March 2018

Let us fold the scarves of affliction
into small squares and put them in the drawers.

Let the morning part its curtains
to find winter cleared for spring.

Let the sorrow that knelt all these years
at the foot of your bed tire of its vigil

and long for the white sweep of coast,
the naked cliffs, the noise of ravenous

seagulls. Let it walk through the village’s
winding lanes with no more fixed destination.

Let the bright bewilderment of flowers stop it
in its tracks, and the smell of yeast teetering

on shelves of sugar. Let the horse in the field
turn its head, and fish in the stream scatter

their mottled, careless gold. Let the future
write of its hopeful past. Let it coax the worm

that burrowed blindly in your bones for years,
to find a different ocean from which to call to god.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Taking pains.

~ “Caminos Tortuosos,” Remedios Varo (1957)

From decade to decade, I cycle
veiled in my secret griefs—
Do you see the little blades

and how they pushed the heart
out of its chest? Once I was
feathered and bright, once

I was dragonfly wings laid over
the heated surface of a lake.
What vessel for water

flung as weapon
from a burnished throat?
Who’ll dress the wounds

that spiral around the wrists?
Following the smell of ripened
fruit I knocked on door after door

in the countryside. I wanted
to offer a song I could still remember
beneath the roof of a beautiful tree.

Up betimes and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and I did most of the business there, God wot. Then to the ‘Change, and thence to the Coffee-house with Sir W. Warren, where much good discourse for us both till 4 o’clock with great pleasure and content, and then parted and I home to dinner, having eat nothing, and so to my office. At night supped with my wife at Sir W. Pen’s, who is to go back for good and all to the fleete tomorrow. Took leave and to my office, where till 12 at night, and then home to bed.

morning coffee
the art of night is to go back
to morrow


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 28 March 1665.

in the shape of knuckle, a fist;

bread hard as a stone with a cross,
porous as a heart with a wing. We sift

dried locust wings to mix with earth
and sugar, their delicate lace

spiraling across the grass. Once,
someone traced the map on my palms

then suddenly grew silent. Once,
I grew smaller when I took back

what I’d opened to the sun, stopped
eating from the family of night-

shades. I dreamt of my mouth
filling with air, my lungs

exploding from all the spores I
saved up year after shadowed year.

Up betimes to Mr. Povy’s, and there did sign and seal my agreement with him about my place of being Treasurer for Tangier, it being the greatest part of it drawn out of a draught of his own drawing up, only I have added something here and there in favour of myself.
Thence to the Duke of Albemarle, the first time that we officers of the Navy have waited upon him since the Duke of Yorke’s going, who hath deputed him to be Admirall in his absence. And I find him a quiet heavy man, that will help business when he can, and hinder nothing, and am very well pleased with our attendance on him.
I did afterwards alone give him thanks for his favour to me about my Tangier business, which he received kindly, and did speak much of his esteem of me.
Thence, and did the same to Sir H. Bennet, who did the like to me very fully, and did give me all his letters lately come from hence for me to read, which I returned in the afternoon to him.
Thence to Mrs. Martin, who, though her husband is gone away, as he writes, like a fool into France, yet is as simple and wanton as ever she was, with much I made myself merry and away.
So to my Lord Peterborough’s; where Povy, Creed, Williamson, Auditor Beale, and myself, and mighty merry to see how plainly my Lord and Povy did abuse one another about their accounts, each thinking the other a foole, and I thinking they were not either of them, in that point, much in the wrong, though in everything, and even in this manner of reproaching one another, very witty and pleasant.
Among other things, we had here the genteelest dinner and the neatest house that I have seen many a day, and the latter beyond anything I ever saw in a nobleman’s house.
Thence visited my Lord Barkeley, and did sit discoursing with him in his chamber a good while, and [he] mighty friendly to me about the same business of Tangier. From that to other discourse of the times and the want of money, and he said that the Parliament must be called again soon, and more money raised, not by tax, for he said he believed the people could not pay it, but he would have either a general excise upon everything, or else that every city incorporate should pay a toll into the King’s revenue, as he says it is in all the cities in the world; for here a citizen hath no more laid on them than their neighbours in the country, whereas, as a city, it ought to pay considerably to the King for their charter; but I fear this will breed ill blood.
Thence to Povy, and after a little talk home to my office late. Then to supper and to bed.

the place drawn out of
a quiet heavy nothing

like a letter from me to myself
each thinking the other a fool

every city is all
the cities in the world

their neighbors in the country pay
in blood and little supper


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 27 March 1665.

(Lord’s day and Easter day). Up (and with my wife, who has not been at church a month or two) to church. At noon home to dinner, my wife and I (Mercer staying to the Sacrament) alone.
This is the day seven years which, by the blessing of God, I have survived of my being cut of the stone, and am now in very perfect good health and have long been; and though the last winter hath been as hard a winter as any have been these many years, yet I never was better in my life, nor have not, these ten years, gone colder in the summer than I have done all this winter, wearing only a doublet, and a waistcoate cut open on the back; abroad, a cloake and within doors a coate I slipped on. Now I am at a losse to know whether it be my hare’s foot which is my preservative against wind, for I never had a fit of the collique since I wore it, and nothing but wind brings me pain, and the carrying away of wind takes away my pain, or my keeping my back cool; for when I do lie longer than ordinary upon my back in bed, my water the next morning is very hot, or whether it be my taking of a pill of turpentine every morning, which keeps me always loose, or all together, but this I know, with thanks to God Almighty, that I am now as well as ever I can wish or desire to be, having now and then little grudgings of wind, that brings me a little pain, but it is over presently, only I do find that my backe grows very weak, that I cannot stoop to write or tell money without sitting but I have pain for a good while after it.
Yet a week or two ago I had one day’s great pain; but it was upon my getting a bruise on one of my testicles, and then I did void two small stones, without pain though, and, upon my going to bed and bearing up of my testicles, I was well the next. But I did observe that my sitting with my back to the fire at the office did then, as it do at all times, make my back ake, and my water hot, and brings me some pain.
I sent yesterday an invitation to Mrs. Turner and her family to come to keep this day with me, which she granted, but afterward sent me word that it being Sunday and Easter day she desired to choose another and put off this. Which I was willing enough to do; and so put it off as to this day, and will leave it to my own convenience when to choose another, and perhaps shall escape a feast by it. At my office all the afternoon drawing up my agreement with Mr. Povy for me to sign to him tomorrow morning.
In the evening spent an hour in the garden walking with Sir J. Minnes, talking of the Chest business, wherein Sir W. Batten deals so unfairly, wherein the old man is very hot for the present, but that zeal will not last nor is to be trusted.
So home to supper, prayers, and to bed.

I have survived the winter pain
the wind pain
the wish pain

but I find I cannot write
without a pain great as two stones
or a rusted bed


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 26 March 1665.

When cardinals first appear in spring
they flicker, small flags in the trees.
.
And some days, an endless fog
grazes the stone heads of statues.
.
Rumor of bullets scheduled to fly
like hail or a passing rainstorm.
.
None of this is in the past: the birds
of grief touching down on our roofs.
.
And here is where a hand read my body
in the dark, its passage slower than time.
.
If you feed what opens like a maw,
will it leave you alone, distraction?
.
A sudden fever, a thread of fire:
bright contagion in the neighborhood.
.
Infinity is depicted as repetition, or
a loop concealing its end from itself.

(Lady day). Up betimes and to my office, where all the morning. At noon dined alone with Sir W. Batten, where great discourse of Sir W. Pen, Sir W. Batten being, I perceive, quite out of love with him, thinking him too great and too high, and began to talk that the world do question his courage, upon which I told him plainly I have been told that he was articled against for it, and that Sir H. Vane was his great friend therein. This he was, I perceive, glad to hear. Thence to the office, and there very late, very busy, to my great content.
This afternoon of a sudden is come home Sir W. Pen from the fleete, but upon what score I know not.
Late home to supper and to bed.

the pen in love with ink
began to quest for an ear

and there of a sudden
is a score


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 25 March 1665.

Friday evening drive up and away
from the city. Mile after mile
of highway, mile after mile
of dirt-road washboards, mile
after blissful mile of silence.

Bucket seat and pillow worked.
I left the window open to the cold.
And the stars had not forgotten
me, nor had I them. Then out of
the cab of the truck at first
light, off behind a stand of trees

to pee, then back to sit on
a log and warm up by the fire
before going down to explore
a strange lake whose perimeter
is almost perfectly circular.

Dawn by the fire, and only six words
said over those two days of being
out at home again. Three each. He
held up an enamel-on-steel Coleman
cup and asked me: Beer or coffee?
Those were his three. Mine were:

Coffee always. Thanks.


See Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.