Geography as Sense of Fracture

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A seam down the middle 
of each season, an outline

around every gesture
in the now. And there are

no mountains here, only
the silhouettes of boats

docked at the harbor; this
blue-gold shift searing

everything at the margins
before it disappears.

I own just one brass hawk
bell now. When it dangles

from a chain at my hip,
its toothed voice rises:

winged animal familiar
to any field. But I,

I am the one still laboring
to separate stone from seed.

Abridged

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and by coach to Westminster Hall, there thinking to have met Betty Michell, who I heard yesterday staid all night at her father’s, but she was gone. So I staid a little and then down to the bridge by water, and there overtook her and her father. So saluted her and walked over London Bridge with them and there parted, the weather being very foul, and so to the Tower by water, and so home, where I find Mr. Caesar playing the treble to my boy upon the Theorbo, the first time I heard him, which pleases me mightily. After dinner I carried him and my wife towards Westminster, by coach, myself ‘lighting at the Temple, and there, being a little too soon, walked in the Temple Church, looking with pleasure on the monuments and epitaphs, and then to my Lord Belasses, where Creed and Povy by appointment met to discourse of some of their Tangier accounts between my Lord and Vernatty, who will prove a very knave. That being done I away with Povy to White Hall, and thence I to Unthanke’s, and there take up my wife, and so home, it being very foule and darke. Being there come, I to the settling of some of my money matters in my chests, and evening some accounts, which I was at late, to my extraordinary content, and especially to see all things hit so even and right and with an apparent profit and advantage since my last accounting, but how much I cannot particularly yet come to adjudge.

a bridge over the bridge
I walk with my accounts
settling in my chest


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 22 October 1666.

In this human city

View on Vimeo.

The latest videohaiku stars the neighborhood ash tree and a flock of starlings, shot from the patio while I was drinking coffee. The text is a bit wordier than usual for me, shaped in part by the need to fit into a pseudo-concrete poem.

Parable of Disobedience

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In stories we were told, the theme
was always obedience— or else its opposite,
faithlessness. The girl who lazed in bed,

luxuriating in the gauzy envelope of mosquito
netting that made it feel like she could set
herself apart for just a little while

from the world: how, not rising quick
enough to the summons of her mother,
she was turned into a plant

stagnating in a pool of water. Hollow
stems, the damp carrying through her limbs
as constant reminder of callousness.

In parables, intention doesn't count:
there is only what's done, and the penalty
that follows after. No one cares about

nuance or motivation. And in this lifetime,
will we ever be allowed to tend to that
first house of the self without incurring

the wrath of the ancestors? The alarm clock
rings in the early dark. You want to stay there,
but the morning beckons like an ancient curse.

Origins of horror

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(Lord’s day). Up, and with my wife to church, and her new woman Barker with her the first time. The girle will, I think, do very well.
Here a lazy sermon, and so home to dinner, and took in my Lady Pen and Peg (Sir William being below with the fleete), and mighty merry we were, and then after dinner presently (it being a mighty cool day) I by coach to White Hall, and there attended the Cabinet, and was called in before the King and them to give an account of our want of money for Tangier, which troubles me that it should be my place so often and so soon after one another to come to speak there of their wants — the thing of the world that they love least to hear of, and that which is no welcome thing to be the solicitor for — and to see how like an image the King sat and could not speak one word when I had delivered myself was very strange; only my Lord Chancellor did ask me, whether I thought it was in nature at this time to help us to anything. So I was referred to another meeting of the Lords Commissioners for Tangier and my Lord Treasurer, and so went away, and by coach home, where I spent the evening in reading Stillingfleet’s defence of the Archbishopp, the part about Purgatory, a point I had never considered before, what was said for it or against it, and though I do believe we are in the right, yet I do not see any great matter in this book.
So to supper; and my people being gone, most of them, to bed, my boy and Jane and I did get two of my iron chests out of the cellar into my closett, and the money to my great satisfaction to see it there again, and the rather because the damp cellar spoils all my chests. This being done, and I weary, to bed.
This afternoon walking with Sir H. Cholmly long in the gallery, he told me, among many other things, how Harry Killigrew is banished the Court lately, for saying that my Lady Castlemayne was a little lecherous girle when she was young and used to rub her thing with her fingers, or against the end of forms, and that she must be rubbed with something else. This she complained to the King of, and he sent to the Duke of York, whose servant he is, to turn him away. The Duke of York hath done it, but takes it ill of my Lady that he was not complained to first. She attended him to excute it, but ill blood is made by it.
He told me how Mr. Williamson stood in a little place to have come into the House of Commons, and they would not choose him; they said, “No courtier.” And which is worse, Bab May went down in great state to Winchelsea with the Duke of York’s letters, not doubting to be chosen; and there the people chose a private gentleman in spite of him, and cried out they would have no Court pimp to be their burgesse; which are things that bode very ill. This afternoon I went to see and sat a good while with Mrs. Martin, and there was her sister Doll, with whom, contrary to all expectation, I did what I would, and might have done anything else.

a new home
below the present one

wants the world
that they love least

like nature gone
to iron and money

in the damp cellar
long things grew

little fingers that must
be rubbed with blood

and would not eat
and cried to be a doll


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 21 October 1666.

Walk

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and all the morning at the office, where none met but myself. So I walked a good while with Mr. Gawden in the garden, who is lately come from the fleete at the buoy of the Nore, and he do tell me how all the sober commanders, and even Sir Thomas Allen himself, do complain of the ill government of the fleete. How Holmes and Jennings have commanded all the fleete this yeare, that nothing is done upon deliberation, but if a sober man give his opinion otherwise than the Prince would have it the Prince would cry, “Damn him, do you follow your orders, and that is enough for you.” He tells me he hears of nothing but of swearing and drinking and whoring, and all manner of profaneness, quite through the whole fleete.
He being gone, there comes to me Commissioner Middleton, whom I took on purpose to walk in the garden with me, and to learn what he observed when the fleete was at Portsmouth. He says that the fleete was in such a condition, as to discipline, as if the Devil had commanded it; so much wickedness of all sorts.
Enquiring how it come to pass that so many ships miscarried this year, he tells me that he enquired; and the pilots do say, that they dare not do nor go but as the Captains will have them; and if they offer to do otherwise, the Captains swear they will run them through.
He says that he heard Captain Digby (my Lord of Bristoll’s son, a young fellow that never was but one year, if that, in the fleete) say that he did hope he should not see a tarpaulin have the command of a ship within this twelve months.
He observed while he was on board the Admirall, when the fleete was at Portsmouth, that there was a faction there. Holmes commanded all on the Prince’s side, and Sir Jeremy Smith on the Duke’s, and every body that come did apply themselves to one side or other; and when the Duke of Albemarle was gone away to come hither, then Sir Jeremy Smith did hang his head, and walked in the Generall’s ship but like a private commander.
He says he was on board The Prince, when the newes come of the burning of London; and all the Prince said was, that now Shipton’s prophecy was out; and he heard a young commander presently swear, that now a citizen’s wife that would not take under half a piece before, would be occupied for half-a-crowne: and made mighty sport of it.
He says that Hubberd that commanded this year the Admiral’s ship is a proud conceited fellow (though I thought otherwise of him), and fit to command a single ship but not a fleete, and he do wonder that there hath not been more mischief this year than there hath. He says the fleete come to anchor between the Horse and the Island, so that when they came to weigh many of the ships could not turn, but run foul of the Horse, and there stuck, but that the weather was good.
He says that nothing can do the King more disservice, nor please the standing officers of the ship better than these silly commanders that now we have, for they sign to anything that their officers desire of them, nor have judgment to contradict them if they would.
He told me other good things, which made me bless God that we have received no greater disasters this year than we have, though they have been the greatest that ever was known in England before, put all their losses of the King’s ships by want of skill and seamanship together from the beginning.
He being gone, comes Sir G. Carteret, and he and I walked together awhile, discoursing upon the sad condition of the times, what need we have, and how impossible it is to get money.
He told me my Lord Chancellor the other day did ask him how it come to pass that his friend Pepys do so much magnify all things to worst, as I did on Sunday last, in the bad condition of the fleete. Sir G. Carteret tells me that he answered him, that I was but the mouth of the rest, and spoke what they have dictated to me; which did, as he says, presently take off his displeasure. So that I am well at present with him, but I must have a care not to be over busy in the office again, and burn my fingers.
He tells me he wishes he had sold his place at some good rate to somebody or other at the beginning of the warr, and that he would do it now, but no body will deale with him for it.
He tells me the Duke of Albemarle is very much discontented, and the Duke of York do not, it seems, please him.
He tells me that our case as to money is not to be made good at present, and therefore wishes a good and speedy peace before it be too late, and from his discourse methinks I find that there is something moving towards it.
Many people at the office, but having no more of the office I did put it off till the next meeting.
Thence, with Sir G. Carteret, home to dinner, with him, my Lady and Mr. Ashburnham, the Cofferer. Here they talk that the Queene hath a great mind to alter her fashion, and to have the feet seen, which she loves mightily; and they do believe that it [will] come into it in a little time.
Here I met with the King’s declaration about his proceedings with the King of Denmarke, and particularly the business of Bergen; but it is so well writ, that, if it be true, the King of Denmarke is one of the most absolute wickednesse in the world for a person of his quality.
After dinner home, and there met Mr. Povy by appointment, and there he and I all the afternoon, till late at night, evening of all accounts between us, which we did to both our satisfaction; but that which troubles me most is, that I am to refund to the ignoble Lord Peterborough what he had given us six months ago, because we did not supply him with money; but it is no great matter.
He gone I to the office, and there did some business; and so home, my mind in good ease by having done with Povy in order to the adjusting of all my accounts in a few days. So home to supper and to bed.

walk as if it is enough for you to walk as if the devil had commanded do not run but walk like the prophecy of a horse when disaster comes walk


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 20 October 1666.

London after Blake

View on Vimeo.

My latest videohaiku is an homage to William Blake. The major Blake exhibition currently at Tate Britain features only indirectly, via a billboard above the escalators in Waterloo Station. Just to the southwest of that station, under the multiple railroad tracks, is another, permanent exhibition that Rachel and I took in on Sunday, before walking over to the Tate: the London School of Mosaic’s project Blake’s Lambeth (2005-2015):

Blake’s Lambeth is a collection of 70 mosaics installed in the tunnels alongside Archbishops Park, close to Waterloo Station. The project was part of a 10 year collaboration of Southbank Mosaics (our former company) with Future’s Theatre and Southbank Sinfonia supported by Heritage Lottery.

William Blake lived for ten of his most productive years in North Lambeth at 13 Hercules Buildings. The old house has been knocked down, but there is a plaque where it once stood on Hercules Road. This mosaic project pays homage to his genius and some of his greatest work. Our artists worked with 300 volunteers over a period of 7 years to research, design, plan, create and install 70 mosaics based on the words and paintings of William Blake into the railway tunnels of Waterloo Station, turning them from dark unwelcoming places into street galleries bright with opulent and durable works of art.

There’s also an extensive photo gallery at the blog Spitalfields Life, which is how I found out about the installation, having Googled “William Blake Lambeth”, hoping for an historical marker or something.

I messed around with the text of the haiku quite a lot while working on the video, and it wasn’t until I decided to take it in a Blakean, satirical direction that it felt right. So it’s “after Blake” in two senses. (Here’s the text of his poem “London” if you need a refresher.) Each of the three lines is divided in two, using a similar font to the one in the Tate poster.

Here’s the (longer and much more slickly produced) official video for the project:


Watch on YouTube.

Abusive

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and by coach to my Lord Ashly’s, and thence (he being gone out), to the Exchequer chamber, and there find him and my Lord Bellasses about my Lord Bellasses’ accounts, which was the business I went upon. This was soon ended, and then I with Creed back home to my house, and there he and I did even accounts for salary, and by that time dinner was ready, and merry at dinner, and then abroad to Povy’s, who continues as much confounded in all his business as ever he was; and would have had me paid money, as like a fool as himself, which I troubled him in refusing; but I did persist in it. After a little more discourse, I left them, and to White Hall, where I met with Sir Robert Viner, who told me a little of what, in going home, I had seen; also a little of the disorder and mutiny among the seamen at the Treasurer’s office, which did trouble me then and all day since, considering how many more seamen will come to towne every day, and no money for them. A Parliament sitting, and the Exchange close by, and an enemy to hear of, and laugh at it.
Viner too, and Backewell, were sent for this afternoon; and was before the King and his Cabinet about money; they declaring they would advance no more, it being discoursed of in the House of Parliament for the King to issue out his privy-seals to them to command them to trust him, which gives them reason to decline trusting. But more money they are persuaded to lend, but so little that (with horrour I speake it), coming after the Council was up, with Sir G. Carteret, Sir W. Coventry, Lord Bruncker, and myself, I did lay the state of our condition before the Duke of York, that the fleete could not go out without several things it wanted, and we could not have without money, particularly rum and bread, which we have promised the man Swan to helpe him to 200l. of his debt, and a few other small sums of 200l. a piece to some others, and that I do foresee the Duke of York would call us to an account why the fleete is not abroad, and we cannot answer otherwise than our want of money; and that indeed we do not do the King any service now, but do rather abuse and betray his service by being there, and seeming to do something, while we do not. Sir G. Carteret asked me (just in these words, for in this and all the rest I set down the very words for memory sake, if there should be occasion) whether 50l. or 60l. would do us any good; and when I told him the very rum man must have 200l., he held up his eyes as if we had asked a million. Sir W. Coventry told the Duke of York plainly he did rather desire to have his commission called in than serve in so ill a place, where he cannot do the King service, and I did concur in saying the same. This was all very plain, and the Duke of York did confess that he did not see how we could do anything without a present supply of 20,000l., and that he would speak to the King next Council day, and I promised to wait on him to put him in mind of it. This I set down for my future justification, if need be, and so we broke up, and all parted, Sir W. Coventry being not very well, but I believe made much worse by this night’s sad discourse.
So I home by coach, considering what the consequence of all this must be in a little time. Nothing but distraction and confusion; which makes me wish with all my heart that I were well and quietly settled with what little I have got at Brampton, where I might live peaceably, and study, and pray for the good of the King and my country.
Home, and to Sir W. Batten’s, where I saw my Lady, who is now come down stairs after a great sickness. Sir W. Batten was at the pay to-day, and tells me how rude the men were, but did go away quietly, being promised pay on Wednesday next. God send us money for it!
So to the office, and then to supper and to bed.
Among other things proposed in the House to-day, to give the King in lieu of chimneys, there was the bringing up of sealed paper, such as Sir J. Minnes shewed me to-night, at Sir W. Batten’s, is used in Spayne, and brings the King a great revenue; but it shows what shifts we are put to too much.

like using a rusting
oven for bread

I cannot answer otherwise
than in abuse

betray the words
the very eyes I ask
to just be quiet


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 19 October 1666.

Asking for a Friend

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
 

I'm only asking for someone
who wants to know: how soon

after you wake up is it acceptable
to take a nap? Can you take personal

days off if you are unemployed? If
you forge the signature of a close

relative on a check, does that count
as a real crime? If your stepmother

has developed such a fear of dying,
is it cool to suggest she might

benefit from swapping her bed for
a satin-lined coffin? And is it ok to tell

her ill-mannered children they'll never
amount to anything anyway, as proven

by the ugly knobs of shoulder blades
where there could've been angel wings?

Who will see the divinity of slugs

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
 
and the virtue of carrion birds,

the white lining of pigs' stomachs?
Every story has at least one other

way of telling; and every failure
could be a martyr and a hero

in someone else's life. For such
is the way we're made: a wavery core

which makes it easy to be convinced
of the truth of a situation; and then

we wake riddled through and through
with many kinds of doubt. Which is why

I'm in awe of those saints depicted
in statuary and paintings: the ones

who stood their ground despite holding
the most unpopular opinion, and met

their end by having their heads swiftly
severed from their bodies with a sword

or axe. Especially marvelous is how these
cephalophores calmly picked up their heads

and cradled them in their arms, as if they'd
just picked up a nice pumpkin from the field

and wanted to take it home. There's Aphrodisius
who continued walking to the chapel while

his dumbfounded camel looked on. San
Ginés de la Jara hurled it into the Rhône

like a bowling ball. After his head fell
to the ground, witnesses said Nicasius

of Rome continued mouthing a psalm: "Revive
me, Lord, with your words." He'd just reached

the part that spoke of the soul's connection
to dust: if you looked close you might catch

an occasional gleam: fragments among
stones, perhaps from some chipped halo.



 

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