Talking in Families

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Ours not the What's up, 
    bud; the Jim Bob 

just where do you think 
    you're going or Good

night Jim Bob; or words
    like boondoggle—

Ours not the Name
    three things you're

grateful for after saying
    grace at every meal—

Ours not the thigh 
    slapping or finger

snapping, the hair ruffling
    and Looking good, tiger!
   
You'd think we never
    talked except we did

all the time: we grew 
    up learning what 

a certain look meant;
    the flick of an eyebrow

or the duets made 
    by silences and slammed
    
doors. We've only learned
    in recent years how to say

I love you or I'm sorry
    or How do you think I feel?     

     

      


 

Nope

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to the office, where some of us sat busy all the morning. At noon home to dinner, whither Creed come to dine with us and brings the first word I hear of the news of a peace, the King having letters come to him this noon signifying that it is concluded on, and that Mr. Coventry is upon his way coming over for the King’s satisfaction. The news was so good and sudden that I went with great joy to W. Batten and then to W. Pen to tell it them, and so home to dinner, mighty merry, and light at my heart only on this ground, that a continuing of the war must undo us, and so though peace may do the like if we do not make good use of it to reform ourselves and get up money, yet there is an opportunity for us to save ourselves. At least, for my own particular, we shall continue well till I can get my money into my hands, and then I will shift for myself. After dinner away, leaving Creed there, by coach to Westminster, where to the Swan and drank, and then to the Hall, and there talked a little with great joy of the peace, and then to Mrs. Martin’s, where I met with the good news que elle ne est con child, the fear of which she did give me the other day, had troubled me much. My joy in this made me send for wine, and thither come her sister and Mrs. Cragg, and I staid a good while there. But here happened the best instance of a woman’s falseness in the world, that her sister Doll, who went for a bottle of wine, did come home all blubbering and swearing against one Captain Vandener, a Dutchman of the Rhenish Wine House, that pulled her into a stable by the Dog tavern, and there did tumble her and toss her, calling him all the rogues and toads in the world, when she knows that elle hath suffered me to do any thing with her a hundred times. Thence with joyful heart to White Hall to ask Mr. Williamson the news, who told me that Mr. Coventry is coming over with a project of a peace; which, if the States agree to, and our King, when their Ministers on both sides have shewed it them, we shall agree, and that is all: but the King, I hear, do give it out plain that the peace is concluded. Thence by coach home, and there wrote a few letters, and then to consult with my wife about going to Epsum to-morrow, sometimes designing to go and then again not; and at last it grew late and I bethought myself of business to employ me at home tomorrow, and so I did not go. This afternoon I met with Mr. Rolt, who tells me that he is going Cornett under Collonel Ingoldsby, being his old acquaintance, and Ingoldsby hath a troop now from under the King, and I think it is a handsome way for him, but it was an ominous thing, methought, just as he was bidding me his last adieu, his nose fell a-bleeding, which ran in my mind a pretty while after. This afternoon Sir Alexander Frazier, who was of council for Sir J. Minnes, and had given him over for a dead man, said to me at White Hall: — “What,” says he, “Sir J. Minnes is dead.” I told him, “No! but that there is hopes of his life.” Methought he looked very sillily after it, and went his way. Late home to supper, a little troubled at my not going to Epsum to-morrow, as I had resolved, especially having the Duke of York and W. Coventry out of town, but it was my own fault and at last my judgment to stay, and so to supper and to bed. This day, with great satisfaction, I hear that my Lady Jemimah is brought to bed, at Hinchingbroke, of a boy.

the first word is no
signifying the sudden ground
that continuing no

and I a child
blubbering again
no tomorrow no old hands no dead no judgement


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 6 July 1667.

Poetry Blog Digest 2020, Week 30

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. This week: remarkable and terrible things, tectonic shifts, a longing for freedom, changes in direction, fresh inklings, bodies in the world, dreaming of the dead, ecstatic surrender, remembering the future, restoring mental equilibrium, taking chances, defending imagination, forgetfulness and supplication, poetry vs. prose, and the toe comma. Among other things.


I am in a dark cave I can hear the whole wolf world howling at me but it’s muffled I am in the cave scrambling out because the tide is rising I have seen remarkable and terrible things this week

when I was at the beach an eagle flew down and plucked an oyster from the sand not three feet away from where I was standing his tail feathers spread he took his time with it in no hurry to fly off

this morning I sobbed watching John Lewis’s body travel over the Edmund Lewis Bridge in Selma Alabama in a cart pulled by two black horses a cart with red iron wheels driven by a stately Black man in a top hat the bridge covered in red rose petals Mr. Lewis’s family walked behind and near the end of the procession each member of his family was given a single long stemmed rose which they placed in a line on the bridge upon which the black horses walked I could hear people singing We Shall Overcome

this is a historic moment in our country’s dark time on a Sunday in which fires blaze in our cities a Sunday in which the president is a craven beast encouraging us to bring civil war our infected cities our infected farms our infected schools and hospitals our infected democracy a terrible dark time in this country

I saw a dead owl on the road this week his huge wing fanned out I watched three young boys carry a forth by the arms and legs down the street all of them laughing I watched a lame rabbit drag his broken leg behind him as he disappeared into the underbrush at the state park I walked past an eight year old boy tap dancing like Gene Kelly in the back of a truck with the tailgate open a look of pure concentration on his face

Rebecca Loudon, In deepest July

[photo]
Sunday socially distanced picnic in the park. Sure, I have a back yard. I love the back yard. But there’s something about being alone together in the company of big trees that nourishes as much as salami and cheese and olives and wine. Something about the young woman, so small, sitting before those trees that will stand long after we have fallen. All the words we didn’t exchange that I can read in the curve of her back. Or perhaps that I’m writing upon it.

[photo]
This dog. He is demanding almost constant contact with his humans. It is wearing on us, to be honest, but there are gifts here, too: forced rest, space to contemplate, time to prepare. Grace for the taking. Much of this experience of walking him to his end feels like a dress rehearsal for a play not yet written. Love is a verb.

[photo]
My girl, with her dog and her love. He is on the phone, half-way around the world, ten time zones away, sleeping with the bear she sent him. Every single thing in this photo cracks a different part of my heart, fissures that spread and branch and intersect. It will likely be years before I can write anything substantial about this summer’s tectonic shifts. Maybe I never will. Time is no longer infinite.

Rita Ott Ramstad, Postcards, late mid-July

I’ve just come back from camping in Hebden Bridge. Four days of walking. A bit of reading. Three haiku written. Happy days and cold nights, especially Sunday when the sky was clear. Having camped on the top of the hill, just off the Pennine Way, it felt like we were that bit nearer the sky than anywhere else in the county. Fantastic.

Walking, even if you’re only out for the day, makes you very conscious of weight and what you can comfortably carry. Poetry pamphlets are ideal walking companions. Slim, lightweight, easy to dip in and out of. I was happy to take When All This Is Over (Calder Valley Press) with me, as it arrived last week. Put together by John Foggin and Bob Horne, with editorial input from Kim Moore, this pamphlet is the result of a project that started in lockdown, where John put out a call for poems responding to Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s poem ‘Swineherd’. Three months on, here we have a pamphlet that reflects that response, not just to the poem ‘Swineherd’, but to that peculiar time.

It was interesting to be reading these poems whilst out walking, as so many were about a longing for freedom, a desire to hit the open road and get away from it all. ‘I’ll become a nomad and travel/ where everyone goes wild about birdsong‘.

Julie Mellor, When All This Is Over

I’ve been reading even more poetry than usual over the last few months (and there is a lot of poetry out there to read). A lot of it has been by poets totally new to me. I’ve been surprised at times by what I’ve liked – and by how different from each other the poems are that I’ve liked. I’ve also been surprised that I haven’t liked some poetry that has had very enticing reviews, and yes, I know, different people like different things. I use ‘like’ here to cover a multitude of  positive responses – poetry can move you in so many different ways, and sometimes it just doesn’t work for you right now. It’s great, though, to see the diversity of poetry out there, and it’s also great to see how well the poetry presses have responded to the current crisis.

I’ve also realised that my own poetry has recently changed direction – and style. Well, hopefully it’s been developing before that, but now it feels different. I know that for quite some time I have wanted some particular poems I have written to be published as a pamphlet/collection. Some of them have been published/accepted in magazines, for which I am very grateful, and have also been online, but it seemed to mean a lot to me that they got published together. At the moment I don’t think that’s going to happen. I have made changes to some of them (though I’m not sure I should have), and mixed them in with newer ones that have been published/accepted separately, but maybe they are a thing of the past and should stay there. Maybe they were just not good enough overall or didn’t work together. There’s a lot of competition out there and other factors involved too, and yes, different people like different things. Whatever the case is, they had their purpose, and they’re still there for me, and for the people to whom they would mean the most, who have already seen them anyway.

Those poems were largely about remembering, trying to understand, to explain, maybe. They were very autobiographical, personal. I don’t think you can actually ever get away from that entirely, or indeed whether you should entirely – we write from who we are after all, but I notice my more recent work is more outward-looking. I’m not sure if that was a conscious decision, or has been influenced by what I’ve read, or whether that’s just where I am at the moment. Maybe it should have happened sooner. It wasn’t that I didn’t look outwards before, it’s just that I wasn’t sure how to respond. Certainly the current situation is one where change is a part of daily life and it would be hard not to respond to that somehow. My earlier poems drew very much on the natural world, particularly birds, and I don’t think that will disappear, but maybe now it will be from a different angle.

Sue Ibrahim, Poetry and me at the moment

It felt surreal to post writing like this at this moment. My summers are normally reserved for poetry, but now I’m finding that a lot of my July writing time is being allocated to other writing endeavors – mostly response to school opening plans and to various entities: admin, union, board. The writing of poetry is much more engaging than prose. Maybe I’ll start writing my responses to school openings in limerick form. Wouldn’t that be something?

Kersten Christianson, October Hill Magazine

The point is that this week has been the first week since the start of lockdown when I’ve been able to take a foot off the gas. Work has been quieter as a few projects are off and doing their thing for a bit before I need to tune back into them and thanks to a sore left knee I’ve not been running so much. This, and the fact I have massively reduced the to be reviewed list means that I’ve had the chance to do some of my own writing for the first time in about a month and a half. I know it’s not important in any scheme of things (whatever scale of grandness you choose to use), but it does feel good to be back at it.

And the drafts have happened. Some of this is more fully-fledged ideas gathering pace as they get closer to finished, but shockingly, there are two whole new poems being worked on this week. Both are ideas that have percolated for a while (a year or more), but given the paucity of work recently this is a flood. If I add that to the notes I’ve rescued from my email drafts and notes apps then I am a happy man. I like it. It’s almost productive.

Although, not as productive as my daughter. Two days ago she started mapping out her first novel in a series. It seems to have a vampire and witch theme—oddly, she’s been watching a lot of vampire and witch-based stuff on TV, but who cares about the theme; I’m just waiting to be able to retire off the back of the proceeds.

Mat Riches, Mangoes on a walk

Last night, first time I heard the tree crickets’ din blossoming in darkness; cicadas’ daytime clatter began last week, and the lantern fly nymphs are in their last stage before morphing into winged tree-pests. The heat’s oppressive, which seems to suit the general mood. I have not been writing poems, but this morning wakened early to surrounding birdsong and felt a moment of beauty amidst the tension.

As usual, my garden has offered respite. I harvest beans in evening’s humid warmth, pulling pods from the resilient stems. I marvel at the squash blossoms–bright bells amid enormous green leaves–and gather cucumbers and zucchini, and wait for tomatoes to ripen as I tie up the vines heavy with green globes. The scent of lemon basil pervades dusk as the last fireflies start to wink. Yes, there are disappointments and bugs and there will be yet more weeding and work. It is, however, labor of the body for the nurture of the body. A body in the world.

Ann E. Michael, Respite, refuge

Scratch the surface and there is much to be worried out.  The virus burning through the southern states who still won’t take it seriously, despite packed hospitals and mounting death tolls.  An uptick in Chicago cases. The scary things our government does and hides (sometimes in plain sight) or just tries to pretend isn’t happening.  I read an article earlier today on “doomscrolling” and indeed, I am perpetually guilty of it.   There were a couple days last week that just got really busy in terms of work and focusing on other things and i realized I was feeling mentally better. Now, I realize I wasn’t looking at the news so much over those couple days.  Over the weekend, I got really excited and engaged in playing with video again and realized almost a whole day had passed without me doing the doomscroll.  I’m feeling a tension between wanting (needing) to know what’s going on and knowing too much and at length.  Particularly when it comes to things, like the virus, I can’t really control on a national scale. I’m having a hard time figuring out how much is too much. 

Kristy Bowen, doomscrolling 2020

You awaken each day to a feeling of sadness, a dull emptiness. Morning does not come to the dead of COVID-19. Nights come and go, and you are, in time, full of these forgotten dreams, forgotten names, and everyday the number of COVID-19 deaths grows. And friend, night does not come to the dead of COVID-19.

James Lee Jobe, The dead of COVID19 visit you in dreams

What I don’t know is most everything outside my door.

Those secrets sound like crow song in their more mystical moments.

In their more nightmarish—like an ongoing car alarm, my sonic and savage umbilical cord connected to a ripped-off world.

The word quarantine comes from the Italian quaranta giorni, literally a space of forty days where plague-ridden ships were kept from shore to assure no latent cases were aboard.

In this isolated room, all I know for sure is that I have trouble sleeping at night.

That is why I’m apologizing for anything I may have said that doesn’t make sense.

Then again, I may have already said that without having said it.

Rich Ferguson, Waking the Dead

We need to do more than just live through this time. Could we not live while in it? Should we not learn something about ecstatic surrender?

These are not new thoughts or observations. Hey, I’ve been singing the Sheryl Crow song loudly in my car for a very long time now. “If it makes you happy then why the hell are you so sad?”

It’s always been a ride, this negotiating between happy and sad. Even the kids are onto it.

“And I’m the kind of person who starts getting kinda nervous
When I’m having the time of my life

Is there a word for the way that I’m feeling tonight?
Happy and sad at the same time”

– Kacey Musgraves

Is there a word for it? Shakespearean? Ridiculous? I don’t know, but I do know that if you seek out pockets of happiness, you’ll be better able to weather the other registers, the inevitable truths of the less pleasant and trickier spheres.

Shawna Lemay, We Live in the Multiple Registers

People keep describing these past months as “unprecedented”.

Seriously?

We measure reality in such small packages – our small collections of private experiences. Twenty years slip by, maybe another twenty… and from this tiny window we proclaim a a sum understanding of the human experience to determine the proper trajectory for (the organisation of) human behavior.

We don’t even glance sideways.
And if we do, we dismiss it: We are the future, after all.

Ren Powell, An Anti-Climatic Sense of History

Pygmy woodpecker, olive-backed
sunbird, dusty-headed bulbul; tree
sparrows that we call maya—I pack
mung beans into plastic pouches,
lentils into jars. I wonder about
places where other selves might fold
over and over, like happiness
afraid to show itself. The future
is most recently a dream of hammocks
floating into the sea.

Luisa A. Igloria, Dealing or Not Dealing Well with Sadness

One of the many things I hate about this new corona virus is how wide the symptom list is, and how they’re all items that could be something else: runny nose, headache, cough, muscle aches. It’s not like Ebola, when cell walls collapse and victims bleed out of orifices that aren’t usually bleeding–that’s a clear sign.

I’ve had a headache off and on all week. It could be stress, or it could be changing barometric pressure, with a tropical system nearby (another source of stress). I’ve had parts of the day where I go between sweaty hot and chilly–but no fever. Is that a tightness in my chest or just uncomfortable underclothing? Does the tingle in my throat signify a cough coming on or dehydration in the height of summer?

I even thought about going to get tested, just to put all my speculation to rest. But a test for COVID-19 would only tell me that I was negative or positive today–if I got the right test results. And how long would it take to get the results? By then, I could have been exposed many more times.

For those of us who have been out and about in public, or in offices, I’m not writing anything we haven’t all been experiencing and/or wondering about. But it seems important to capture these ideas.

Tomorrow I will stay closer to home and do some baking with my sourdough starter. Perhaps I can restore some mental equilibrium that way.

And if not, at least I’ll have delicious bread!

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Anxiety Dreams/Anxiety Reality

A little earlier in the year, despite my hatred of applying for grants, I applied for one I’d never seen before: the Allied Arts Foundation. Early this week I received an e-mail that I thought was a rejection, but was actually telling me I was an “Honorable Mention” and would receive a grant that will probably pay for at least ten manuscript submissions. I was very happy to see my friend Jenifer Lawrence (who was in a poetry workshop with me for a dozen years) right next to mine. So the lesson is: even if you feel you are very bad at grants, take a chance. You never know! Any money for poets during the coronavirus is a good thing.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, A Little Good News, Fun Swag from Texas A&M’s Library, and Another Little Video Reading

One of the very first times I read a poem at a literary festival, the woman who was compering the event stood up at the lectern after I had read and asked what my mother thought about being cast in one of my poems as rather drunk and rather mad. The poem in question was ‘Spinning Plates’ with its opening line ‘My mother was mad as mercury…’. The idea of the event was that this person would quiz the poet about their poem and they would then get a chance to respond. So I stood up and said ‘My mother doesn’t read much poetry but I credit her with the intelligence of knowing that a character in a poem is not necessarily a real-life person’.

Perhaps my answer was a little too barbed and snitty, but it is one of those fundamental issues in poetry that gets my hackles up, rather like being asked the question ‘Are you still writing poetry?’

Richie McCaffery, The Invasion of the Poetry Body-snatchers

the old poet‬
‪reading his words asks‬
‪who wrote this‬

Jim Young [no title]

I lament my own forgetfulness which pains me at every opportunity. Arriving in the cellar only to cloud over on my purpose, in fact to fill with fog and begin to drizzle.

I lament awaking to the deluded messages of an disastrous leader whose ramblings should be isolated like a virus and prevented from spreading. Ruin. All ruin.

Also, the horse lodged in the pipes behind the bedroom wall has broken loose again, galloping through distant waterfalls of plumbing.

I am plagued by artists unable to wander beyond the beauty of 20-something women. This is not imagination, but a lack of it.

I curse the moths who have made a meal of one of my last remaining sweaters. On first inspection it appeared whole, but when I slipped my arms into the sleeves, there they were — the ragged injuries.

I lament the plastic toys the neighbors have piled high beside our common fence. I lament the fence! I lament the squalor.

I have planted a tree. I have upgraded my prayer to supplication.

Sarah J. Sloat, I appear briefly on the balcony to curse the meadow

1. That movement in the brush, the chance reflection in a pane of glass, that blue comb you found on a gravel path, the person your peripheral vision almost caught—these are the spermatozoa of poems. All they lack are the reactions of the egg in the womb of consciousness.

2. Like the smell that precedes rainfall, the “scent” of an imminent poem will make itself known to a poet. What the poet does with it will almost never live up to what was offered initially, but that is true in the realization of nearly all ideals.

3. The essential difference between poetry and prose has never been adequately defined, aside from offhand attempts. Perhaps it has to do with the differing intensity of desperation felt by each category of writers. The poet feels the need to gather the final issue of smoke from a doused candle wick before it dies out; while the writer of prose has the topic fixed in a virtual or real outline, and therefore has the leisure to write on until it is adequately explored.

10 Thoughts on Poetry – guest blog post by John Brugaletta [Trish Hopkinson’s blog]

The good
poem bends

the poet
to its

needs.
The good

poet bends.

Tom Montag, The Good

Sadly, the rub of any vacation is that it comes to an end. We return to “real life.” For an anxious person like me, even just a whiff of it causes panic. And that’s where I was Thursday. The going “back to normal” thoughts were bearing down on me, and so I vented to my partner and stomped around as I tidied up the room. In doing so, I caught the pinky toe of my left foot on the leg of a chair and definitely broke it. I launched a few f-bombs, began to cry and went straight to the shower to get it out of my system before dinner.

The toe turned purple and puffy almost immediately. We treated it with ice and ibuprofen and margaritas. I wasn’t sure how much damage I’d done (or how many toes were involved), though, until the next day when the toe was an even darker shade of purple. Somehow, it wasn’t as sore. And I could tell it was just the one toe. Nothing to do but wait for it to heal.

And I have to be honest: it felt good to cry. We push through so much, even pandemics apparently. Stiff upper lip. Broad shoulders. Big girl pants. We hold it all in ’til we can’t anymore. The toe was my “can’t anymore.” In fact, except that it’s shaped more like a comma, I’d call my broken toe the exclamation point at the end of “CAN’T ANYMORE!”

But maybe a comma is better anyway as I reason my way gently through how to take better care of my writing life. Instead of throwing my hands up in despair with the exclamation, the toe comma asks for something to come next. It not only invites something to come next: it requires it.

And so something comes next.

Carolee Bennett, i’ll give you something to cry about, the broken toe edition

Being-in-the-world

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
My college philosophy professor,
just returned from years of study 
at a famous university in Belgium,
was heady with concepts on Being 
and Time— He'd say, does a donkey 
concern itself with being 
a donkey or a bird concern itself 
with being a bird? No, but humans 
must by nature perennially concern 
themselves with being certain types 
of persons. I suppose some part of this 
is true: some days I believe I can do 
things; there are infinite possibilities! 
and other days when all I want to do 
is eat carbs and cry. According 
to Heidegger, who I learned 
was banned from teaching 
for a number of years because he 
was sympathetic with the Nazis, 
humans are the only ones who ponder 
and define for themselves what it means 
to be a being in the world among others. 
The world should be like a house where  
we can live and make for ourselves 
a place of comfort and familiarity. 
Or a snail shell into which a small,
sinuous body can be left undisturbed
to coil into the library of its own 
solitude. But the horse is out there 
trampling the field or dragging a man 
other men have strung to the reins 
like a plow; and the boy who whistled 
like a bird in front of a country store 
has his eye gouged out and his head and
face beaten until it is almost the same 
liquid blue as the river. Every night
now, in streets thick with smoke and
tear gas, some beings swing clubs 
and fire bullets while other beings 
fall or stand their ground. 


    
 

    

Ephemera

Up, and to the office, where Sir W. Batten, W. Pen, T. Harvy and I met upon Mr. Gawden’s accounts, and was at it all the morning. This morning Sir G. Carteret did come to us, and walked in the garden. It was to talk with me about some thing of my Lord Sandwich’s, but here he told us that the great seale is passed to my Lord Annesly for Treasurer of the Navy: so that now he do no more belong to us: and I confess, for his sake, I am glad of it, and do believe the other will have little content in it. At noon I home to dinner with my wife, and after dinner to sing, and then to the office a little and Sir W. Batten’s, where I am vexed to hear that Nan Wright, now Mrs. Markham, Sir W. Pen’s mayde and whore, is come to sit in our pew at church, and did so while my Lady Batten was there. I confess I am very much vexed at it and ashamed. By and by out with W. Pen to White Hall, where I staid not, but to the New Exchange to buy gloves and other little errands, and so home and to my office busy till night, and then walked in the garden with my wife, and then to supper and to sing, and so to bed. No news, but that the Dutch are gone clear from Harwich northward, and have given out they are going to Yarmouth.

art out of sand at the sea
will it sing

to a whore
to a church lady with white gloves

to us with news ear
and a going mouth


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 5 July 1667.

Holding

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
What is everyone doing now
    within the lyre-shaped openings
       of their windows; inside the last
room of the house that's curled
    into itself? Are children still
       allowed to venture out past
the fence, past the end of the road?
    Lying on a dish by the entrance, the keys
       we used for opening all sorts of doors.
We still speak to each other about what
    we used to call the future— only with
       more hesitation, disguised as tenderness. 
       

Elegy for the Ghost of my Father

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
When you dream that someone who is still alive
has come to sit at the foot of your bed

as a ghost, it's either a premonition or your fear,
aided by dinner's beef and potatoes, still heavy

in your belly. That's what happened one night
when you didn't get home at the time

you said you would, from a trip to Manila. In my room,
under the drape of mosquito netting, I opened

my eyes and saw you in a bright checkered shirt
you didn't own, hat in your hands, wordless, eyes

smiling. When you died it was at the very end of July,
more than a decade later: most of the city

still in ruins from an earthquake, the furniture
scuffing the floor with each aftershock.

For so many years that followed, I'd see you everywhere:
the hem of your yellow robe disappearing around

the hallway, the smell of your aftershave trailing
like a curl of smoke. You'd come into my dreams

and speak, and it was the sound of your voice as I
remembered it, though I barely retained each

salutation. I was told my grieving was the reason for each
return; or my incessant questions, having been

pushed to the front of the line. And unless it softened
or I learned how to be the grownup and the parent,

your ghost would keep rowing back, unable to ford
the crossing. I don't recall the exact moment

I must have finally learned to let you go. You don't
visit me in dreams anymore, though I still address

you in poems. I wonder who's dreaming that I've returned,
though I haven't left like that yet; what look or gesture

could communicate across the ether everything our
witless hearts are so incapable of putting into words.

Field work

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and, in vain expecting Sir R. Ford’s calling on me, I took coach and to the Sessions-house, where I have a mind to hear Bazill Fielding’s case tried; and so got up to the Bench, my Lord Chief-Justice Keeling being Judge. Here I stood bare, not challenging, though I might well enough, to be covered. But here were several fine trials; among others, several brought in for making it their trade to set houses on fire merely to get plunder; and all proved by the two little boys spoken of yesterday by Sir R. Ford, who did give so good account of particulars that I never heard children in my life. And I confess, though I was unsatisfied with the force given to such little boys, to take away men’s lives, yet, when I was told that my Lord Chief-Justice did declare that there was no law against taking the oath of children above twelve years old, and then heard from Sir R. Ford the good account which the boys had given of their understanding the nature and consequence of an oath, and now my own observation of the sobriety and readiness of their answers, further than of any man of any rank that come to give witness this day, though some men of years and learning, I was a little amazed, and fully satisfied that they ought to have as much credit as the rest. They proved against several, their consulting several times at a bawdy-house in Moore-Fields, called the Russia House, among many other rogueries, of setting houses on fire, that they might gather the goods that were flung into the streets; and it is worth considering how unsafe it is to have children play up and down this lewd town. For these two boys, one is my Lady Montagu’s (I know not what Lady Montagu) son, and the other of good condition, were playing in Moore-Fields, and one rogue, Gabriel Holmes, did come to them and teach them to drink, and then to bring him plate and clothes from their fathers’ houses, and carry him into their houses, and leaving open the doors for him, and at last were made of their conspiracy, and were at the very burning of this house in Aldersgate Street, on Easter Sunday at night last, and did gather up goods, as they had resolved before and this Gabriel Holmes did advise to have had two houses set on fire, one after another, that, while they were quenching of one, they might be burning another. And it is pretty that G. Holmes did tell his fellows, and these boys swore it, that he did set fire to a box of linen in the Sheriffe, Sir Joseph Shelden’s house, while he was attending the fire in Aldersgate Street, and the Sheriffe himself said that there was a fire in his house, in a box of linen, at the same time, but cannot conceive how this fellow should do it. The boys did swear against one of them, that he had made it his part to pull the plug out of the engine while it was a-playing; and it really was so. And goods they did carry away, and the manner of the setting the house on fire was, that Holmes did get to a cockpit; where, it seems, there was a publick cockpit, and set fire to the straw in it, and hath a fire-ball at the end of the straw, which did take fire, and so it prevailed, and burned the house; and, among other things they carried away, he took six of the cocks that were at the cockpit; and afterwards the boys told us how they had one dressed, by the same token it was so hard they could not eat it. But that which was most remarkable was the impudence of this Holmes, who hath been arraigned often, and still got away; and on this business was taken and broke loose just at Newgate Gate; and was last night luckily taken about Bow, who got loose, and run into the river, and hid himself in the rushes; and they pursued him with a dog, and the dog got him and held him till he was taken. But the impudence of this fellow was such, that he denied he ever saw the boys before, or ever knew the Russia House, or that the people knew him; and by and by the mistress of the Russia House was called in, being indicted, at the same time, about another thing; and she denied that the fellow was of her acquaintance, when it was pretty to see how the little boys did presently fall upon her, and ask her how she durst say so, when she was always with them when they met at her house, and particularly when she come in in her smock before a dozen of them, at which the Court laughed, and put the woman away. Well, this fellow Holmes was found guilty of the act of burning the house, and other things, that he stood indicted for. And then there were other good cases, as of a woman that come to serve a gentlewoman, and in three days run away, betimes in the morning, with a great deal of plate and rings, and other good things. It was time very well spent to be here. Here I saw how favourable the judge was to a young gentleman that struck one of the officers, for not making him room: told him he had endangered the loss of his hand, but that he hoped he had not struck him, and would suppose that he had not struck him. About that the Court rose, and I to dinner with my Lord Mayor and Sheriffs; where a good dinner and good discourse; the judge being there. There was also tried this morning Fielding, which I thought had been Bazilll — but it proved the other, and Bazill was killed; that killed his brother, who was found guilty of murder, and nobody pitied him. The judge seems to be a worthy man, and able: and do intend, for these rogues that burned this house to be hung in some conspicuous place in the town, for an example. After dinner to the Court again, where I heard some more causes, but with so much trouble because of the hot weather that I had no pleasure in it. Anon the Court rose, and I walked to Fleet streete for my belt at the beltmaker’s, and so home and to the office, wrote some letters, and then home to supper and to bed.

the field set on fire by children
lives again

the field called us
gather in a ring
have children

one field burning
while they quench another

engine of straw
mistress of loss

this morning field
which I thought had been killed
with so much hot weather


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 4 July 1667.

Plus ça change

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Haven't we all gone through 
that phase, screaming I hate you 
to one or both parents, even 
going so far as encircling 
their throats with both hands 
before running out of the room? 
I was seven when I packed a hanky, 
a toothbrush and comb into a brown 
paper bag, frightened and at the same 
time hurt; enraged at the daily quarrels
they staged, not caring who heard. 
They were completely enamored 
with each other: my grandmother 
and the not good enough daughter-in-law 
she detested, my father an only son 
caught between two women he was trying 
to please; my mother the dark spit-
fire they were always threatening 
to put out. Around and around they went, 
one holding aloft a coffeepot fresh
from the stove, one clutching 
a plate to deflect. I didn't want
to have anything more to do with
them then. But someone caught up
with me at the end of the street, 
soothed me back home. Years
later, sometimes it still feels 
like I haven't left. I'm still
listening to sounds of anguish 
coming from the other side of the door.
Heart pounding, clutching meagre 
provisions to my chest.  
 

Timeless

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and within most of the morning, my tailor’s boy coming to alter something in my new suit I put on yesterday. Then to the office and did business, and then (my wife being a little ill of those in bed) I to Sir W. Batten’s and dined, and there comes in Sir Richard Ford, tells us how he hath been at the Sessions-house, and there it is plain that there is a combination of rogues in the town, that do make it their business to set houses on fire, and that one house they did set on fire in Aldersgate Streete last Easter; and that this is proved by two young men, whom one of them debauched by degrees to steal their fathers’ plate and clothes, and at last to be of their company; and they had their places to take up what goods were flung into the streets out of the windows, when the houses were on fire; and this is like to be proved to a great number of rogues, whereof five are already found, and some found guilty this day. One of these boys is the son of a Montagu, of my Lord Manchester’s family; but whose son he could not tell me. This is a strange thing methinks, but I am glad that it is proved so true and discovered. So home, and to enter my Journall of my late journey to this hour, and then to the office, where to do a little business, and then by water to White Hall (calling at Michell’s in my way, but the rogue would not invite me in, I having a mind para voir his wife), and there to the Council-chamber, to deliver a letter to their Lordships about the state of the six merchantmen which we have been so long fitting out. When I come, the King and the whole table full of Lords were hearing of a pitifull cause of a complaint of an old man, with a great grey beard, against his son, for not allowing him something to live on; and at last come to the ordering the son to allow his father 10l. a year. This cause lasted them near two hours; which, methinks, at this time to be the work of the Council-board of England, is a scandalous thing, and methought Sir W. Coventry to me did own as much. Here I find all the newes is the enemy’s landing 3,000 men near Harwich, and attacking Landguard Fort, and being beat off thence with our great guns, killing some of their men, and they leaving their ladders behind them; but we had no Horse in the way on Suffolk side, otherwise we might have galled their Foot. The Duke of York is gone down thither this day, while the General sat sleeping this afternoon at the Council-table. The news so much talked of this Exchange, of a peace, I find by Sir Richard Browne arises from a letter the Swedes’ agent hath received from Bredah and shewed at Court to-day, that they are come very near it, but I do not find anybody here relying upon it. This cause being over, the Trinity House men, whom I did not expect to meet, were called in, and there Sir W. Pen made a formal speech in answer to a question of the King’s, whether the lying of the sunk ships in the river would spoil the river. But, Lord! how gingerly he answered it, and with a deal of do that he did not know whether it would be safe as to the enemy to have them taken up, but that doubtless it would be better for the river to have them taken up. Methought the Council found them answer like fools, and it ended in bidding them think more of it, and bring their answer in writing. Thence I to Westminster Hall, and there hear how they talk against the present management of things, and against Sir W. Coventry for his bringing in of new commanders and casting out the old seamen, which I did endeavour to rectify Mr. Michell and them in, letting them know that he hath opposed it all his life the most of any man in England. After a deal of this tittle tattle, I to Mrs. Martin’s, and there she was gone in before, but when I come, contrary to my expectation, I find her all in trouble, and what was it for but that I have got her with child, for those do not venir upon her as they should have done; and is in exceeding grief, and swears that the child is mine, which I do not believe, but yet do comfort her that either it cannot be so, or if it be that I will take care to send for her husband, though I do hardly see how I can be sure of that, the ship being at sea, and as far as Scotland, but however I must do it, and shall find some way or other of doing it, though it do trouble me not a little. Thence, not pleased, away to White Hall to Mr. Williamson, and by and by my Lord Arlington about Mr. Lanyon’s business, and it is pretty to see how Mr. Williamson did altogether excuse himself that my business was not done when I come to my Lord and told him my business; “Why,” says my Lord, “it hath been done, and the King signed it several days ago,” and so it was and was in Mr. Williamson’s hands, which made us both laugh, and I in innocent mirth, I remember, said, it is pretty to see in what a condition we are that all our matters now-a-days are undone, we know not how, and done we know not when. He laughed at it, but I have since reflected on it, and find it a severe speech as it might be taken by a chief minister of state, as indeed Mr. Williamson is, for he is indeed the Secretary. But we fell to other pleasant talk, and a fine gentleman he is, and so gave him 5l. for his fee, and away home, and to Sir W. Batten’s to talk a little, and then to the office to do a little business, and so home to supper and read myself asleep, and then to bed.

alder like an old man
with a grey beard
sleeping in the sun

river like a child
that must find some other
way to Why


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 3 July 1667.