Remembering the dead

my mind heavy with arithmetic ~ D. Bonta

On this holiday, the living
visit the cities of the dead,
there where all they’d ever
loved or hated have gone to sleep
in rows, their headstones covered
with moss, the letters carved
into them blurred and softened.
Here is the grave of the man
laid to rest in a seersucker suit,
here the American that time all but
forgot in this part of the world.
Here is the woman who whitened her face
to rival the moon’s, and here the neighbor
who played cards nightly with his father.
And in the pools the frogs continue
to lay their eggs, dark speckled beads
soon kicking in the water; overhead, funnel
clouds of mosquitoes; and the dry sift
of branches with their rain of needles.


In response to Via Negativa: Matched.


Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon home to dinner, where Creed came and dined with me, and after dinner he and I upstairs, and I showed him my velvet cloake and other things of clothes, that I have lately bought, which he likes very well, and I took his opinion as to some things of clothes, which I purpose to wear, being resolved to go a little handsomer than I have hitherto.
Thence to the office; where busy till night, and then to prepare my monthly account, about which I staid till 10 or 11 o’clock at night, and to my great sorrow find myself 43l. worse than I was the last month, which was then 760l., and now it is but 717l.. But it hath chiefly arisen from my layings-out in clothes for myself and wife; viz., for her about 12l., and for myself 55l., or thereabouts; having made myself a velvet cloake, two new cloth suits, black, plain both; a new shagg gowne, trimmed with gold buttons and twist, with a new hat, and, silk tops for my legs, and many other things, being resolved henceforward to go like myself. And also two perriwiggs, one whereof costs me 3l., and the other 40s. — I have worn neither yet, but will begin next week, God willing. So that I hope I shall not need now to lay out more money a great while, I having laid out in clothes for myself and wife, and for her closett and other things without, these two months, this and the last, besides household expenses of victuals, &c., above 110l.. But I hope I shall with more comfort labour to get more, and with better successe than when, for want of clothes, I was forced to sneake like a beggar. Having done this I went home, and after supper to bed, my mind being eased in knowing my condition, though troubled to think that I have been forced to spend so much.
Thus I end this month worth 717l., or thereabouts, with a good deal of good goods more than I had, and a great deal of new and good clothes.
My greatest trouble and my wife’s is our family, mighty out of order by this fellow Will’s corrupting the mayds by his idle talke and carriage, which we are going to remove by hastening him out of the house, which his uncle Blackburne is upon doing, and I am to give him 20l. per annum toward his maintenance.
The Queene continues lightheaded, but in hopes to recover.
The plague is much in Amsterdam, and we in fears of it here, which God defend.
The Turke goes on mightily in the Emperor’s dominions, and the Princes cannot agree among themselves how to go against him.
Myself in pretty good health now, after being ill this month for a week together, but cannot yet come to shit well, being so costive, but for this month almost I have not had a good natural stool, but to this hour am forced to take physic every night, which brings me neither but one stool, and that in the morning as soon as I am up, all the rest of the day very costive.
My father has been very ill in the country, but I hope better again now.
I am lately come to a conclusion with Tom Trice to pay him 100l., which is a great deale of money, but I hope it will save a great deal more.
But thus everything lessens, which I have and am like to have, and therefore I must look about me to get something more than just my salary, or else I may resolve to live well and die a beggar.

I wear my sorrow
trimmed with gold silk

like a worn-out wife
forced to sneak like a beggar into bed

but it can cost a great deal
just to die

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 31 October 1663.


Lay long in bed with my wife, and then up and a while at my office, and so to the Change, and so again, and there I found my wife in a great passion with her mayds. I upstairs to set some things in order in our chamber and wardrobe, and so to dinner upon a good dish of stewed beef, then up again about my business. Then by coach with my wife to the New Exchange, and there bought and paid for several things, and then back, calling at my periwigg-makers, and there showed my wife the periwigg made for me, and she likes it very well, and so to my brother’s, and to buy a pair of boddice for her, and so home, and to my office late, and then home to my wife, purposing to go on to a new lesson in arithmetique with her. So to supper and to bed. The Queen mends apace, but her head still light.
My mind very heavy thinking of my great layings out lately, and what they must still be for clothes, but I hope it is in order to getting of something the more by it, for I perceive how I have hitherto suffered for lack of going as becomes my place.
After a little discourse with my wife upon arithmetique, to bed.

my ice and her passion
her stairs and my back
wed like a pair of dice

her home a lesson in light
my mind heavy with arithmetic

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 30 October 1663.

Zoltan, Dog of Dracula

“There is much to be learned from beasts.” ~ Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992

Through a radio Halloween feature, I learn
that among the more than 200 films made
on the world’s most famous vampire

was one about Zoltan, the hound
of Dracula
— I haven’t seen it,
but it sounds like a potboiler:

Russian dog saves innkeeper
mistress from being bitten by a bat,
who is Dracula in disguise; furious,

hungry bat bites dog, turning it
into a vampire. Vampire dog now
turns against its owner, and the circle

of bloodlust widens in the lower
registers. But wouldn’t it have been
just a matter of time, this democratic

sort of extension of the food chain
from nobleman-monster to villager
to dog? Just as now, all the hippest

chefs are turning to blood as thickener,
organic coloring or rehydrating agent;
rediscovering the richness and depth

a little blood can bring to the palate—
slices of Spanish morcilla, French boudin noir
served up with apples; British black pudding

patted around a pickled egg, coils of pinuneg smoked
over a fire in the Philippine cordillera. Farther back,
in Book 18 of the Odyssey, a sizzling sausage

of goat’s blood and fat is given to the victor
in a fight. Leftovers are handed around:
everyone wins. So when the Russian

road construction crew in the movie
stumbles on a strange crypt and one
worker pries loose the stake

from the remains of a dog with a hole
in its heart— possibly thinking
Poor Ponchik, poor donut

of course the demon dog comes back
to life. Of course it remembers the last
sweet-salty taste that coursed down

its throat. Of course it wants that destiny time
cannot alter; hungers for a love no blade could
disembowel, no rain of silver bullets could kill.

Woodchuck in the woods and other instagrammatic things

Woodchuck in the woods. Also, yes—a groundhog in the ground.

I have a hand-me-down iPhone 4S and an Instagram account linked to Flickr, and so I’ve been amusing myself with poetic one-liners. It started with a particularly antisocial woodchuck, who (unusually for his species) has a den in the middle of the forest.

Woodchuck in the woods. Also, yes—a groundhog in the ground.
Woodchuck in the woods. Also, yes—a groundhog in the ground.

Continue reading “Woodchuck in the woods and other instagrammatic things”

Another unnecessary poem about Crow

Up, it being my Lord Mayor’s day, Sir Anthony Bateman.
This morning was brought home my new velvet cloake, that is, lined with velvet, a good cloth the outside, the first that ever I had in my life, and I pray God it may not be too soon now that I begin to wear it.
I had it this day brought, thinking to have worn it to dinner, but I thought it would be better to go without it because of the crowde, and so I did not wear it. We met a little at the office, and then home again and got me ready to go forth, my wife being gone forth by my consent before to see her father and mother, and taken her cooke mayde and little girle to Westminster with her for them to see their friends.
This morning in dressing myself and wanting a band, I found all my bands that were newly made clean so ill smoothed that I crumpled them, and flung them all on the ground, and was angry with Jane, which made the poor girle mighty sad, so that I were troubled for it afterwards.
At noon I went forth, and by coach to Guild Hall (by the way calling at Mr. Rawlinson’s), and there was admitted, and meeting with Mr. Proby (Sir R. Ford’s son), and Lieutenant-Colonel Baron, a City commander, we went up and down to see the tables; where under every salt there was a bill of fare, and at the end of the table the persons proper for the table. Many were the tables, but none in the Hall but the Mayor’s and the Lords of the Privy Council that had napkins or knives, which was very strange. We went into the Buttry, and there stayed and talked, and then into the Hall again: and there wine was offered and they drunk, I only drinking some hypocras, which do not break my vowe, it being, to the best of my present judgement, only a mixed compound drink, and not any wine. If I am mistaken, God forgive me! but I hope and do think I am not.
By and by met with Creed; and we, with the others, went within the several Courts, and there saw the tables prepared for the Ladies and Judges and Bishopps: all great sign of a great dinner to come. By and by about one o’clock, before the Lord Mayor came, come into the Hall, from the room where they were first led into, the Lord Chancellor (Archbishopp before him), with the Lords of the Council, and other Bishopps, and they to dinner. Anon comes the Lord Mayor, who went up to the lords, and then to the other tables to bid wellcome; and so all to dinner. I sat near Proby, Baron, and Creed at the Merchant Strangers’ table; where ten good dishes to a messe, with plenty of wine of all sorts, of which I drunk none; but it was very unpleasing that we had no napkins nor change of trenchers, and drunk out of earthen pitchers and wooden dishes.
It happened that after the lords had half dined, came the French Embassador, up to the lords’ table, where he was to have sat; but finding the table set, he would not sit down nor dine with the Lord Mayor, who was not yet come, nor have a table to himself, which was offered; but in a discontent went away again.
After I had dined, I and Creed rose and went up and down the house, and up to the lady’s room, and there stayed gazing upon them. But though there were many and fine, both young and old, yet I could not discern one handsome face there; which was very strange, nor did I find the lady that young Dawes married so pretty as I took her for, I having here an opportunity of looking much upon her very near.
I expected musique, but there was none but only trumpets and drums, which displeased me. The dinner, it seems, is made by the Mayor and two Sheriffs for the time being, the Lord Mayor paying one half, and they the other. And the whole, Proby says, is reckoned to come to about 7 or 800l. at most.
Being wearied with looking upon a company of ugly women, Creed and I went away, and took coach and through Cheapside, and there saw the pageants, which were very silly, and thence to the Temple, where meeting Greatorex, he and we to Hercules Pillars, there to show me the manner of his going about of draining of fenns, which I desired much to know, but it did not appear very satisfactory to me, as he discoursed it, and I doubt he will faile in it.
Thence I by coach home, and there found my wife come home, and by and by came my brother Tom, with whom I was very angry for not sending me a bill with my things, so as that I think never to have more work done by him if ever he serves me so again, and so I told him.
The consideration of laying out 32l. 12s. this very month in his very work troubles me also, and one thing more, that is to say, that Will having been at home all the day, I doubt is the occasion that Jane has spoken to her mistress tonight that she sees she cannot please us and will look out to provide herself elsewhere, which do trouble both of us, and we wonder also at her, but yet when the rogue is gone I do not fear but the wench will do well.
To the office a little, to set down my Journall, and so home late to supper and to bed.
The Queen mends apace, they say; but yet talks idle still.

morning brought new
velvet life to the crow

his wanting lung round and angry
bled raw salt

many were the knives strange was the ink
taken to the strangers’ table

that earth where
he would not sit

but in discontent went up
and down and up

the only trumpet
for a company of ants

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 29 October 1663.

partial litany for the dead

“You must see how this could be you…” ~ Naomi Shihab Nye, “Kindness”

the boy reviewing for exams
to be a seaman—

the young woman saving for a trip abroad
to see her favorite band—

the honor student who’d just made
her family proud after graduation—

the grieving brother waiting for a ride
home on a street corner—

the man at lunch with his five-
year-old granddaughter on his knee—

that little girl who waited
afternoons for a simple treat after school—

but with each day this list grows longer
than the language that can be mustered here—

and those with no name,
those with no one to claim them

lie in the back of a morgue,
in a pool filled with formaldehyde

and, it is said, mixed with chamomile
to mask the stench of death

The Day of the Dead

The candle-sellers have set out their wares. Soon
it will be time to visit the graves of our dead.
Imagine how brightly lit this year’s graveyards will be
with fresh graves dug for hundreds killed every day.

On Monday we’ll visit the graves of our dead
armed with buckets and gallons of whitewash. We’ll pass
fresh graves dug for those who’ve been murdered. Day after day.
their pictures wind up on the news: a bullet to the head,

arms twisted; blood on the streets no whitewash can mask.
The killers, in tandem, wear masks; they motor away. Only
the victims’ pictures wind up on the news: felled by a bullet
at close range, none stand a chance. Most grievous of all,

the children that killers, in tandem, have felled. Collateral
, they’re called: & students, housewives, grandfathers
all shot at close range. How could they stand a chance? The year
inches forward toward its dark close. Uneasy in the cold,

dark-shawled like the Fates, the candle-sellers set out their wares.

Small ode

Up and at my office all the morning, and at noon Mr. Creed came to me and dined with me, and after dinner Murford came to me and he and I discoursed wholly upon his breach of contract with us. After that Mr. Creed and I abroad, I doing several errands, and with him at last to the great coffee-house, and there after some common discourse we parted and I home, paying what I owed at the Mitre in my way, and at home Sympson the joyner coming he set up my press for my cloaks and other small things, and so to my office a little, and to supper, and to bed.
This morning Mr. Blackburne came to me, and telling me what complaints Will made of the usage he had from my wife and other discouragements, and, I seeing him, instead of advising, rather favouring his kinsman, I told him freely my mind, but friendlily, and so we have concluded to have him have a lodging elsewhere, and that I will spare him 15l. of his salary, and if I do not need to keep another 20l..

wholly to coffee I owe
my joy in small things

this black sage favoring
a free mind

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 28 October 1663.