There are words and there are words:

This entry is part 9 of 18 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2013


in every language a surfeit of words— words for bread and hunger,
words for pain and cry, for rain and sleep and sunlight; words
for milk and salt, a baby’s spit, an old man’s phlegm, a night-
bird’s cry; words for the way the wind sounds, whipping
and soughing through the trees; words for cuss and cough
and kiss, words for flame and burn, blood, heat—

There are words and there are words, for sometime in the past
someone must have seen a white snakeroot glowing in the meadow,
a seed burst into flower or shrivel into dust; or heard
the tinny orchestra of tree crickets warming up at dusk,
oily bassoon of frogs in the river’s sludge-filled mouth
which must have moved him to work his lips into a shape

mimicking their sound, yet every sound he made
was always shadow— And is this why we want to throw
ourselves at the elusive, burrow into the music: press the wrists,
the fingers of the hand into the board; draw the bow’s whole length
across the string as if by quivering, it’s possible to leach
more of the quickly fading summer light we love?

~ впиватьса (vpivatsia)

For Pavel Ilyashov


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Little Afterlife Song

We found all well in the morning below stairs, but the boy in a sad plight of seeming sorrow; but he is the most cunning rogue that ever I met with of his age.
To White Hall, where I met with the Act of Indemnity (so long talked of and hoped for), with the Act of Rate for Pole-money, and for judicial proceedings.
At Westminster Hall I met with Mr. Paget the lawyer, and dined with him at Heaven. This afternoon my wife went to Mr. Pierce’s wife’s child’s christening, and was urged to be godmother, but I advised her before-hand not to do it, so she did not, but as proxy for my Lady Jemimah. This the first day that ever I saw my wife wear black patches since we were married! My Lord came to town to-day, but coming not home till very late I staid till 10 at night, and so home on foot. Mr. Sheply and Mr. Childe this night at the tavern.

I met with a hit,
I met with a hope,
I met with a lawyer in heaven.
I saw my Lord coming on foot,
a child at the tavern.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 30 August 1660.


(Office day). Before I went to the office my wife and I examined my boy Will about his stealing of things, as we doubted yesterday; but he denied all with the greatest subtlety and confidence in the world. To the office, and after office then to the Church, where we took another view of the place where we had resolved to build a gallery, and have set men about doing it. Home to dinner, and there I found my wife had discovered my boy Will’s theft and a great deal more than we imagined, at which I was vexed and intend to put him away.
To my office at the Privy Seal in the afternoon, and from thence at night to the Bull Head, with Mount, Luellin, and others, and hence to my father’s, and he being at my uncle Fenner’s, I went thither to him, and there sent for my boy’s father and talked with him about his son, and had his promise that if I will send home his boy, he will take him notwithstanding his indenture.
Home at night, and find that my wife had found out more of the boy’s stealing 6s. out of W. Hewer’s closet, and hid it in the house of office, at which my heart was troubled. To bed, and caused the boy’s clothes to be brought up to my chamber. But after we were all a-bed, the wench (which lies in our chamber) called us to listen of a sudden, which put my wife into such a fright that she shook every joint of her, and a long time that I could not get her out of it. The noise was the boy, we did believe, got in a desperate mood out of his bed to do himself or William [Hewer] some mischief. But the wench went down and got a candle lighted, and finding the boy in bed, and locking the doors fast, with a candle burning all night, we slept well, but with a great deal of fear.

I examine my head and find a closet:
a boy’s clothes,
mischief and a candle,
a great fear.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 29 August 1660.



As we watched, a turkey vulture came slowly, slowly down, in great circles, till he was skimming the little beach and practically brushing the rock walls with his huge wings. Eventually he settled on the gull’s rock, a little farther back, and observed the crows at their work. He was remarkably small, with his wings folded: not really much bigger than the gull. We expected him to drive off the crows, but he just watched, for a long time. Eventually he stepped down, going carefully behind the gull, and sidled up to the grey lump, whatever it was, that occupied the crows. He never pecked at it, or interfered with the crows: all three of the bird-kinds resolutely ignored each other. He just looked it over, a long, patient contemplation, while the crows darted in and out. He did not seem to like the surf much, and retreated from it a couple of times. And then he took to the air, unfolding again into a huge, magnificent bird, and rose in circles, as slow as he’d come down.

Every Death

This entry is part 8 of 18 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2013


“…so hard to hear the music of what happens. Every day some poet dies from the strain.” ~ D. Bonta

Did you slip away when we weren’t looking,
did you see a white wading bird? Did you hear
the water arguing with itself, its longest

and most faithful lover? Did the branches
hang low over the water, did the reclusive
fish lift their heads to see? Did the dry

circle in the middle of the field burst
into flames at noon? Did the flood
rise step by step through the halls

and cathedrals of our towns?
Did you feel the warmth of fingerprints,
faint florets of breath so recently left,

it seems, by those who peered
momentarily through the glass
before turning and moving away?


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

My dream about being Muslim

Putting hands together in supplication — that unfamiliar gesture from the feudal era — it feels as if I am holding myself to account. Should the fingers interlace? It’s only me and me, baby! But now I am with Muslims who instruct me in their art of prayer: palms open, facing forward on either side of my head. God is greater. Body orienting to the Kaaba like a plant seeking the shade. They speak to God in a holy language, which doesn’t happen to be English. I move my dry lips, go down on my knees when they do, touch my nose and forehead to the ground. I feel small. The ground is almost without limit, and yet we dare to stand on it! This is nothing like therapy. Breathe in: There is no God. Breathe out: But God. I realize that I have never worn more comfortable clothes.


At home looking over my papers and books and house as to the fitting of it to my mind till two in the afternoon. Some time I spent this morning beginning to teach my wife some skill in music, and found her apt beyond imagination.
To the Privy Seal, where great store of work to-day. Colonel Scroope is this day excepted out of the Act of Indemnity, which has been now long in coming out, but it is expected to-morrow. I carried home 80l. from the Privy Seal, by coach, and at night spent a little more time with my wife about her music with great content.
This day I heard my poor mother had these two days been very ill, and I fear she will not last long.
To bed, a little troubled that I fear my boy Will is a thief and has stole some money of mine, particularly a letter that Mr. Jenkins did leave the last week with me with half a crown in it to send to his son.

My books fit my mind,
a music beyond imagination.
But a thief stole a letter—
the last W—
to send to his son.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 28 August 1660.


This morning comes one with a vessel of Northdown ale from Mr. Pierce, the purser, to me, and after him another with a brave Turkey carpet and a jar of olives from Captain Cuttance, and a pair of fine turtle-doves from John Burr to my wife. These things came up to-day in our smack, and my boy Ely came along with them, and came after office was done to see me. I did give him half a crown because I saw that he was ready to cry to see that he could not be entertained by me here.
In the afternoon to the Privy Seal, where good store of work now toward the end of the month. From thence with Mr. Mount, Luellin, and others to the Bull head till late, and so home, where about 10 o’clock Major Hart came to me, whom I did receive with wine and a dish of anchovies, which made me so dry that I was ill with them all night, and was fain to have the girl rise and fetch me some drink.

This morning comes
with a down purse,
with a brave Turk and a turtle,
with a good store of work.
I have the girl rise
and fetch me some.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 27 August 1660.