Geophilic

Up and to the office, where sat till two o’clock, and then home to dinner, whither by and by comes Mr. Creed, and he and I talked of our Tangier business, and do find that there is nothing in the world done with true integrity, but there is design along with it, as in my Lord Rutherford, who designs to have the profit of victualling of the garrison himself, and others to have the benefit of making the Mole, so that I am almost discouraged from coming any more to the Committee, were it not that it will possibly hereafter bring me to some acquaintance of great men. Then to the office again, where very busy till past ten at night, and so home to supper and to bed.
I have news this day from Cambridge that my brother hath had his bachelor’s cap put on; but that which troubles me is, that he hath the pain of the stone, and makes bloody water with great pain, it beginning just as mine did. I pray God help him.

a reed is nothing
in the world of a mole

but the pain of the stone
makes bloody water


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 27 January 1662/63

Impedimenta

Lighten the craft, downsize,
divest— ruthlessly take out all
there is from brimming closets

and dump them on the floor
or on the bed. Empty each drawer
in every kitchen cabinet; unearth

from storage old newspaper
clippings, coats, banker’s boxes
of letters from lovers old

or dead: hold them one
by one, one last time
to check if they inspire

a thrill akin to joy.
If not, bid them the long-
overdue, the firm farewell.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Believer.

Believer

Up and by water with Sir W. Batten to White Hall, drinking a glass of wormewood wine at the Stillyard, and so up to the Duke, and with the rest of the officers did our common service; thence to my Lord Sandwich’s, but he was in bed, and had a bad fit last night, and so I went to Westminster Hall, it being Term time, it troubling me to think that I should have any business there to trouble myself and thoughts with. Here I met with Monsieur Raby, who is lately come from France. [He] tells me that my Lord Hinchingbroke and his brother do little improve there, and are much neglected in their habits and other things; but I do believe he hath a mind to go over as their tutour, and so I am not apt to believe what he says therein. But I had a great deal of very good discourse with him, concerning the difference between the French and the Pope, and the occasion, which he told me very particularly, and to my great content; and of most of the chief affairs of France, which I did enquire: and that the King is a most excellent Prince, doing all business himself; and that it is true he hath a mistress, Mademoiselle La Valiere, one of the Princess Henriette’s women, that he courts for his pleasure every other day, but not so as to make him neglect his publique affairs. He tells me how the King do carry himself nobly to the relations of the dead Cardinall, and will not suffer one pasquill to come forth against him; and that he acts by what directions he received from him before his death.
Having discoursed long with him, I took him by coach and set him down at my Lord Crew’s, and myself went and dined at Mr. Povy’s, where Orlando Massam, Mr. Wilks, a Wardrobe man, myself and Mr. Gawden, and had just such another dinner as I had the other day there.
But above all things I do the most admire his piece of perspective especially, he opening me the closett door, and there I saw that there is nothing but only a plain picture hung upon the wall.
After dinner Mr. Gauden and I to settle the business of the Tangier victualling, which I perceive none of them yet have hitherto understood but myself.
Thence by coach to White Hall, and met upon the Tangier Commission, our greatest business the discoursing of getting things ready for my Lord Rutherford to go about the middle of March next, and a proposal of Sir J. Lawson’s and Mr. Cholmely’s concerning undertaking the Mole, which is referred to another time.
So by coach home, being melancholy, overcharged with business, and methinks I fear that I have some ill offices done to Mr. Coventry, or else he observes that of late I have not despatched business so as I did use to do, which I confess I do acknowledge. But it may be it is but my fear only, he is not so fond as he used to be of me. But I do believe that Sir W. Batten has made him believe that I do too much crow upon having his kindness, and so he may on purpose to countenance him seem a little more strange to me, but I will study hard to bring him back again to the same degree of kindness.
So home, and after a little talk with my wife, to the office, and did a great deal of business there till very late, and then home to supper and to bed.

I think that I should believe so I believe
every other day
in death

I admire that nothing
a plain picture hung on the wall

but I believe too in kindness
and a little talk
and a great deal of supper


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 26 January 1662/63

Seriously Fine

Carry my feet away homewards
Where it takes more than two days
To fully learn to love the land,
Where we rely on hands more than reason —
Except it would be seriously fine
If we had some mechanical means
To shell the peas. If we did, our evenings
Would be free to meander with the creek
And fish, and we’d be rich indeed.


In response to “Bit parts.”

Among royals

(Lord’s day). Lay till 9 a-bed, then up, and being trimmed by the barber, I walked towards White Hall, calling upon Mr. Moore, whom I found still very ill of his ague. I discoursed with him about my Lord’s estate against I speak with my Lord this day. Thence to the King’s Head ordinary at Charing Cross, and sent for Mr. Creed, where we dined very finely and good company, good discourse. I understand the King of France is upon consulting his divines upon the old question, what the power of the Pope is? and do intend to make war against him, unless he do right him for the wrong his Embassador received; and banish the Cardinall Imperiall, which I understand this day is not meant the Cardinall belonging or chosen by the Emperor, but the name of his family is Imperial.
Thence to walk in the Park, which we did two hours, it being a pleasant sunshine day though cold. Our discourse upon the rise of most men that we know, and observing them to be the results of chance, not policy, in any of them, particularly Sir J. Lawson’s, from his declaring against Charles Stuart in the river of Thames, and for the Rump.
Thence to my Lord, who had his ague fit last night, but is now pretty well, and I staid talking with him an hour alone in his chamber, about sundry publique and private matters. Among others, he wonders what the project should be of the Duke’s going down to Portsmouth just now with his Lady, at this time of the year: it being no way, we think, to increase his popularity, which is not great; nor yet safe to do it, for that reason, if it would have any such effect. By and by comes in my Lady Wright, and so I went away, end after talking with Captn. Ferrers, who tells me of my Lady Castlemaine’s and Sir Charles Barkeley being the great favourites at Court, and growing every day more and more; and that upon a late dispute between my Lord Chesterfield, that is the Queen’s Lord Chamberlain, and Mr. Edward Montagu, her Master of the Horse, who should have the precedence in taking the Queen’s upperhand abroad out of the house, which Mr. Montagu challenges, it was given to my Lord Chesterfield. So that I perceive he goes down the wind in honour as well as every thing else, every day. So walk to my brother’s and talked with him, who tells me that this day a messenger is come, that tells us how Collonel Honiwood, who was well yesterday at Canterbury, was flung by his horse in getting up, and broke his scull, and so is dead. So home and to the office, despatching some business, and so home to supper, and then to prayers and to bed.

the barber of the king
observing the results of chance
is alone in his private wonder

that rites at court grow every day
that the queen’s hand challenges the wind
that a skull is dead to prayers


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 25 January 1662/63.

Intermission

“alone you’ve finished
what no one began…” ~ Alejandra Pizarnik

Because the lost spoon never finished
its epic banquet, I delay coming
to the novel’s end.

For anything is still possible:
the hidden narrative of the universe’s origins
is tucked into a space on a double-toothed

nit comb. The seed that cracked
both earth and heaven as it grew
is churning in the white belly

of the cow. And everything is change:
the flame quiets to a broody ember,
the ember powders into ash.

Just because I close my eyes
does not mean I have forgotten
the bread I left to rise.

 

In response to Via Negativa: A Glimpse from the Gutter (Alejandra Pizarnik).

A glimpse from the gutter: three poems by Alejandra Pizarnik

This entry is part 33 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas

 

por un minuto de vida breve
única de ojos abiertos
por un minuto de ver
en el cerebro flores pequeñas
danzando como palabras en la boca de un mudo

for one minute of fleeting life
the only one in which eyes are open
for one minute of seeing
small flowers dance in the brain
like words in a mute person’s mouth

*

has construido tu casa
has emplumado tus pájaros
has golpeado al viento
con tus propios huesos

has terminado sola
lo que nadie comenzó

you’ve built your house
you’ve put feathers on your birds
you’ve struck the wind
with your own bones

alone you’ve finished
what no one began

*

una mirada desde la alcantarilla
puede ser una visión del mundo

la rebelión consiste en mirar una rosa
hasta pulverizarse los ojos

a glimpse from the gutter
can become a complete worldview

rebellion consists of gazing at a rose
until your eyes are reduced to dust

Árbol de Diana (Tree of Diana), nos. 5, 16 and 23

One of the great advantages to being here in London is the super-fast internet. Without it, I doubt I would’ve seriously entertained the idea of making a bilingual videopoem with both the original poetry and the translation alternating in the soundtrack — it takes hours to upload a three-minute video file back home in Pennsylvania. Also, I was able to work closely with my co-conspirator here, Jean Morris, who came over to the house last week to record the the three Alejandra Pizarnik micropoems I’d chosen for the video (the first three from this post). In existing recordings of Pizarnik, the poet’s voice is slow, almost dreamy, and Jean tried with I think considerable success to imitate that quality without going so far as to actually mimic her Argentinian accent. I recorded my own reading later on, trying also to keep it slow and quiet. Jean also offered some valuable suggestions for improving my translations (she’s a professional translator; I’m a mere dilettante) and gave feedback on the imagery I’d had in mind to use.

The footage of the construction site at sunset had come first, shot out the back bedroom window. That made me think of these Pizarnik poems, which it seemed to me might form a unity with it. I shot the other footage purposefully for the project a few feet from the back door. (That rose had still been in bloom as late as December 15!) Finding the music was as usual a frustrating and time-consuming process, but at length I settled on a track at ccMixter which included some klezmer-like fiddle, a nod to Pizarnik’s Ashkenazi background. Enjoy!

Let things lie

photo by Jean Morris of a bust with two faces, male and female, back to back

My father left school at twelve,
my mother told me.
He had told her he didn’t leave
until he was fourteen,
she told me,
but his sister
had told her it was a lie.
I wonder why she needed
to tell me this.
She could never let things lie.

Ring

Lay pretty long, and by lying with my sheet upon my lip, as I have of old observed it, my upper lip was blistered in the morning. To the office all the morning, sat till noon, then to the Exchange to look out for a ship for Tangier, and delivered my manuscript to be bound at the stationer’s. So to dinner at home, and then down to Redriffe, to see a ship hired for Tangier, what readiness she was in, and found her ready to sail. Then home, and so by coach to Mr. Povy’s, where Sir W. Compton, Mr. Bland, Gawden, Sir J. Lawson and myself met to settle the victualling of Tangier for the time past, which with much ado we did, and for a six months’ supply more.
So home in Mr. Gawden’s coach, and to my office till late about business, and find that it is business that must and do every day bring me to something. So home to supper and to bed.

with my old hip
at the station to see her off
I find a ring


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 24 January 1662/63.