2018

photo of a tree's shadow on the street
Tree in 2010

Two loud, indifferent men in a greasy pick-up
came and took down the failed street-side tree
by my house. Poor thing was dismayingly dead,

no question – dry-dank, blackened and mouldy.
When last alive it was a hunched, unlikely stick
that would froth suddenly into snowy blossom.

No, I never noticed when the tree began dying,
must have marched mindlessly past it every day.
Now its small stump pokes at a hardened heart.


From 2010

The tree outside my house
(municipal planting)
is a frail jewel in flat suburbia.
Its bark is shiny white
and it blossoms
and strikes me daily
as unlikely.

Lay last night alone, my wife after her bathing lying alone in another bed. So cold all night. Up and to the office, where busy all the morning. At noon at the ‘Change, busy; where great talk of a Dutch ship in the North put on shore, and taken by a troop of horse. Home to dinner and Creed with me. Thence to Gresham College, where very noble discourse, and thence home busy till past 12 at night, and then home to supper and to bed. Mrs. Bland come this night to take leave of me and my wife, going to Tangier.

lying alone
the north shore taken
by the night


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 22 February 1665.

She thinks there is a grove

outside the window, where oranges
fall in the evening; where small

white flowers harbor their fragrant

oil until a star cracks them open,
and winged insects make streaked

blurs under the blue porch lights.

She’s smelled them too, pausing
in mid-step across a threshold,

wondering if in the nether world

there will be places scaled with
the pale lilac of hydrangeas, fringed

with the broken gold of strawflowers.
She wants to throw her arms open, or be

the one enfolded. Everything taken out

of time finding its way back in time,
though it might not be in this one.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Farmhand.

I enter a pub in London, thirsty but nearly broke. What’s your cheapest cask ale, I ask the bartender, who happens to be the comedian Margaret Cho. This one’s only a pound a pint, she says, pointing to a handle with an iron cross logo on it. No one wants to drink it because it’s racist. Gosh, I say, I’m not a racist, but that’s really cheap! It’s also very tasty, she says. Classic English bitter. She pulls a pint for me and I take a sip. It certainly slips down easy. But I’ve barely finished it when she announces last call. I order five more pints and start tossing them back. Oddly, I can’t feel the alcohol at all. I mean, sure, I drink mainly for the taste, but I enjoy a bit of a buzz, too. Apparently even where racism is concerned, you get what you pay for. I notice Margaret looking intently at me and writing something down on a small clipboard. I wake up thinking: What excellent casting! Who’d ever have thought to have Margaret Cho play the devil?

      drinking alone
      among the flowers of evil—
      the bees are all dead

Up, and to the office (having a mighty pain in my forefinger of my left hand, from a strain that it received last night) in struggling ‘avec la femme que je’ mentioned yesterday, where busy till noon, and then my wife being busy in going with her woman to a hot-house to bathe herself, after her long being within doors in the dirt, so that she now pretends to a resolution of being hereafter very clean. How long it will hold I can guess. I dined with Sir W. Batten and my Lady, they being now a’days very fond of me.
So to the ‘Change, and off of the ‘Change with Mr. Wayth to a cook’s shop, and there dined again for discourse with him about Hamaccos and the abuse now practised in tickets, and more like every day to be. Also of the great profit Mr. Fen makes of his place, he being, though he demands but 5 per cent. of all he pays, and that is easily computed, but very little pleased with any man that gives him no more.
So to the office, and after office my Lord Brunkerd carried me to Lincolne’s Inne Fields, and there I with my Lady Sandwich (good lady) talking of innocent discourse of good housewifery and husbands for her daughters, and the luxury and looseness of the times and other such things till past 10 o’clock at night, and so by coach home, where a little at my office, and so to supper and to bed.
My Lady tells me how my Lord Castlemayne is coming over from France, and is believed will be made friends with his Lady again.
What mad freaks the Mayds of Honour at Court have: that Mrs. Jenings, one of the Duchesses mayds, the other day dressed herself like an orange wench, and went up and down and cried oranges; till falling down, or by such accident, though in the evening, her fine shoes were discerned, and she put to a great deale of shame.
That such as these tricks being ordinary, and worse among them, thereby few will venture upon them for wives: my Lady Castlemayne will in merriment say that her daughter (not above a year old or two) will be the first mayde in the Court that will be married.
This day my Lord Sandwich writ me word from the Downes, that he is like to be in towne this week.

pain in my hand
from struggling with doors in the dirt

how I hold it now
like a leased field

where oranges fall in the evening
and few venture upon them


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 21 February 1665.

working— it opens
and closes and chews,
it eats and drinks.
It purses and preens
toward a wand of color
then blots the traces
of a kiss or its
approach. Snip
the fine hairs
on each side of
the philtrum:
Cupid’s bow, love
charm, indentation
left when a finger
pressed the lips
together to keep
the wisdom of
the world or
a simple secret
from spilling out
and escaping.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Chainsaw.

Up, and with Sir J. Minnes to attend the Duke, and then we back again and rode into the beginning of my Lord Chancellor’s new house, near St. James’s; which common people have already called Dunkirke-house, from their opinion of his having a good bribe for the selling of that towne. And very noble I believe it will be. Near that is my Lord Barkeley beginning another on one side, and Sir J. Denham on the other. Thence I to the House of Lords and spoke with my Lord Bellasses, and so to the ‘Change, and there did business, and so to the Sun taverne, haling in the morning had some high words with Sir J. Lawson about his sending of some bayled goods to Tangier, wherein the truth is I did not favour him, but being conscious that some of my profits may come out by some words that fell from him, and to be quiet, I have accommodated it. Here we dined merry; but my club and the rest come to 7s. 6d., which was too much. Thence to the office, and there found Bagwell’s wife, whom I directed to go home, and I would do her business, which was to write a letter to my Lord Sandwich for her husband’s advance into a better ship as there should be occasion. Which I did, and by and by did go down by water to Deptford, and then down further, and so landed at the lower end of the town, and it being dark ‘entrer en la maison de la femme de Bagwell’, and there had ‘sa compagnie’, though with a great deal of difficulty, ‘neanmoins en fin j’avais ma volont d’elle’, and being sated therewith, I walked home to Redriffe, it being now near nine o’clock, and there I did drink some strong waters and eat some bread and cheese, and so home. Where at my office my wife comes and tells me that she hath hired a chamber mayde, one of the prettiest maydes that ever she saw in her life, and that she is really jealous of me for her, but hath ventured to hire her from month to month, but I think she means merrily. So to supper and to bed.

common people have
their own lord the sun
high but quiet as a well

I would write a letter
to a better lower one
and venture to hire her
from month to month


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 20 February 1665.

“Aristaeus wept, when he saw all his bees killed and honeycombs abandoned incomplete.” ~ Ovid, Fasti 1. 363 ff (trans.Boyle)

The wasp is more aggressive than the honeybee,
which dies after it stings. In the flecked

gold haze of his approach, K looks at the hand
on which the insect has landed. The apiaries

hum with suggestive life, even in that blasted
world. Who is their saint? Where are the fields

of flowers opening their throats to cloudless
wind, or vines and olive groves? Surely

there was a moment before it was too late,
before toxic sugar calmed the waters; when

they brushed their hind legs on the threshold,
lifting away from our poppy-heavy hearts.

Lay in bed, it being Lord’s day, all the morning talking with my wife, sometimes pleased, sometimes displeased, and then up and to dinner. All the afternoon also at home, and Sir W. Batten’s, and in the evening comes Mr. Andrews, and we sung together, and then to supper, he not staying, and at supper hearing by accident of my mayds their letting in a rogueing Scotch woman that haunts the office, to helpe them to washe and scoure in our house, and that very lately, I fell mightily out, and made my wife, to the disturbance of the house and neighbours, to beat our little girle, and then we shut her down into the cellar, and there she lay all night. So we to bed.

sometimes pleased sometimes eased
evening comes by accident

let Scotch haunt
and scour our house

I fell and made my disturbance
beat her down in the cellar


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 19 February 1665.

[after Sun Tzu]

When the sleeve is turned inside out
and held to the cheek, it means

the traveler must spend another night
under the pines with his grief.

When the face bends over the hands,
it recreates the shedding or stifling

of tears. What does it mean to look
directly at the sun? One tight bud

that finally unfurls in a cupful of water.
Perhaps a reprieve. A smooth stone pillow.

Perhaps the oceans boiling with foam
and the cries of sentinel birds.

Perhaps the voices of the dead, borne on
the great wave of their coming vindication.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Floating world Ukiyo.