Captive audience

Up and among my workmen, my work going on still very well. So to my office all the morning, and dined again with Sir W. Batten, his Lady being in the country. Among other stories, he told us of the Mayor of Bristoll’s reading a pass with the bottom upwards; and a barber that could not read, that flung a letter in the kennel when one came to desire him to read the superscription, saying, “Do you think I stand here to read letters?” Among my workmen again, pleasing myself all the afternoon there, and so to the office doing business till past 9 at night, and so home and to bed. This afternoon Mrs. Hunt came to see me, and I did give her a Muske Millon. To-day my hogshead of sherry I have sold to Sir W. Batten, and am glad of my money instead of wine.
After I had wrote this at my office (as I have of late altogether done since my wife has been in the country) I went into my house, and Will having been making up books at Deptford with other clerks all day, I did not think he was come home, but was in fear for him, it being very late, what was become of him. But when I came home I found him there at his ease in his study, which vexed me cruelly, that he should no more mind me, but to let me be all alone at the office waiting for him. Whereupon I struck him, and did stay up till 12 o’clock at night chiding him for it, and did in plain terms tell him that I would not be served so, and that I am resolved to look out some boy that I may have the bringing up of after my own mind, and which I do intend to do, for I do find that he has got a taste of liberty since he came to me that he will not leave. Having discharged my mind, I went to bed.

reading to the hogs
as I have done
my books come to taste
of liberty

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 27 August 1662.

When we speak through a medium

This entry is part 9 of 19 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2015


She writes about the constant
tintinnabulation in her ear,

the screen of blue-grey static
background to every other noise.

Silence, therefore, becomes
a field of buzzing premonitions:

electric fence, jumpy periphery
coiling around surfaces that poorly

reflect the moon or its shadows,
unsorted vegetation— what mouths

said and what the mind picked out
or mistook for something else. Now

when we talk on the phone, I wonder
what vapors away, divides; conveys.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Small Animals

…where ancient waters gathered in basins
beneath the trees, developers have sent

their armies of earth-movers.
—Luisa A. Igloria, “Anything that might sustain

in our village, the trees are young
the older ones were axed or bulldozed
more than fifteen summers ago
to make way for duplexes
and similar vacation houses

we are not summer tenants
but live here from season to season
through each monsoon and strong moon tides
when the paucity of foliage and trees leaves us
as vulnerable as small animals
with nowhere to hide

but the pine grows convoluted and hardy roots
soon the saplings the gardener
entrusts to the earth
are taller than my adult daughters
but this is fifteen years later

so why did the heavy equipment
operators and bulldozers
destroy the sturdy ancient trees
in the first place to shelter
transient humans?


This entry is part 8 of 19 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2015


And just like that, another season’s over: clipped
smell of grass now overlaid with something else

that lengthens, spindles. The late crop on the tree
now harder, smaller— as if beginning the inward turn,

rehearsing for more callous weather. My nerve’s
more restless too: I startle easy from hard-sown sleep,

stumble from the screen of dreams, wanting either warmth
or a long drink of water. The numbers ticking at my wrist

show me my pulse, how many flights of stairs, how many
steps I’ve taken. But nothing I know will tell me

what in the marrow darkens, what it multiplies
then churns through cells of blood. I hoist myself

back into bed as daybreak rounds the corner, not always
seeing when dappled light begins to shade the blinds.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Begin the beguine

Up betimes and among my works and workmen, and with great pleasure seeing them go on merrily, and a good many hands, which I perceive makes good riddance, and so to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon dined alone with Sir W. Batten, which I have not done a great while, but his lady being out of the way I was the willinger to do it, and after dinner he and I by water to Deptford, and there found Sir G. Carteret and my Lady at dinner, and so we sat down and eat another dinner of venison with them, and so we went to the payhouse, and there staid till 10 o’clock at night paying off the Martin and Kinsale, being small but troublesome ships to pay, and so in the dark by water home to the Custom House, and so got a lanthorn to light us home, there being Mr. Morrice the wine cooper with us, he having been at Deptford to view some of the King’s casks we have to sell.
So to bed.

in many hands
I perceive a dance
of great use
and small trouble
dark and light

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 26 August 1662.


after/inspired by Dave Bonta’s “Youth Revisited

It is said
Malek ibn Dinar
was asked by
his neighbors
to confront
a rabble-rouser.

When he offered
to report him to
the sultan, the
youth just laughed,
proclaimed himself
too favored to be
punished locally,
so Malek pointed
upward, threatened
higher authority.

Still the youth
refused to cower,
proclaimed God
much too generous
to inspire fear. Malek
could not dispute
this, he left

Another day in
the market, crowds
gathered to grab
that young man
and restrain him,
but before Malek
could join them,
he heard a Voice:

Do not touch him.
He is my friend.

When Malek passed
on the message,
the youth said: Ah!
If it is like that,
take my possessions.

And he left, alone,
after the Friend
who did not permit
even a saint to raise
a hand against him.

Based on “Malek ibn Dinar: Malek and his licentious neighbour” in
Muslim Saints and Mystics: Episodes from the Tadhkiral al-Auliya’ (“Memorial of the Saints”) by Farid al-Din Attar, translated by A.J. Arberry (Rutledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1966)

In coal country

Up early, and among my workmen when they came, and set them in good order at work on all hands, which, though it at first began angrily, yet I pleased myself afterwards in seeing it put into a good posture, and so I left them, and away by water to Woolwich (calling in my way in Hamcreek, where I have never been before, and there found two of the King’s ships lie there without any living creature aboard, which troubled me, every thing being stole away that can be), where I staid seeing a cable of 14 inches laid, in which there was good variety.
Then to Mr. Falconer’s, and there eat a bit of roast meat off of the spit, and so away to the yard, and there among other things mustered the yard, and did things that I perceive people do begin to value me, and that I shall be able to be of command in all matters, which God be praised for. Then to Mr. Pett’s, and there eat some fruit and drank, and so to boat again, and to Deptford, calling there about the business of my house only, and so home, where by appointment I found Mr. Coventry, Sir W. Batten, and Mr. Waith met at Sir W. Batten’s, and thither I met, and so agreed upon a way of answering my Lord Treasurer’s letter. Here I found Mr. Coventry had got a letter from the Duke, sent us for looking into the business of the Chest, of which I am glad. After we had done here I went home, and up among my workmen, and found they had done a good day’s work, and so to my office till late ordering of several businesses, and so home and to bed, my mind, God be praised, full of business, but great quiet.

a creek without
any living creature

I eat as a way of answering
the great quiet

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 25 August 1662.

Anything that might sustain

The things we do to try and pass the time:
slowest, excruciating, in lines that snake

and double around the block, or in five-lane
traffic, stuck— Before we’ve even begun

the day in earnest, the morning’s festered.
And every other road sports cracks left over,

untended, from last election season and its promises,
soon to dovetail with the next. And in the hills

where ancient waters gathered in basins
beneath the trees, developers have sent

their armies of earth-movers. Storm after storm
scathes now, and not just passes. In the dark

we try to think of things that make life bearable.
Dank air in humid rooms, where light bulbs flicker.


In response to Via Negativa: Overthink.

Banana Split

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Poets in the Kitchen


Banana Girl

this longing to consume you
completely has not ceased,
i persist in wanting to eat you
the way i eat a semi-ripe banana,
unpeeling it slowly, checking it
for hardness in some parts,
the parts that present a
challenge for tongue and teeth.

think of me as the soft, ripe parts,
the one with a bruise the color
of a hickey but i can never bring myself
to confess to this desire
to make a light meal out of you.

the shyness of an introverted girl
overpowers the lust about to flare.
yep, yellow is for the cowardly
who don’t even give it the ole college try
true, i am like those bundles
of Dole bananas harvested
from southern Philippine plantations
by underpaid, underfed workers.

you will sooner see a rise from me
from a sense of outrage at inhumane
servitude than for me to sidle up
to your side, unpeel you slowly
like a firm banana i wanna
introduce in my mouth.

Poor Person’s Banana Split

In the absence of ice cream, marshmallows and similar ingredients


6 pieces of bananas, lakatan variety

Can of condensed milk

Cupful of fried peanuts


Slice the bananas lengthwise and place them in four separate bowls. Chill them for 15 minutes. Pound the peanuts into a mortar and pestle until fine. Bring out the bowls of bananas, then pour condensed milk over them. Sprinkle with fine peanut powder. Serve to four hungry children as a healthy snack.


Your father never so much as washed a plate
in his whole life
, my mother once said to me.
I have to concede that this is true, thinking back

on our lives in the old green bungalow that used to be
the summer house of one of the presidents— I forget
which one. The story was that when we arrived

to take possession, his portrait (not my father’s,
the president’s) hung in a grimy hallway until
it was taken down and everything could be mopped

and dusted and things set in their place. I don’t know
where the painting went, because I never saw it again.
In fact I cannot remember registering any

of its details. As for my father, though he was
fastidious about his appearance, he never sat
for any formal portrait. In high school, for an art

project I tried to capture their likenesses on canvas,
working from a photograph— my smiling mother
on the left, wearing coral lipstick

and her best pearls; my father on the right,
in a suit with a fine houndstooth check. I worked
to find some faithfulness to the picture,

and must have succeeded: he said he did not like
the way the corners of his mouth were set, as if
to make him look so unforgiving; nor the too

somber cast of his brow. The oils still pliable,
I did my best to lift and soften. I knew, after all,
from watching: how much it cost to inhabit the face

he mustered daily for that world of encounter
with others we barely, really, knew— The men in silk
ties wrapped in a haze of cigarette smoke, their women

a frothy coterie. It was a time when we
were supposed to know our place in the world,
the kinds of work we’d be allowed to do.


In response to Via Negativa: Wage.