Love craft

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Called up by Mr. Creed to discourse about some Tangier business, and he gone I made me ready and found Jane Welsh, Mr. Jervas his mayde, come to tell me that she was gone from her master, and is resolved to stick to this sweetheart of hers, one Harbing (a very sorry little fellow, and poor), which I did in a word or two endeavour to dissuade her from, but being unwilling to keep her long at my house, I sent her away and by and by followed her to the Exchange, and thence led her about down to the 3 Cranes, and there took boat for the Falcon, and at a house looking into the fields there took up and sat an hour or two talking and discoursing and faisant ce que je voudrais quant a la toucher: but she would not laisser me faire l’autre thing, though I did what I pouvais to have got her a me le laisser. But I did enough to faire grand plaisir a moy-meme. Thence having endeavoured to make her think of making herself happy by staying out her time with her master and other counsels, but she told me she could not do it, for it was her fortune to have this man, though she did believe it would be to her ruine, which is a strange, stupid thing, to a fellow of no kind of worth in the world and a beggar to boot.
Thence away to boat again and landed her at the Three Cranes again, and I to the Bridge, and so home, and after shifting myself, being dirty, I to the ‘Change, and thence to Mr. Povy’s and there dined, and thence with him and Creed to my Lord Bellasses’, and there debated a great while how to put things in order against his going, and so with my Lord in his coach to White Hall, and with him to my Lord Duke of Albemarle, finding him at cards. After a few dull words or two, I away to White Hall again, and there delivered a letter to the Duke of Yorke about our Navy business, and thence walked up and down in the gallery, talking with Mr. Slingsby, who is a very ingenious person, about the Mint and coynage of money. Among other things, he argues that there being 700,000l. coined in the Rump time, and by all the Treasurers of that time, it being their opinion that the Rump money was in all payments, one with another, about a tenth part of all their money. Then, says he, to my question, the nearest guess we can make is, that the money passing up and down in business is 7,000,000l..
To another question of mine he made me fully understand that the old law of prohibiting bullion to be exported, is, and ever was a folly and an injury, rather than good. Arguing thus, that if the exportations exceed importations, then the balance must be brought home in money, which, when our merchants know cannot be carried out again, they will forbear to bring home in money, but let it lie abroad for trade, or keepe in foreign banks: or if our importations exceed our exportations, then, to keepe credit, the merchants will and must find ways of carrying out money by stealth, which is a most easy thing to do, and is every where done; and therefore the law against it signifies nothing in the world. Besides, that it is seen, that where money is free, there is great plenty; where it is restrained, as here, there is a great want, as in Spayne.
These and many other fine discourses I had from him.
Thence by coach home (to see Sir J. Minnes first), who is still sick, and I doubt worse than he seems to be. Mrs. Turner here took me into her closet, and there did give me a glass of most pure water, and shewed me her Rocke, which indeed is a very noble thing but a very bawble.
So away to my office, where late, busy, and then home to supper and to bed.

I made a stick sweetheart
but unwilling to keep her
I sent her away
to the cranes in the fields

but I did make her think
of making herself happy
with her strange fellow cranes
in the dirt and the marl

ingenious treasurers
of time and folly
where one is free
there is great plenty

I want her still
took her a glass of pure water
and hewed her
a thin ice bed


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 27 January 1665.

Morning thaw

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Lay, being in some pain, but not much, with my last night’s bruise, but up and to my office, where busy all the morning, the like after dinner till very late, then home to supper and to bed.
My wife mightily troubled with the tooth ake, and my cold not being gone yet, but my bruise yesterday goes away again, and it chiefly occasioned I think now from the sudden change of the weather from a frost to a great rayne on a sudden.

night like a bruise
goes away again

now the change from frost
to a great rain


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 26 January 1665.

Hare-brained

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and busy all the morning, dined at home upon a hare pye, very good meat, and so to my office again, and in the afternoon by coach to attend the Council at White Hall, but come too late, so back with Mr. Gifford, a merchant, and he and I to the Coffee-house, where I met Mr. Hill, and there he tells me that he is to be Assistant to the Secretary of the Prize Office (Sir Ellis Layton), which is to be held at Sir Richard Ford’s, which, methinks, is but something low, but perhaps may bring him something considerable; but it makes me alter my opinion of his being so rich as to make a fortune for Mrs. Pickering.
Thence home and visited Sir J. Minnes, who continues ill, but is something better; there he told me what a mad freaking fellow Sir Ellis Layton hath been, and is, and once at Antwerp was really mad.
Thence to my office late, my cold troubling me, and having by squeezing myself in a coach hurt my testicles, but I hope will cease its pain without swelling. So home out of order, to supper and to bed.

a hare on the white hill
and me at the office
which is which
I may alter my opinion
who is really mad
the office squeezing
but me out of order


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 25 January 1665.

Washing Instructions

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series The Laundry Poems

 

trust us. we are mechanics
of the first degree
from “our name is mike” by j.lewis

The kitchen sink: eight cubic
feet, two each way by two feet
deep, with two outdoor spigots
set into its steel back-wall
well above the highest water
level possible. Steel splash-
guard protecting the wall
on the right side, a bright

overhanging sconce light,
and the counter on the left
side rolls away, leaving plenty
of room for rag-towels
to protect the floor. Kitchen
sink that, like most of us,
has to serve more than one
purpose to earn the floor-space
it takes up. Double-duty.

Heavy duty. Because that
machine whose job it is
to do the washing comes with
permanent disclaimers, warning
labels that proclaim:

No washer can completely
remove oil. Do not dry anything
that has ever had any type
of oil on it. Le non-respect
de ces instructions peut causer
la muerte, un explosion, o
incendio.

Check. I have a thought, dismiss
it with a slight regret. Recite
one hundred times: I will not
write to Maytag asking what they
mean, “do not dry anything….”

I am envisioning asking if
a thing has been so unlucky as
to have actually had oil on it,
how is one to keep it from
eventually drying out all by
itself? And when it does, are
they seriously warning me

that it will be like in
secondary school, in chemistry,
when we thought it would be
interesting to extract
the phosphorus from its safe-place
underwater in a jar and leave
it on the steel counter?
(That was interesting indeed.)

I am envisioning an attic
filled with two-gallon
pickle jars, greasy shirts
and jeans, all safely soaking
to keep them from exploding,
an occasional embroidered
name patch pressed sad and wet
against the inside of the glass.

Wisdom from some desert father
offered up by Thomas Merton:
It is not because evil thoughts
come to us that we are condemned,
but only because we make use
of the evil thoughts.
I complete
my hundred recitations of this
reassurance while I gather up
all the dangerously greasy

laundry. Gasoline and avgas,
solvent, tractor fluid, diesel…
and for balance, one pale green
fine linen dishtowel that got too
friendly with manual spray pump
used for squirting olive oil. It all
goes in the waiting sink.

This isn’t the kind of sink that’s
lined up on a window with a view.
This is a sink that gets right
down to business, and when
the hot spigot runs for just
six seconds, the steam would
make a window useless anyway.

I begin the layering:
the jeans and shirts, the worst
of the grease spots pointed
up. Then I tear off the card-
board top of a small box
of cornstarch and distribute
the fine powder fairly evenly,
making sure to not miss any
places thick with grease.

Then I pour in two litres
of soda (don’t believe anyone
who tells you it has to be
brand Coca-Cola, any cheap
generic carbonated containing
citric acid does just fine).
Then a cup of hand-wash
dishsoap. Then hot water.

Final layer is the rack
from an old Weber to hold
the clothes beneath
the surface of the steaming
murky stew. Turn on the vent
fan. DO NOT forget this.
Walk away. Come back
two hours later when it no
longer looks so angry, use
tongs to lift the grill
and pull the plug. Rinse.
Rinse. Rinse. Rinse. Rinse.

Then wash as usual.
Tumble dry low.


Read the whole series of laundry poems.

Brown travels

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

At every stop they ask where
are your papers, what is
your face, then proceed
to erase.

In the transit lounge
at Hong Kong, a woman
asks if I’m on vacation,
if my employer is kind.
Chinese airport staff
order us to move
out of the way.

In Provence, the customs
officer demands, Madame,
where is your male
traveling companion? I
look him in the eye
and say I’m here for
an academic conference.

In St. Petersburg, Russia, the female
officer scans the name on my Philippine
passport and the letter certifying I am
in between a change of status.
She calls a supervisor.
They look intently at my face
then back at the page.

At the market two blocks from Kazan
Cathedral, the cashier does not make
eye contact. She bags the groceries
of customers that come before and after
me. I go to the end of the counter
and pick up my oranges and bananas
and a plastic bag from a hook.

Summer, broken air conditioners.
In the barely moving queue at Heathrow,
a French girl asks in English: Are you
American? Guardedly, I say I’m on my way
to Chicago. She turns triumphantly
to her friends: See, I told you. All
the Americans wear the Jansport backpack.

In San Francisco, at the counter,
the woman takes one look at me
and my backpack and says, No
boxes at all? We’ll see
how many you’ll need
to check in on your
way back.

The festival organizer says
he would like to invite me.
The invitation comes with a program draft
listing events, participants. I run
my finger down the pages at least twice.
I don’t find my name, nor what
I’m supposed to be doing.

When I inquire I’m told
Oh it’s just a draft. Even if
there are names of other colleagues
who’ve been invited. Instead
of apology or clarification:
Oh it’s only natural that they
forgot you. It’s only natural.

Our daily bread

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

In the hard-baked soil of the north,
everything that didn’t die from the heat

grew bright green scales or leathered hides
we learned to peel and dice and boil for

everyday sustenance. Each harbored a spongy
core, some secret cache of moisture underneath

a stubborn outer fibre— dried handfuls
of fish, stiff husks from the banana’s

heart softening in their own syrups
as they shed their purple skins.

We swirled our spoons in their slimy wake,
grateful for salt and the bland canvas

of boiled rice. The more we ate, the more
we learned of luck and its simple rations.

Self-harm

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up and by coach to Westminster Hall and the Parliament House, and there spoke with Mr. Coventry and others about business and so back to the ‘Change, where no news more than that the Dutch have, by consent of all the Provinces, voted no trade to be suffered for eighteen months, but that they apply themselves wholly to the warr. And they say it is very true, but very strange, for we use to believe they cannot support themselves without trade.
Thence home to dinner and then to the office, where all the afternoon, and at night till very late, and then home to supper and bed, having a great cold, got on Sunday last, by sitting too long with my head bare, for Mercer to comb my hair and wash my eares.

and we in other news
have voted to suffer

they who believe
in the sun too long
are ash


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 24 January 1665.

A Great Divide

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

There was some connection between her and him
and an eccentric brother on one side or the other.
Unimportant, except as an excuse
when he took me along to say hello.

I’ve been his “ever-faithful” since before I could bark,
hunting, fishing, hiking, or just staring
at sand, and sagebrush and sunsets in summer,
it’s been me and him. Inseparable bachelors.

There’s a smell to humans and their feelings
as clear and unmistakable as any spoor
and it changes quite reliably with their smiles,
frowns, shouted curses, and quiet desires.
While I may not say much, I know more about them
than they know about themselves.

I heard his tone as he talked to her,
(though I couldn’t know what he was saying)
the timbre of his voice, all rejection.
But the scent that blew toward me contradicted that,
swirling bursts of loneliness, discontent, desire.
Gave me something to think about,
as far as hound dogs think on anything.

What made it more interesting, from my silent
observation point between them, was the woman.
Shoulders mostly turned away, focused on the rope
where she was hanging fresh-washed jeans without a word.
Not that talk was needed, because the shifting breeze
nearly suffocated me with her pungent longing
that snagged on, and nearly stopped at,
the clothesline dividing their worlds.

Me? I wish they could hear what I smell.


In response to “Where the West Begins” by Laura Kaminski.

For sure

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

“What else, what else belongs in the joyous city?” ~ Ursula LeGuin

This morning a student asks me if I’ve always
known what I’ve wanted— What she means is

in relation to the decision on her major,
after changing at least six times. The last

time was from a pre-med program. But see,
I point out, that’s why you’re the only one

who can use zygomatic in the abecedarian
exercise! I want to say I almost failed high school

Literature, for not figuring out the difference
between metaphor and simile, or metonymy from

synecdoche. I could’ve wound up in music
conservatory, or studying journalism for pre-

law. Yet here I am, talking about confessional
poetry and how in the experience of the colonized

writer/the writer of color it’s not just
the unburdening of intimate personal narrative,

but possibly the enactment of the colonizer’s
desire to extract a confession of original

impurity, in order for him to grant absolution.
Of course I didn’t know either what I wanted

back then; just as this morning I didn’t quite
know if I wanted fried eggs again, or should I

open a can of corned beef to sauté with onions
and garlic? On the drive to work I couldn’t stop

thinking of things I don’t know what to do about
—like when one of my daughters texts to say

she is lonely, always lonely; or when I’m told
another one is afraid our relationship is mostly

superficial. Would it be easier then to say one
knows only that what one wants is everything

the current state isn’t? O wing of my being, o sweet
evening prayer.
I couldn’t tell you how long I’ve

envied the ones who say they are so sure, the ones who never
seem to run through trial and error and error and error.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Match maker.

Escape Artist

This entry is part 9 of 19 in the series Une Semaine de Bonté

 

Page 9 from Max Ernst’s Une Semaine de Bonté

Every wall is a sea wall, built to keep out
something that is already inside,
running through our veins.

My ship has come in, hold full
of the Jesus fish I’m returning
to their native parables.

We’ve all forgotten how to migrate,
though our ancestors the trees
were clearly transhumant,

and even now have a yearly
jubilee for their leaves.
This leave-taking is my gospel

and there are undersea forests of kelp
that have yet to hear it. They rock
and roll—it is said—all night long.

Their every surface is a tongue
free of Pentecost. They are precious
in the eyespots of echinoderms,

who have cultivated great detachment
and learned how to regrow themselves
from a single, severed limb.

With this kind of movable feast,
who needs the state and its miserable
no-fly lists! Are we not birds?