March 2016

This entry is part 5 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

Who left me,
if I was too young

to know? I look into
the bathroom mirror

and touch the forehead’s
porcelain shelf, the twin

arches of brows floating
in the shape of stilled

metronomes. These lips
a boat, a pod set loose

with cravings for salt,
green tea, pork rinds,

cracked black
pepper chips— Who left

in me this strain,
this penchant for looking

out of windows, probing
the soil for any trace

of indigo? Every day
the backyard quietly

erupts with spring.
And for each flag

hoisted from the depths,
I salute the cost.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

…and to that purpose I lay long talking with my wife about my father’s coming, which I expect to-day, coming up with the horses brought up for my Lord. Up and to my office, where doing business all the morning, and at Sir W. Batten’s, whither Mr. Gauden and many others came to us about business. Then home to dinner, where W. Joyce came, and he still a talking impertinent fellow. So to the office again, and hearing by and by that Madam Clerke, Pierce, and others were come to see my wife I stepped in and staid a little with them, and so to the office again, where late, and so home to supper and to bed.

talking about her horses
all morning
a joy in her step


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 31 March 1663.

“three pieces of gold
for the dead…” – D. Bonta

Every other year or so the mail
brings a summons, a paper
of accounting, a kind of fatwa,
a notice of debt. She doesn’t know
where to begin to address it,
how to reconcile the life
that kept going, versus the cost.
Before the dead are lowered
into the grave, she knows custom
allows one bright coin to seal
each eyelid shut. When the vault
is drawn, by what light will their
currency matter, and to whom?

 

In response to Via Negativa: Gambler.

Up betimes and found my weather-glass sunk again just to the same position which it was last night before I had any fire made in my chamber, which had made it rise in two hours time above half a degree. So to my office where all the morning and at the Glasshouse, and after dinner by coach with Sir W. Pen I carried my wife and her woman to Westminster, they to visit Mrs. Ferrers and Clerke, we to the Duke, where we did our usual business, and afterwards to the Tangier Committee, where among other things we all of us sealed and signed the Contract for building the Mole with my Lord Tiviott, Sir J. Lawson, and Mr. Cholmeley. A thing I did with a very ill will, because a thing which I did not at all understand, nor any or few of the whole board. We did also read over the propositions for the Civill government and Law Merchant of the town, as they were agreed on this morning at the Glasshouse by Sir R. Ford and Sir W. Rider, who drew them, Mr. Povy and myself as a Committee appointed to prepare them, which were in substance but not in the manner of executing them independent wholly upon the Governor consenting to.
Thence to see my Lord Sandwich, who I found very merry and every day better and better. So to my wife, who waited my coming at my Lord’s lodgings, and took her up and by coach home, where no sooner come but to bed, finding myself just in the same condition I was lately by the extreme cold weather, my pores stopt and so my body all inflamed and itching. So keeping myself warm and provoking myself to a moderate sweat, and so somewhat better in the morning…

a glass fire
in my glass house

they build the whole
town in glass

who appointed them
to see and to find us

the body a flame
self provoking self


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 30 March 1663.

(Lord’s day). Waked as I used to do betimes, but being Sunday and very cold I lay long, it raining and snowing very hard, which I did never think it would have done any more this year.
Up and to church, home to dinner. After dinner in comes Mr. Moore, and sat and talked with us a good while; among other things telling me, that [neither] my Lord nor he are under apprehensions of the late discourse in the House of Commons, concerning resumption of Crowne lands, which I am very glad of.
He being gone, up to my chamber, where my wife and Ashwell and I all the afternoon talking and laughing, and by and by I a while to my office, reading over some papers which I found in my man William’s chest of drawers, among others some old precedents concerning the practice of this office heretofore, which I am glad to find and shall make use of, among others an oath, which the Principal Officers were bound to swear at their entrance into their offices, which I would be glad were in use still.
So home and fell hard to make up my monthly accounts, letting my family go to bed after prayers. I staid up long, and find myself, as I think, fully worth 670l.. So with good comfort to bed, finding that though it be but little, yet I do get ground every month. I pray God it may continue so with me.

sun and snow
which things are under hens

which amber
which old precedent

which ear at the entrance
to a hard monthly ground


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 29 March 1663.

Here it is again, a thing
we might assign the name of herald.

Except that it is just a bird
with red-rouged breast, come into the tree

which has not leafed yet.
I think of the time I saw a photograph

of a man I had not seen in over
twenty years, a child not mine

locked in his arms. I recall
what I once read of grief:

how we mourn at least twice—
first, for the one who left;

and next for the self left behind. I lean
closer to the window, but the bird

is no sooner here than gone—
small bruise of color lifting

away from the twig. My own
face, blurry in the light;

reflection of itself receding
behind the unmoving pane of glass.

Up betimes and to my office, where all the morning. Dined at home and Creed with me, and though a very cold day and high wind, yet I took him by land to Deptford, my common walk, where I did some little businesses, and so home again walking both forwards and backwards, as much along the street as we could to save going by water.
So home, and after being a little while hearing Ashwell play on the tryangle, to my office, and there late, writing a chiding letter — to my poor father about his being so unwilling to come to an account with me, which I desire he might do, that I may know what he spends, and how to order the estate so as to pay debts and legacys as far as may be. So late home to supper and to bed.

high wind—
walking backwards along the street
my poor leg


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 28 March 1663.

Up betimes and at my office all the morning, at noon to the Exchange, and there by appointment met my uncles Thomas and Wight, and from thence with them to a tavern, and there paid my uncle Wight three pieces of gold for himself, my aunt, and their son that is dead, left by my uncle Robert, and read over our agreement with my uncle Thomas and the state of our debts and legacies, and so good friendship I think is made up between us all, only we have the worst of it in having so much money to pay. Thence I to the Exchequer again, and thence with Creed into Fleet Street, and calling at several places about business; in passing, at the Hercules pillars he and I dined though late, and thence with one that we found there, a friend of Captain Ferrers I used to meet at the playhouse, they would have gone to some gameing house, but I would not but parted, and staying a little in Paul’s Churchyard, at the foreign Bookseller’s looking over some Spanish books, and with much ado keeping myself from laying out money there, as also with them, being willing enough to have gone to some idle house with them, I got home, and after a while at my office, to supper, and to bed.

three pieces of gold
for the dead

a debt I pay
at the gaming house

not in church
a foreign money to them


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 27 March 1663.

The day they came to ask
for my hand, I recollect clouds

of steam from the kitchen,
a singed animal smell.

Windows streaked
by the start of the monsoon,

faint sound of a harmonica
from somewhere up the road.

Several times I passed myself
in the hallway mirror.

No longer sure which way
was coming, which was going,

I drank the tea they brought me.
Someone may have used the word

auspicious in a sentence.
This would fit the way such a story

might be told. But I looked around
and there was no one to absolve

or confirm any splinter
of misgiving. Wet leaves

at the bottom of the cup
drew a shape, but refused to say

anything of the new
country ahead.

Rift: early 14c., “a split, act of splitting,” from a Scandinavian source (compare Danish and Norwegian rift “a cleft,” Old Icelandic ript (pronounced “rift”) “breach;” related to Old Norse ripa “to break a contract”… Figurative use from 1620s. Geological sense from 1921. As a verb, c. 1300.

From speaking with her mother on the phone beforehand, I knew
she had the 20 dollar bill that she’d been given—

but when she was delivered into my care that afternoon,
saw her fold it tightly, furtively, into her small fist,

pretend she didn’t have anything on her when she alighted
from the car. They must have been only 8 or 9 then, she

and my daughter. So I made no comment, only reassured
my friend before she drove away: an hour or so at tennis,

snacks afterward— a sandwich or an ice cream float,
each not more than five dollars. Of course it wasn’t any

trouble: never was, not then, nor any of the other times
we watched both girls at home, fed and tucked them in

on sleepover nights, took them to restaurants, bought
cold drinks at the corner store. It never was an issue

that they were much more well-to-do: the gifts
we exchanged on holidays and birthdays, never about

what they cost but what they meant, what they
were worth, this way. But now with both girls

at that awkward age when friendships take different
turns, I’m surprised how much I hurt for days

after my child tells me she’s heard from some
school grapevine source that she’s been unfriended,

cut off; what’s more, that we never did enough
for my child’s friend whereas her family had done

so much for us. Though I know better— just as my child
is coming to understand— and can make the mind

do the work of pulling the heart through
one more difficult rift on the landscape, still

a sorrow lingers; and like a tattered shadow,
its miserly sister doubt. I think of Damon

and Pythias, how the king was set to put to death
the one that valiantly offered himself as guarantee

for his friend; how the latter arrived just in the nick
of time. How that kind of faith is what we long for.