The HuffPost article says all you have to do
is manifest your desires to the universe, in order
for it to grant them. If you asked me what my greatest
wish would be right at this moment, it would be hard
to put my finger on one specific thing. For instance
I might say Why couldn’t I be like the Vietnamese
or Chinese uncles who I know work as cooks in two
side-by-side Asian restaurants in our old neighborhood?
They can make even mid-grade tuna look awesome
and they have great knife skills— I’ve seen them
at work behind the sushi bar and the barbecue grill—
and when they come out to smoke in the back parking lot
they still know how to do the Asian squat but they each
drive away in almost identical new Mercedes Benz models.
As my late father used to say, not only must you be
the picture of industry; you’ve also got to have
something to show for your pains. Even the girl
who cuts my hair has a kidney-shaped swimming pool
in her yard, and plans at least two vacations a year
someplace warm where she and her amigas drink
cocktails dressed with paper umbrellas. All
the bright young things are doing that moue
or lip pucker, tucking just a little bit of shirt
into the tops of their waistbands, with Coron
or the Eiffel Tower or a castle in Prague visible
in the background. The message seems to be:
I’ve got to make my intentions clearer, in order
not to run out of time. Instead of windfall, ask
for funds to plug the gaping holes in these bank
accounts. Instead of utility, ask for visas
and plane tickets for family. Instead of some fame
and fortune, ask for manuscripts to get picked up,
for an NEA grant, for a phone call from the MacArthur
Foundation. Instead of good health and long life,
ask for clear results in next Friday’s biopsy exam.


In response to Via Negativa: Jailer.

Method in answer to madness

The lawyer said, a petition for status
might not take as long as it used to
back in the day. But at the same time,
no one knows; things could change.

Isn’t it great not to have to worry
about how long you can continue to stay
in your apartment, find work, attend
school? Your first landlady threw

cigarette butts from the street
onto your veranda. She thought you
were the one up all night, flicking
menthol wrappers and dead

smokes into the darkness.
It gets old fast, this game of being
mistaken for someone else and their
misdemeanors. The last landlord

mentioned casually that his tenant
before you kept things scrupulously
. You wondered if that had
anything to do with the quarter

inch film of green scum you found
across the entire refrigerator top.
It took you a good part of the after-
noon to scrape it away with water

and bleach. Where you come from, the boys
on every street corner could polish
the most miserable shoe to a high shine.
In pouring rain, aunts and grandmothers

take up their stick brooms, vigorously sweep
rainwater from their thresholds and out
into the street— as if tossing back
at the sky its audacious surplus.


In response to Via Negativa: Proving the rule.

Proving the rule

Up and to my office, where busy all the morning. At noon to the ‘Change, and so home to dinner, and then down by water to Deptford, where coming too soon, I spent an houre in looking round the yarde, and putting Mr. Shish to measure a piece or two of timber, which he did most cruelly wrong, and to the King’s losse 12 or 13s. in a piece of 28 feet in contents. Thence to the Clerke of the Cheques, from whose house Mr. Falconer was buried to-day; Sir J. Minnes and I the only principal officers that were there.
We walked to church with him, and then I left them without staying the sermon and straight home by water, and there find, as I expected, Mr. Hill, and Andrews, and one slovenly and ugly fellow, Seignor Pedro, who sings Italian songs to the theorbo most neatly, and they spent the whole evening in singing the best piece of musique counted of all hands in the world, made by Seignor Charissimi, the famous master in Rome. Fine it was, indeed, and too fine for me to judge of.
They have spoke to Pedro to meet us every weeke, and I fear it will grow a trouble to me if we once come to bid judges to meet us, especially idle Masters, which do a little displease me to consider.
They gone comes Mr. Lanyon, who tells me Mr. Alsopp is now become dangerously ill, and fears his re covery, which shakes my expectation of 300l. per annum by the business; and, therefore, bless God for what Mr. Gauden hath sent me, which, from some discourse to-day with Mr. Osborne, swearing that he knows not any thing of this business of the victualling; but, the contrary, that it is not that moves Mr. Gauden to send it me, for he hath had order for it any time these two months. Whether this be true or no, I know not; but I shall hence with the more confidence keepe it.
To supper and to the office a little, and to walk in the garden, the moon shining bright, and fine warm fair weather, and so home to bed.

too soon the feet find
one ugly song to sing

all hands in the world
grow dangerous with wear

this is not true
of the moon

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 22 July 1664.


Attendants hold out trash bags in their hands
and announce that all magazines and earphones

must be returned along with the peanuts
and coffee. Did you think you could take

any of this with you for free? Remember
the lawyer friend of the famous one?

She wrote to say she is So sorry, but
it is apparent you can’t get on with your life

for your misplaced anger. Life is full
of disproportionate injustice. For instance,

the cost of just one ounce of black winter truffle
is $60, while sixty-four ounces of incandescent

grey caviar goes for $17,000. I read about a food
dehydrator that’s been invented, which can make

everything from grains to fruit to insects taste
like chips. A man shot and killed an 820 pound

feral hog. The carcass dangled all through
the humid night from a tree, like some kind

of warning. Isn’t that what every trophy means,
stuffed, stripped, its dark nailed to the wall?


In response to Via Negativa: Whole hog.


Up, and to the office, where we sat all the morning, among other things making a contract with Sir W. Warren for almost 1000 Gottenburg masts, the biggest that ever was made in the Navy, and wholly of my compassing and a good one I hope it is for the King. Dined at Sir W. Batten’s, where I have not eat these many months. Sir G. Carteret, Mr. Coventry, Sir J. Minnes, and myself there only, and my Lady. A good venison pasty, and very merry, and pleasant I made myself with my Lady, and she as much to me. This morning to the office comes Nicholas Osborne, Mr. Gauden’s clerke, to desire of me what piece of plate I would choose to have a 100l., or thereabouts, bestowed upon me in, he having order to lay out so much; and, out of his freedom with me, do of himself come to make this question. I a great while urged my unwillingnesse to take any, not knowing how I could serve Mr. Gauden, but left it wholly to himself; so at noon I find brought home in fine leather cases, a pair of the noblest flaggons that ever I saw all the days of my life; whether I shall keepe them or no I cannot tell; for it is to oblige me to him in the business of the Tangier victualling, wherein I doubt I shall not; but glad I am to see that I shall be sure to get something on one side or other, have it which will: so, with a merry heart, I looked upon them, and locked them up.
After dinner to [give] my Lord Chancellor a good account of his business, and he is very well pleased therewith, and carries himself with great discretion to me, without seeming over glad or beholding to me; and yet I know that he do think himself very well served by me.
Thence to Westminster and to Mrs. Lane’s lodgings, to give her joy, and there suffered me to deal with her as I hoped to do, and by and by her husband comes, a sorry, simple fellow, and his letter to her which she proudly showed me a simple, nonsensical thing. A man of no discourse, and I fear married her to make a prize of, which he is mistaken in, and a sad wife I believe she will prove to him, for she urged me to appoint a time as soon as he is gone out of town to give her a meeting next week.
So by water with a couple of cozens of Mrs. Lane’s, and set them down at Queenhive, and I through Bridge home, and there late at business, and so home to supper and to bed.

I have not made as much
as I would choose
but I keep all doubt locked up

a nonsensical thing
I fear as a cousin of the hive

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 21 July 1664.


Philibert Commerçon: Buginvillæa, Genera Plantarum (A.L. de Jussieu, 1789); and Jeanne Baret, genus Baretia (Turraea)

Heterophyllus: having the foliage leaves of more than one form on the same plant or stem (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

I think about those fused blooms, pink and white,
deep in their pockets of green; how they papered

an entire side of my childhood home that is gone.
How they rustled like whorls of dry parchment

in summer, and slicked themselves into tongues,
the better to taste the true vernacular of each

punishing monsoon. A woman botanist first
observed them: she, companion and lover

to the official scientist on a voyage circumnavigating
the world. Later records show she disguised herself

as a man, as no woman had been allowed on this journey.
There is a print of her in striped pantaloons, loose

jacket, a jaunty cap. She was of course discovered.
And made to pay the cost. To mark all that I’ve also

lost and gained, I wanted cuttings to plant
along one side of my fence. I remember

their tensile stems spiked with thorns. How I sat
as a bob-haired girl on the porch, spitting

watermelon seeds at the earth. Years later,
asked if I would give up the thing I loved best

for a man: something in me tore and quivered.
Something in me adhered, even as it uprooted.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Bodies called to mind are steeped in salt

Where is the painting that used to hang
in the musty hallway of our first home?

Which dead president was immortalized
there in glimmering oils? How many gold

buttons marched down his uniform? Where
did planes land after the airport closed,

after the runway’s narrow lip jutted
into the ravine? I remember a gardener

named Jose, pretending to catch a roach
and pinch it between two slices of bread

at midday. We ran away then spent long
afternoons sliding through wild grass

in the foothills. Who can tell what hand
shook the only world we knew like castanets?

Their wooden clatter is like the sound
buildings make as they shatter into a fine

pebbly rain. Friday evenings, months after
a woman took her own life in our home,

a taxi would pull up at the gate, looking
for his passenger. Dragonflies skim

green surfaces of pond water. Five decades
after; and still, I don’t know why.

Whole hog

Up, and a while to my office, and then home with Mr. Deane till dinner, discoursing upon the business of my Lord Chancellor’s timber in Clarendon Parke, and how to make a report therein without offending him; which at last I drew up, and hope it will please him. But I would to God neither I nor he ever had had any thing to have done with it!
Dined together with a good pig, and then out by coach to White Hall, to the Committee for Fishing; but nothing done, it being a great day to-day there upon drawing at the Lottery of Sir Arthur Slingsby. I got in and stood by the two Queenes and the Duchesse of Yorke, and just behind my Lady Castlemayne, whom I do heartily adore; and good sport it was to see how most that did give their ten pounds did go away with a pair of globes only for their lot, and one gentlewoman, one Mrs. Fish, with the only blanke. And one I staid to see drew a suit of hangings valued at 430l., and they say are well worth the money, or near it. One other suit there is better than that; but very many lots of three and fourscore pounds. I observed the King and Queenes did get but as poor lots as any else. But the wisest man I met with was Mr. Cholmley, who insured as many as would, from drawing of the one blank for 12d.; in which case there was the whole number of persons to one, which I think was three or four hundred. And so he insured about 200 for 200 shillings, so that he could not have lost if one of them had drawn it, for there was enough to pay the 10l.; but it happened another drew it, and so he got all the money he took. I left the lottery, and went to a play, only a piece of it, which was the Duke’s house, “Worse and Worse;” just the same manner of play, and writ, I believe, by the same man as “The Adventures of Five Hours;” very pleasant it was, and I begin to admire Harris more than ever.
Thence to Westminster to see Creed, and he and I took a walk in the Parke. He is ill, and not able yet to set out after my Lord, but will do to-morrow. So home, and late at my office, and so home to bed.
This evening being moonshine I played a little late upon my flageolette in the garden.
But being at Westminster Hall I met with great news that Mrs. Lane is married to one Martin, one that serves Captain Marsh. She is gone abroad with him to-day, very fine. I must have a bout with her very shortly to see how she finds marriage.

the last pig
hanging from the house
moon on the marsh

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 20 July 1664.

Self-portrait as Sisyphus

Trudging back toward the depths,
in that brief space of awareness,

I am assailed by charred smells
of salted meat and roasted corn;

and again, I feel the tug of my
hungers: I want to make room

for something other than fate.
I’ve gotten so good at hoisting

the burdens— my shoulders are worn
to the blade and my physical therapist

shakes his head, pronouncing me hopeless.
Natura naturata, wrote Spinoza: Things

happen only because of Nature and its laws.
In the valley, someone is setting off

fireworks. Dogs chained to fences startle,
send up the jagged froth of their voices.

They know it isn’t nature that’s tethered
them from their own nature; perhaps

they want to crest the hill I climb so often.
And like me, keep going. To never come back.