Shifting ground

Up, and my uncle Thomas and his scrivener bringing me a bond and affidavit to my mind, I paid him his 20l. for his daughter’s legacy, and 5l. more for a Quarter’s annuity, in the manner expressed in each acquittance, to which I must be referred on any future occasion, and to the bond and affidavit.
Thence to the office and there sat till noon, and then home to dinner, and after dinner (it being a foul house to-day among my maids, making up their clothes) abroad with my Will with me by coach to Dr. Williams, and with him to the Six Clerks’s office, and there, by advice of his acquaintance, I find that my case, through my neglect and the neglect of my lawyers, is come to be very bad, so as that it will be very hard to get my bill retayned again. However, I got him to sign and swear an affidavit that there was treaties between T. Trice and me with as much advantage as I could for me, but I will say that for him he was most exact as ever I saw man in my life, word by word what it was that he swore to, and though, God forgive me, I could have been almost naturally willing to have let him ignorantly have sworn to something that was not of itself very certain, either or no, yet out of his own conscience and care he altered the words himself so as to make them very safe for him to swear. This I carrying to my clerk Wilkinson, and telling him how I heard matters to stand, he, like a conceited fellow, made nothing of it but advised me to offer Trice’s clerks the cost of the dismission, viz., 46s. 8d., which I did, but they would not take it without his client. Immediately thereupon we parted, and met T. Trice coming into the room, and he came to me and served me with a subpoena for these very costs, so I paid it him, but Lord! to see his resolution, and indeed discretion, in the wording of his receipt, he would have it most express to my greatest disadvantage that could be, yet so as I could not deny to give it him. That being paid, my clerke, and then his began to ask why we could not think, being friends, of referring it, or stating it, first ourselves, and then put it to some good lawyer to judge in it. From one word to more we were resolved to try, and to that end to step to the Pope’s Head Taverne, and there he and his Clerke and Attorney and I and my Clerke, and sent for Mr. Smallwood, and by and by comes Mr. Clerke, my Solicitor, and after I had privately discoursed with my men and seen how doubtfully they talked, and what future certain charge and trouble it would be, with a doubtful victory, I resolved to condescend very low, and after some talke all together Trice and I retired, and he came to 150l. the lowest, and I bid him 80l.. So broke off and then went to our company, and they putting us to a second private discourse, at last I was contented to give him 100l., he to spend 40s. of it among this good company that was with us. So we went to our company, both seeming well pleased that we were come to an end, and indeed I am in the respects above said, though it be a great sum for us to part with.
I am to pay him by giving him leave to buy about 40l. worth of Piggott’s land and to strike off so much of Piggott’s debt, and the other to give him bond to pay him in 12 months after without interest, only giving him a power to buy more land of Piggott and paying him that way as he did for the other, which I am well enough contented with, or at least to take the land at that price and give him the money. This last I did not tell him, but I shall order it so.
Having agreed upon to-morrow come se’nnight for the spending of the 40s. at Mr. Rawlinson’s, we parted, and I set T. Trice down in Paul’s Churchyard and I by coach home and to my office, and there set down this day’s passages, and so home to supper and to bed.
Mr. Coventry tells me to-day that the Queen had a very good night last night; but yet it is strange that still she raves and talks of little more than of her having of children, and fancys now that she hath three children, and that the girle is very like the King. And this morning about five o’clock waked (the physician feeling her pulse, thinking to be better able to judge, she being still and asleep, waked her) and the first word she said was, “How do the children?”

however I sign and swear
word by word what have I not altered

from one private doubt I descend
to a private land

and buy a pig like a physician
feeling her pulse


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 27 October 1663.

Delirium

Waked about one o’clock in the morning to piss (having gone so soon over-night to bed) and then my wife being waked rung her bell, and the mayds rose and went to washing, we to sleep again till 7 o’clock, and then up, and I abroad to look out Dr. Williams, but being gone out I went to Westminster, and there seeing my Lord Sandwich’s footman knew he was come to town, and so I went in and saw him, and received a kind salute from him, but hear that my father is very ill still. Thence to Westminster Hall with Creed, and spent the morning walking there, where, it being Terme time, I met several persons, and talked with them, among others Dr. Pierce, who tells me that the Queen is in a way to be pretty well again, but that her delirium in her head continues still; that she talks idle, not by fits, but always, which in some lasts a week after so high a fever, in some more, and in some for ever; that this morning she talked mightily that she was brought to bed, and that she wondered that she should be delivered without pain and without spueing or being sicke, and that she was troubled that her boy was but an ugly boy. But the King being by, said, “No, it is a very pretty boy.” — “Nay,” says she, “if it be like you it is a fine boy indeed, and I would be very well pleased with it.”
The other day she talked mightily of Sir H. Wood’s lady’s great belly, and said if she should miscarry he would never get another, and that she never saw such a man as this Sir H. Wood in her life, and seeing of Dr. Pridgeon, she said, “Nay, Doctor, you need not scratch your head, there is hair little enough already in the place.”
But methinks it was not handsome for the weaknesses of Princes to be talked of thus.
Thence Creed and I to the King’s Head ordinary, where much and very good company, among others one very talking man, but a scholler, that would needs put in his discourse and philosophy upon every occasion, and though he did well enough, yet his readiness to speak spoilt all. Here they say that the Turkes go on apace, and that my Lord Castlehaven is going to raise 10,000 men here for to go against him; that the King of France do offer to assist the Empire upon condition that he may be their Generalissimo, and the Dolphin chosen King of the Romans: and it is said that the King of France do occasion this difference among the Christian Princes of the Empire, which gives the Turke such advantages. They say also that the King of Spayne is making all imaginable force against Portugal again.
Thence Creed and I to one or two periwigg shops about the Temple, having been very much displeased with one that we saw, a head of greasy and old woman’s haire, at Jervas’s in the morning; and there I think I shall fit myself of one very handsomely made. Thence by coach, my mind being troubled for not meeting with Dr. Williams, to St. Catharine’s to look at a Dutch ship or two for some good handsome maps, but met none, and so back to Cornhill to Moxon’s, but it being dark we staid not to see any, then to coach again, and presently spying Sir W. Batten; I ‘light and took him in and to the Globe in Fleete Streete, by appointment, where by and by he and I with our solicitor to Sir E Turner about Field’s business, and back to the Globe, and thither I sent for Dr. Williams, and he is willing to swear in my behalf against T. Trice, viz., that at T. Trice’s desire we have met to treat about our business.
Thence (I drinking no wine) after an hour’s stay Sir W. Batten and another, and he drinking, we home by coach, and so to my office and set down my Journall, and then home to supper and to bed, my washing being in a good condition over.
I did give Dr. Williams 20s. tonight, but it was after he had answered me well to what I had to ask him about this business, and it was only what I had long ago in my petty bag book allotted for him besides the bill of near 4l. which I paid him a good while since by my brother Tom for physique for my wife, without any consideration to this business that he is to do for me, as God shall save me.
Among the rest, talking of the Emperor at table to-day one young gentleman, a pretty man, and it seems a Parliament man, did say that he was a sot; for he minded nothing of the Government, but was led by the Jesuites. Several at table took him up, some for saying that he was a sot in being led by the Jesuites, are the best counsel he can take. Another commander, a Scott Collonell, who I believe had several under him, that he was a man that had thus long kept out the Turke till now, and did many other great things, and lastly Mr. Progers, one of our courtiers, who told him that it was not a thing to be said of any Soveraigne Prince, be his weaknesses what they will, to be called a sot, which methinks was very prettily said.

gone so soon I see him ill still
in that delirium

his talk like fine lace
his discourse on Peak Oil and empire

making all imaginable
as an old man’s hair

dark and light took him
by appointment

and he answered saying
that he was not his weaknesses


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 26 October 1663.

Re-reading Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle on losing

After reading the story of her third great love affair, I think
I understand better. We love even harder, preparing for ash.

On the surface it might look to be more careless— the car keys,
letters, watches; the mind drunk on love but preparing for ash.

The wish to binge equally on solitude, and in the nest of the other:
blissful nights wrapped in the lover’s arms but preparing for ash.

Breakfasts in bed of coffee, croissants, jam; summers spent on some coast,
autumns teaching. Tucking into poems the idea of preparing for ash.

Sweet irony to find the one you can be easy with so late in life,
or when other things have been compromised, preparing for ash.

In 1971 Elizabeth (60) wrote to Alice (28): “The poor heart doesn’t
seem to grow old at all,”
though it knew it was preparing for ash.

I never knew she slept with Alice’s letters, or kept her photo buttoned
into her shirt pocket
— In every pull of longing, the preparation for ash.

In my own ledgers I keep count of my own remorseful, wild, unforetold losses.
The more one loses, the surer one comes to the moment of preparing for ash?

Yet every day the sky changes: deep blue, dark purple, cloud-flecked;
and every day are new pleasures to spend while preparing for ash.

My savings dwindle, my debts increase. I lose friends, loves, children,
possessions to the unknown future; in time, myself— preparing for ash.

 

In response to Via Negativa: End of days.

End of days

(Lord’s day). Up, and my wife and I to church, where it is strange to see how the use and seeing Pembleton come with his wife thither to church, I begin now to make too great matter of it, which before was so terrible to me. Dined at home, my wife and I alone, a good dinner, and so in the afternoon to church again, where the Scot preached, and I slept most of the afternoon. So home, and my wife and I together all the evening discoursing, and then after reading my vowes to myself, and my wife with her mayds (who are mighty busy to get it dispatched because of their mistress’s promise, that when it is done they shall have leave all to go see their friends at Westminster, whither my wife will carry them) preparing for their washing to-morrow, we hastened to supper and to bed.

church was so terrible
my wife and I slept most
of the afternoon together
preparing for ash


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 25 October 1663.

Interior: Glass Museum, Concert

“…despair is an art” ~ D. Bonta

On a winter evening, we line up
waiting to be let into the glass
museum across from the small

French restaurant, to witness
a performance: the music of molten
things combined with sound coaxed

from out of a violin, from a synth
whose pedal gets pumped on each
down-bow. I don’t quite understand

the meaning of these sounds made
by a series of tubes resembling flared
lips, open ears, strange foliate heads

lined up on an industrial trestle—
Like some terrible high-strung bird
crazed with grief, the repetition

of its one note against the fire
kept fresh in the background—
I keep looking around, as if

Phalaris and his bronze bull
might be somewhere in the hall:
as if the sound system

might pick up the muffled cries
of those tucked into its gut.
But there’s only the rustling

of programs, an audience dressed
in tasteful neutrals shifting in the seats.
And outside, the cold and dark and wind

shivering the leaves— making them
beat like little flames against
this crucible that holds us in.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Togetherness.

Togetherness

Up and to my office, where busy all the morning about Mr. Gauden’s account, and at noon to dinner with him at the Dolphin, where mighty merry by pleasant stories of Mr. Coventry’s and Sir J. Minnes’s, which I have put down some of in my book of tales. Just as I was going out my uncle Thomas came to the with a draught of a bond for him and his sons to sign to me about the payment of the 20l. legacy, which I agreed to, but he would fain have had from me the copy of the deed, which he had forged and did bring me yesterday, but I would not give him it. Says I perceive then you will keep it to defame me with, and desired me not to speak of it, for he did it innocently. Now I confess I do not find any great hurt in the thing, but only to keep from me a sight of the true original deed, wherein perhaps there was something else that may touch this business of the legacy which he would keep from me, or it may be, it is really lost as he says it is. But then he need not have used such a slight, but confess it without danger.
Thence by coach with Mr. Coventry to the Temple, and thence I to the Six Clerks’ office, and discoursed with my Attorney and Solicitor, and he and I to Mr. Turner, who puts me in great fear that I shall not get retayned again against Tom Trice; which troubles me.
Thence, it being night, homewards, and called at Wotton’s and tried some shoes, but he had none to fit me. He tells me that by the Duke of York’s persuasion Harris is come again to Sir W. Davenant upon his terms that he demanded, which will make him very high and proud. Thence to another shop, and there bought me a pair of shoes, and so walked home and to my office, and dispatch letters by the post, and so home to supper and to bed, where to my trouble I find my wife begin to talk of her being alone all day, which is nothing but her lack of something to do, for while she was busy she never, or seldom, complained. She hath also a pain in the place which she used to have swellings in; and that that troubles me is that we fear that it is my matter that I give her that causes it, it never coming but after my having been with her.
The Queen is in a good way of recovery; and Sir Francis Pridgeon hath got great honour by it, it being all imputed to his cordiall, which in her dispaire did give her rest and brought her to some hopes of recovery.
It seems that, after the much talk of troubles and a plot, something is found in the North that a party was to rise, and some persons that were to command it are found, as I find in a letter that Mr. Coventry read to-day about it from those parts.

in my book of tales you desire me
not to speak
only to touch

a pair of shoes let alone all day
seldom complain
despair is an art


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 24 October 1663.

Limits

The roof of the first house we owned was discovered
to jut over the property line, past its official limits.

It wasn’t a simple matter of revising the blueprint:
boundary issues made others aware of their limits.

The issue was settled, meaning some payment was made. Less
than a year later, an earthquake further tested our limits.

The edifice survived, the foundation intact; but other
repairs cost. We sold it to settle our debt limits.

That was a cruel year: one of calamity, of losses and deaths.
When I prayed I cried, pushed to the ends of my limits.

By some grace we survived, only to be ushered into other
predicaments. I forgot: the Fates deal out stuff, without limits.

Lately and besides, I am tired of being the first one others come to
in every crisis; I need to learn how to say I have my limits.

In a quiet room, the therapist draws one circle engulfing another:
This, she says, is what it looks like when one doesn’t set limits.

Days, weeks, months, a lifetime goes by. How can you tell when
the people and things in your life are straining your limits?

It’s lonely running loops around this track. The course is shrouded
with fog. I can’t see where I’ve come from, nor any marked limits.

Often I pause, sit on my haunches, lie prone on the ground—
pockets empty, flanks aching, heart fit to burst from its limits.

Unsettling evenings: Anna de Noailles

bust of Anna de Noailles by Rodin

bust of Anna de Noailles by Rodin

I thought I was

So calm and sad I thought I was,
resigned to noble silence,
as befits a weary heart,
but evening, with its slipping,
sliding wind, its cooling,
vegetable smells,
this peaceful landscape
where desire lies dreaming,
seems determined to undo
my safe but joyless rest,
compelling me to face
these artful, airy games
that overwhelm and plunder
warming earth and fading skies
– ah, gentle, porous evening,
perfumed with vanilla,
why would you want to hurt
the ever hopeful girl
within my tense, half-open,
hesitating heart?

Je croyais être

Je croyais être calme et triste,
Simplement, sans demander mieux
Que ce noble état sérieux
D’un coeur lassé. Le soir insiste:
Avec les glissements du vent
Et la froide odeur des herbages,
Et cette paix des paysages
Sur qui le désir est rêvant,
Il défait mon repos sans joie,
Ce repos qui protégeait bien,
Il exige, hélas, que je voie
Ces rusés jeux aériens
Où tout s’enveloppe et se pille,
Du sol tiède aux clartés des cieux…
– Pourquoi, soir mol et spongieux
D’où coule un parfum de vanille,
Blessez-vous, dans mon coeur serré
Qui soudain s’entr’ouvre et vacille,
Cette éternelle jeune fille
Qui ne peut cesse d’espérer?

 

Tranquillity

Here in the wake of dazzling day
comes fine, devoted night.
It feels as if the sky is bowed
beneath a tranquil weight of stars.
The juddering breath of a train
sets even this calm hillside
beating to its hearty rhythm.
Here in the darkness every
shimmering sound – a voice,
a footfall or a shutter slammed –
gleams like a marble or a rosary bead.
Can this airy, empathetic
but mysterious night, so gentle
and attuned to all our thoughts,
really be built upon graves?
This evening, dear, your love,
your tenderness, is all I need,
my soul’s contented only
when I have no hopes or plans.
We talk so much of souls,
but sated with pleasures
all we need is languorous rest.
Our hearts cry out for nothing more
– content to live or die,
we’ve found this calm and ease.
Dearest companion, is it just
desire we suffer from?

Tranquillité

Après le jour luisant d’entrain
Voici la nuit, dévote et fine,
Il semble que le ciel s’incline
Par le poids des astres sereins.
Le soufflé saccadé d’un train
Transmet à la calme colline
Sa palpitation d’airain.
Dans l’ombre, les bruits qui scintillent,
– Bruits de pas, de voix, de volets –
Semblent polis comme des billes,
Comme les grains d’un chapelet.
– Ȏ Nuit, compatissant mystère!
Se peut-il, quand l’air est si doux
Et semble penser avec nous,
Qu’il y ait des morts dans la terre!
– Je n’ai besoin de rien ce soir
Grâce à ta tendresse amoureuse,
Une âme n’est vraiment heureuse
Que sans projets et sans espoirs.
Nous parlons sans cesse de l’âme,
Pourtant, après ce long plaisir,
Tout nous est paresse et loisir,
Plus rien en nos coeurs ne réclame;
Nous pourrions vivre ou bien mourir
Contents ainsi, calmes, à l’aise,
– Ȏ mon cher compagnon, serait-ce
Qu’on souffre que de désir?

 

Photo: Unfinished bust of Anna de Noailles – Rodin, 1906, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Anna de Noailles (1876-1933) was highly praised and acknowledged as a philosophical and aesthetic influence by Rilke, Proust and Colette. Prolific and beloved poet, novelist, patron, muse, she was heaped with honours and thousands lined the streets for her state funeral. Then she disappeared from the canon – surely mostly for the usual reason that she was a woman, but perhaps also because, written in iconoclastic times for European poetry, all of her poems rhyme.

I can’t help finding even the most sensitive and skilful rhymed translations of her poems rather wordy and distant from the originals – French rhymes so much more easily and lightly. But it’s also true that de Noailles consistently defended form and rhyme at a time when many poets were abandoning them, so these attempts to better capture her emotional intensity in unrhymed translations are very tentative.

Leaseholder

Up, and this morning comes Mr. Clerke, and tells me that the Injunction against Trice is dismissed again, which troubles me much. So I am to look after it in the afternoon. There comes also by appointment my uncle Thomas, to receive the first payment of his daughter’s money. But showing of me the original of the deed by which his daughter gives her right to her legacy to him, and the copy of it attested by the Scrivener, for me to keep by me, I did find some difference, and thereupon did look more into it, and at last did find the whole thing a forgery; yet he maintained it again and again, upon oath, that it had been signed and sealed by my cozen Mary ever since before her marriage. So I told him to his teeth he did like a knave, and so he did, and went with him to the Scrivener at Bedlam, and there found how it came to pass, viz., that he had lost, or pretends to have lost, the true original, and that so he was forced to take this course; but a knave, at least a man that values not what he swears to, I perceive he is. But however I am now better able to see myself fully secured before I part with the money, for I find that his son Charles has right to this legacy till the first 100l. of his daughter’s portion be paid, he being bond for it. So I put him upon getting both his sons to be bound for my security, and so left him and so home, and then abroad to my brother’s, but found him abroad at the young couple that was married yesterday, and he one of the Br[ide’s] men, a kinswoman (Brumfield) of the Joyces married to an upholster.
Thence walked to the King’s Head at Charing Cross and there dined, and hear that the Queen slept pretty well last night, but her fever continues upon her still. It seems she hath never a Portuguese doctor here.
Thence by appointment to the Six Clerks’ office to meet Mr. Clerke, which I did and there waited all the afternoon for Wilkinson my attorney, but he came not, and so vexed and weary we parted, and I endeavoured but in vain to have found Dr. Williams, of whom I shall have use in Trice’s business, but I could not find him. So weary walked home; in my way bought a large kitchen knife and half dozen oyster knives. Thence to Mr. Holliard, who tells me that Mullins is dead of his leg cut off the other day, but most basely done.
He tells me that there is no doubt but that all my slyme do come away in my water, and therefore no fear of the stone; but that my water being so slymy is a good sign. He would have me now and then to take a clyster, the same I did the other day, though I feel no pain, only to keep me loose, and instead of butter, which he would have to be salt butter, he would have me sometimes use two or three ounces of honey, at other times two or three ounces of Linseed oil.
Thence to Mr. Rawlinson’s and saw some of my new bottles made, with my crest upon them, filled with wine, about five or six dozen.
So home and to my office a little, and thence home to prepare myself against T. Trice, and also to draw a bond fit for my uncle and his sons to enter into before I pay them the money. That done to bed.

tell me I am to receive the first payment
or find the whole thing a forgery

like Bedlam the original field
joy married to fever

a dozen knives dead in that water
I would now take instead of oil


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 23 October 1663.

Precario, Peligro

Precario seems almost
the same as peligro
though the first sounds slightly
more delicate than the latter,
so it is possible to imagine
a small glass vase on the window-
sill, and a cat padding through
the apartment— Not the metal
grates staring from each door
along the alley, not the chain
link fences or security
warning signs. As children
we used to dig for hours
in the gravel, roll an inner
tube down the deserted street.
No one thought it unwise that we
walked by ourselves to the corner
store to buy iced coconut candy
or tubes of plastic balloon.
No van with tinted windows
waited, engines idling,
at the end of the block
under a dangerous sky.