holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

“…if wishes were horses, poor men wald ride.” ~ Proverbs in Scots, 1628

The neighbor across the street hailed me
as I was leaving for work, to ask
for the name of the roofer we’d used
the last time we got a leak.

How’re you doing? I asked,
as he fumbled for a pen and a piece of paper
and I searched through my contacts, recalling
how we heard he’d just been in hospital.

And he looked at me and said, smiling weakly—
Oh you know, one more day. Which is also
one day less
— By which he meant, hard
to reckon one way or another at stage four,

cancer. Then he gestured at the slates
on his roof, nothing I could figure from where I stood
of where anything might be amiss in their neat overlap
and pattern. And as we stood in front of his yard

among the thick stands of rosemary he’d planted
and divided, something of the smell of summer
persisted: herbal and astringent, wrapped
close around each woody stalk.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

I went this morning with Sir W. Pen by coach to Westminster, and having done my business at Mr. Montagu’s, I went back to him at Whitehall, and from thence with him to the 3 Tun Tavern, at Charing Cross, and there sent for up the maister of the house’s dinner, and dined very well upon it, and afterwards had him and his fayre sister (who is very great with Sir W. Batten and Sir W. Pen in mirth) up to us, and looked over some medals that they shewed us of theirs; and so went away to the Theatre, to “The Joviall Crew,” and from hence home, and at my house we were very merry till late, having sent for his son, Mr. William Pen, lately come from Oxford. And after supper parted, and to bed.

Having done my sin,
I went back to the cross

and so I am late
for supper.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 1 November 1661.

Chinese Box #3

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Because the spirits had been here,
we picked up things and knew they

could not be merely of this world.
The clothespins by the hamper, the stain

on the ironing-board’s cover; good shirts
monogrammed with letters that once named

someone who walked and loved and bore
his weight among us, and drove

his secret need— who knows or cares now
the actual reason— into my mother’s body.

Once, twice, a hundred times, I will never know
the actual story. Only that I wish I could find

some antique remnant: brooch with a border
nubby to my touch, cuff links, postcard

inked in code; scent that must have risen
from bodies in the wake of such furtive love.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

This morning comes Prior of Brampton to me about the house he has to buy of me, but I was forced to be at the office all the morning, and so could not talk with him. And so, after the office was done, and dined at home, I went to my brother Tom’s, and there met him. He demanded some abatement, he having agreed with my father for Barton’s house, at a price which I told him I could not meddle with, but that as for anything to secure his title to them I was ready, and so we parted.
Thence to Sir Robert Bernard, and as his client did ask his advice about my uncle Thomas’s case and ours as to Gravely, and in short he tells me that there is little hopes of recovering it or saving his annuity, which do trouble me much, but God’s will be done. Hence, with my mind full of trouble, to my uncle Fenner’s, when at the alehouse I found him drinking and very jolly and youthsome, and as one that I believe will in a little time get a wife. So home.

Come, buy, talk, dine,
demand, agree, use, meddle:
the client is a little god
of trouble—
one that I believe in.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 31 October 1661.