Malaise

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

At the office all the morning; dined at home, and in the afternoon Mr. Moore came to me, and he and I went to Tower Hill to meet with a man, and so back all three to my house, and there I signed a bond to Mr. Battersby, a friend of Mr. Moore’s, who lends me 50l., the first money that ever I borrowed upon bond for my own occasion, and so I took them to the Mitre and a Portugal millon with me; there sat and discoursed in matters of religion till night with great pleasure, and so parted, and I home, calling at Sir W. Batten’s, where his son and his wife were, who had yesterday been at the play where we were, and it was good sport to hear how she talked of it with admiration like a fool. So home, and my head was not well with the wine that I drank to-day.

I am a tower
of borrowed matter,
ill with all yesterday

like my head
with the wine I drank
today.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 3 October 1661.

Moth

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

All this morning at Pegg Kite’s with my uncle Fenner, and two friends of his, appraising her goods that her mother has left; but the slut is like to prove so troublesome that I am out of heart with troubling myself in her business. After we had done we all went to a cook’s shop in Bishopsgate Street and dined, and then I took them to the tavern and did give them a quart of sack, and so parted. I home and then took my wife out, and in a coach of a gentlewoman’s that had been to visit my Lady Batten and was going home again our way, we went to the Theatre, but coming late, and sitting in an ill place, I never had so little pleasure in a play in my life, yet it was the first time that ever I saw it, “Victoria Corombona.” Methinks a very poor play. Then at night troubled to get my wife home, it being very dark, and so we were forced to have a coach. So to supper and to bed.

Moth
like a heart
in a cook’s sack,
sitting in an ill place
in the dark.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 2 October 1661.

Travelers

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 3 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014

 

(October is Filipino American History month)

11

The fly spins
madly in its net of silk.
The frogs croak in the shallows.
When fog lifts, the fields reveal
their stenciled grids
as if they’d never
been co-opted.

12

What are you
writing again, there
by the window, there
like the rain?

13

This—

How the high school math teacher was good enough
to wash dishes in a restaurant kitchen,
but not to draw up lesson plans—

How the surgeon who’d practiced for twenty
years is now a lab technician, and how my
college English teacher has become a nurse—

How the student I asked one day about her history said,
Oh my parents are not like those Filipinos on the west
coast or Hawaii, my parents were educated—

How everyone cheers for the boxer or the Dancing
With the Stars
champion, but news of poetry
and stories falls into a well of silence—

14

For we have had to reinvent
the very notion of invention,
and we have had to shelter
our wounded pride—

15

And darkness gathers
exquisite blooms: we know
their scent, even if
we cannot see them.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Bed music

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

This morning my wife and I lay long in bed, and among other things fell into talk of musique, and desired that I would let her learn to sing, which I did consider, and promised her she should. So before I rose, word was brought me that my singing master, Mr. Goodgroome, was come to teach me and so she rose and this morning began to learn also.
To the office, where busy all day. So to dinner and then to the office again till night, and then to my study at home to set matters and papers in order, which, though I can hardly bring myself to do, yet do please me much when it is done. So eat a bit of bread and cheese, and to bed.

My wife and I in bed
fell into a music,
rose singing to rose,

and all day in the office
I can hardly bring myself to eat
a bit of bread.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 1 October 1661.

Ghetto moon

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

This morning up by moon-shine, at 5 o’clock, to White Hall, to meet Mr. Moore at the Privy Seal, but he not being come as appointed, I went into King Street to the Red Lyon to drink my morning draft, and there I heard of a fray between the two Embassadors of Spain and France; and that, this day, being the day of the entrance of an Embassador from Sweden, they intended to fight for the precedence! Our King, I heard, ordered that no Englishman should meddle in the business,1 but let them do what they would. And to that end all the soldiers in the town were in arms all the day long, and some of the train-bands in the City; and a great bustle through the City all the day. Then I to the Privy Seal, and there Mr. Moore and a gentleman being come with him, we took coach (which was the business I come for) to Chelsy, to my Lord Privy Seal, and there got him to seal the business. Here I saw by day-light two very fine pictures in the gallery, that a little while ago I saw by night; and did also go all over the house, and found it to be the prettiest contrived house that ever I saw in my life. So to coach back again; and at White Hall light, and saw the soldiers and people running up and down the streets. So I went to the Spanish Embassador’s and the French, and there saw great preparations on both sides; but the French made the most noise and vaunted most, the other made no stir almost at all; so that I was afraid the other would have had too great a conquest over them.
Then to the Wardrobe, and dined there, end then abroad and in Cheapside hear that the Spanish hath got the best of it, and killed three of the French coach-horses and several men, and is gone through the City next to our King’s coach; at which, it is strange to see how all the City did rejoice. And indeed we do naturally all love the Spanish, and hate the French.
But I, as I am in all things curious, presently got to the water-side, and there took oars to Westminster Palace, thinking to have seen them come in thither with all the coaches, but they being come and returned, I ran after them with my boy after me through all the dirt and the streets full of people; till at last, at the Mewes, I saw the Spanish coach go, with fifty drawn swords at least to guard it, and our soldiers shouting for joy. And so I followed the coach, and then met it at York House, where the embassador lies; and there it went in with great state. So then I went to the French house, where I observe still, that there is no men in the world of a more insolent spirit where they do well, nor before they begin a matter, and more abject if they do miscarry, than these people are; for they all look like dead men, and not a word among them, but shake their heads.
The truth is, the Spaniards were not only observed to fight most desperately, but also they did outwitt them; first in lining their own harness with chains of iron that they could not be cut, then in setting their coach in the most advantageous place, and to appoint men to guard every one of their horses, and others for to guard the coach, and others the coachmen. And, above all, in setting upon the French horses and killing them, for by that means the French were not able to stir.
There were several men slain of the French, and one or two of the Spaniards, and one Englishman by a bullet. Which is very observable, the French were at least four to one in number, and had near 100 case of pistols among them, and the Spaniards had not one gun among them; which is for their honour for ever, and the others’ disgrace.
So, having been very much daubed with dirt, I got a coach, and home where I vexed my wife in telling of her this story, and pleading for the Spaniards against the French.
So ends this month; myself and family in good condition of health, but my head full of my Lord’s and my own and the office business; where we are now very busy about the business of sending forces to Tangier, and the fleet to my Lord of Sandwich, who is now at Lisbon to bring over the Queen, who do now keep a Court as Queen of England.
The business of Argier hath of late troubled me, because my Lord hath not done what he went for, though he did as much as any man in the world could have done.
The want of money puts all things, and above all things the Navy, out of order; and yet I do not see that the King takes care to bring in any money, but thinks of new designs to lay out money.

Moonlight over
all the streets
made a great conquest of the city.
Strange to see it go
to the water with
drawn swords.
We met it like dead men,
not a word among us,
not able to stir
in the dirt.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 30 September 1661.

Travelers

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(October is Fil-Am History Month)

6

Before Allos, before
the orchards and
the canneries, there was
the dog. There was always
the dog they took pleasure
kicking in the ribs,
baiting its snarl, testing
its fangs. No dogs and none
of your kind
, read the hand-
lettered signs, before they
chased us out into the streets.

7

But before the voyage,
before the shiploads of young
men seduced by promises of new
worlds beyond, there were
the other dogs of war
and treachery, bodies pawned
for twenty million bits
of currency no one
has seen.

8

You who cannot fathom
the cost of being flung
or set adrift or having
to learn how to live
in the in-between:
not everything we’ve done
is out of choice.

9

Dog without pedigree
Dog without chains
Dog sniffing in the wilderness
Dog rooting for the prize
Dog roaming the alleyways
Dog dark as night
There are other forms of love
if you can look beyond
its register of names

10

But you don’t.

You see only
this face,
the canvas
of my skin,

the history
of lies you’ve
perpetuated.

Travelers

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(October is Fil-Am History Month)

1

They take up a collection
for the students newly arrived
from the islands: cutlery,
Melamine dishes, two
good box mattresses to lay,
futon-style, on the floor.
A bag of groceries, a list
of phone numbers. They tell them:
next weekend, we can take you
coat-shopping. Winter
will soon be here.

2

In the lunch room
at the end of the hall,
the Chinese resident comes
every Wednesday to lunch
with the nurses and lab
technicians. Sometimes
the pathologist joins them
when he smells the curries
and the steamed dumplings
heating the air. Once,
someone accidentally poured
iced tea into a beaker.

3

One evening after choir
practice, the tenor
who is a mechanic runs away
with the accompanist.
Her husband goes from house
to house, weeping and brandishing
a gun. No one knows where
the pair have gone.

4

The grandmother wants
to teach a song she half-
remembers to her son’s
only child. But this boy
spends half the afternoon
practicing the rhythms
of his body on a skate-
board, listening to
percussion in his ears.

5

The woman touches
the taut outline
of her belly, fingers
the bruise on her neck,
watches her husband sleep
on the sofa. She does not know
where he hid her passport,
somewhere in this house.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Homily.

At home in the library

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

I used to think I had something in common with the coffee-shop crowd, but now I’m coming to realize that my true place, if I have one, is at the public library. You know, that odd refuge from consumerism where you can’t buy things, only borrow them. Where people come to read or doze rather than to see and be seen and get wired on expensive, caffeinated beverages. I may not borrow many books — largely because public libraries aren’t very well stocked with the kind of obscure things I read — but I like knowing that the place is run by free-speech radicals who make an effort to welcome everybody, even those who cart their spare clothes around in shopping bags.

The library is full of my kind of weirdos: people who read books. You could say that about people at the local Barnes & Noble, too, but here in the library it’s quiet in a way few other public spaces can ever be, and I’m sure that freaks out people who require constant stimulation. Also, from what I’ve seen, the crowd at B&N and other bookstores skews toward the upwardly mobile. As for coffee shops, I’ve noticed they tend to cater to distinct segments of the population: businessmen in one, Christian conservatives in another, liberals and leftists in a third. In the public library, by contrast, you can meet almost anyone — but in an introvert-friendly atmosphere that discourages much beyond friendly nods and murmured greetings.

I suppose in part because of where I grew up and went to school, I’ve always been pretty comfortable among people with whom I have little in common, and I’ve been surprised by the extent to which Americans have retreated into tribal enclaves, afraid to rub shoulders with “Rethuglicans” or “Dumbocrats.” Me? I’m a little wary of going out in public at all, to be honest, knowing that 65 percent of Americans support drone warfare, 51.8 percent believe that shopping constitutes a form of therapy, and 74 percent believe a better place awaits them when they die.

But my sense of alienation retreats a bit when I read (at the library) that 57 percent of American adults also apparently still read books for pleasure, and about 50 percent visit a library or bookmobile at least once a year. Then again, if libraries weren’t popular, those who advocate their elimination probably wouldn’t work so hard to cut off their funding. Along with national parks and Social Security (also both threatened by privatization schemes), they are one of the last great bastions of democratic socialism in this country.

That said, my caffeine levels have dropped to a dangerous low. And the ragged looking man (worse even than me) on the other side of the Quiet Zone has really begun to snore.