Elegy in the middle of the week

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

What kind of water rushes
toward a border of land
and then retreats?

What edge
constantly resists?

How can the shortness of a blade
serve as garrote to a life
severed at the neck?

How do we find a way to thank at least the sand
for being there, its myriad pinpricks of glass?

What in the shapes of leaves
predicts the sorrow
of their fall?

How do we stay in the river’s limpid heart,
and how do we listen through bone?

How do we sift the sunlight back
through trees and drink
again of green?

 

In response to Via Negativa Oceanologist.

On thievery

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2014

 

Who steals isn’t always looking to fill
a need, I’ve learned. Compulsion, the thrill
of not getting caught, the danger that licks
at the base of the skull, the dare that ticks
its timer until the wick burns out—
Who’d take the trouble to steal the grout
but not the tile, the rubber sheath
but not the copper wire? The myths
of beauty are nothing without power:
despair is their favorite flower.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Oceanologist

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Lord’s day). Last night being very rainy [the rain] broke into my house, the gutter being stopped, and spoiled all my ceilings almost. At church in the morning, and dined at home with my wife. After dinner to Sir W. Batten’s, where I found Sir W. Pen and Captain Holmes. Here we were very merry with Sir W. Pen about the loss of his tankard, though all be but a cheat, and he do not yet understand it; but the tankard was stole by Sir W. Batten, and the letter, as from the thief, wrote by me, which makes very good sport.
Here I staid all the afternoon, and then Captain Holmes and I by coach to White Hall; in our way, I found him by discourse, to be a great friend of my Lord’s, and he told me there was many did seek to remove him; but they were old seamen, such as Sir J. Minnes (but he would name no more, though I do believe Sir W. Batten is one of them that do envy him), but he says he knows that the King do so love him, and the Duke of York too, that there is no fear of him. He seems to be very well acquainted with the King’s mind, and with all the several factions at Court, and spoke all with so much frankness, that I do take him to be my Lord’s good friend, and one able to do him great service, being a cunning fellow, and one (by his own confession to me) that can put on two several faces, and look his enemies in the face with as much love as his friends. But, good God! what an age is this, and what a world is this! that a man cannot live without playing the knave and dissimulation. At Whitehall we parted, and I to Mrs. Pierce’s, meeting her and Madam Clifford in the street, and there staid talking and laughing with them a good while, and so back to my mother’s, and there supped, and so home and to bed.

I do not yet understand the sea.
A cunning fellow
can put on several faces,
but what world is this
without dissimulation
to meet a cliff and laugh?


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 1 September 1661.

Primate

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

It gets tiresome,
explaining how we
got the grand

pianos into the trees,
how we learned chromatic
scales and savored grace

notes before breakfast,
at the same time
we did drills

in a few other
tongues, including
your own. And yet,

you insist your
benevolence gave birth
to us in little beakers:

so malleable for packing
into crates, shipments for
the empire’s vast network.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Anthropocene.

Anthropocene

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

At home and the office all the morning, and at noon comes Luellin to me, and he and I to the tavern and after that to Bartholomew fair, and there upon his motion to a pitiful alehouse, where we had a dirty slut or two come up that were whores, but my very heart went against them, so that I took no pleasure but a great deal of trouble in being there and getting from thence for fear of being seen. From hence he and I walked towards Ludgate and parted. I back again to the fair all alone, and there met with my Ladies Jemimah and Paulina, with Mr. Pickering and Madamoiselle, at seeing the monkeys dance, which was much to see, when they could be brought to do so, but it troubled me to sit among such nasty company. After that with them into Christ’s Hospitall, and there Mr. Pickering bought them some fairings, and I did give every one of them a bauble, which was the little globes of glass with things hanging in them, which pleased the ladies very well.
After that home with them in their coach, and there was called up to my Lady, and she would have me stay to talk with her, which I did I think a full hour. And the poor lady did with so much innocency tell me how Mrs. Crispe had told her that she did intend, by means of a lady that lies at her house, to get the King to be godfather to the young lady that she is in childbed now of; but to see in what a manner my Lady told it me, protesting that she sweat in the very telling of it, was the greatest pleasure to me in the world to see the simplicity and harmlessness of a lady.
Then down to supper with the ladies, and so home, Mr. Moore (as he and I cannot easily part) leading me as far as Fenchurch Street to the Mitre, where we drank a glass of wine and so parted, and I home and to bed.
Thus ends the month. My maid Jane newly gone, and Pall left now to do all the work till another maid comes, which shall not be till she goes away into the country with my mother. Myself and wife in good health. My Lord Sandwich in the Straits and newly recovered of a great sickness at Alicante. My father gone to settle at Brampton, and myself under much business and trouble for to settle things in the estate to our content. But what is worst, I find myself lately too much given to seeing of plays, and expense, and pleasure, which makes me forget my business, which I must labour to amend.
No money comes in, so that I have been forced to borrow a great deal for my own expenses, and to furnish my father, to leave things in order. I have some trouble about my brother Tom, who is now left to keep my father’s trade, in which I have great fears that he will miscarry for want of brains and care.
At Court things are in very ill condition, there being so much emulacion, poverty, and the vices of drinking, swearing, and loose amours, that I know not what will be the end of it, but confusion. And the Clergy so high, that all people that I meet with do protest against their practice. In short, I see no content or satisfaction any where, in any one sort of people.
The Benevolence proves so little, and an occasion of so much discontent every where; that it had better it had never been set up. I think to subscribe 20l.. We are at our Office quiet, only for lack of money all things go to rack. Our very bills offered to be sold upon the Exchange at 10 per cent. loss. We are upon getting Sir R. Ford’s house added to our Office. But I see so many difficulties will follow in pleasing of one another in the dividing of it, and in becoming bound personally to pay the rent of 200l. per annum, that I do believe it will yet scarce come to pass.
The season very sickly every where of strange and fatal fevers.

We monkeys dance
with little globes of glass,
get and forget, our getting
a fatal fever.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 31 August 1661.