Onionskin

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up betimes, and by agreement to the Globe taverne in Fleet Street to Mr. Clerke, my sollicitor, about the business of my uncle’s accounts, and we went with one Jefferys to one of the Barons (Spelman), and there my accounts were declared and I sworn to the truth thereof to my knowledge, and so I shall after a few formalities be cleared of all.
Thence to Povy’s, and there delivered him his letters of greatest import to him that is possible, yet dropped by young Bland, just come from Tangier, upon the road by Sittingburne, taken up and sent to Mr. Pett, at Chatham. Thus everything done by Povy is done with a fatal folly and neglect.
Then to our discourse with him, Creed, Mr. Viner, myself and Poyntz about the business of the Workehouse at Clerkenwell, and after dinner went thither and saw all the works there, and did also consult the Act concerning the business and other papers in order to our coming in to undertake it with Povy, the management of the House, but I do not think we can safely meddle with it, at least I, unless I had time to look after it myself, but the thing is very ingenious and laudable.
Thence to my Lady Sandwich’s, where my wife all this day, having kept Good Friday very strict with fasting. Here we supped, and talked very merry. My Lady alone with me, very earnest about Sir G. Carteret’s son, with whom I perceive they do desire my Lady Jemimah may be matched. Thence home and to my office, and then to bed.

by street and baron
we are worn so clear

impossible papers fasting
alone with a match


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 24 March 1665.

Bridal March, Part IV: Kneading

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

So we’re gathered, the three of us,
around a tiny table with our choices
of soup, salad, fresh-baked bread.

I’m less uncomfortable than I’d
expected, actually. Or it could be
discomfort is becoming so familiar

after three and a half weeks stuck
in the city that a little bit more
awkwardness doesn’t even register.

My mind drifts, counting off how
much longer before I can drive
again, how long till I can trust

my shoulder enough to pitch a tent
and build a fire, how many more
nights I have to sleep upright,

how long until the stars the stars
the stars again unhazed by light
pollution. I’ve drifted, missed

something matchmaker colleague
said, pull myself back into present
company and moment, then realize:

I’m not just imagining the sense
of reassurance, I’m being comforted
by scent, something more than that

of coffee and fresh bread. I inhale
deeply, catch another taste of it:
just a hint of campfire fragrance

hovering like mist from the cuff
of the flannel shirt-sleeve nearest
to me. I close my eyes, breathe in

again, sweet sweet smoky freedom.
Open my eyes, join in the conversation,
just in time, because the man I’m

here to meet is asking me: Have you
ever been to Stoneman Lake? No, not
yet. I haven’t. Haven’t been out

for a few weeks. Maybe next time I
am able to leave the city I will go.
Matchmaker decides he has to explain

me: Her doctor told her no driving
until she heals from her injuries.
She was in a climbing accident.

Not an accident, exactly. (I correct
him, don’t want to leave the wrong
impression.) Not an accident, exactly.

More a decision, with a consequence.
That’s harsh. How long have you been
down? Four weeks. A little less.

Eleven days left. Counting. A spell
of quiet around the table, then an
invitation: I’m already planning on

driving up to Stoneman this weekend
if you’d like a ride that way. My ribs
begin to ache, my lungs get tight,

all of me with longing to escape
the city suffocation, population.
But what I say is not quite yes,

but rather: Kind of you to offer.
But I’m not quite back to where I’m
fit for camping. For eleven more

days I’m supposed to be sleeping
mostly upright in a chair. He offers:
My truck has bucket seats. You could

have the cab of the truck to yourself,
bucket seat and pillow do? And I
can’t help but open to the possibility,

but then: It probably would, but
still, I shouldn’t. Even if I were
to go, and managed to build a fire,

I’m not certain I could cover
it to dead-out with a shovel after,
and I’m not sure that I’d be able

to be useful or even be good company.
If you can make the seat and pillow
work for you, the rest’s no problem.

I’ll just pretend that you’re not there
at all. And matchmaker boy-scout ever-
ready hands him a piece of paper:

That’s PERFECT! Here’s her number.


See Part I, Part II and Part III.

When I’m told the answer is something I already know

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

“I can’t see unless I see differently.” ~ Kazim Ali, Silver Road

How many times I’ve tried
to undo repetition— the knots

sliding down the chain ahead
of the bead, weeds springing up

in defiance of the plastic jug
of vinegar and epsom salts.

And every shelf in this house
is lined with another kind

of repetition: pages and pages
and words through which I’ve tried

to harness something of time
with my hands. When I fall silent

which is often these days, I’m
caught in the pause waiting

for the sound that owls make,
mournful in the trees; for rouge

on the breast of a herald
bird— Another day it was

a woodpecker I heard, tapping
the same key over and over

into the heart of the question
I can’t for the life of me answer.

Poet Bloggers Revival Digest: Week 12

poet bloggers revival tour 2018

poet bloggers revival tour 2018 A few quotes + links (please click through!) from the Poet Bloggers Revival Tour, plus occasional other poetry bloggers in my feed reader. If you missed last week’s digest, here’s the archive.

This week’s digest begins with several posts about the challenges of writing and publishing poetry collections, then spirals out into descriptions of other sorts of writing projects and the importance of connecting with others and with the earth.

I’ve probably mentioned I’ve been reading Sylvia Plath’s newest collection of letters for a while now. I’m finally getting to the end of Volume I, which ends when Sylvia’s about 24 (on page 1300). By 24, Sylvia had already been a Fullbright scholar, had poems accepted by Poetry, The Atlantic, The Nation, had an internship at Mademoiselle and sold several short stories. Looking at her, I look at myself at 44 and think: how do I measure up? I mean, she didn’t publish many books while she was alive, and I have five, but I’ve had fourteen extra years on her already! I didn’t publish my first book until after age 30! I still haven’t had acceptances at any of those magazines (and Mademoiselle is defunct.)

Now Sylvia Plath, along with a few other poets, remains one of the best poets of the past hundred years. You can watch her poetry get better in her letters over the years, from 15 to 21 to 24. Dating Ted Hughes, whatever kind of decision that was for her life-wise, was great for her poetry – she suddenly starts putting a lot of nature in her poems when she starts dating him, specific names of plants and animals, adopts the fierceness of the natural world as her own.
Jeannine Hall Gailey, Measuring Up and Marching Towards Spring

*

I don’t envy any one poet’s path. The overnight sensation, winning an NEA fellowship before turning 30 and winning a major first book poetry competition . . . . well, some of them are lucky to be alive in the first place, and some of them are riddled with imposter complex. The long-hustling poet, gradually climbing the literary magazine food chain, from the Doglick Undergraduate Literary Review, to the Greater Rockford Quarterly, to the generic MFA Literary Magazine at State U., to the very established and tony Poetry Journal of the Stars, and then finally big time, landing something in Poetry or the American Poetry Review. The hot-shot university poet, finally getting tenure, and then somehow, going out of fashion, out of favor, getting fat, becoming fossilized. The blazing street poet, putting up that hot YouTube channel, getting thousands of subscribers, and currying all that heat into some legitimacy.

What I see is great investment of time by these artists, dealing with the improbability of getting anything published, and treading that highwire of caring and not-caring. It requires arrogance, foolishness, determination, patience, idealism, and dreaminess. All that pressure, just to stay up there, suspended, where the audience is either dazzled by your light-footedness or is hoping, just a little, to see you slip. The worst of it, of course, is our own self-questioning.

So when I consider the roads of those poets who face additional cultural and societal burdens–be it race, gender-identification, class, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity–I realize those roads have more hazards, fewer signs, fewer rest stops. That’s just a fact, one that doesn’t lessen the individual hardships I might’ve faced, but one that requires me to be alert to how my road was more level, more predictable, more well traveled. To state the obvious, my road is built on privilege, protected by privilege, and contingent on privilege.
Jim Brock, Unlikely Roads

*

I’m frequently victim to The What Next. The Is This Going To Be A Book. The Should I Write More Poems Like This Or Just Stop. I think awareness, and giving it a name, is a crucial first step in confronting such feelings. Then I ask myself if this particular anxiety (I have many) is one that is doing me any good, such as the nagging feeling that I really ought to clean out the cupboards and merge all the almost-empty boxes of uncooked pasta.

Sometimes this energy can encourage me to revisit a project, or to think about it with more seriousness, but usually it causes me to spin my wheels and fret and do another load of laundry just to feel as if I’ve accomplished something.

A book is like a hardy yet reclusive fruit that needs to grow in a certain degree of dark. If you keep walking into its room and flipping the fluorescent overhead lights on just to check to make sure it’s still there, you’ll make it wilt. Or so I will tell myself as I attempt to write some new poems this coming week.
Mary Biddinger, The What Next

*

Outliers are often difficult to place, particularly when the imagery of the poems tends toward the natural environment, and the subject of the poems tends toward the speculative, and yet nothing about the poems is particularly edgy or youthful or ground-breaking.

This book represents me, the person (not just as poet) perhaps too well. I do understand why it’s been difficult to place.

As to how [The Red Queen Hypothesis] acts as obstacle in my writing life? Um. I guess I have to say I am finding it hard to move to the NEXT manuscript when THIS one still hangs out in my psyche and on my hard drive, unpublished. I know that should not impede me; I have many colleagues who work on multiple books simultaneously, sometimes even books in different genres. How they do that remains a mystery to me, however; I guess I do not share that operating system–though I dearly wish I could learn it.
Ann E. Michael, “Next Big Thing”

*

Though I think I could pull the manuscript together to make a book at this point, I prefer to let it simmer. as I mentioned in my post on chapbooks, I’m not in a great place to launch a book right now, both geographically and seasonally–my life is all diapers and babies and picture books and parks, not so much readings and academia. my poetry spirit-animal right now is Wendell Berry. do you know that he spends most of his time on his farm? and that is deemed fitting? I think that route makes the most sense for me, though I know 99.999% of poetry is born out of the dusty halls of academia. not that i’m out on a farm–domesticity and suburbia is a trifle less sexy and i’m too religious to be cute and not in a religion that is fashionable (though presbyterian might sound a little less southern hillbilly than southern baptist).

all that to say, i think, when the book is done, i’ll likely have about five readers, so i might as well take my time with it and include it all. my husband reminds [me] a poet is still considered a young poet til her 40’s, so i’ve got time to wheedle away, lines to tinker with.
Renee Emerson, new poems in Dappled Things and an update on the 3rd poetry collection

*

Friends and family have been extremely generous about supporting my poetry — buying each book as it has come out, sometimes buying an extra copy to give away, sometimes even reading them! Sometimes even reaching out to tell me about a poem that affected them in some way. But a few have said things like “I’m sorry, I don’t really understand the poems” or “I don’t like poetry” or “I don’t read poetry at all.” With them in mind, for my last book, Glass Factory, I created a short reader’s guide, thinking that I could provide some hand-holding to those who might enter the book with trepidation, or those who might not enter at all without some guidance.

It turned out to be quite a fun process for me (although I confess, I don’t know if anyone really used the guide — perhaps it was more fun for me than anyone else….)
Marilyn McCabe, Let Me Take You By the Hand; or, On Developing a Reader’s Guide

*

My friend Ronda came over at 1 pm on Friday and we wrote until 11 pm at night. Since it was so late, she spent the night and we woke up, had coffee, and wrote 3 poems in the morning.

There’s a magic to these “mini-retreats” where I sit with a friend and write all day.

Maybe it’s the energy of focus, of two people each writing poems.

Or maybe it’s just intent–we intend to write poems, and we do.

Sometimes we do prompts, or sometimes we just find a line in a book of poems and use that as our jumping out spot. There are so many ways to begin a poem.

What you need to do your own writing retreat at home?

–a laptop or journal

–books of poems (for inspiration)

–snacks

–time and a semi-quiet house

Optional:
–A friend can be helpful, especially if you find yourself not making the best use of your time.

I have found the times I’ve done these retreats (or even writing dates) with other poets, I end up with a lot stronger work than if I just hang out by my own. I think sometimes the interaction, the listening to poems, the talking with another poet can get my mind working in unusual ways. It’s the back and forth that is helpful to me.
Kelli Russell Agodon, Confession Sunday.. Mini Writing Retreat

*

Currently I’m writing a lot of . . . just verse, and it’s a stretch to call it that, I suppose. I’m participating in the Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project through a collaboration with M.S. — we alternate weeks with the sketchbook and add to its pages (me, sketches through text; her, sketches through drawing). In late April we’ll mail it back and the B.A.L. will catalog it and create a digital copy. It’s something that’s different enough from my normal mode of creating — and sharing — poems that my interest is piqued and pressure is low — it’s fun, invigorating, and keeps me from obsessing too much over what’ll happen to the work in the long run because, ultimately, I already know: It’ll be archived. Some people will see it. And M.S. and I will have created something together, accomplished something, and that’s keeping me afloat while all the other stuff tries to sink me.
Sarah Kain Gutowski, The Pressure of Silence, Poems Like People, and the Pleasures of Digging Snow

*

Fifteen years ago today, the U.S. invaded Iraq, and I started this blog. I just re-read what I wrote on March 20, 2003 (link here, scroll down to the last entry on the page), under my then-new moniker of “Cassandra,” after the Trojan princess and prophetess who was cursed to be always right, but disbelieved. Those words from 2003 still sound like me, and I still think what I wrote then is true: that we’re witnessing the death-throes of patriarchy and, especially, white male domination of the world and its systems, and that ultimately we’ll see a world with greater justice and equality for all of its people — though the fate of the natural world is not at all secure. In 2003 I tried to take a long view., and still do. But even I would not have prophesied that things would go from bad to so very much worse in the space of this decade and a half, with so much suffering for so many. […]

[M]y life changed because of this blog. In addition to the extremely valuable practice of near-daily writing, it has given me some of the best friends of my life, and relationships and conversations that continue to this day. In recent years it’s given me a forum for sharing not just my thoughts in words and photographs, but my art, and all three of those personal pursuits have improved hugely as a result. In turn, I’ve been privileged to read your words and see your bodies of work develop and change. Out of those relationships have come several collaborative efforts, including a literary magazine, qarrtsiluni, and my own publishing venture, Phoenicia. And this blog also functions for me like the diaries I kept before: as a personal record of my life and thoughts that would now fill a small shelf of books. So I can’t even find words for how significant blogging has been for me, but I’m extremely grateful.
Beth Adams, Fifteen Years

*

Q~What appeals to you about erasure/visual poetry?

A~This is my first foray into erasure poetry. At the time I erased this piece, my mother-in-law was staying with us for end-of-life care, and I found that though I had vast swaths of free time while she slept, the need to be on-call at all times meant I couldn’t get into the writing space in my head. So, I decided to try erasure instead, and that worked really well for me, possibly because the act of erasing mimicked the experience I was having as I watched my mother-in-law dying, disappearing slowly.

Q~So sorry for your loss. Your new book, Whiteout, is also about loss. I am fascinated to hear more about the book and your experience as writer-in-residence at Denali National Park and Preserve. How did that come about?

A~My most recent book is about my uncle who was a mountain climber. He died on Denali in what was, at the time, the worst mountain-climbing accident in US history. I applied to be a writer-in-resident in the park in order to finish that book. I stayed in a one-room cabin out by the Toklat River, with only my sister. We were in the park (Denali National Park and Preserve) for 10 days. Being there gave me an understanding of why my uncle was compelled to do such a dangerous thing as climb Denali. Wandering around the vast park, feeling completely alone in the wild, going places we knew he had been, was profoundly moving. We were there 49 years and one week after he was lost—watching the sun wheel around the sky instead of set in the evening, I knew he had seen that, too. For the park I wrote a series of poems as an artistic donation. They say better than I am doing now what my experience was. Here is one:

The Wandered

My sister’s drawn to clean-edged kettle ponds,
learning how to tell which pools were formed in basins
left behind by glaciers, and which weren’t.

I’m captivated by erratics, empty-house-sized
boulders stranded in a strange land by ice
that melted out from underneath them.

Erratic comes from the Latin errare,
meaning to wander, to stray, to err. We are
not wrong, my sister and I, to feel kindred—

kin and dread—with what remains after
a mammoth force, no longer visible,
has carved out such a tattered landscape.
Bekah Steimel, At the Landing / an interview with poet Jessica Goodfellow

*

It’s almost the end of March, and I haven’t begun even thinking about the garden. I have enough leftovers in the fridge so there was no need to cook. Laundry, done. The sun was out for a couple of hours, but by the time I took a shower, the sky had clouded over. I never made it out of the house. Listless. Uncommitted. Tired. A wee bit hopeless. Perhaps it was just one of those days.

Of course, there was this: I knelt in awe of students who were out in the streets speaking truth to power, demanding an end to gun violence in their schools and communities. And I was heartbroken by it too. Wanting to be hopeful, yet wondering whether demonstrating against war in the sixties really made any difference in the long haul towards a more peaceful world.

Then, Sunday blooms with possibility. There will be breakfast, coffee with a friend, a walk, some writing. Finding the effort, the will, the inner resources that allow me to find meaning, to move forward, to survive. To be grateful.
Risa Denenberg, Sunday Morning Muse with Leftover Saturday Ennui

*

Yes, oh yes, it is enough to say
what you can, the gift of transcribing
ordinary suffering into
extraordinary joy, your name
hangs in the brilliant morning air, a
feather, eyelid of a magpie, closed.
Lana Ayers, In Praise of Philip Levine

Speaking truth to power

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up and to my Lord Sandwich, who follows the Duke this day by water down to the Hope, where “The Prince” lies. He received me, busy as he was, with mighty kindness and joy at my promotions; telling me most largely how the Duke hath expressed on all occasions his good opinion of my service and love for me. I paid my thanks and acknowledgement to him; and so back home, where at the office all the morning. At noon to the ‘Change. Home, and Lewellin dined with me. Thence abroad, carried my wife to Westminster by coach, I to the Swan, Herbert’s, and there had much of the good company of Sarah and to my wish, and then to see Mrs. Martin, who was very kind, three weeks of her month of lying in is over.
So took up my wife and home, and at my office a while, and thence to supper and to bed.
Great talk of noises of guns heard at Deale, but nothing particularly whether in earnest or not.

who follows the lies
expressed on all occasions now
the art of lying is over

guns hear nothing
whether in earnest or not


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 23 March 1665.

Bridal March, Part III: Grinding

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Back at the office, he keeps going
on about it, coming to my cubicle,
insistent: You have to meet him.

No. I don’t. Please go away and let
me be. He disappears, comes back
just a little later. With a daisy which

he’s decided to liberate from a bouquet
which someone left late yesterday
for someone else at the reception

desk. He hands it to me, and he
says: Just do it. Go on, just for fun.
Just pull of the petals and say it.

I beg your pardon? Are you asking
me to decapitate the daisy? And what’s
the “it” you’re wanting me to say?

You’re kidding! You’ve never asked
a daisy about the status of your love
life? Never pulled off petals one

by one while saying “He loves me…He
love me not…” one phrase for each
petal, to see where you wind up?

No. Never. Sorry. And it’s not likely
I’ll be amending that deficit in my
experience this morning. Thank you. Bye.

Oh, come on. Just this once. If not
for you, for me. If you do it, I’ll buy
you all your coffees, all next week.

I pull the first two petals off, but
improv on my lines and say: “He needs
me not…I need him not…” and then

the daisy’s rescued from me and my
evident lack of appreciation of other
possibilities. You just don’t get it,

he accuses. You are missing the point
entirely. It’s not about needing
anyone, not him, not you, not anyone.

The point is that this is an opportunity
you may never get again, once-in-a-life-time
chance to meet somebody you can stand.

I’m fatigued. I’m tired. Okay, whatever,
fine. Give me the daisy, if it will make
you happy enough to go away. Give me

the daisy, and tell me again what it is
I am supposed to say. He hands it to me,
and in my weakened state, extracts one

more agreement: if the daisy says “He loves
me” then I will, just one time and only
briefly, consent to meet the man in question.

I pull the petals. And Fibonacci’s judgment
in the matter doesn’t please me. But I
don’t generally back out of bets, dares,

or agreements. I sign off my machine, pick
up my things to catch the early bus back
home, unwilling but committed. We agree

to make it simple, lunch on a daytime
work-day, the three of us at some place
that has soup, salad, bread, and coffee.

I punch the security code in the panel
to exit the building, and he calls out after
me in parting: Don’t look so sulky. Trust

the daisy. It isn’t about need. It’s about
possibility. Just think: maybe, you’ll get
along okay. Maybe you could fall off rocks

together.


After Dave Bonta’s “Bean counter.” See Part I and Part II.

Romantic chemistry

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to Mr. Povy’s about our business, and thence I to see Sir Ph. Warwicke, but could not meet with him. So to Mr. Coventry, whose profession of love and esteem for me to myself was so large and free that I never could expect or wish for more, nor could have it from any man in England, that I should value it more. Thence to Mr. Povy’s, and with Creed to the ‘Change and to my house, but, it being washing day, dined not at home, but took him (I being invited) to Mr. Hubland’s, the merchant, where Sir William Petty, and abundance of most ingenious men, owners and freighters of “The Experiment,” now going with her two bodies to sea. Most excellent discourse. Among others, Sir William Petty did tell me that in good earnest he hath in his will left such parts of his estate to him that could invent such and such things. As among others, that could discover truly the way of milk coming into the breasts of a woman; and he that could invent proper characters to express to another the mixture of relishes and tastes. And says, that to him that invents gold, he gives nothing for the philosopher’s stone; for (says he) they that find out that, will be able to pay themselves. But, says he, by this means it is better than to give to a lecture; for here my executors, that must part with this, will be sure to be well convinced of the invention before they do part with their money.
After dinner Mr. Hill took me with Mrs. Hubland, who is a fine gentlewoman, into another room, and there made her sing, which she do very well, to my great content.
Then to Gresham College, and there did see a kitling killed almost quite, but that we could not quite kill her, with such a way; the ayre out of a receiver, wherein she was put, and then the ayre being let in upon her revives her immediately; nay, and this ayre is to be made by putting together a liquor and some body that ferments, the steam of that do do the work.
Thence home, and thence to White Hall, where the house full of the Duke’s going to-morrow, and thence to St. James’s, wherein these things fell out:
1. I saw the Duke, kissed his hand, and had his most kind expressions of his value and opinion of me, which comforted me above all things in the world.
2. The like from Mr. Coventry most heartily and affectionately.
3. Saw, among other fine ladies, Mrs. Middleton, a very great beauty I never knew or heard of before.
4. I saw Waller the poet, whom I never saw before.
So, very late, by coach home with W. Pen, who was there. To supper and to bed, with my heart at rest, and my head very busy thinking of my several matters now on foot, the new comfort of my old navy business, and the new one of my employment on Tangier.

love could experiment
with her two bodies

could discover the way of milk
coming into the breasts

could invent tastes
or find a way to ferment a kiss

like a poet who never saw
a heart at rest


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 22 March 1665.

Bridal March, Part II: Threshing & Sifting

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

In other words, still not wonderful enough.
Luisa A. Igloria, “By Hand

Not too surprising: doctor grounded
me from driving, from really using
that shoulder in much of any way. Told
me not to roll over on it in my sleep,
recommended sleeping upright, more
or less, in some sort of chair. Five
weeks. Stuck in the city. Sleeping
mostly less, upright mostly more.

Three AM, another week of double-
shifts. After fourteen hours of
monitoring software fixes outbound
over phone lines, I’m on meal break
with a coworker at the all-night
diner two blocks down the street.
More coffee. Much more coffee.

I don’t know how it is now, times
and technology have changed,
but used to be, the people working
for mainframe software companies
became, not quite like family, but
at least their own community, small
village in the middle of a city.

And every village has a matchmaker,
one or more, someone perhaps a little
nosy, or just hearts-and-starry eyed,
who thinks that everyone who isn’t
married or at least taking some
steps toward pairing up with someone
is in need. Across the table, self-
invited company, the matchmaker
is turning his attentions back to me.

What you need, he starts assuring
me, what would really make you
happy, is a man who’s stable, settled
into his career, one who is ready
to go house-shopping, get married,
get started on a family, a kid or
two or three. I stare at him blankly
for a while as if I do not understand
the language he is speaking.

And in truth, I don’t. Not really.
But I’m tired and it’s three AM
and watching amber numbers turning
over on a dumb computer monitor
for fourteen hours has weakened
my defenses. I don’t dodge his
assertion gracefully. I don’t dodge
at all. Instead, I dig into my
purse, retrieve two napkins
marked with tiny print in ink.

(Systems engineering, sorry. All
pipe-dreams must be designed
on napkins. End of story.)
I don’t gloss it up or make it
pretty, but say firmly: No. That’s
nothing close to what I need.
Not interested. Not aspiring.
I’ve assessed what it would take
for me to live with someone else
successfully long-term, the kind
of person it would have to be.

I carry these napkins out with me
as a reminder, should I happen
to be tempted by a bit of gallantry
to give away my number in a bar.
There are minimums that would be
needed for it to even be considered,
and I really doubt the guy exists.

I unfold the specifications
for the myth, begin for the first
time ever to read them out
to someone, make clear why
I’m alone and always will be.
About money: needs to not be greedy,
see it mostly as a means, tend
more toward frugal than extravagant.

He needs to be able to cook
sufficiently to feed himself if
I’m not home, am still at work
or have decided to go out alone.
And that has got to be okay,
me going out alone. I have to
have a little time with friends,
and lots and lots of time in
solitary. He’s got to be able
to handle that, and to handle

his own laundry, and maybe most
importantly, he must have come to
some sort of understanding with
the planet, needs his own relationship
with whatever patch of earth
he works and walks and lives on,
an understanding with the sky
and dirt and all its other denizens.

And I don’t so much mean humans.
I don’t so much care if he even
ever speaks to them, including me.
But I need a man that can spend an
evening wakeful, watching long-
nose bats fly up to saguaro
blossoms. One who can sit by
a campfire till dawn without
speaking. One who can wander
in the desert, one who notices
which plants grow on which hill-
sides, which way dry washes flow.

One who can lose a map without
a panic, because it doesn’t
mean he’s lost himself. One who
understands that venom, rattler
spider scorpion, is not malicious
or evil, simply self-protection.
One who sees mankind’s pollution
also as a kind of toxin, and does
his best to minimize his impact.
One who doesn’t need to have TV
for entertainment. Hermit, mostly.

So you see: the only man I’d
want to be with is someone who
absolutely doesn’t need me. So
forget it. It won’t happen.
End of story. Cold scrambled
eggs are rubbery. And cooling
seems to have left them with an
unpleasant hint of green. I poke
what’s left of my breakfast
with a fork, decide against.

I look across the table to see
if my matchmaker-colleague is also
ready to leave. He’s frozen, his
fork is resting on the edge
of his mug of coffee, his bite
of pancake partly slipped into
the brew and getting soggy.
His mouth is open. What? I’ve
already folded up my myth-specs,
put them back into my purse,
pulled out my wallet. What?

That guy, he says. I look around.
What guy? THAT guy. That you wrote
down. He points at my purse with his
fork and the pancake submerges.

That guy, he says. I know him.


Read Bridal March, Part I: Scything.

Five conjugations for mother: Apology

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Your penchant for salt. Your thinning eyebrows. Your love for the way a throat can sound full of marbles. Your moods. Your blues. Your surplus and lack. Your hooked and hollow fingers. Your root vegetable legs. Your poles magnetized to obscure stars. Your enterprise for rare. Your philtrums and love charms. Your documentary marathons. Your em-dashes. Your thin dumpling wrappers. Your bursting skins. Your love of jade. Your love of cool and coal. Your clear crackling quartzes. Your mesmeric runes. Your raw gold and radiant waters. Your need to tunnel and mine. Your open palm. Your bell-clapper jewelry. Your peasant bread and tin-can coffee. Your listless lovers. Your smears of jam and rose perfumes. Your loose-laced bodices and wide calf boots. Your lodestars lodged like jewels in the breastbone. Your wistful jasmines. Your seas, your tinted maps, your curved, ascending highways. Your museums filled with typewriter keys, with ledgers and catalogues of letters. Your quiet calls mimicking birds.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Self-sacrifice.

Fair ground

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and my taylor coming to me, did consult all my wardrobe how to order my clothes against next summer. Then to the office, where busy all the morning. At noon to the ‘Change, and brought home Mr. Andrews, and there with Mr. Sheply dined and very merry, and a good dinner. Thence to Mr. Povy’s to discourse about settling our business of Treasurer, and I think all things will go very fayre between us and to my content, but the more I see the more silly the man seems to me. Thence by coach to the Mewes, but Creed was not there. In our way the coach drove through a lane by Drury Lane, where abundance of loose women stood at the doors, which, God forgive me, did put evil thoughts in me, but proceeded no further, blessed be God. So home, and late at my office, then home and there found a couple of state cups, very large, coming, I suppose, each to about 6l. a piece, from Burrows the slopseller.

all summer is a fair
the more I see the more I rove

lane by lane
a dance of loose doors

thoughts but no fur
found in burrows


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