Where there’s fire

Where there’s fire
there’s smoke and tear gas
burning eyes
a burning in the gut.

Where there’s fire
there’s a smokescreen
the CNN reporter saying
of course he smells marijuana
the grand-jury white-out
the felonious cigarillos.

Where there’s fire
there’s a smoking gun
trajectories inescapable as the weather
in upraised arms that couldn’t
surrender enough.

Where there’s fire
there’s a cross we keep handy
for special occasions.
Look how quickly its outstretched arms
go up in smoke.

A Carol

How we pined for colder
months that meant relief
at last from summer’s scorching;
and for mornings when we could wake
to the small marvel of seeing
our breath rendered like script,
visible, exhaled into the frosty air
out on the porch— And how we rejoiced
at never-to-be-repeated pleasures,
like having collected the right
number of bottle caps to flatten
on the gravel driveway with a hammer, punch
holes in their hearts with a pick then string them
with a bracelet of wire to make a sound akin
to tambourines— And they were just
the right thing for those dark evenings
before Christmas, our scraggly, snot-nosed band
going from house to house in the neighborhood,
quavering faulty carols learned
from the radio, waiting for the doors
to open and the gifts of coins or sweets,
or better yet to be invited in.

Police report

(Lord’s day). Up early, and by appointment to St. Clement lanes to church, and there to meet Captain Cocke, who had often commended Mr. Alsopp, their minister, to me, who is indeed an able man, but as all things else did not come up to my expectations. His text was that all good and perfect gifts are from above. Thence Cocke and I to the Sun tavern behind the Exchange, and there met with others that are come from the same church, and staid and drank and talked with them a little, and so broke up, and I to the Wardrobe and there dined, and staid all the afternoon with my Lady alone talking, and thence to see Madame Turner, who, poor lady, continues very ill, and I begin to be afraid of her. Thence homewards, and meeting Mr. Yong, the upholster, he and I to the Mitre, and with Mr. Rawlinson sat and drank a quart of sack, and so I to Sir W. Batten’s and there staid and supped, and so home, where I found an invitation sent my wife and I to my uncle Wight’s on Tuesday next to the chine of beef which I presented them with yesterday. So to prayers and to bed.

Captain Cock
is an able man
but his gifts are little—all talk—
and he continues to be afraid
of the holster.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 24 November 1661.


To Westminster with my wife (she to her father’s), and about 10 o’clock back again home, and there I to the office a little, and thence by coach with Commissioner Pett to Cheapside to one Savill, a painter, who I intend shall do my picture and my wife’s. Thence I to dinner at the Wardrobe, and so home to the office, and there all the afternoon till night, and then both Sir Williams to my house, and in comes Captain Cock, and they to cards. By and by Sir W. Batten and Cock, after drinking a good deal of wine, went away, and Sir W. Pen staid with my wife and I to supper, very pleasant, and so good night. This day I have a chine of beef sent home, which I bespoke to send, and did send it as a present to my uncle Wight.

Back home to
a heap of cards,
ink and pen my supper
and good night.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 23 November 1661.


This entry is part 18 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014


The first warm day since autumn’s onset—
and sounds of soccer practice drift
across the street: the coach’s whistle,

his animated urging, the familiar
thunk of contact as the ball sails
toward its intended target

to a chorus of cheers. Behind glass
in the building next door, a line of girls,
their supple limbs a sheathed uniform

making a pale pink movement like a wave.
A woman waiting on the bench turns to ask,
And how is your daughter? In this as in all

things, the metronome ticks audibly:
measure against measure, unfaltering,
timed against the pulse that set it there.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


Within all the morning, and at noon with my wife, by appointment to dinner at the Dolphin, where Sir W. Batten, and his lady and daughter Matt, and Captain Cocke and his lady, a German lady, but a very great beauty, and we dined together, at the spending of some wagers won and lost between him and I; and there we had the best musique and very good songs, and were very merry and danced, but I was most of all taken with Madam Cocke and her little boy, which in mirth his father had given to me. But after all our mirth comes a reckoning of 4l., besides 40s. to the musicians, which did trouble us, but it must be paid, and so I took leave and left them there about eight at night. And on foot went to the Temple, and then took my cozen Turner’s man Roger, and went by his advice to Serjeant Fountaine and told him our case, who gives me good comfort in it, and I gave him 30s. fee. So home again and to bed. This day a good pretty maid was sent my wife by Mary Bowyer, whom my wife has hired.

Within the dolphin,
a great lost music
given to the night.
And the fountain—
so pretty a red.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 22 November 1661.

Guest worker

In the morning again at looking over my last night’s papers, and by and by comes Mr. Moore, who finds that my papers may do me much good. He staid and dined with me, and we had a good surloyne of rost beefe, the first that ever I had of my own buying since I kept house; and after dinner he and I to the Temple, and there showed Mr. Smallwood my papers, who likes them well, and so I left them with him, and went with Mr. Moore to Gray’s Inn to his chamber, and there he shewed me his old Camden’s “Britannica”, which I intend to buy of him, and so took it away with me, and left it at St. Paul’s Churchyard to be bound, and so home and to the office all the afternoon; it being the first afternoon that we have sat, which we are now to do always, so long as the Parliament sits, who this day have voted the King 120,000l.1 to be raised to pay his debts. And after the office with Sir W. Batten to the Dolphin, and drank and left him there, and I again to the Temple about my business, and so on foot home again and to bed.

My papers find me
in my own house.

I show my papers
like an old bound foot.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 21 November 1661.