On the Logic of the Gift Economy

Shimmer inks, cream
paper, shelves and shelves
of books— I've been going
through the accumulation 
of the years. Once again, 
this ritual to (every now and then)
take inventory of what I've kept 
in boxes or folded carefully away. 
We're told we already have
everything we need. How many
appetites can one person set loose 
through the thick, unmown grass 
of this one life? What's too much, 
too many? You might get a butterfly 
or lizard pin from me in the mail, 
a clutch of Japanese print bookmarks;
a leather journal embossed with 
the figures of the three Fates. One 
spins the thread, the second 
measures its length; the third 
harvests it with her shears.
Tomorrow and tomorrow, 
even a miser couldn't count
the leaves that grow back
whole fields in dappled light
or crumble in the fall.

Resilience Planning

On this shore, it's nearly winter; the tourists
        have left. Only the locals now, walking
their dogs or sprinting along the shore.
        Volunteers wander the bridges, skirt
the river,  tracking with mobile phones
        and apps the paths water might follow— 
tidal pools, inlets, spontaneous streams  
       rising in the aftermath  of heavy 
rainfall  and nor'easters. Maximum 
       inundation levels are higher each year.
Citizen survey as dress rehearsal:
       a watery finale made of all the scenes
in disaster movies like the one where
       a woman gives up her seat on a rescue
helicopter to reconcile with her father. 
       The two of them together face 
a megatsunami that wipes out all
        of Virginia Beach and the east coast.
Sometimes I also dream of walls of water,
       the moon's unblinking eye the only 
blessing above. Afterwards, every salt
       cathedral washed clean or ground
to sand. No one has seen this kind of film: 
       rice terraces and temples dissolve; 
and sugarcane fields in the delta. What god
       would survive to pelt water with rock
and clay so islands rise again? An archipelago
       inked like the first sentence in history; 
and we, rowing our fragile craft. The sea
       is always there, was always there. 
Even when they're not calling to water, our
       bodies, made of 70% water, call to water.

Cursed out

Up, and at the Office all the morning, with my heart full of joy to think in what a safe condition all my matters now stand between my wife and Deb, and me, and at noon running up stairs to see the upholsters, who are at work upon hanging my best room, and setting up my new bed, I find my wife sitting sad in the dining room; which enquiring into the reason of, she begun to call me all the false, rotten-hearted rogues in the world, letting me understand that I was with Deb. yesterday, which, thinking it impossible for her ever to understand, I did a while deny, but at last did, for the ease of my mind and hers, and for ever to discharge my heart of this wicked business, I did confess all, and above stairs in our bed chamber there I did endure the sorrow of her threats and vows and curses all the afternoon, and, what was worse, she swore by all that was good that she would slit the nose of this girle, and be gone herself this very night from me, and did there demand 3 or 400l. of me to buy my peace, that she might be gone without making any noise, or else protested that she would make all the world know of it. So with most perfect confusion of face and heart, and sorrow and shame, in the greatest agony in the world I did pass this afternoon, fearing that it will never have an end; but at last I did call for W. Hewer, who I was forced to make privy now to all, and the poor fellow did cry like a child, [and] obtained what I could not, that she would be pacified upon condition that I would give it under my hand never to see or speak with Deb, while I live, as I did before with Pierce and Knepp, and which I did also, God knows, promise for Deb. too, but I have the confidence to deny it to the perjury of myself. So, before it was late, there was, beyond my hopes as well as desert, a durable peace; and so to supper, and pretty kind words, and to bed, and there je did hazer con elle to her content, and so with some rest spent the night in bed, being most absolutely resolved, if ever I can master this bout, never to give her occasion while I live of more trouble of this or any other kind, there being no curse in the world so great as this of the differences between myself and her, and therefore I do, by the grace of God, promise never to offend her more, and did this night begin to pray to God upon my knees alone in my chamber, which God knows I cannot yet do heartily; but I hope God will give me the grace more and more every day to fear Him, and to be true to my poor wife. This night the upholsters did finish the hanging of my best chamber, but my sorrow and trouble is so great about this business, that it puts me out of all joy in looking upon it or minding how it was.

my best curses
wore out

so I was forced
to make a cry

like the desert night
if ever I can live

on my knees
out of all minding

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 19 November 1668.

In the weeds

Lay long in bed talking with my wife, she being unwilling to have me go abroad, saying and declaring herself jealous of my going out for fear of my going to Deb., which I do deny, for which God forgive me, for I was no sooner out about noon but I did go by coach directly to Somerset House, and there enquired among the porters there for Dr. Allbun, and the first I spoke with told me he knew him, and that he was newly gone into Lincoln’s Inn Fields, but whither he could not tell me, but that one of his fellows not then in the way did carry a chest of drawers thither with him, and that when he comes he would ask him. This put me into some hopes, and I to White Hall, and thence to Mr. Povy’s, but he at dinner, and therefore I away and walked up and down the Strand between the two turnstiles, hoping to see her out of a window, and then employed a porter, one Osbeston, to find out this Doctor’s lodgings thereabouts, who by appointment comes to me to Hercules pillars, where I dined alone, but tells me that he cannot find out any such, but will enquire further. Thence back to White Hall to the Treasury a while, and thence to the Strand, and towards night did meet with the porter that carried the chest of drawers with this Doctor, but he would not tell me where he lived, being his good master, he told me, but if I would have a message to him he would deliver it. At last I told him my business was not with him, but a little gentlewoman, one Mrs. Willet, that is with him, and sent him to see how she did from her friend in London, and no other token. He goes while I walk in Somerset House, walk there in the Court; at last he comes back and tells me she is well, and that I may see her if I will, but no more. So I could not be commanded by my reason, but I must go this very night, and so by coach, it being now dark, I to her, close by my tailor’s, and she come into the coach to me, and je did baiser her and tocar her thing, but ella was against it and laboured with much earnestness, such as I believed to be real; and yet at last yo did make her tener mi cosa in her mano, while mi mano was sobra her pectus, and so did hazar with grand delight. I did nevertheless give her the best council I could, to have a care of her honour, and to fear God, and suffer no man para avoir to do con her as je have done, which she promised. Je did give her 20s. and directions para laisser sealed in paper at any time the name of the place of her being at Herringman’s, my bookseller in the ’Change, by which I might go para her, and so bid her good night with much content to my mind, and resolution to look after her no more till I heard from her. And so home, and there told my wife a fair tale, God knows, how I spent the whole day, with which the poor wretch was satisfied, or at least seemed so, and so to supper and to bed, she having been mighty busy all day in getting of her house in order against to-morrow to hang up our new hangings and furnishing our best chamber.

in the old field I walk
between turnstiles

wind comes alone
with no good message

but one toke and I see
my dark nest

give the whole day
new fur

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 18 November 1668.

Physiography

The woman in the checkout line
is taking her groceries out of a cart.
Ahead of her, a man who could be
her son, hair also greying at the temples, 
hefts the larger items onto the counter:
packs of bottled water, a box 
of navel oranges. When she touches
his shoulder to say she would like 
to pay, the ovals of her nails shine 
like nacre at the ends of gnarled
fingers. Perhaps she's held jobs
requiring the constant use of hands:
typist, stenographer; cook, seamstress,
factory finisher, welder. Perhaps their blue-
veined maps were merely inked by a lifetime 
of domestic labors, a lifetime of smoothing 
the creases and soothing the burns 
of everyday life for others. That he gently 
pats her hand and gives the cashier his card 
for these transactions is simply what it is,
as well as the whole world. And how,
exiting the store, the one that goes ahead
used to be the one that followed 
or only walked beside.