June 2018

3. Captive Bolt

In cold cases at the grocery
store, multiple stacks of neatly
rendered parts: leg, thigh, breast,
wing. Barely any pink against the moist
styrofoam lining, because the severing
was done before their transport here.
We wash the meat again before we cook,
then mask death’s sour smell with bay
leaf and clove, wine, a cloak of cream.
It doesn’t lift, but we say delicious.

o

Define a cage as opposed
to a holding cell as opposed
to a separation, an example.
What it means: tracker
one can shackle around a thin
ankle; wire periphery surrounding
hundreds dazed and lying in rows,
sheeted with foil. Blinking
in confusion, terrified,
separate, separated.

o

Define the pistol
sound of bolts locking
in place: not horse stalls
in the desert this time around,
but at least families were
together then. In stories
from other wars I’ve heard
of fathers who took their sons
into their arms, daughters
who gripped their mothers’ hands
with such trust as they were led
naked into the airless chamber.

*

“…So far, it has been the workers who have borne all the consequences of the employer’s violations. ICE could have decided to audit this employer, and forced him to pay fines and correct his practices. Instead they conducted a raid that left over 160 children without a parent from one day to the next.

No charges have been filed against the company.” ~ “ICE Came for a Tennessee Town’s Immigrants. The Town Fought Back.”

Up and to the office, where I set hard to business, but was informed that the Duke of Yorke is come, and hath appointed us to attend him this afternoon. So after dinner, and doing some business at the office, I to White Hall, where the Court is full of the Duke and his courtiers returned from sea. All fat and lusty, and ruddy by being in the sun. I kissed his hands, and we waited all the afternoon. By and by saw Mr. Coventry, which rejoiced my very heart. Anon he and I, from all the rest of the company, walked into the Matted Gallery; where after many expressions of love, we fell to talk of business. Among other things, how my Lord Sandwich, both in his counsells and personal service, hath done most honourably and serviceably. Sir J. Lawson is come to Greenwich; but his wound in his knee yet very bad. Jonas Poole, in the Vantguard, did basely, so as to be, or will be, turned out of his ship. Captain Holmes expecting upon Sansum’s death to be made Rear-admirall to the Prince (but Harman is put in) hath delivered up to the Duke his commission, which the Duke took and tore. He, it seems, had bid the Prince, who first told him of Holmes’s intention, that he should dissuade him from it; for that he was resolved to take it if he offered it. Yet Holmes would do it, like a rash, proud coxcombe. But he is rich, and hath, it seems, sought an occasion of leaving the service. Several of our captains have done ill. The great ships are the ships do the business, they quite deadening the enemy. They run away upon sight of “The Prince.” It is strange to see how people do already slight Sir William Barkeley, my Lord FitzHarding’s brother, who, three months since, was the delight of the Court. Captain Smith of “The Mary” the Duke talks mightily of; and some great thing will be done for him. Strange to hear how the Dutch do relate, as the Duke says, that they are the conquerors; and bonefires are made in Dunkirke in their behalf; though a clearer victory can never be expected. Mr. Coventry thinks they cannot have lost less than 6000 men, and we not dead above 200, and wounded about 400; in all about 600. Thence home and to my office till past twelve, and then home to supper and to bed, my wife and mother not being yet come home from W. Hewer’s chamber, who treats my mother tonight.
Captain Grove, the Duke told us this day, hath done the basest thing at Lowestoffe, in hearing of the guns, and could not (as others) be got out, but staid there; for which he will be tried; and is reckoned a prating coxcombe, and of no courage.

I kiss her wound
to turn it into light
or some great fire

though the gun could not
be got out


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 16 June 1665.

Up, and put on my new stuff suit with close knees, which becomes me most nobly, as my wife says. At the office all day. At noon, put on my first laced band, all lace; and to Kate Joyce’s to dinner, where my mother, wife, and abundance of their friends, and good usage. Thence, wife and Mercer and I to the Old Exchange, and there bought two lace bands more, one of my semstresse, whom my wife concurs with me to be a pretty woman. So down to Deptford and Woolwich, my boy and I. At Woolwich, discoursed with Mr. Sheldon about my bringing my wife down for a month or two to his house, which he approves of, and, I think, will be very convenient. So late back, and to the office, wrote letters, and so home to supper and to bed.
This day the Newes book upon Mr. Moore’s showing L’Estrange (Captain Ferrers’s letter) did do my Lord Sandwich great right as to the late victory.
The Duke of Yorke not yet come to towne. The towne grows very sickly, and people to be afeard of it; there dying this last week of the plague 112, from 43 the week before, whereof but [one] in Fanchurch-streete, and one in Broad-streete, by the Treasurer’s office.

my stuff becomes
all lace and usage

who approves of the right
to evict people from the street


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 15 June 1665.

2. Exsanguination

The steer next to the sow, the sow
next to the chickens eating their last

fill of pebbly grain. Don’t talk
to me about order in the universe

if you’ve never had your hands
gape wide from the spill of inside

to outside, warm and twitching
on the grass, slick dark jewels

staining everything in their radius.
Momentum means when something starts,

it gains distance and speed. Even when
the not yet completely deleted animal

is vertical and twitching on the hook,
the heart pumps like an efficient machine,

trying to compensate. Imagine the body
bleeding out its whole life in under

15 seconds, on concrete. One swift
blow to sever the largest arteries—

this, the worker’s devotion until the end.
Because they occupy the same gutted ground.

*

“…So far, it has been the workers who have borne all the consequences of the employer’s violations. ICE could have decided to audit this employer, and forced him to pay fines and correct his practices. Instead they conducted a raid that left over 160 children without a parent from one day to the next.

No charges have been filed against the company.” ~ “ICE Came for a Tennessee Town’s Immigrants. The Town Fought Back.”

1. Stunning

Not as in your feet look beautiful in those
calfskin pumps; not as in what a beautiful arc

he threw with that football made from pigskin
or vulcanized rubber. It’s cold in the vaults

where undocumented workers are taught
methods for rendering the animal unconscious

before the actual killing. This is the first
step, so flesh and sinew are more relaxed.

Relaxed, meaning unguarded. Or taken without
warning, by surprise. After that, the knives

and saws can go to work: cavities turned
inside out, every last bit numbered.

*

“…So far, it has been the workers who have borne all the consequences of the employer’s violations. ICE could have decided to audit this employer, and forced him to pay fines and correct his practices. Instead they conducted a raid that left over 160 children without a parent from one day to the next.

No charges have been filed against the company.” ~ “ICE Came for a Tennessee Town’s Immigrants. The Town Fought Back.”

view out the observation deck, London Wetlands Centre

This past Saturday, Rachel and I celebrated our recent wedding with some 75 friends and family at the London Wetlands Centre, a green oasis beside the Thames.

Samuel Pepys was here (close-up of informational placard)

Of course, as with most places in and around London, Samuel Pepys had been here (click image to enlarge).

As at the wedding itself, poetry played a prominent role, along with other creative contributions from our guests: yards and yards of home-made (mostly knitted or crocheted) bunting, music playlists, (more…)

~ after Hugo Simberg, “Sallittu” (1896)

One world is twilit, the other turned
toward a country filled with roads
and barns and men whose feet are shod
so they don’t feel how shadows
pass over the earth like a long shudder.
It is a morning’s duty to button oneself
into a coat, to wrap the throat in wool,
to save for roughened hands a small
hiding place of warmth for when the day
ends. Even death practices its own kind
of decorum— comes calling in a proper suit,
though the trousers are old and three sizes
too small. If a child could fit into a sling bag,
how much more a soul? The question isn’t who lets
such things happen. Even death was once tall
and strapping, before his bones turned brittle
on his shrinking frame. Sheaves of grain or paper;
milk from cows and linen from flax; blood from
one end of the cord to the beating heart: one’s duty
is always to bear forward. To carry to the finish.

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’ve missed earlier editions of the digest, here’s the archive.

This week, popular themes included travel, exhaustion and rejuvenation, music and poetry, and fathers.

Being a poet is a condition. That’s not an original thought, I confess that some poet has uttered those words but I don’t recall who. Being a condition, if you believe that, and I do, then it is a lifelong journey or searches to find something that you don’t know you are looking for. Once you are lucky enough to discover it and wrap a poem around it, the search begins anew. It’s a bit like government work. It’s never finished. It just keeps going on and on and on.
Michael Allyn Wells, Confession Tuesday – Flan Edition

*

I kept a travel journal, with small drawings. I was faithful to entering the day to day experiences, large and small. I wrote some creative work while I was away, but, since I’ve returned, I have been writing every day. Poems, essays. My perspective has changed completely, and I feel utterly calm. Not sure if that’s a jet lag hangover or not, but I think I have come to terms with a lot of life that I can’t change.
M.J. Iuppa, Imagine beauty. Imagine Sicily

*

For the last week, I’ve lived in the land of the long blink. We arrived home eight days ago from the aforementioned intense trip to Europe, and I dutifully took sunlit walks to reset my body clock, swallowed melatonin at the appointed hours, and vigorously swept out my email inbox–begone, reference letters and peer review!–while getting organized for a spousal birthday and our son’s impending six weeks at the Ross Mathematics Program in Ohio.

I was plenty busy, in other words, but not desperately so, and as I ticked off the most urgent tasks, I found myself revving down. You know, my brain said Wednesday morning, before you work on permissions inquiries, there’s this poem idea. And on Friday morning, over breakfast by an open window, Hey, you haven’t taken a three-day weekend just to read and cook and hang out for a long, long time. As I let myself do less, I started getting sleepier and sleepier, “After Apple-Picking” style. The past few nights I’ve been unable to keep my eyes open much past 9 p.m. […]

Now I’m catching up with poetry in books and magazines. The new Ecotone is on my desk and, as always, it’s full of loveliness. It often contains a powerful poem by a writer I’ve never heard of, and this time that’s “Coywolf” by Katie Hartsock. I also especially enjoyed the opening note by Anna Lena Phillips Bell discussing the departure from the magazine of Beth Staples, who will move to this sleepy town come August and take over Shenandoah. I’ll be reading poetry submissions under her editorship and I’m beyond excited about the magazine’s transition. I’m nervous about the workload, too, but my term on AWP ends in October, and being a trustee during that organization’s recent changes has involved plenty of time and worry. I’m eager, at any rate, to spend time in a different region of the po-biz.
Lesley Wheeler, Hundred-year nap

*

I often, in the grim thick of it, wonder why I travel, and why I try to get my work published. I can’t explain either, except for some complex cocktail of ego, hubris, drive, curiosity, and this need to connect, perhaps. We sat by a tidal river in a funky little place that was playing Steely Dan, BB King, Supertramp, and ate crustaceans that we don’t usually eat, bristling with claws and exoskeleton, toasting Anthony Bourdain’s memory. We left hungry but feeling like we’d accomplished a small thing, as I felt when I heard of my finalist spot. Staying home is nice too. Not doing the research required to send work out, not girding the loins for the inevitable rejections, just either doing the writing or doing something else entirely — that’s nice too. But before long I start listening keenly to others’ tales, pore over maps, surf the Poets &Writers deadline pages, pack my bags and set out. Again and again. That’s the only Way.
Marilyn McCabe, Long, Winding; or, Getting Published

*

I was camping in Whitby for a few days over half term and The Sick Bag Song was my holiday read. It’s a fragmentary road trip, part prose, part poem. The Sunday Times described it as ‘About as rock’n’roll as you can get …’ but despite being a music fan, I read it because [Nick] Cave gives some great insights into creativity and how writing happens. For example, he tells a story about a visit to Bryan Ferry’s house where he falls asleep by the swimming pool.

I awoke to find Bryan Ferry in his bathers, standing in the swimming pool. He was white and handsome and very still.

I haven’t written a song in three years, he said.

Why? What’s wrong with you? I said.

He gestured, with an uncertain hand, all about him.

There is nothing to write about, he said.

That night I sat at my desk writing in a frenzy – page after page – song after song …

(Nick Cave, The Sick Bag Song, Cannongate, 2015)

I don’t know how true this story is, but it’s interesting to me on so many levels – the idea that success can lead to a loss of creative drive and energy, that sometimes you don’t feel like anything around you is interesting enough to write about (especially if what surrounds you is luxury) etc. But it also interests me that Cave says he fed off that experience like a vampire, that somehow seeing Ferry blocked unleashed a torrent of writing in himself. Surely that’s fear of failure? But it’s being channelled into something productive.
Julie Mellor, The Sick Bag Song

*

A little peek at the change of seasons – here, sunflowers are blooming and they’ve attracted goldfinches! Another sign of summer? Butterflies and…we went to an outdoor concert (I haven’t been healthy enough to go to a concert for over a year and a half!) at beautiful Marymoor Park – KT Tunstall, Better Than Ezra, and The Barenaked Ladies – where the first two acts were really fun, and I caught a guitar pick from the lead singer of Better Than Ezra, but then – it started raining a few drops, then boom! We were evacuated because of lightning! If you’ve ever seen a large park full of concert goers emergency evacuate, it’s a mess – and I was holding a metal cane and a metal umbrella – talk about lightning rods! I also got to attend the prenuptial reading at Elliot Bay for Kaveh Akbar and Paige Taylor, who invited a ton of friends to read with them at Elliot Bay – it was like a baby AWP! Much less lightning. Poetry folks everywhere and standing room only. What a fun way to celebrate the beginning of a marriage.
Jeannine Hall Gailey, New Review of PR for Poets, Mermaid, Faerie Magazine, and Me, and the Latest in Poetry Life, Early Summer Edition

*

In the first of my explorations of poetry used in modern music, I will shine the light in the direction of top UK poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

Benjamin Zephaniah appeared on the first Imagined Village album, where he performed a retelling of the old English poem Tam Lin in words that would speak to our current times, picking up the hot potato of asylum and immigration.

This was the first of Imagined Village’s three albums, and it seemed deliberate that for this first album they employed well-known names such as Billy Bragg and Paul Weller – great musicians and a little controversial.

Benjamin Zephaniah has never been one to shy away from controversy, but in the nicest and most morally upstanding of ways – namely his rejection of his OBE. “OBE” means “Order of the British Empire”. Zephaniah said, ‘Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought. I get angry when I hear that word “empire”; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds me of thousands of years of brutality…’
Catherine Hume, Benjamin Zephaniah

*

At school we had to pray they’d be forgiven,
those trespassers, who rambled viking fells,
ghylls and cloughs, sour gritstone moors
and green lanes cropped by mourning sheep.
They knew the land they walked should not be owned,
wished it was theirs; coveted the cottages
of the small stone villages, their tidy gardens.
Those men like my father the woollen spinner,
namer of birds; presser of wild flowers.
John Foggin, Fathers’ Day

*

John Foggin pays tribute to a multi-talented, hardworking father with three poems. His post struck a chord:

My father won the Art Prize in his final year at Secondary Modern school, aged 14. He wanted to go to art college but obeyed his father’s instruction to get a proper job: a nine-year apprenticeship as a coach painter, three years in the RAF regiment as a signaller, and an ever after of hard graft with overtime, latterly spraying cars for a local car dealership. Early retirement with a heart condition afforded him time to indulge a long-denied passion for painting and sketching, and a dawning realisation of repressed left-handedness (his legacy to me, perhaps). He died too young, aged 63.
Jayne Stanton, Fathers and the poems they inspire

*

A few weeks ago, I had dinner with a young relative who is a biology student at the University of Oregon. She mentioned that one of her favorite things to do is to look at the university library’s vast collection of amateur field notes. At that moment, I realized that “Field Notes” was the working title for my new collection. Of course. It was perfect.

Here are some “Field Notes” I’ve collected since April:

Joshua Trees look like lions in an infrared photo

fog is my weakness

let’s re-wild each other

clay – what the hell

“Bad” means “bath” in German

zucchini – what a giver you are

ever left something outside long enough for the weeds to grow around it?

a bit of earth

I need a garden to stay sane

fight dirty

save me blueberry
Erica Goss, Field Notes

*

The Three Poems by Emily Paige Wilson in Longleaf Review are thrilling in their use of language, like a trapeze artist making us hold our breath until the triumphant end. I love, love, love how she weaves together herbal lore, earth treasures, and the human body into her verse in the most unexpected ways, especially in “Poet as Doctor (II)”:

Write perfume in cursive until the pneumonia
in your lungs loosens. Thread silver through
your teeth to tempt splinters from your skin.
Dissolve geode into fine grains on your tongue,
swallow to ease the gout out of your teased
and tangled toes.

Charlotte Hamrick, Poems I’m Mad Over Right Now

*

When I first learned about erasure poetry, I was enamored with the form. The idea that a poem could be hidden inside any text was intoxicating—a challenge I insist on pushing to the limit. There are so many variables: your source text, your mood, whether you’re working by hand or on computer, the marker or pencil you pick up, how quickly your eye scans across the page. I love that there is no one way to write erasure poems, that each writer’s process is a little bit different.
6 Styles of Erasure Poetry – guest blog post by Erin Dorney (Trish Hopkinson’s blog)

*

So what does this mean? For one, it means that whether or not anyone agrees with my reasons for withdrawing, I can rest for a little while, because it’s done. I’ve made it official. And working at the college for the past year — maybe even the past two years — has been incredibly draining. I need some time to mellow out.

To be honest, it’s a little jarring and I’ve spent the last week feeling largely unsettled. I’ve done a little bit of everything but not a great deal of anything. I suppose that’s healthy to some degree, but it’s a strange feeling. I’ve been reluctant even to write in this blog, mostly because I don’t know what to say. I keep writing and deleting sentences. I’m reluctant to invite judgment, I suppose — particularly my own.
Sarah Kain Gutowski, More Ineffectual Shouting Into the Void

*

What I am reading this Sunday:

Boyishly, by Tanya Olson (YesYes Books, 2013)– this is an amazing book, winner of an American Book Award, which I just picked up again and could not put down. Again. The preface poem, “Exclude all other thoughts” brings us mouth to mouth with a corpse in a intimate parable of how to keep the dead, dead. These poems are full of imagining how to be: how to be “boyish”, how to be in the whale’s belly, how to cross the street; “how hard it is not to buy a tiger”; how to be an “old, old, old” woman; finally, how to die “with a giant wad of love jamming up your heart.” Buy this book. Here. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.
Risa Denenberg, Sunday Morning Muse with Book of Poems in Hand and

*

He could heal them with a single
word if they had faith.
He unrolls his yoga mat
to join them as they arch
into dog shapes and fish curves.

He’s been crucified on a cross.
He thought he understood the limits
of human pain. But on this hard, wood
floor, he senses yet another threshold.
Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Poetry Monday: “Son Salutation”

*

At the moment of her death
      she saw 10,000 children
            their white scarves streaming.

At the moment of his death
      he heard the pages of his open book
            riffling in a stiff breeze.
Dick Jones, Ars Moriendi

~ after Hugo Simberg, “On the Stream of Life” (1896)

If only it were like this: a craft
filled with words and books, the tiller

almost an afterthought. Going
where the water will take you

in the way that most thoughts meander—
through leafless trees, past distant

towns, farther into the unpunctuated
countryside of your solitude.

Open your mouth, says the nurse as she sticks the tip of the thermometer under your tongue. The cold resides in regions between the heart and the hand. Everything else burns like a cake of tallow into which a piece of twine has been stuck. Do your dreams ripple like a sheet before breaking into bubbles? You watch them roll across bathroom tile like a herd of silverfish. When you touch one, it divides over and over and over into smaller versions of itself.