Old Harry

erasure of a page from Samuel Pepys' diary

Red herrings to breakfast:
boot-heel hole as big as a horse
through the forest, one path
as if through a red regiment.
Old Harry went out to buy a hat
and met the Greyhound,
where I found him vexed
about breaking the Lord’s lock.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 28 February 1659/60.

Reading Revelation

Ablaze with prophecy, flames fed with oil or
petrol: pages devoted to fevered visions
of the end of days that I read with a flashlight,
covertly, after bedtime. How was I to tell
a beast from an angel, a beast from a man?
Lamps and temples, the sky’s invisible seal
yawning open; the terrible thunder of hooves.
Pity and penance too late— And sleep?
Sleep could be the shadow riding shotgun,
emissary of that fourth dark rider.


In response to Via Negativa: Four Horsemen.

Night Song, In Transit

“…who caught and sang the sun in flight” ~ Dylan Thomas

Redundant rain, then mist, then fog—
and finally I want to pour out what I have left:

grief’s worn beads in my pockets, their weight, their
exaggerated rattle when I walk; their bloat, their

abacus of stain, regret, omission— Hear me say
goodbye, adios, dasvidaniya as the escalator

ascends into the dark nave of the station,
into the transit corridors that let out where

neon signs indifferently flash the name of this stop.
Suffering, said the old masters, painting the horse

tethered to the tree— Suffering is the itch
that stings more exquisitely than the mayfly’s sting,

high on the hind leg of the animal where he cannot reach.
Every time I hear someone use the word “journey,” I

don’t quite know, therefore, whether to laugh or cry—
You and I, so solitary, and yet so similar in our yearning:

it’s unseemly though, you must agree, when this word
names all struggles equal. I shift to one side,

gravity the motor beneath that pulls everything back,
origins married to the same gravitas

from which I want so dearly to lift,
to buoy, inhabit some tenable version of

harbor, hospice, heaven. Is this foolishness?
Evening falls. The air, cooled by rain,

lends columns on the avenue a soft,
intuitive aspect, as if they knew

grief’s coin, surrendered at the stile, eventually
hollows in the large, anonymous collection—

The ticket is returned; the traveler may pass.


In response to thus: small stone (220) and Via Negativa: Mr. P.'s Poetry.

In the Garden

Among the ginger lilies and hibiscus,
rough pebbles and patches of grass—
But some kinds of food we could grow:
chayote hanging from curly vines
wound through a makeshift trellis,
clumps of mint that we could tear
and scatter over strips of sizzled
meat; mottled loquat and avocado,
fronds of salad fern. And water—
rationed three times a week: miserly
trickle to try the patience,
going through the rusted pipes.
We filled rows of old juice bottles,
plastic pails; but when it rained,
we gathered at least two extra drums.
Living was clumsy like this, in more
ways than one— mornings and nights,
the cold coming through thin walls
and windows, staunched by musty
piles of woven blankets. The way we
held our breath for as long as we could,
just to watch thin ribbons of vapor
uncoiling like snails as they left
the warm house of our mouths.


In response to Via Negativa: Blankets and small stone (219).

Listening Game

for Rachel

We play a game
called Mouth & Ear:
one speaks, the other listens.
It’s simple.
If your words are trees,
mine are finches,
vagrant & garrulous.
In the nest of your ear
their fledglings
sprout fletching.
If my words are fish,
yours are lures,
marvels of ingenuity—
a water-bound being’s
dream of flight.
I rise to the ring of ripples,
your radiant ear.

Blankets (a simple song)

for Rachel

I have four blankets on my bed:
one is the color of a clear winter sky,
one is the color of the river,
one is the color of the Atlantic ocean
& one is the color of your eyes.
Lying under my four blue blankets
I am warm, too warm, I toss & turn —
not like an airplane in a winter sky,
not like a salmon swimming upstream,
not like a buoy riding out a storm
but like a piece of grit
in a drop of salt water
exiled from the blue of your eyes.

See Ten Simple Songs


“Santa Clarang pinong-pino / Ako po ay bigyan mo / Ng asawang labintatlo / Sa gastos ‘di magreklamo!”
(“Saint Clare, most refined / Upon me please bestow / Spouses thirteen in all / As for the expense, I won’t complain!”)

~ traditional lyric sung in fertility rituals; Obando, Bulacan

The shiver in the skin
of fire tree leaves

The smallest tear
in the egg’s membrane

Hot skies in May
blue enough to drop

Cartwheels in the wombs
of skirted saints


In response to Via Negativa: Easy Rider.