July 2015

Up early and among my workmen, I ordering my rooms above, which will please me very well. So to my office, and there we sat all the morning, where I begin more and more to grow considerable there. At noon Mr. Coventry and I by his coach to the Exchange together; and in Lumbard-street met Captain Browne of the Rosebush: at which he was cruel angry: and did threaten to go to-day to the Duke at Hampton Court, and get him turned out because he was not sailed. But at the Exchange we resolved of eating a bit together, which we did at the Ship behind the Exchange, and so took boat to Billingsgate, and went down on board the Rosebush at Woolwich, and found all things out of order, but after frightening the officers there, we left them to make more haste, and so on shore to the yard, and did the same to the officers of the yard, that the ship was not dispatched. Here we found Sir W. Batten going about his survey, but so poorly and unlike a survey of the Navy, that I am ashamed of it, and so is Mr. Coventry. We found fault with many things, and among others the measure of some timber now serving in which Mr. Day the assistant told us of, and so by water home again, all the way talking of the office business and other very pleasant discourse, and much proud I am of getting thus far into his books, which I think I am very much in.
So home late, and it being the last day of the month, I did make up my accounts before I went to bed, and found myself worth about 650l., for which the Lord God be praised, and so to bed.
I drank but two glasses of wine this day, and yet it makes my head ake all night, and indisposed me all the next day, of which I am glad. I am now in town only with my man Will and Jane, and because my house is in building, I do lie at Sir W. Pen’s house, he being gone to Ireland. My wife, her maid and boy gone to Brampton. I am very well entered into the business and esteem of the office, and do ply it close, and find benefit by it.

I consider the rosebush cruel
and the rose frightening
as a ship in the Navy.
I am ashamed
of the timber in a book.
I think up a God
and it makes my head
into a well of ice.


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 31 July 1662.

Papery as the rustle of crepe
myrtle, thin as the shade of their wild
and intense flowering—

I want to quilt the dresses
they drop as quickly as
they don them.

I want the lawnmower’s mouth
to leave them alone, to take
its noisy breath somewhere else.

Some stones in the back
lie close together, as if
in a little churchyard.

A dragonly furls and unfurls
its iridescent pennants
as if rehearsing—

And sometimes all I want is
for the cistern to take my coin,
for the fountain to answer.

taken with onion and a small red pepper
diced so fine they melt willingly into
oil already fragrant with the shavings
from a piece of ginger, the yellow flesh

of this large pumpkin, taken just this
morning from the vine, boiled tender
with its leaves and blossoms, chopped
and scattered to sizzle in the seasoned

oil will suffice to whet the appetite
beside soft fluffy rice packed into an
enamel bowl to shape it, gently turned
upside down onto a waiting plate

to steam enticingly: this is the alchemy,
the kitchen magic that must enchant his
senses, fill his stomach, satiate and pave
the pathway so my answer to the awkward

question that awaits about the change
of menu plan may also satisfy, so my words
of confession are heard with the drowsy
generosity that comes from a full belly,

his tongue gentle, softened by savoring
the flavors of the curry – so when he asks
the question of why this evening’s dinner
is not what he expected, why it looks quite

so vegetarian, why is this pumpkin not
a chicken, and I must admit that I’ve been
led into temptation, have spent monies
given me to purchase meat – on books –

succumbed to that more transcendental
form of nourishment, given in to words


Prompted by Luisa A. Igloria’s “In the hotel with thin walls and the name of a poet” and the need to provide some explanation for dinner.

Up early, and to my office, where Cooper came to me and begun his lecture upon the body of a ship, which my having of a modell in the office is of great use to me, and very pleasant and useful it is.
Then by water to White Hall, and there waited upon my Lord Sandwich; and joyed him, at his lodgings, of his safe coming home after all his danger, which he confesses to be very great. And his people do tell me how bravely my Lord did carry himself, while my Lord Crofts did cry; and I perceive it is all the town talk how poorly he carried himself. But the best was of one Mr. Rawlins, a courtier, that was with my Lord; and in the greatest danger cried, “God damn me, my Lord, I won’t give you three-pence for your place now.” But all ends in the honour of the pleasure-boats; which, had they not been very good boats, they could never have endured the sea as they did.
Thence with Captain Fletcher, of the Eagl, in his ship’s boat with 8 oars (but every ordinary oars outrowed us) to Woolwich, expecting to find Sir W. Batten there upon his survey, but he is not come, and so we got a dish of steaks at the White Hart, while his clarkes and others were feasting of it in the best room of the house, and after dinner playing at shuffleboard, and when at last they heard I was there, they went about their survey. But God help the King! what surveys, shall be taken after this manner!
I after dinner about my business to the Rope-yard, and there staid till night, repeating several trialls of the strength, wayte, waste, and other things of hemp, by which I have furnished myself enough to finish my intended business of stating the goodness of all sorts of hemp.
At night home by boat with Sir W. Warren, who I landed by the way, and so being come home to bed.

the body of a model
is a safe croft

but the best place could endure
every ordinary survey

and so a dish of larks
after the wasteland


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 30 July 1662.

No more room to lay
a wreath upon the stub
of a landmark:

the name of the hero,
made illegible in the press
of new construction—

And I did not even want
to enter the street that once
led to our first home,

whose shape the fog, anyway,
would not let me discern.
An unfamiliar gas station

blinked its signs
in a lot no longer empty,
next to billboards

advertising Thai massage
and Unlimited Texting.
All I wanted

was to smell bread
lifted new from the hearth.
And if not that,

then to find the headstones
of those who ate with us,
made clean by the rain.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Lo que soy/What I am....

“…and the tongues of envelopes closed in
upon themselves.”
—Luisa A. Igloria, “Meditation on unchanging weather

Hit send. I often find I close my eyes a moment
as the poem fragments, not word by word but
all at once, becoming ones and zeroes, being

and non-being pushed along thick copper wires
decades old, then reaching the relay, bounced
into near-space orbit where they collide with

satellites, careen back toward the planet’s
surface, are sucked in by silicone and plastic
vacuums designed to receive and reassemble.

Not just a single poem traveling like this, but
at any given moment, many. Not just mine,
but those of others. Hundreds. Thousands more.

I shut down and step away from desk and digital,
first out onto the porch, then dare go beyond its
shelter, stand under ever-open sky. Am I being,

now, bombarded by stray fragments, irradiated
by streams of poetic being and non-being
that are just out here waiting to be reconstructed into

words and meaning? Even when the sky is clear,
does it rain invisibly, constantly drip bits? And am
I unwise to wander, unprotected, in such weather?

Early up, and brought all my money, which is near 300l., out of my house into this chamber; and so to the office, and there we sat all the morning, Sir George Carteret and Mr. Coventry being come from sea.
This morning among other things I broached the business of our being abused about flags, which I know doth trouble Sir W. Batten, but I care not.
At noon being invited I went with Sir George and Mr. Coventry to Sir W. Batten’s to dinner, and there merry, and very friendly to Sir Wm. and he to me, and complies much with me, but I know he envies me, and I do not value him.
To the office again, and in the evening walked to Deptford (Cooper with me talking of mathematiques), to send a fellow to prison for cutting of buoy ropes, and to see the difference between the flags sent in now-a-days, and I find the old ones, which were much cheaper, to be wholly as good. So I took one of a sort with me, and Mr. Wayth accompanying of me a good way, talking of the faults of the Navy, I walked to Redriffe back, and so home by water, and after having done, late, at the office, I went to my chamber and to bed.

out of the oven
this thin roach of our abuse

flags at the prison
were wholly as red


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 29 July 1662.

This entry is part 3 of 19 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2015

you hear the busboys hail each other
on the sidewalk after midnight. You hear
the man expectorating in the bathroom of Room 101—
the sound he makes, like someone drowning on dry land.
If it is true there are ghosts, you want to wait
for the one of your grandfather to materialize
and lead you by the hand down the grand staircase,
past tables laid with silver and candelabra
to the kitchen where he cleanly severed
the joints of fowl before he cooked them
in broth with ginger and squash. If it is true
that the rain will never cease, then the trail
of ants will lead from the hibiscus in the yard
to the bowl of honey in the larder; and you’ll eat
spoonful after spoonful so as to never fear
the mold so freely papering the ceilings,
and thus keep it from ever taking root in your lungs.
If it is true, that dream you used to have of hovering
over a billowing sheet in the shape of a sea: then
the green and white days in its aftermath
are only a pause, a door in the garden
through which women in evening dresses
have gone in search of the transcendental;
and into which, consequently, the long afternoon
siestas of childhood have momentarily disappeared.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 27 of 37 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas

Juana de IbarbourouSuccessful from early in her writing career, ceremonially baptised “Juana de América,” and once popular way beyond her own country and continent, the face of Juana de Ibarbourou (1892-1979) is on thousand-peso notes in her native Uruguay, but she seems no longer to be as well known internationally or as much published in translation as one might expect. Read more (if still frustratingly little) about her on Wikipedia.

Surfing through online poetry sites, skittering through countries and centuries, pulling out a few – not necessarily the most representative – poems that grab me and having a bash at translating them, is an ahistorical and superficial approach, perhaps. But it’s a bit like being an inexperienced prospector panning for gold – and finding it. The second of these poems, Bajo la Lluvia, is set to join my all-time favourites.


What I Am for You

           A doe
eating fragrant grass out of your hand.

           A dog
that follows everywhere in your footsteps.

           A star
twice as bright and sparkly just for you.

           A spring
rippling snake-like at your feet.

           A flower
whose honey and whose scent are yours alone.

For you I’m all of these,
I gave you my soul in all its guises.
The doe, the dog, the heavenly body and the flower,
the living water flowing at your feet.
           My soul is all
           for you, my
           Love.

Lo que soy para tí

           Cierva
que come en tus manos la olorosa hierba.

            Can
que sigue tus pasos doquiera que van.

            Estrella
para ti doblada de sol y centella.

            Fuente
que a tus pies ondula como una serpiente.

            Flor
que para ti solo da mieles y olor.

Todo eso yo soy para tí,
mi alma en todas sus formas te dí.
Cierva y can, astro y flor,
agua viva que glisa a tus pies,
            Mi alma es
            para tí,
            Amor.


Being Rained On

How the rain is sliding down my back!
How it’s soaking into my skirt
and planting its icy cold on my cheeks!
It’s raining, raining, raining.

And I’m off, I’m on my way,
with a lightness in my soul and a smile on my face,
with no emotions, no dreams,
just full of the pleasure of not thinking.

Here’s a bird taking a bath
in a muddy puddle. Surprised by my presence,
it pauses… looks me in the eye… feels like we’re friends…
We’re both in love with sky and fields and wheat!

Then the startled face
of a passing labourer with his hoe on his shoulder
and the rain is drenching me in all the scents
of October hedges.

And, soaked to the skin as I am,
a kind of wonderful, stupendous crown of crystal drops,
of flowers stripped of their petals,
pours over me from the astonished plants I brush against.

And I feel, in this mindless,
sleepless state, the pleasure,
the infinite, sweet, strange delight
of a moment’s oblivion.

It’s raining, raining, raining,
and in my soul and in my flesh, this icy cold.

Bajo la lluvia

¡Cómo resbala el agua por mi espalda!
¡Cómo moja mi falda,
y pone en mis mejillas su frescura de nieve!
Llueve, llueve, llueve.

Y voy, senda adelante,
con el alma ligera y la cara radiante,
sin sentir, sin soñar,
llena de la voluptuosidad de no pensar.

Un pájaro se baña
en una charca turbia. Mi presencia le extraña,
se detiene… me mira… nos sentimos amigos…
¡Los dos amamos muchos cielos, campos y trigos!

Después es el asombro
de un labriego que pasa con su azada al hombro
y la lluvia me cubre de todas las fragancias
de los setos de octubre.

Y es, sobre mi cuerpo por el agua empapado
como un maravilloso y estupendo tocado
de gotas cristalinas, de flores deshojadas
que vuelcan a mi paso las plantas asombradas.

Y siento, en la vacuidad
del cerebro sin sueño, la voluptuosidad
del placer infinito, dulce y desconocido,
de un minuto de olvido.

Llueve, llueve, llueve,
y tengo en alma y carne, como un frescor de nieve.


The Fig Tree

Because she’s rough and ugly,
her branches uniformly grey,
the fig tree moves me to pity.

At my country place are a hundred lovelies,
bushy plum trees,
upright lemons,
shiny-leaved orange trees.

Every springtime,
clothed in blossom,
they crowd around the fig tree.

Poor thing, how sad she looks,
with her twisted, truncated branches
that never sport tight little buds…

That’s why
each time I’m near her
I murmur, summoning
my sweetest, blithest tones:
“the fig tree is the loveliest
of all the orchard’s trees.”

And if she hears me,
if she understands my words,
what a deep sweetness will make its nest
in her sensitive tree-soul!

Perhaps, in a trance of pleasure,
while the wind fans her topmost branches,
she’ll tell the night:

Today I was called beautiful!

La Higuera

Porque es áspera y fea,
porque todas sus ramas son grises,
yo le tengo piedad a la higuera.

En mi quinta hay cien árboles bellos,
ciruelos redondos,
limoneros rectos
y naranjos de brotes lustrosos.

En las primaveras,
todos ellos se cubren de flores
en torno a la higuera.

Y la pobre parece tan triste
con sus gajos torcidos que nunca
de apretados capullos se visten…

Por eso,
cada vez que yo paso a su lado,
digo, procurando
hacer dulce y alegre mi acento:
«Es la higuera el más bello
de los árboles todos del huerto».

Si ella escucha,
si comprende el idioma en que hablo,
¡qué dulzura tan honda hará nido
en su alma sensible de árbol!

Y tal vez, a la noche,
cuando el viento abanique su copa,
embriagada de gozo le cuente:

¡Hoy a mí me dijeron hermosa!

Up early, and by six o’clock, after my wife was ready, I walked with her to the George, at Holborn Conduit, where the coach stood ready to carry her and her maid to Bugden, but that not being ready, my brother Tom staid with them to see them gone, and so I took a troubled though willing goodbye, because of the bad condition of my house to have a family in it. So I took leave of her and walked to the waterside, and there took boat for the Tower; hearing that the Queen-Mother is come this morning already as high as Woolwich: and that my Lord Sandwich was with her; at which my heart was glad, and I sent the waterman, though yet not very certain of it, to my wife to carry news thereof to my Lady. So to my office all the morning abstracting the Duke’s instructions in the margin thereof.
So home all alone to dinner, and then to the office again, and in the evening Cooper comes, and he being gone, to my chamber a little troubled and melancholy, to my lute late, and so to bed, Will lying there at my feet, and the wench in my house in Will’s bed.

a bug in my ear
its abstract instructions
and melancholy feet


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 28 July 1662.