,
and assassinations take
the place of drive-by shootings

I come from a country where
the light of fireflies along
the length of an underground river
is brighter than stars, but it is
the same country of long lines,
long waits, long marches that
historically end with death



Poetry Blog Digest 2019: Week 25

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. This week: the solstice, sources of inspiration, circles, wounds, downtime, Joy Harjo, and more.


I spent the long evening at a poetry gathering at a house called Sunnyfield up in the hills about Emmitsburg.  Lovely, peaceful place.  Horses grazing on the lawn, long shadows of the trees, robins, wood thrushes and pewees calling.

Anne Higgins, Summer Solstice

Sunshine on sunshine, it builds up like snow, the light growing deeper and brighter throughout the day. To live in the big valley is to know light. Moving across this flat land, I try to keep my westward travels in the morning, and save the east for the evening, keeping the sun at my back. Feet upon the valley. Eyes upon the sky.

James Lee Jobe, prose poem – ‘Sunshine on sunshine, it builds up like snow’

It’s officially the beginning of celestial summer, or should be, despite the fact that earlier this week I was reaching for heavier jackets and the space heater whenever the windows were open too long.  Even tonight, which is a little milder, is still dropping into the 50’s–no doubt probably some weirdness of climate warming/jet stream wonkiness. I have a blissfully unencumbered weekend excepts for some dgp proofing and getting things ready to print on slew of new titles and clearing out the inbox. I’m set to start reading submissions in about a week, so I am trying to get my organizational ducks in a row.

I am trying to enjoy these long evenings, though, chilly as they are, because beginning now, we will start to lose them bit by bit, and since I was spending a good chunk of time in the studio tonight, took a couple nights off this week and was home before the daylight was gone.  I’ve been dragging, and feeling my 7 vs. 8 hours of sleep more than usual.  (it does not help that sometimes it’s closer to 6 if I get streaming something good and want to get in one more episode (this week it was Dead to Me.) Despite my mind and body being tired, I’ve actually been a little more level emotionally than I was for a bit there, so even a cold summer does wonders in terms of seasonal affective disorder.  And actually, with no A/C I’d love a milder summer topping in the 70’s during the day.

Writing-wise, this week brought some final edits on my piece that was accepted at The Journal, and some good news about an opportunity to read at the Field Museum this September (more on that soon.) I’ll get free access to the museum to write about something there on exhibit, so I am already brainstorming ideas. It’s one of my favorite places in the city, and my favorite museum (it edges out the Art Institute by a hair.)  I’m incredibly nostalgic about it–it was our field trip destination that fateful day at 15 years old when I glimpsed Chicago for the first time and decided I wanted to live here, so every time I’m in there I get a certain euphoria.

Kristy Bowen, notes & things | 6/21/2019

As I walk past the rye, sometimes I have to stop and just watch it. The smallest breeze makes it sway, which is one reason it’s so hard to take pictures that aren’t blurry.

This morning, a mizzling rain falls, but I’ll share photos from some earlier days. I’ve wanted to draw grand, insightful parallels to writing, but lately the rye has felt more like a meditation, a graceful and ragged silence.

Joannie Stangeland, Rye diary: Days eight, nine, and ten

At every turn in this trip, there were elements of research that have fueled my recent writing. I have written several poems and lyric essays about our experience there.  I wish we had stayed on a bit longer, or forever. I was just starting to settle in, especially in Grange.  We stayed in a gorgeous stone house, with walking lanes and gardens, and one particular crow that would sit on  our bedroom’s window ledge and knock against the windowpane every morning.

Now back to our little farm and the onset of the growing season.  The weather while we were gone was very rainy and gloomy.  Our garden plot, which is very large area, was floating, so we had to wait it out before we could turn it over.  Yesterday, (6/22) the second day of summer, we began making the rows, laying down paper, planting a variety of tomatoes and peppers(4.5 rows worth).

Our plants were getting tall and pot bound. You could actually hear their sigh of relief when I placed them in the soil.

M. J. Iuppa, Late May: Travels to Western Ireland. A Dream Around Every Corner . . .

Between 1996 and 1998 I lived on Glanmor Crescent. It didn’t really have a back garden but the back of the property bordered Cwmdonkin Park, the location of poems like The Hunchback in the Park by Dylan Thomas. The house I lived in with four friends was mid-way between two entrances to the park, each no more than two dozen paces from the park.

Cwmdonkin Park is in the Uplands residential area to the west of the city of Swansea. It covers an area of 13 acres and has a Grade II listing as a well preserved Victorian urban public park, which retains much of its original layout. […]
The park is famous primarily for its associations with Dylan Thomas but the history of its creation also covers an interesting period in Swansea’s history when the city’s water supply and public parks were being developed by the municipal authorities. Cwmdonkin Park grew up around Cwmdonkin Reservoir […] The formation of the park is part of the general movement seen from the 1830s onwards to secure for the people some green open spaces in increasingly industrial towns.
(Samantha Edwards, A History of Cwmdonkin Park. From Dissertation for Diploma in Local History, University of Wales Swansea, August 1991.)

Any time I walked from my rental house to Cwmdonkin Park I passed by the birthplace and residence of Dylan Thomas. I like to think that poetic influence pervaded the air that I breathed as I walked past and maybe that’s why my poetry life has taken off now, eleven years later :)

Giles L. Turnbull, Potentially Perfect Poetic Place

There are so many poets and writers I admire it would be ridiculous to list them. However, what I need at the moment is not so much the influence of their work, but the influence of their way of living whilst writing. It’s a very long time indeed since I was drunk before noon and I don’t think the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle would help my writing one bit, but I do feel I need to make some changes to the way I balance life and writing in order to see the novel through to completion. Fortunately, the summer holidays are almost here, and I’m looking forward to having some time to ‘plant clues, post fetishes’ and create the conditions for interesting writing to occur.

Julie Mellor, Drunk before noon

Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing innovative math educator and founder of Natural Math, Maria Droujkova, in “Math is Child’s Play” where she talks about learning math through free play in the context of families and communities. More recently, she and I were talking via social media when she mentioned magic circles. I was instantly intrigued and asked her to explain. She wrote:

One of my consulting topics is game/experience design. One of my favorite design concepts is magic circle: a playspace co-created by the participants, where they suspend their disbelief and behave as if they inhabit another world. I’ve been collecting tools for building cool magic circles from all creative fields, from writing to engineering. Tools like pretend-play, problem-posing, or name-giving. Math circles are magic circles. The maker goal: learn to pop up constructive, emotionally secure, creative spaces wherever we go.

I had to know more. My questions to her turned into this interview.

What was your first experience with a magic circle?

That feeling when an activity is the thing and the whole of the thing? When the rest of the world and the rest of me pretty much disappears? I’ve been experiencing that for as long as I remember. Early on, at three or four, I rearranged stones to make tiny spring snowmelt creeks gurgle merrier. I made canals, dams, and waterfalls till my hands grew red and numb. I remember long pretend-play with my mom, dad, and my imaginary friends, like the red velvet bow that was a fire-butterfly who’d gently land on my hand to play with me. Or the friend called Reflection who could escape its mirror, turning invisible. In another couple of years, there were elaborate handicrafts, hours in the making, while my grandpa was meticulously arranging his stamp collection in hand-crafted albums. He worked at the same table, and my crafts only happened if he started his. There was a very different energy, but some of the same timeless feeling, when me and other rough neighbor kids let go of our constant low-key fighting for living as action heroes in one of the traditional games, also rough, like “Cossacks and robbers.”

Once again, it was a different energy and a very recognizable feeling when I started to spend long hours solving delicious problems before my first Math Olympiad.

I don’t think I can live for long without the magic circle experience. It’s somewhere between water and food on the hierarchy of needs. Yet when I first read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience I felt uneasy about the authors’ claims that there are people of the flow, and communities of the flow, maybe even nations of the flow, while other people and groups are not.

Am I doing enough of immersive, productive, joyful work? Are my communities? I’d had none of these worries between building elaborate snowmelt waterworks and making up fantastic worlds for fire butterflies.

Laura Grace Weldon, Magic Circles

But one pair
of open-toed sandals beckoned.
Against all odds they fit, but

February is winter here. They went
on a shelf in my closet to wait.
Mom, last night we shared shoes
again. Were you watching as

I walked circles around the house,
relearning how heels swing my hips
playing dress-up in my mother’s
shoes, now my own?

Rachel Barenblat, In your shoes

I read recently this quote from Yo Yo Ma: “Any experience that you’ve had has to be somehow revealed in the process of making music. And I think that almost forces you to make yourself vulnerable to whatever is there to be vulnerable to. Because that, actually, is your strength.”

Surely that’s true also of writing poetry.

Vulnerable is a word that alarms me — the v tumbling into the deep well of the u, the nervousness of the ner, the complicated movement from l to n that gets stuck briefly in the mouth. It comes from the Latin vulnus, or wound, after all.

So much of surviving life is about girding oneself against vulnerability — all that thick skin growing, that growing of water-shedding feathers so stuff will roll off our backs, that creation of a strong center around which the winds can swirl, that hollowing oneself out like a reed. To deliberately pull back the tough skin, part the feathers, to probe the wounds to make art is terrifying. Also, which wounds? How deep do we scrape into the scar?

To make art from the wound, though, is not to make art of the wound, necessarily.

Marilyn McCabe, A Cold and Lonely Hallelujah; or, Art and Vulnerability

The shimmer of heat waves,
a mirage, a bending
of light and hope that makes

something seem near when it
isn’t, when it is far
away. Cascades of light

like a waterfall, drops
becoming curves and lines,
becoming sparks and pricks.

The fluted melody
lyrical as longing;
voices blend and balance

at the edge of hearing.
Imagined pebbles plop
in imagined waters

sweet as amusement, yet
there is no sound, no joke,
no water, no liquid

love paused and suspended
in midair like ripe fruit
waiting for a open

mouth to find it. There is
beauty here, but is it
what I see, what you see?

PF Anderson, Our Lady of Love Lost

Arthur W. Frank’s The Wounded Storyteller, which I’m currently reading, deals with medical ethics, personal narrative, illness, and the community (all of us, really) who may need care, give care, and/or who realize there is a socio-emotional impact when friends, coworkers, and family members become ill and thus require care. A sociologist by training, Frank examines illness stories as testimonies that point to a social ethic and asks all of us both to tell more when we experience pain and to listen better when others are telling us about their experiences of illness.

“Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”
Mary Oliver, from “Wild Geese

At first this idea sounds unpleasant–one thinks of the stereotype of tedious conversations among the elderly about various surgeries and too-intimate revelations about prostates, livers, stomachs, and bowels (my dad calls these monologues “organ recitals”). That response–evasion, withdrawal, revulsion–is exactly what Frank seeks to change.

But then I consider the way I have heard stories of illness experience from hospice patients. How varied they can be. Some fragmented, some specific, some pious, some stoic, some anxious. And some that are beautiful. These stories aren’t just for (about) the person who has undergone the suffering. They are also for me, the listener. “When any person recovers his voice,” says Frank, “many people begin to speak through that story.”

Ann E. Michael, Listen better

Summer has never been my healthiest period – it’s when I usually catch the flu or pneumonia, when I’ve been hospitalized for MS, caught various bugs, and broken bones. I’m not sure why, but summer and I just do not get along. It’s also almost my 25th (!!) anniversary and I’m hoping I’ll be healthy enough to celebrate!

I can feel frustrated with myself and my physicality or just embrace the concept of downtime itself and allow myself to rest and recover. I’m trying to keep the television off and audiobooks and creativity guides around. I spend time sketching (which I’m terrible at) or dreaming over gardening magazines, listening to music, and sleeping.

I believe as creative writers – or even just as humans – we need a little downtime. We are not productivity machines. There are rises and falls, times when I write several poems a day and weeks when I don’t write anything. We don’t need to submit poetry every single day (and besides, you probably know fewer journal read during the summer – although there are exceptions.) They say children need to spend time being bored in order to grow problem-solving skills, imagination and creativity. Maybe adults are the same. We need to allow ourselves some unscheduled time, especially during the summer, when deadlines are less likely to be pressing, and people are on vacation anyway. Remind yourself you are valuable outside of what you produce. Maybe start up a hobby you’re not good at (see aforementioned sketching) and listen to music you’re unfamiliar with. Snip flowers from the garden and keep them in a small vase next to the bed while you nap (I particularly like roses, lavender and sweetpeas.)  I bet you will be feel better emotionally and physically, and creatively refreshed.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Solstices and Strawberry Moons, How to Tell It’s Summer in Seattle, and Thinking About Summer Downtime

I have been feeling a strange sense of accomplishment because I finished a book in the same week I started it. It’s not that I don’t read books anymore, although I don’t read them the way I used to. But it takes me forever to finish them, unless they’re super compelling or unless I’m on a plane or somewhere where the Internet doesn’t distract me.

I am the person who always had her nose stuck in a book–as a child, as a teen, as a student, as a commuter, in every facet of life.  Now I’m still reading, but I’m more likely to have my nose stuck in front of a computer screen.  I still read a lot, but I read shorter pieces.

News that might have once taken days or weeks to get to me now finds me in a matter of minutes.  As we all know, that can be a good thing or a bad thing.  Yesterday, I read the breaking news that Joy Harjo has been named the next poet laureate of the U.S.

I saw a Facebook comment that remarked that the recent choices for poet laureate have been fabulous.  I agree:  Natasha Trethewey, Tracy Smith–beyond that, I’d have to look up the list, but I’m rarely annoyed at the pick.

Sure, I’d like it to be me, but I also know I’m nowhere near accomplished enough.  That’s O.K.  I have time.  I turn 54 in a few weeks, and Harjo is 68.  But even if I’m never accomplished enough, I’m happy that I’ve kept writing, kept submitting, kept checking in with this deepest part of myself that I access through poetry.

Poetry–both poems written by me and poems written by others–has taken me to places I wouldn’t have found otherwise.  If you asked me to define good art, worthy art, that kind of definition would leap to mind.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, A New Poet Laureate and Thoughts on What Makes Art Valuable

I am somebody ::
but the moon knows
that’s not the whole story

D. F. Tweney (untitled post)

Q: Hi Professor,

I have been published a bunch of times but never poems I expect – my best stuff hasn’t been picked up yet and I am curious – how do you go about editing or curating your poems so that you can get them published?

A: The short version: time/distance plus persistence, with a garnish of recognizing how random publishing can be.

In more detail: I wait for months until the poem is strange to me, so I can be objective about its strengths and weaknesses. I’ve just been rereading poems I drafted during the past year or two, preparing to submit or re-submit them, and I found a few gems; a lot of poems with strong potential but clunky or underdeveloped passages; and some I was once excited about but now realize might not go anywhere. Some poems I thought were shiny and near-complete disappoint me now, and that’s common–with critical distance, I’m better able to admit that a certain element doesn’t work, even though I’m fond of it. Sometimes I have to excise an opening stanza or two, but for me, problems more often occur at or near the end of the poem. (I’ve observed that some poets are great at punchy beginnings and weaker on closure, and others reverse those traits.) You have to be a ruthless trimmer/ re-developer, both for the good of the art and for publishing success, and it just takes a lot of time. There are SO many good poems out there competing for an editor’s attention: the winners are great, or lucky.

Having a few fellow writers to bounce work off of helps, too, whether it’s an informal/ online writing group or an official class. And sending in batches that hang together well, the poems illuminating one other, can help deepen an editor’s sense what you’re up to.

All that said, I’ve heard multiple book editors and contest judges note that the best poems in a book, when you check the acknowledgments, aren’t ones that have been taken by magazines. I’m polishing my next book ms now, including 50-something poems, most of which have been published independently. I still shake my head over the ones that haven’t been, because I feel they’re among my best. Sometimes that’s because they’re risky in some way that’s supported by the book as a whole, but might seem off to a magazine editor with less context. Other times it just seems random. Or am I just wrong about “my best”?…In any case, in addition to bringing your own work to the highest possible shine, keep reading magazines, thinking about fit, and getting the work out there. Hard work and persistence are under your control but the rest is “Crass Casualty,” as Thomas Hardy might say if he were blogging about the po-biz.

Lesley Wheeler, Dear poetry professor on submissions (plus dropped balls, tombstones, & “Hap”)

Isn’t it nice to take new books out of the bag and look at them, the shape of them, the colors, the covers and spines. Of course you primarily enjoy the anticipation of reading something new, but just seeing three promising, unread paperbacks piled up is crazy delightful too. 

Sarah J Sloat, Daunt

Maine Media offers other workshops too – in film, photography, videography, and book arts. Because they offer these things they were kind enough to open the studio to the poets and let us play with the letterpress. […]

I was so enamored with the process that I think I’m going to do a few broadsides of a poem or two to sell during the launch of my book next spring. Stay tuned for further details!

All week Nick had us writing from different prompts: pictures and news articles, poems by other poets and even using some of our own, older poems as inspiration. Then we took everything we’d been writing and started breaking it apart and putting it together in a new way. It was creative, it was physical, it was unlike any poem creation I’ve ever attempted. And it yielded a pretty good poem, one that took leaps I might not have ever attempted otherwise. I’ll share it with you soon, I promise.

At the end of the week we had an evening where we all gathered – each poet reading one poem they’d written that week, the photography students showing off their pictures, the film students showcasing their work. It was a wonderfully supportive, creative environment. I can’t wait to go back.

Courtney LeBlanc, Writing in Maine

I went to Sorrento on a school trip
I went to the local gasworks
I asked them not to come with ideas

borrowed keys and sprockets
hand-painted birds and animals
a cork and sealing-wax

the Western mind is trained
to set the colophon again
it seems to me quite normal

I do a lot of hanging
last-minuting
I was printing at 4am

they lose their hollyness
without the pines and the poplars
in the garden at 8 o’clock eating roses

Ama Bolton, ABCD at midsummer

Radiance

(Lord’s day). Being invited to Anthony Joyce’s to dinner, my wife and sister and Mercer and I walked out in the morning, it being fine weather, to Christ Church, and there heard a silly sermon, but sat where we saw one of the prettiest little boys with the prettiest mouth that ever I saw in [my] life.
Thence to Joyce’s, where William Joyce and his wife were, and had a good dinner; but, Lord! how sicke was I of the company, only hope I shall have no more of it a good while; but am invited to Will’s this week; and his wife, poor unhappy woman, cried to hear me say that I could not be there, she thinking that I slight her: so they got me to promise to come.
Thence my father and I walked to Gray’s Inne Fields, and there spent an houre or two walking and talking of several businesses; first, as to his estate, he told me it produced about 80l. per ann., but then there goes 30l. per. ann. taxes and other things, certain charge, which I do promise to make good as far as this 30l., at which the poor man was overjoyed and wept.
As to Pall he tells me he is mightily satisfied with Ensum, and so I promised to give her 500l. presently, and to oblige myself to 100 more on the birth of her first child, he insuring her in 10l. per ann. for every 100l., and in the meantime till she do marry I promise to allow her 10l. per ann.
Then as to John I tell him I will promise him nothing, but will supply him as so much lent him, I declaring that I am not pleased with him yet, and that when his degree is over I will send for him up hither, and if he be good for any thing doubt not to get him preferment.
This discourse ended to the joy of my father and no less to me to see that I am able to do this, we return to Joyce’s and there wanting a coach to carry us home I walked out as far as the New Exchange to find one, but could not. So down to the Milke-house, and drank three glasses of whay, and then up into the Strand again, and there met with a coach, and so to Joyce’s and took up my father, wife, sister, and Mercer, and to Islington, where we drank, and then our tour by Hackney home, where, after a little, business at my office and then talke with my Lady and Pegg Pen in the garden, I home and to bed, being very weary.

out in the morning weather
the life of her light
goes as far
as the birth of her child
as far as the milk


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 17 June 1666.

Passing Inspection

When my father's only sister migrated to East 
Lansing, Michigan forty years ago, she hand-carried
the x-ray film of her lungs in a large brown Manila
envelope, as proof she didn't have tuberculosis
or any other malignant respiratory condition
that the US CDC should be aware of. She came
back to visit only thrice; we never saw her again,
but I heard she died in relatively benign
circumstances though she was on several
types of heart medication by then. Some things
still shock me: the kinds of intimate
disclosures uncovered in the act of transit,
in crossing borders, while others are overlooked.
A former student has been body-searched
(every imaginable cavity) each time he flies
to or from his hometown in Illinois. Of course
it has something to do with one of his names
being Ahmed. And I found out twenty years ago
that the Hep B virus is basically bound to my DNA,
thanks to an executive check-up I was required
to undergo before hiring and travel. I was told
it's hard to determine when I picked it up
(like one picks up a coin on the sidewalk?)--
It could've been at birth, as I floated
down my mother's birth canal. Or anytime I went
for bloodwork, or at the hairdresser's, where
my scalp could've been nicked by a contaminated
hairbrush. No matter--it lives in me now and I
with it and though I'm symptom-free, I take
a small blue pill every night to keep it from
making any more crazy photocopies of itself.
My doctor friends say one should wash one's hands
for the entire duration that one sings the Happy
Birthday song. Another swears by hand sanitizing
gel she fishes out from the bottom of her humid
gym bag. A whole side industry has sprung up
around confiscated goods at port, unclaimed and
forgotten. Roaches scurry between boxes stacked
in giant container vans. A friend sails
past customs officers with a rolled-up art work
made of shells and jute, declaring it's a hammock.

Mind crime

Up betimes and to my office, and there we sat all the morning and dispatched much business, the King, Duke of Yorke, and Sir W. Coventry being gone down to the fleete. At noon home to dinner and then down to Woolwich and Deptford to look after things, my head akeing from the multitude of businesses I had in my head yesterday in settling my accounts. All the way down and up, reading of “The Mayor of Quinborough,” a simple play.
At Deptford, while I am there, comes Mr. Williamson, Sir Arthur Ingram and Jacke Fen, to see the new ships, which they had done, and then I with them home in their boat, and a very fine gentleman Mr. Williamson is.
It seems the Dutch do mightily insult of their victory, and they have great reason. Sir William Barkeley was killed before his ship taken; and there he lies dead in a sugar-chest, for every body to see, with his flag standing up by him. And Sir George Ascue is carried up and down the Hague for people to see.
Home to my office, where late, and then to bed.

the multitude I had in my head
lie dead
everybody with his flag
standing by him


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 16 June 1666.

We can talk about the universe

sometimes, my sister and I, 
complains the pregnant woman
to her also pregnant friend at the next
table; but mostly I get frustrated——
we are different people with different
stories.
I wonder what universe
she's talking about: the one
where thunderstorms break
over the prairie, where snow
has fallen on Yosemite valley
on the first day of summer?
Glaciers in the Himalayas
are melting so fast that sherpa
climbers have reported an increase
in the number of frozen corpses
and skeletons turning up
on mountainsides. Will the universe
continue to haunt us like that
when it is nearly all melted
and gone? Maybe my husband will find
the little silver spoon he lost
when he was a boy. Maybe I'll find
again my red toy piano with a full
octave of keys. Maybe I'll gather
back into my hands the bloody
clot of tissue that fell out of me
and into the tub; maybe it could have
turned into my fifth child.
There's a story about the turtle
who wanted to see what heaven was like.
His friend the bird carried him up
and up, after making him promise
not to take anything from there
that wasn't his——but he couldn't
help himself. Only a little taste,
he said, just before he plummeted
through the void and his shell
cracked in a hundred places.

Earth-bound

Up betimes, and to my Journall entries, but disturbed by many businesses, among others by Mr. Houblon’s coming to me about evening their freight for Tangier, which I did, and then Mr. Bland, who presented me yesterday with a very fine African mat, to lay upon the ground under a bed of state, being the first fruits of our peace with Guyland.
So to the office, and thither come my pretty widow Mrs. Burrows, poor woman, to get her ticket paid for her husband’s service, which I did her myself, and did ‘baisser her moucher’, and I do hope may thereafter have some day ‘sa’ company.
Thence to Westminster to the Exchequer, but could not persuade the blockheaded fellows to do what I desire, of breaking my great tallys into less, notwithstanding my Lord Treasurer’s order, which vexed [me] so much that I would not bestow more time and trouble among a company of dunces, and so back again home, and to dinner, whither Creed come and dined with me.
And after dinner Mr. Moore, and he and I abroad, thinking to go down the river together, but the tide being against me would not, but returned and walked an houre in the garden, but, Lord! to hear how he pleases himself in behalf of my Lord Sandwich, in the miscarriage of the Duke of Albemarle, and do inveigh against Sir W. Coventry as a cunning knave, but I thinke that without any manner of reason at all, but only his passion.
He being gone I to my chamber at home to set my Journall right and so to settle my Tangier accounts, which I did in very good order, and then in the evening comes Mr. Yeabsly to reckon with me, which I did also, and have above 200l. profit therein to myself, which is a great blessing, the God of heaven make me thankfull for it. That being done, and my eyes beginning to be sore with overmuch writing, I to supper and to bed.

evening burrows
into the sand

I have less heaven
than my eyes


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 15 June 1666.