Owl and pussycat redux

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and all the morning at the office, where busy, and at noon home to dinner, where Creed dined with us, who tells me that Sir Henry Bellasses is dead of the duell he fought about ten days ago, with Tom Porter; and it is pretty to see how the world talk of them as a couple of fools, that killed one another out of love. After dinner to the office a while, and then with my wife to the Temple, where I light and sent her to her tailor’s. I to my bookseller’s; where, by and by, I met Mr. Evelyn, and talked of several things, but particularly of the times: and he tells me that wise men do prepare to remove abroad what they have, for that we must be ruined, our case being past relief, the kingdom so much in debt, and the King minding nothing but his lust, going two days a-week to see my Lady Castlemayne at Sir D. Harvy’s. He gone, I met with Mr. Moore, who tells me that my Lord Hinchingbroke is now with his mistress, but not that he is married, as W. Howe come and told us the other day. So by coach to White Hall, and there staid a little, thinking to see Sir G. Carteret, but missed him, and so by coach took up my wife, and so home, and as far as Bow, where we staid and drank, and there, passing by Mr. Lowther and his lady, they stopped and we talked a little with them, they being in their gilt coach, and so parted; and presently come to us Mr. Andrews, whom I had not seen a good while, who, as other merchants do, do all give over any hopes of things doing well, and so he spends his time here most, playing at bowles. After dining together at the coach-side, we with great pleasure home, and so to the office, where I despatched my business, and home to supper, and to bed.

who as a couple kill
one another out of love

I and my wife
or my bookseller and me

we must be ruined
minding nothing but lust

we who

we who enchant
playing owls


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 8 August 1667.

Clay

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Some days are curved lines
and others are an edge.

Rain drums on the balconies
or washes the heads of stone 
angels in the garden.

Even a bone is soft
where it joins another. 

Slick a slab of clay, 
turn it on the wheel; 
formed and dried,  

some vessels steep only one 
flavor, committed to memory:

I don't mean to say 
they couldn't break or hold
anything against their nature.   

 

America: Camp John Hay

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
~ Baguio City

You were the air base turned R&R
     place where we could gape at
the marvel of uniformly clipped grass
     and level golf ovals, each punctured 
with one hole and a slender flag. There
     was a place called The 19th Tee
where we could order exotic things 
     like chipped beef on toast or 
scrapple cakes and eggs; and the Tee
     Bar where our brothers and uncles
sat on stools, ordering gin tonics and
     peanuts instead of San Miguel beer. 
We'd bowl or play pool; and on Sundays, 
     listen to Tim Tesoro's band riff on 
Sinatra as we ate roast turkey or $5 
     Porterhouse steaks. America, you were 
1,764 acres of prime woodland reservation 
     named after the Secretary of State 
in Mckinley's and Roosevelt's administrations. 
     America, you claim to have bought it 
off the hands of a local chieftain for 
     a pittance, but his heirs pointed out 
that the deed of transfer is dated at least 
     three years after his death. This 
little pocket of clean American living is 
     what you say you made to remind you 
and your armed forces personnel of the paradise 
     they left behind when they shipped out 
to our inhospitable hills. America, even then
     we were trained to stand behind 
the cafeteria serving counters and fry 
     baskets, the manicure stations at 
the beauty parlor; the popcorn machine 
     at the Base Theatre, the old-fashioned 
shoeshine stands in front of Mile Hi. But 
     no Filipino used to be allowed as guest 
on the base except when accompanied 
     by a US citizen, until the '80s and then 
the expiration of the RP-US Bases Agreement. 
     America, though we didn't go there 
that often, you're always remembered as this 
     nostalgic postcard from the '60s: our 
mothers and aunts in miniskirts and cat-eye 
     glasses, big hair poufed by hairspray; 
our fathers in polos or varsity sweaters and
     pants. Once, an older white man winked
and stooped down to my level; he said Watch out, 
    someday you're going to be a heartbreaker.    

 

Poetry Blog Digest 2020, Week 35

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, I found myself drawn especially to posts on language, human and otherwise. And writers are turning over new leaves, just as storms are turning over old ones. One way or another, new energy is being summoned up.

A huge shout-out to everyone who completed the Sealey Challenge and read a book of poetry every day this month!


In the mornings – now that autumn is close – I sweep dead petals out of the yoga space. I lay out the mat, light the candles, and finish my coffee staring at the clouds through a rain-stained glass.

The first forward bend reveals the dreams lodged in my joints. The arching of my back makes space for them to free themselves, and fall away.

Right leg back, and arms overhead in a crescent lunge: inhale again. Stay upright. Stay open. Acknowledge the bones of the neck, give them the space they need to speak their wisdom.

By the time I put on my running shoes, I am ready for the chatter.

Ren Powell, Easing Mornings

What if our tongues were to escape the pink pillowy room of our mouths?

Gone voice, gone singing, gone drinking, gone soul-kissing.

Tongues not even leaving a Dear John letter or welcome mat in the vacant space they’ve left behind.

Tongues simply gone off with other tongues, learning new languages, tasting new foods, experiencing new loves, new grooves.

Tongues threatening to shack up in the mouths of others if not treated better.

Tongue-twisted, tongue-tied. Civil tongue, giving tongue.

Oh, for the gift of a mother tongue to truly express how much I’d miss my tongue.

Rich Ferguson, Waving Goodbye to a Tongue With a Shaky Hand

One day I want to write an essay about how studying saxophone in middle school opened up a vast world for me, that, as a little Jewish boy in Ottawa I had had no conception of. The rich imaginative, political, spiritual, powerful world of mostly black American musicians. I think about being in suburban Canadian bedroom listening to Charlie Parker and John Coltrane and reading everything I could find about them. I’d babysit on Saturday nights and then make a pilgrimage to Sam the Record Man in the Bayshore Shopping Mall where I spent my earnings, learning about jazz. The world they lived in, their concerns, the sounds they pursued, the economic and political issues, the stories of their lives. Of course I could have no real understanding, but it was a portal, an opening that pointed to a much larger vision of what was and what was possible than I could have know otherwise.

Gary Barwin, Thank you Charlie Parker

Berger compared the drawn line to music, saying that the line emerges from somewhere and leads you on to someplace new. As a musician, it’s always been helpful to me to remember that music is never static; it’s always coming from somewhere and going somewhere. As an artist, I agree with Berger too: the drawn line arises and moves forward, and so do I, the draughtsperson. Each drawing takes me somewhere I didn’t anticipate, and in some very subtle way, changes me. But during the time when I’m drawing, everything except the line is very still.

Beth Adams, Hermit Diary 37: Beginning Again, and Again, to Draw

In that training circle
in the Amherst Writers Method
Pat Schneider’s living room,
I learned how to listen deeply,
not only to others, but to my own soul.
How its voice could raise a bell
in celebration with and for others.
How its lonely distant train whistle
on the night breeze could help
relieve others’ suffering.

Lana Hechtman Ayers, A tribute to Pat Schneider

The paper’s quite thick for folding but great for wet on wet watercolour. My illustrations are … well, let’s just say abstract! I wrote a haiku beside each tiny painting and slotted the cards into the folds. I’m no artist, but I do like that feeling of being absorbed in the work, the sort of feeling you get when you’re creating something new. I’m not sure I experience quite the same thing when I’m writing, possibly because it’s less physical somehow.

It’s worth mentioning here that the more haiku I write, the more present I feel – in contrast to the ‘zone’ or ‘mind space’ I need to enter when I’m writing longer poems, or prose. And because haiku are short, they seem to leave more time for actual living. My daily observations and experiences feed directly into the writing in what seems to be a perfect circle/ cycle of life-writing-life. Of course, this is an oversimplification of the process, but hopefully you get my drift. Haiku are less dependent on the imagination, more engaged with reality.

Julie Mellor, Blizzard books

It occurs to me, doubtless again, that revision is the art of clipping away everything we may have noticed in the wild world of detail but which may take away from highlighting what caught our attention, what echoed some inner — what? vibration? emotion? memory? some deep imagining?

I don’t know what it is that makes us makers, what notices us noticing what we notice and calls us to create something, something that records that electric moment. Because it does feel like a kind of recognition, or sometimes a reckoning, that moment.

Today on my walk I asked myself to notice light. Although I draw and paint, I’m not primarily a visual artist, but I know that light and shadow are vital in the world of visual art, so I challenged myself to pay attention to that particular input. It was staggering! All the twinkling of dew on jewelweed, the variegated shadows on fern fronds, how light works its way into the forest, and the astonishing fact of clouds. It was a day of clouds on clouds on clouds leaning on the hills or looming from behind them, and every cloud was an elaborate array of white and gray and gray-blue,  dark edges, white hearts, a little purple, maybe some green. Or was I imagining that?

Should I choose to write about that, my job is, I think, to get down what I noticed, and let what is inside me that caused that interest to rise up and help me find the words. To match those details with something that speaks out of those details.

Marilyn McCabe, You’re where you should be all the time; or, More on Paying Attention

I have a hard time getting students to incorporate research into their creative writing, even the quick Wikipedia kind, but I can’t write much in any genre without internet access–and having friends to interview about mundane details is also a big help. In poetry, specificity is everything. Studying scientific processes helps me understand the world and myself; the textures of unusual words make the language pop. In fiction, people need to have jobs other than mine, and they need to walk around and be doing ordinary things when plot twists surprise them.

Lesley Wheeler, Maps, teaching schedules, and other demented pre-writing adventures

I’ve spent a lot of time lately on my perpetual playing about with the order of the poems in my almost-finished second collection. Glyn Maxwell, in On Poetry (I think), advises strongly against ordering poems chronologically, and I get what he means; yet when poems are collected, I want to see not just that individual poems shine on their own terms, but also that they have some interplay with other poems, thematically and/or chronologically. I’ve been toying with reversing the chronology of my poems, so that those set in the present come first and those set furthest back in time close the book. I daresay it’s been done plenty of times before. On the other hand, I might just take Maxwell’s advice and mix them up, by theme or not, and see what happens. As ever, the problem – which admittedly is a nice one to have and isn’t really that huge in the grand scheme of things – is that I find it so hard to look at my own poems with the requisite degree of objectivity. In the Zoom launch of her Nine Arches collection The Unmapped Woman a few months ago, Abegail Morley revealed that she hung a washing line across her living room, pegged all the poems along it and then shifted them about until she achieved a steady state. It certainly sounds easier than putting them all on the floor and moving them around, because, as I’ve found before, you need a room the size of a small dancehall to be able to do that.

Matthew Paul, Channelling

Writing-wise, I’m working on a new collection. Not that my short Scottish collection that’s been scheduled to be published this year is anywhere near seeing the light of day, nor has my Finnish collection been picked up by anyone, but it’s giving me something new to focus on. In spite of my recent posts about self-belief, I’m still struggling with mine. So I’m snuggling up with my daughter’s crepes and writing poems about strong women, forgotten women on another wet Sunday. 

Gerry Stewart, Looking for Distractions

We seem to have crawled out from under the swampy late-summer air, and this weekend, into something cooler, milder, and less likely to have me tossing and turning in the sheets to find a cool corner of the bed. Summer, corona-style, was barely a summer at all, and I can’t say I am sad to see it go. Mostly it was just heat and work, with a side helping of anxiety. Fall is at least enjoyable when you don’t leave the house much, so I am already queuing up my horror movies and planning to make soups. I did learn that beginning next week, we will be open the usual hours at the library, til 10pm, which gives me back my late mornings entirely instead of a sliver of time between waking and heading out the door. Since we’ve gone back, my writing happens in this flurried space over breakfast watching the clock to make it downtown, then exhaustion by the time I arrive home in the evening. This will feel a bit more like normal, if normal is even a thing at all anymore, which means I can get back to design and layout projects that have been drifting while I try to catch up on orders and tend to other dgp business. Also reading manuscripts for next year (which if you haven’t submitted just yet, you have another couple days.) At the library are also getting a new staff member (finally) in our department which means I may eventually be able to take a vacation (not that I can go anywhere, but a week off work, as I learned this summer, is sometimes very much needed.)

Kristy Bowen, notes & things | 8/29/2020

As we turn towards September, it feels like my energy for writing (and sending out work) is increasing. I’m feeling more hopeful about my manuscripts too, which I worked very hard on editing during the summer, along with writing new poems. Do you find the fall is linked in your mind to increased productivity and happiness, even with the pandemic? Summer is definitely not my season – I’m allergic to the sun, and MS makes you sensitive to heat – and anyway my personality definitely tends towards the “wrapped in a sweater, reading by the fire with a cup of tea” rather than “beach bunny” type.

I know some of my friends who are parents are struggling with having kids at home while working full time, and friends who are teachers and professors being forced to be in the classroom, which brings risk and more stress than usual. How are you adjusting to the coming fall?

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Winner of the PR for Poets Giveaway, The Light in August with Otters and Unicorns, and Looking Forward to Fall (and Working While Ill)

My body has been chanting this excerpt on my death-hikes this week, just coughing up the words with each stride, sometimes in a whisper, sometimes a cry:

Once I fished from the banks, leaf-light and happy;
On the rocks south of quiet, in the close regions of kissing,
I romped, lithe as a child, down the summery streets of my veins,
strict as a seed, nippy and twiggy.
Now the water’s low. The weeds exceed me.
It’s necessary, among the flies and bananas, to keep a constant vigil,
For the attacks of false humility take turns for the worse.
Lacking the candor of dogs, I kiss the departing air;
I’m untrue to my own excesses.

[from Praise to the End! in Theodore Roethke: Selected Poems]

Weed-exceeded, I puzzle for mile upon mile over the word necessary.

JJS, walking chant

The poem pays tribute to “those boys in uniform” but it also captures the problematic ways in which our countries teach us history: “all the men of history sacrificing/themselves for Ireland, for me, these rebel Jesuses.” This obviously isn’t a particularly healthy perspective, but what brings me close to tears in these lines is also how true it is to how teenage girls think, or at least some teenage girls. Falling in love with dead heroes is just the kind of thing a lot of us did at 16. At the end of the poem, when the speaker says “I put my lips/to the pillar…I kiss all those boys goodbye”, we understand that some day she’ll look back at this as a crazy, sentimental, teenage moment. And yet, we also kiss those boys goodbye along with her and we feel the poet’s empathy for those in history who were lost to war, and her equal empathy for the wild emotions of the teenage years.

Clarissa Aykroyd, Victoria Kennefick: ‘Cork Schoolgirl Considers the GPO, Dublin 2016’

In her new collection, Obit, Victoria Chang address, tackles, teases apart grief—always a giant, messy subject. Here, it’s larger, as the poems explore mourning the deaths of both her mother and her father. The poems use the format of an obituary, with a subject and a date or a timerframe, to return to all the aspects, large and small, of illness and death. She writes of the deaths, on their dates, but she includes an obituary for her mother’s lungs, which “began / their dying sometime in the past.” Another poem addresses her father’s stroke: “Logic—My father’s logic died on June / 24, 2009 in bright daylight. Murdered / in the afternoon.”

The poems circle around and return to the dates of death, the dates of the stroke, and in these recurrences embody, for me, the experience of grief and its unsettling relationship with memory. In “Friendships,” Chang notes: “It’s true, / the grieving speak a different language. / I am separated from my friends by / gauze.” She includes a poem for the dress her mother wore before cremation, a poem for giving all the old clothes away, poems about the doctors, even self-portraits (“Victoria Chang”).

Joannie Stangeland, Saturday poetry pick: Obit

Today, in the cool comfort of my home office, because it was too hot outside, I read What Keeps Us Here, by Allison Joseph (Ampersand Press, 1992). This must be a re-read, as all the sweetness, particular candies, and images of “Penny Candy” came rushing back to me, but I probably didn’t read it back in 1992, when I had a two-year-old and was in graduate school. I remembered vividly. too, the innocent thrill of “[f]our brown skinned young girls” discovering their naked bodies in a basement in the poem “Accomplices.” And the sorrow of losing her mother to cancer. 

Probably different things took hold of me this time. This time, I was struck, in “Endurance,” by these two lines: “I should say this plainly: / a woman, dying, seeks God.” Yes, so plain, so strong. And the terrible, beautiful, true moment, in “At That Moment,” of learning of her mother’s death by telephone while away at school. This one connects with a story told yesterday, on Zoom, of when our family friend learned of her father’s death by phone while staying with my parents. She wailed all night long, and my mother sat up with her. And, in Joseph’s poem, “They put me to rest / in the narrow dorm bed, / my room now strange, unfamiliar…” The disorientation of trauma, of grief.

Later, some comfort from “The Idiot Box.” I was glad to see again “Lucy bawling after Ricky, The Odd Couple / clashing, Spock and Captain Kirk / on the flimsy set of the Enterprise” via reruns on late-night tv. Then the poems “Falling Out of History,” its content and its epigraph by James Baldwin, and “Broadside: from Decade’s End” connect to my side-by-side nonfiction reading this week: We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Kathleen Kirk, What Keeps Us Here

As part of the Sealey Challenge, yesterday I returned to Claudia Rankine’s Citizen.  I read it years ago, when it was all the rage. Back then, I liked it well enough, but then, too, I felt like I was missing something.  I didn’t fall in love with it, the way it seemed that others had.

Yesterday I was struck by the artistry of it, the way it combines all sorts of genres, along with some visual art.  I’m still not sure I’d call it poetry, although it was a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry.  It feels more like a hybrid form that doesn’t have a name.

I circle back to the question of whether or not reading about racism can help dismantle racism.  As an English and Sociology major, I’m a firm believer that reading helps us see the other person’s point of view, helps us see the problems that other experience.

And in a perfect world, reading helps us develop solutions and the resolve to see those solutions through.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Reading Racism

This book of poems [In the Field Between Us] is a collaboration between Molly McCully Brown and Susannah Nevison, who exchange letters with one another in verse. It was recommended to me by Jill a few months back, and just recently, she and I have started our own correspondence. We’ve done exchanges like this before (and I’ve written in this way with Beth McQuillen and Ren Powell), but it’s been a long while in all cases, and it feels good to hear the voice in me that speaks to others directly. I’m craving meaningful connection so much right now, and that voice seems vital to it. Even though I haven’t been alone during the pandemic, there’s something about it that feels lonely… and not just the physical isolation we’re still navigating in many settings. Something else. Perhaps fear is a solo flight even during a global event?

That doesn’t stop us, of course, from seeking company. As Brown says in an interview in The Rumpus, “The epistolary form allows the text to navigate this painful, lonely space with an immense amount of company and intimacy. Every time a voice calls, there’s an answering voice.” Yes, please. Dear poets, dear Jill — thank you for keeping me company.

I also like how, in that same interview, Brown describes the themes in In the Field Between Us:  “lifelong, significant, relatively violent medical intervention. It’s an experience that one has to go through alone. It’s inherently singular and alienating. It divides you from other people in the world and from prior versions of yourself.” Isn’t that such a stunning way to consider life — and body — altering experiences? That they divide you even from yourself. The poems in this book grapple with all the versions of the self, as they are created, as they are destroyed. Embodying reality in any given moment, as we are aware more sometimes than others, is a moving target. 

Carolee Bennett, “birth is the first hard frost”

Hardly War and DMZ Colony are difficult to pigeonhole – they are at the same time translation, memoir, poetry, reportage, photo essay, polemic, experiment in radical translation, and an expression of both Choi’s own translation theory and those of others – notably Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and more contemporary theorists Joyelle McSweeney and Johannes Göransson. Choi’s project is political, but she sees clearly that the political, the racial and the poetic are all bundled together in language. As a translator, she is perfectly positioned, where one of the languages is of the dominant global power and one is of a people dominated by that power, to create a new and itself powerful voice which is able to destabilize the power imbalance, to create a rift or, as McSweeney & Göransson call it, a ‘deformation zone’ which “makes impossible connections… unsettling stable ideas of language”.

Choi examplifies this in Translation is a Mode = Translation is an Anti-neocolonial Mode (from here on Translation) where she builds on Walter Benjamin’s Brot and pain as two words meaning ‘bread’ but which also (in my translation anyway) “strive to exclude each other” because they have different “ways of meaning” (Choi’s translation has this as “modes of intention” but pausing over the different translations of a theory of translation is way too meta for this essay!). Choi relates this to the Korean word for ‘cornbread’, oksusuppang, which combines the French pain with the Japanese oksusu to signify the food that was given to Korean schoolchildren after the Korean War as aid from the US. Here she shows us how the very language spoken strains against Korean sense of identity, nationality and race: a European word (Old Empires), a Japanese word (interim Empire) and a word which symbolises current US hegemony (contemporary Empire). “(M)y tongue”, she tells us “even before it had ever encountered the English language was a site of power takeover, war, wound, deformation, and, ultimately and already, motherless” and at this same level, the tongue level, she says the “seemingly benign humanitarian intention” behind the cornbread handed out by the US “creates involuntary longing, a life-long craving, which could easily be translated as a desire to be colonized”. We begin to understand the potential, the latent power of the translator who works with translation as an “anti-neocolonial mode” when she says “But my tongue deforms, it disobeys. I translate this longing, entangled with neocolonial dependency, as homesickness, which is a form of illness, a form of intensity.”

Chris Edgoose, Twins, Orphans, Angels: on the work of Don Mee Choi

There are those who hate cicadas as they hate the summer sun. I myself love both.  The haters hear cacaphony, noise, intrusion. They hear one solid tone – abrasive – not noticing how the insect chorus of crickets and cicada throbs, then silences, throbs again.  They hear “scissor-grinders.” They hear the snapping of a tab from a cola can, up and back, in magnified repetition.  They don’t hear the hum of deep satisfaction or the sense of time passing and the moment fulfilled, though maybe they hear grief in summer’s end.

I have wracked up an array of pantheistic images of this summer soundtrack which have come in handy this most trying of weeks.  Time slows in August, that motionless high summer standstill.  But I, like many, found myself staring at spectacles of dystopia.  Further incursions of terror.  Election Day dread.  The top somehow keeps spinning, even as it slows down, teeters, leans as far from its axis of normalcy as seems possible.  Light sweat becomes greasier.  The levels of cynicism keep upping, possibly a way of preservation.

The insect chorus kept spinning.  For some species the high-stakes erotic daytime display is a suicide song. But at night, the song softens to a rhythmic chant, a round of pure incantation.  As the dervish dances into trance, the insect night calms to its given.  I’ve heard an eternal soundtrack, the god in timeless dance shaking her string of bells, every night from a different limb.  Or worshippers in thrall to cosmic energies, in a public display of meditation. I’ve heard a sound girdle across the earth’s broad waist, a web of communication, the chanting wordless word of consolation.  It’s there, for those who listen, and I’ll be listening keenly as we shift seasons.

Jill Pearlman, The Insect Chorus

early this morning I was awakened by howling and screeching screams that I thought at first was a pack of monkeys being murdered by coyotes in my back yard I used to live near the Woodland Park Zoo and I have personal experience with howler monkeys 

I woke up Page so he could hear it too and filmed it with my phone at the same time though it was pitch black out there Page thought it was Bigfoot but this is no surprise since this summer we both saw bear scat in the yard and immediately thought cow

the howling went on for a good 30 minutes and I eventually figured out it was two owls mating and sent the video to Mary Moon She Who Holds Knowledge of All Things and she assured me that indeed those were owls having wild owl sex practically on my deck possibly right below my bedroom window

Rebecca Loudon, Pig and farm report

I am wondering if I might find a tomb that I can rent. I just want to lie down on a marble slab for a few nights and whisper my secrets to Death. I really don’t need to move in and live there. Don’t we all have a secret or two to tell? Don’t we all have something to get off our chest? Oh well, the evening breeze is cool tonight. It’s refreshing. Perhaps I’ll just lie down right here.

James Lee Jobe, I am wondering if I might find a tomb that I can rent.

penclawdd – and the

sloughing of a snake-black night
broken boats with mud-arsed sailors
foot-printed down a sworn-drawn breath
estuarine slither-e-slither the delta worms
the sloped-shadowed masts of the mudders
goose-stepped gulls / urchin-crunch-shrined
rag-wormed slime-warm and the long-slow
riding of a tide’s bottom-splat until
the tabernacle bell summons
what! is it muddy sunday already?

Jim Young, penclawdd

Most years in Elul we say
“the King is in the Field” —

God walks with us in the tall grass
to hear our yearnings.

This year, Shechinah
shelters-in-place with us.

With her, we don’t need to mask
our fears or our despair.

When we stay up too late
reading the news again

or binge-watch The Good Place
desperate for redemption

she does too.

Rachel Barenblat, Shelter

So yes, everybody knows. We’ve all got this broken feeling. Might as well talk a good game about how life is, might as well hand out chocolates. We know the dog bites. But as Dorothea Lasky says in her book Animal, “What did my dog teach me about being human? To be gentle. To be gentle and wild and to be able to, but not to, bite everyone.”

Shawna Lemay, Talking a Good Game

Milky fog in the mountains,
thick as sea-foam: so the lizard
tells the hunters to jump in,
the water’s fine. That’s how
he gets away each time—finding
the words to scissor a path
into the next chapter, while
sounds of falling and surprise
echo on the previous page.

Luisa A. Igloria, Escape

Every year as summer wanes, I go back to work resolved to engage with it in a different way. I promise myself that I will keep getting exercise, that I will keep eating real food, that I will devote more time to what is important and less to what is urgent, that I will carve out time for friends and family and creative work, and that I will just not let it all get to me.

So far, every year, I have failed to fulfill such resolutions.

This year feels different. There are two sides to everything, and one side of this time in which so much is collapsing is fear: economic, social, physical, and political threats are all around us. On the other side, though, is opportunity. When so much is gone, changed, and changing, it is easier to let go of what was and try to figure out what can be.

Rita Ott Ramstad, New year’s resolutions

Late August.
The silence
of green dying.

The light
a kind of dust
in the wind.

Tom Montag, LATE AUGUST

Sunday couple

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and at the office very busy, and did much business all the morning. My wife abroad with her maid Jane and Tom all the afternoon, being gone forth to eat some pasties at “The Bottle of Hay,” in St. John’s Street, as you go to Islington, of which she is mighty fond, and I dined at home alone, and at the office close all the afternoon, doing much business to my great content. This afternoon Mr. Pierce, the surgeon, comes to me about business, and tells me that though the King and my Lady Castlemayne are friends again, she is not at White Hall, but at Sir D. Harvy’s, whither the King goes to her; and he says she made him ask her forgiveness upon his knees, and promised to offend her no more so: that, indeed, she did threaten to bring all his bastards to his closet-door, and hath nearly hectored him out of his wits.
I at my office till night, and then home to my pipe, my wife not coming home, which vexed me. I then into the garden, and there walked alone in the garden till 10 at night, when she come home, having been upon the water and could not get home sooner. So to supper, and to bed.

morning road in a bottle
you go on alone

all afternoon on my knees
in the garden


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 7 August 1667.

Fellow travelers

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to the office, where all the morning very full of business. A full Board. Here, talking of news, my Lord Anglesey did tell us that the Dutch do make a further bogle with us about two or three things, which they will be satisfied in, he says, by us easily; but only in one, it seems, they do demand that we shall not interrupt their East Indiamen coming home, and of which they are in some fear; and we are full of hopes that we have ’light upon some of them, and carried them into Lisbon, by Harman; which God send! But they, which do shew the low esteem they have of us, have the confidence to demand that we shall have a cessation on our parts, and yet they at liberty to take what they will; which is such an affront, as another cannot be devised greater.
At noon home to dinner, where I find Mrs. Wood, formerly Bab. Shelden, and our Mercer, who is dressed to-day in a paysan dress, that looks mighty pretty. We dined and sang and laughed mighty merry, and then I to the Office, only met at the door with Mrs. Martin and Mrs. Burroughs, who I took in and drank with, but was afraid my wife should see them, they being, especially the first, a prattling gossip, and so after drinking with them parted, and I to the Office, busy as long as my poor eyes would endure, which troubles me mightily and then into the garden with my wife, and to Sir W. Batten’s with W. Pen and J. Minnes, and there eat a melon and talked, and so home to supper and to bed. My wife, as she said last night, hath put away Nell to-day, for her gossiping abroad and telling of stories. Sir W. Batten did tell me to-night that the Council have ordered a hearing before them of Carcasses business, which do vex me mightily, that we should be troubled so much by an idle rogue, a servant of our own, and all my thoughts to-night have been how to manage the matter before the Council.

my fur is full
of light and harm

part dress
part gossip

telling
the carcass’s business

that idle servant
of my night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 6 August 1667.

Sadness isn’t the word I’m looking for

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
In the woods, I pick mushrooms

remembering the shape of flowers

in my old country, green tendrils

like telephone coils around my pinky.

The musty air; a tin pail filled

with illegible words. My heart's

faulty plumbing makes faraway

rumbling sounds in my ear

while I sleep. My daughters

in sunlight, in red dresses,

practicing walking on the grass.

Sometimes, tears slip out before

I wake. Like sleepwalkers, their out-

stretched arms feel their way down 

the quiet corridor. I tell myself there 

should be grass to cushion their fall.

Instrumental

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and with Sir W. Batten in the morning to St. James’s, where we did our ordinary business with the Duke of York, where I perceive they have taken the highest resolution in the world to become good husbands, and to retrench all charge; and to that end we are commanded to give him an account of the establishment in the seventh year of the late King’s reign, and how offices and salaries have been increased since; and I hope it will end in the taking away some of our Commissioners, though it may be to the lessening of some of our salaries also. After done with the Duke of York, and coming out through his dressing-room, I there spied Signor Francisco tuning his gittar, and Monsieur de Puy with him, who did make him play to me, which he did most admirably — so well as I was mightily troubled that all that pains should have been taken upon so bad an instrument. Walked over the Park with Mr. Gawden, end with him by coach home, and to the Exchange, where I hear the ill news of our loss lately of four rich ships, two from Guinea, one from Gallipoly, all with rich oyles; and the other from Barbadoes, worth, as is guessed, 80,000l.. But here is strong talk, as if Harman had taken some of the Dutch East India ships, but I dare not yet believe it, and brought them into Lisbon. Home, and dined with my wife at Sir W. Pen’s, where a very good pasty of venison, better than we expected, the last stinking basely, and after dinner he and my wife and I to the Duke of York’s house, and there saw “Love Trickes, or the School of Compliments;” a silly play, only Miss [Davis’s] dancing in a shepherd’s clothes did please us mightily. Thence without much pleasure home and to my Office, so home, to supper, and to bed. My wife mighty angry with Nell, who is turned a very gossip, and gads abroad as soon as our backs are turned, and will put her away tomorrow, which I am not sorry for.

an ordinary husband may sing
tuning his guitar

I play a bad instrument
with rich oils

I dare not believe it is good
better than expected

and my love is dancing
in her bed


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 5 August 1667.

Fair Exchange

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
When you're told you got what you asked for, 
    is it ever the end of it; is it what you 
         asked for in the first place? 
There's always another story where the sky  
    opens its dark throat at night, or 
         the river boils down to its bed
so it can remind you of what it drowned
    there once: every rusted can and chain,
         every ruined refrigerator, bones
of houses that the last hurricane flipped
    on its way out. Sometimes I am afraid
         to sit by the window of what feels
like happiness, even if a bird that sounds 
    like a small, high-pitched typewriter issues
         enticing invitations from the tree.

Panangaasi

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Since summer isn't completely gone, trees
still throng with the medley of andidiit.

Alinaay—benevolence of weather that we pray for. 
Alutiit—house lizards skittering through cracks,

under the door or in the ceiling. Some days 
it seems impossible to get through this life 

without some kind of anib. As night falls 
harder, gurruod ken kimat. I wanted to see 

the moon: so much fuller when I think of it 
as bulan. But all the world is either sheets

of fire or water. Bari-bari, we whisper,
walking every day through streets of danger.  




*

Ilocano words:

panangaasi - showing pity, concern
andidiit - cicadas
alinaay - calm
anib - talisman
gurruod ken kimat - thunder and lightning
bulan - moon
bari-bari - a word to ward off bad spirits