How is it winter still, how can we
be called to keep burying the desolate
in its customary abode? Not underground
but in the air, where no limits hold—
beyond weightlessness, demise of blooms
pressed into premature fluorescence.
Pity the skirl on the crest
of a bagpipe; pity the ice cap,
one pure sweep of cloud— I’d ask
for a bed woven by kind-hearted doves.
I’d ask for one bright fruit plucked
out of heaven: that is to say,
any mouthful of earth
that I’d been widowed from.
In response to Via Negativa: Winter Gardener.
The perfect pits
in the snow around
the lowbush blueberry stems
awaken in me
the old urge to collect—a museum
of pots and bronzes,
and in the plaza,
a fountain that accommodates
every coin-sized absence…
Early with Mr. Moore about Sir Paul Neale’s business with my uncle and other things all the morning.
Dined with him at Mr. Crew’s, and after dinner I went to the Theatre, where I found so few people (which is strange, and the reason I did not know) that I went out again, and so to Salsbury Court, where the house as full as could be; and it seems it was a new play, “The Queen’s Maske,” wherein there are some good humours: among others, a good jeer to the old story of the Siege of Troy, making it to be a common country tale. But above all it was strange to see so little a boy as that was to act Cupid, which is one of the greatest parts in it. Then home and to bed.
Another thin dinner to heat—
few know the full mask.
Some jeer making a common count.
To see so little
is one of the greatest arts.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 2 March 1660/61.
Mother, how will you drink out of the cold stream now that you’ve made a gift of your front teeth to the dentist in town? You hold out the little finger of your left hand in a dream, and it is wired with fine, thin silver. I would not know except that you told me, whispering in the way you used to spin stories out of the air, each one linked by And then. I wish you could see how it is snowing again outside my window, and I am wearing socks that you did not make with your hands. The drifts are soft as carded wool, or nubby like new growth on the backs of calves. Where they fall on the neighbor’s unpruned bushes, I want to string my prayer flags: indigo for memory, ivory for the touch of your hand, red for the blaze in our hearts, turquoise for the years lost to count; and last: burn of saffron, gold of sacrifice.
In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.
I was land-hungry in my youth.
In the summer I turned soil
and in winter hoped for snow—
a Platonic kind of field,
rich in solitude as any desert
and as free of weeds,
the leafless rose in the yard
alone with its snarl
of barbed canes.
All the morning at the office. Dined at home only upon fish, and Mr. Shepley and Tom Hater with me. After dinner Mr. Shepley and I in private talking about my Lord’s intentions to go speedily into the country, but to what end we know not. We fear he is to go to sea with this fleet now preparing. But we wish that he could get his 4000l. per annum settled before he do go.
Then he and I walked into London, he to the Wardrobe and I to Whitefryars, and saw “The Bondman” acted; an excellent play and well done. But above all that ever I saw, Betterton do the Bond man the best.
Then to my father’s and found my mother ill. After staying a while with them, I went home and sat up late, spending my thoughts how to get money to bear me out in my great expense at the Coronation, against which all provide, and scaffolds setting up in every street.
I had many designs in my head to get some, but know not which will take.
Fish in a private sea,
we wish for war
to bond better with the nation,
scaffolds setting up
in every head.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 1 March 1660/61.
Day by day
the shadows are dwindling,
assuming more realistic shapes,
like the ambitions of a man
in middle age.
The snow hardens underfoot.
I hear the first
mourning dove call of the year:
desire in a minor key.
Early to wait on my Lord, and after a little talk with him I took boat at Whitehall for Redriffe, but in my way overtook Captain Cuttance and Teddiman in a boat and so ashore with them at Queenhithe, and so to a tavern with them to a barrel of oysters, and so away.
Capt. Cuttance and I walked from Redriffe to Deptford, where I found both Sir Williams and Sir G. Carteret at Mr. Uthwayt’s, and there we dined, and notwithstanding my resolution, yet for want of other victualls, I did eat flesh this Lent, but am resolved to eat as little as I can.
After dinner we went to Captain Bodilaw’s, and there made sale of many old stores by the candle, and good sport it was to see how from a small matter bid at first they would come to double and treble the price of things.
After that Sir W. Pen and I and my Lady Batten and her daughter by land to Redriffe, staying a little at halfway house, and when we came to take boat, found Sir George, &c., to have staid with the barge a great while for us, which troubled us.
Home and to bed.
This month ends with two great secrets under dispute but yet known to very few: first, Who the King will marry; and What the meaning of this fleet is which we are now sheathing to set out for the southward. Most think against Algier against the Turk, or to the East Indys against the Dutch who, we hear, are setting out a great fleet thither.
In the red, I eat as little as I can
of old candle.
See how they come to double
the price of things.
I am troubled
with a secret dispute:
who I will marry
and in which ink.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 28 February 1660/61.
A four-pronged twig tumbled by wind
has left the oddest tracks
in the snow, no two alike.
The fox, by contrast,
has walked more than a mile
in her own, earlier footprints,
leaving a single set
of blurred tracks with toes
pointing in both directions.
“…time,/ inventor of places with no weight” ~ Octavio Paz
It is the small and almost withered
that give off most scent: the nearly
disappeared, the once-on-this-night-
only blooms that tear the air
with their perfumes at night.