Lessons

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

To Whitehall, and so to dinner at the Wardrobe, where my wife met me, and there we met with a venison pasty, and my Lady very merry and very handsome, methought. After dinner my wife and I to the Opera, and there saw again “Love and Honour,” a play so good that it has been acted but three times and I have seen them all, and all in this week; which is too much, and more than I will do again a good while. Coming out of the house we met Mrs. Pierce and her comrade Mrs. Clifford, and I seeming willing to stay with them to talk my wife grew angry, and whether she be jealous or no I know, not, but she loves not that I should speak of Mrs. Pierce. Home on foot very discontented, in my way I calling at the Instrument maker, Hunt’s, and there saw my lute, which is now almost done, it being to have a new neck to it and to be made to double strings. So home and to bed. This day I did give my man Will a sound lesson about his forbearing to give us the respect due to a master and mistress.

Hands ought
to play. Three times
this week we speak,
my instrument and I, neck
to strings.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 25 October 1661.

Alembic

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 7 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014

 

Alembic: an apparatus used in distillation;
something that refines or transmutes as if by distillation

Time’s a flask, narrow at the waist or neck
depending on who swings the apparatus— Who gives
the order to intercept the ordinary citizen
on his way to or from work, salvage the journalist
called to witness; open fire on the NGO convoy
in pickup trucks loaded with rice, canned goods,
medical supplies, used clothing? In hamlets live
the poor and dispossessed, the ones whose farms
swelled, flooded; and drowning, made way for dams
in the government’s new hydroelectric project.
Their votes don’t count. Or do they? Their number
slight, equivalent to the powdered ash that falls
from wings of bodies that nightly hurl themselves
into the lantern’s crucible of trembled light.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Modified CDC Villanelle

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

A woman throws up in a crowded bus.
Within minutes, the men in hazmat suits descend.
Fear of contagion panics escalations of distress.

A mother claps a hand upon a baby’s mouth; breathless
she’s crushed by bodies in the street, their frenzied blend
caused by a woman throwing up in a crowded bus.

Meanwhile in Texas, one recovered nurse
gives statements to the press. Daily unpinned,
fear of contagion panics escalations of distress.

I listen on the radio for reports on body counts.
My daughter asks how disease transfers, blood to blood—
What danger is posed by throwing up in a crowded bus?

A radio report recreates conditions— let’s say, a virus
lurking in a monkey’s blood: let’s say the hunter nicked
his hand. Days later: swollen glands, nausea; night sweats.

Cities teem with airports, rivers, bridges. How to adjust
the portals and vents? No current wisdom provides defense.
Watch as a woman throws up in a crowded bus.
Watch the fear of contagion escalate beyond distress.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Outbreak.

Tour guide

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

At the office all morning, at noon Luellin dined with me, and then abroad to Fleet Street, leaving my wife at Tom’s while I went out and did a little business. So home again, and went to see Sir Robert, who continues ill, and this day has not spoke at all, which makes them all afeard of him. So home.

Road to street
my bus went

to see and poke
at the ear.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 24 October 1661.

Vagrant

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

To Whitehall, and there, to drink our morning, Sir W. Pen and I to a friend’s lodging of his (Collonell Treswell), and at noon he and I dined together alone at the Legg in King Street, and so by coach to Chelsy to my Lord Privy Seal’s about business of Sir William’s, in which we had a fair admittance to talk with my Lord, and had his answer, and so back to the Opera, and there I saw again “Love and Honour,” and a very good play it is. And thence home, calling by the way to see Sir Robert Slingsby, who continues ill, and so home.
This day all our office is invited against Tuesday next, my Lord Mayor’s day, to dinner with him at Guildhall. This evening Mr. Holliard came and sat with us, and gave us both directions to observe.

I drink alone.
The street is
a good play—
a way to see
home in all
directions.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 23 October 1661.

Swallowtail: the making of a haiku

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

spicebush swallowtail caterpillar

I found this photo in my camera when I went to download my Stockholm airport photos. I took it in late August, I think. There’s a spicebush (Lindera benzoin) next to my front door, and the fact that this spicebush swallowtail caterpillar was now climbing the storm door suggests it was in its last instar and looking for a place to pupate. The fake eye-spots on its butt are of course evolution’s way of protecting it from predators (mostly birds).

I got to thinking about the photo in the shower this morning. Perhaps I could post it to my sadly neglected Woodrat photohaiku blog? Then my mind wandered to certain people — you know the type I’m sure — and I came up with:

big fake eyes
your real gaze is in the glass
poor caterpillar

Not bad, but “glass” was too ambivalent (it could mean a drink), while “mirror” would be a little too much (especially given the final “r” sounds of “poor” and “caterpillar”). And what was supposed to be a sympathetic final line just sounded condescending, an insult compounding the injury of anthropomorphism.

where to pupate?
the caterpillar’s own green
repels her now

I wasn’t dissatisfied with this, either, but it seemed altogether too cerebral for a proper haiku. I just wasn’t ready to accept that I couldn’t pack a bit of nature education into (approximately) 17 syllables. This despite the obvious fact that the species name itself was much too long to fit.

big fake eyes
the poor caterpillar’s
only defense

The more I pondered it, the more laden with significance this caterpillar became — poor thing, indeed! I had strayed pretty far from the spirit of haiku, but who cares? I was having fun.

big fake eyes
searching for a quiet spot
to don black wings

This semi-surrealist take would be, if nothing else, a good fit for the Halloween season, I thought. Why not?

I was tired; I had gotten up after only four hours of sleep so I could make bread this morning. I caught myself staring.

big fake stare
the caterpillar is tired
of being a caterpillar

And that, for better or worse, is the one I went with. Spontaneous insights are damn hard work sometimes.

Outbreak

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

At the office all the morning, where we had a deputation from the Duke in his absence, he being gone to Portsmouth, for us to have the whole disposal and ordering of the Fleet. In the afternoon about business up and down, and at night to visit Sir R. Slingsby, who is fallen sick of this new disease, an ague and fever. So home after visiting my aunt Wight and Mrs. Norbury (who continues still a very pleasant lady), and to supper, and so to bed.

where is
a mouth for us

who is fleet in
the afternoon
and at night who
is fallen sick
of this new ague
and fever

who continues


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 22 October 1661.

Seconds

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

And give me the not-quite-gold,
the earring found on the sidewalk
without its clasp, the little sip
of coffee left in a paper cup—

Give me the bit role with no
speaking parts so I can be near
the ones whose hearts sing as if
at the point of breaking—

Give me the ache of light
that licks the undersides
of leaves just before dusk,
that dot of butter in the tea—

Give me even that brief
moment of rending, visceral
shudder after the god has grazed
the hills in his passing—

 

In response to Via Negativa: Ukiyo.

Tree Ring Cantos

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

I. airport geese

geese on the tarmac
look up occasionally, watch
large metal-feathered

humans set out on
migrations, sometimes wonder
if we know we’re late

II. stump 2

years pass, we know this:
all things reckon time in circles
orbit and revolve

why is it easy
for us to imagine these leaves
have always been old

III. lakeshore weeds

and why do we strive
for fortune, fame? these lakeshore weeds
are simple, common

yet they still set fruit,
array themselves in shades of gold
welcome their own end

IV. lingonberries

if we cannot, like
unassuming weeds be rooted
in humility

shift with the seasons
in time with trees and leaves and geese
perhaps we can still

share the same table,
feast with our better, wiser kin
on lingonberries

V. swirly weed skeleton

ready or not, we
will leave this place some rotation
and revolution

perhaps the question
should not be how long do we have
before departure

but whether there’s some
way for even our decaying
to be beautiful

VI. fly agaric

icebergs and mountains
volcanoes and okinamis
all share a teacher

this fly agaric
on the surface only shows us
little of itself

VII. old oil tank

it seems the carcass
of us, our species, our habits
will take centuries

more of exposure
before we grow into beauty
rancho la brea

VIII. roots

origins nurture
roots are footing and foundation,
knife spoon cup straw fork

arteries and veins
maybe change my name to Alice
take another bite

from the other side
of that fly agaric mushroom
shrink to fit, resize

to molecular
catch a piece of capillary
action, mind the gap

IX. stump

a prayer: let me age
generously, this limbless tree
both headstone and home

X. pine resin

is poetry not
a sticky sap that oozes up
through cracks in our hulls

whether we will it
or not, sometimes captures
accidentally

a small winged moment
preserves it for eternity
memory, amber

Laura M Kaminski
10 23 2014
In response to the first ten photographs in “A nature walk at the airport

Service

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 6 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014

 

What are you supposed to feel
when asked to preside over
a ceremony— to move

or be moved
without warning
or preparation just

after coffee and toast,
the ride on the trolley
or train, identical hands

zipping up jackets
and straightening ties,
touching a button or collar

or badge, folding a newspaper
under an arm, shielding the eyes
from the too-bright sun?

Here is the guard,
ceremonially robed in black,
bearing the silver sword

and golden mace
across the threshold
of a hall bathed just

yesterday with the blood
of assault. And the reporter
notes how the heads

of the houses of Parliament,
more accustomed to disagreement,
break ranks across the aisle

to shake hands, to touch—
circumstance urgent enough to prise
hearts from their catacombs.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.