From Empire: Two Triolets


If a lie is half-truth is it easier to forgive?
Those ships never came for just pepper and spice.
In the hold, mapmakers were ready with cubits and cursive.
If a lie is half-truth is it easier to forgive?
In their chronicles, they wrote of the breasts of natives,
of their short stature or propensity to violence or lies.
If a lie is half-truth is it easier to forgive?
Those ships never came for just pepper and spice.


Grandmother smoked cigarillos with the lit ends in her mouth.
I wondered why milk came in paper-wrapped cans imprinted with “Marca Oso,”
why cheese was queso, why cloth napkins were servilletas. Even in her youth,
grandmother smoked cigarillos with the lit ends in her mouth.
Cousins twice removed cut sugarcane or harvested fruit down south;
they grew dark in the sun and spoke a kind of creole called Chavacano.
Grandmother smoked cigarillos with the lit ends in her mouth;
not all could afford the milk wrapped in cans with “Marca Oso.”


In response to Via Negativa: By Any Other Name.

Imperfect Ode

Give thanks for the wobble of the wheel
and the limp of the pulley, the tiny pop
in the heart of a lightbulb as it goes out—

Give thanks for the pause that loosens the noose
around the rushing hours, for serifs of rain
ticking down the blue gradations of a chain—

And give thanks for the call of a dove
that has lost its mate, and so tinges
your day with the blue of this reminder—

Forgive the stumble of the bow across the strings,
the hair of one note that flies away from the score:
give thanks for our common imperfection.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


Lord’s day. I and my boy Will to Whitehall, and I with my Lord to White Hall Chappell, where I heard a cold sermon of the Bishop of Salisbury’s, and the ceremonies did not please me, they do so overdo them.
My Lord went to dinner at Kensington with my Lord Camden. So I dined and took Mr. Birfett, my Lord’s chaplain, and his friend along with me, with Mr. Sheply at my Lord’s.
In the afternoon with Dick Vines and his brother Payton, we walked to Lisson Green and Marybone and back again, and finding my Lord at home I got him to look over my accounts, which he did approve of and signed them, and so we are even to this day. Of this I was glad, and do think myself worth clear money about 120l. Home late, calling in at my father’s without stay. To bed.

I bury a friend at the green
bone of the day.
I think myself one without a bed.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 29 July 1660.

By Any Other Name

Early in the morning rose, and a boy brought me a letter from Poet Fisher, who tells me that he is upon a panegyrique of the King, and desired to borrow a piece of me; and I sent him half a piece.
To Westminster, and there dined with Mr. Sheply and W. Howe, afterwards meeting with Mr. Henson, who had formerly had the brave clock that went with bullets (which is now taken away from him by the King, it being his goods). I went with him to the Sun Tavern and sent for Mr. Butler, who was now all full of his high discourse in praise of Ireland, whither he and his whole family are going by Coll. Dillon’s persuasion, but so many lies I never heard in praise of anything as he told of Ireland. So home late at night and to bed.

Early morning rose—
a poet desired it,
but so many lies I never heard
in praise of anything.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 28 July 1660.

Scottish beasts


tapping & tugging
at the side of the tent
early morning wind


around the headland
from the seal sculpture
this one moves


at the Osprey Center
a crowd gathers to watch
squirrels on the feeder


no does to herd
the solitary stag haunts
a caravan park


blood-red sunset
I raise the midge net
to take a nip


with each wingbeat
another yelp


Phil Bennison
Dry Stone Walling
Mole Control


out of the water
a black guillemot totters
on its big red feet


rock pipit on the beach
meadow pipit on the moor
that same restless tail


these hill-walkers
with their lurid greens & yellows!
lizard, tiger beetle


on the far hill
white boulders have infiltrated
a herd of sheep

Vita Brevis

What they say of beauty
is that it never makes apology
for itself— But isn’t this true
as well for plainness, for calamity,
for sorrow, for disappointment?

Here is a jar of coins
I’ve rescued through the months
from coat pockets, from the lint
trap in the laundry, from the folds
and linings of our purses.

What can you buy with a roll
of pennies these days, with a hand-
ful of crumpled bills? Come then, let’s lay
the good china on the table, the silverware,
the napkins; let’s feast on what we have.

I used to draw up columns in a ledger:
for every purchase, a sacrifice
forestalling each small pleasure
for the days— I rue now how
I used to only say don’t get

too happy: don’t rest, don’t choose
the window light, the comfort of the armchair
with the pillows; don’t put the little sweet
into your mouth. Too dear, too rapidly,
the dwindling days don’t know delay.


In response to Via Negativa: Sacrificial.

Man with a Bag

The last night Sir W. Batten and Sir W. Pen came to their houses at the office. Met this morning and did business till noon. Dined at home and from thence to my Lord’s where Will, my clerk, and I were all the afternoon making up my accounts, which we had done by night, and I find myself worth about 100l. after all my expenses.
At night, I sent to W. Bowyer to bring me a 100l bag that he hath in his hands of my Lord’s in keeping, out of which I paid Mr. Sheply all that remains due to my Lord upon my balance, and took the rest home with me late at night. We got a coach, but the horses were tired and could not carry us farther than St. Dunstan’s. So we ‘light and took a link and so home weary to bed.

Night came at noon
in a bag that I took
home with me—
late night, but the horses
could not carry us
farther than a light ink.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 27 July 1660.


Early to White Hall, thinking to have a meeting of my Lord and the principal officers, but my Lord could not, it being the day that he was to go and be admitted in the House of Lords, his patent being done, which he presented upon his knees to the Speaker; and so it was read in the House, and he took his place.
I at the Privy Seal Office with Mr. Hooker, who brought me acquainted with Mr. Crofts of the Signet, and I invited them to a dish of meat at the Leg in King Street, and so we dined there and I paid for all and had very good light given me as to my employment there. Afterwards to Mr. Pierces, where I should have dined but I could not, but found Mr. Sheply and W. Howe there. After we had drunk hard we parted, and I went away and met Dr. Castle, who is one of the Clerks of the Privy Seal, and told him how things were with my Lord and me, which he received very gladly. I was this day told how Baron against all expectation and law has got the place of Bickerstaffe, and so I question whether he will not lay claim to wait the next month, but my Lord tells me that he will stand for it.
In the evening I met with T. Doling, who carried me to St. James’s Fair, and there meeting with W. Symons and his wife, and Luellin, and D. Scobell’s wife and cousin, we went to Wood’s at the Pell Mell (our old house for clubbing), and there we spent till 10 at night, at which time I sent to my Lord’s for my clerk Will to come to me, and so by link home to bed. Where I found Commissioner Willoughby had sent for all his things away out of my bedchamber, which is a little disappointment, but it is better than pay too dear for them.

Thinking of
the Lord, I took
a dish of meat
for a light.
I should have dined,
but could not
part with
my question.
We come home
to disappointment,
pay too dear.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 26 July 1660.

Ghazal of the Postcolonial

Poems inscribed on a side of bamboo, passed through villages
from hand to hand. This beautiful, flowing syllabary is precolonial.

Be careful when you use the ancient scripts as tattoo art
around your arms. It might read “liar” instead of precolonial.

The season’s prints are tribal, ethnic: tie-dyed, resembling
knotted bark. This ikat weave, suddenly fashionable: the precolonial—

Petite, Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, Extra Extra Large:
the pliant leaf in one-size-fits-all. Who wore it best? us precolonials?

One fold of collar, one pass at sleeve. Piece by piece,
the pattern. What version predates all others? The precolonial.

A white man publishes in India, Hong Kong, or Spain; it’s no big deal.
When a writer of color does the same, she’s only as good as precolonial.


In response to Via Negativa: Pinnipedestrian.