Raiding the Beebox

At the table where we were gathered,
            the beekeper recounted how 
a bear tipped over his bee-boxes 
            and raided them night after night 
after night—reaching in and tearing out 
            the trays, having smelled the honey 
and the hive on a warm downwind. 
            Any of us, I'm sure, would leave 
our own forest cover, climb up the gully 
            and cross the road into alien country, 
intent on the scent of what lures. In one of 
            the old Looney Tunes cartoons 
we watched as kids on Saturday mornings, 
            one taste of sticky amber is enough
to drive evenTaz crazy—he forces one 
            paw in the opening, then the other,
despite stings and throbbing limbs.
            Don't you know what you rouse 
out of dormancy into seething becomes 
            the specter that can haunt you?
You want to tame it, possess it; marry
           whatever desire has stunned you
with awe or certainty or disbelief.

The Way to the Ocean

the way to the ocean
goes through New Jersey

named for an island
where a king once kept his head

on the other side of the Atlantic
an inch and a half farther away each year

which sounds like a tall tale
a sailor might tell

if boardwalk barkers didn’t already
cover the waterfront

on the way to the ocean
circling vultures turn into gulls

fish crows
quack like ducks

a mockingbird riffs from the roof
of a manufactured home

in a manufactured village
right off U.S. Route 322

which has somehow caught up with me
after we parted in the mountains

i walk its broad shoulder
past brown fields and brownfield sites

it’s early spring so most green things
are aliens: privet ivy multiflora rose

aside from a few
prickly natives:

American holly Atlantic whitecedar
and the pines the pines

their high pitch where forest fires licked
what the locals call sugar sand

ducking into the woods
i find an old homeless camp

collapsed tent frame
discarded high-visibility coveralls

on the way to the ocean
is no way to live

to settle like fallen leaves
wherever the wind takes us

living on the road means
a groundhog oblivious to traffic

burrow hidden in a tangle
of Oriental bittersweet

or a burger place across the road
from a billboard for addiction recovery

a farmer on a backhoe
leading a small herd of goats

pray, hope & don’t worry
says a sign by someone’s mailbox

beyond which I find a faded
bouquet of artificial roses

hanging upright where i imagine
it had been flung from a car window

the right of the people to keep and bear arms
shall not be infringed says a billboard

across the highway from a weeping cherry
in full glorious bloom

i turn onto a smaller road
past a resort campground

lakes are easy to make here
where the Atlantic once beached

circling one of them on foot
i am accosted twice

by people wondering whether i’m lost
or am looking for someone

and neither is a question i quite
know how to answer

a woman embracing a bear of a man
rumbles past on a Harley

and off under the pines
all around a derelict trailer

i spot the bright green flags
of skunk cabbages

the way to the ocean
doesn’t wait for continental drift

though perhaps it could i think
standing on the beach at Ocean City

gazing out at the immensity
for a heartbeat or two

then down to my feet
at scallop shells

reminding me that any road
can become a route for pilgrimage

you can walk the boardwalk
out past the end of capitalism

lie down in the sand
and rust

because the true way to the ocean
must begin at the ocean

students running with a kite
a man watching a fishing line

a child who digs shallow holes
and lets them fill with sky

with gratitude to my cousin Heidi Myers Suydam for all her hospitality

In the dunes

Sam Pepys and me

This day, about nine o’clock in the morning, the wind grew high, and we being among the sands lay at anchor; I began to be dizzy and squeamish. Before dinner my Lord sent for me down to eat some oysters, the best my Lord said that ever he ate in his life, though I have ate as good at Bardsey. After dinner, and all the afternoon I walked upon the deck to keep myself from being sick, and at last about five o’clock, went to bed and got a caudle made me, and sleep upon it very well. This day Mr. Sheply went to Sheppy.

the wind grew sand
dizzy for the best life

I have all afternoon to keep
from sleep

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 7 April 1660.

Selvage Song

(an emoji poem)

On overcast mornings, I crave small
comforts like tea or soup, a healing 
infusion of sunlight, a view of green.  

Every day we're told the world's on the brink
— It could be any day in autumn, winter. 
Rumors shadow through spring, even 

as paired swans glide with ease on clear 
water, as if toward forever. In summer
when we take trips, we pass farms 

where horses graze in fields of shimmering 
wheat. This is still the south, but desert-like days 
alternate with seasons of nor'easters that sting 

like scorpions. When streets flood, 
neighborhoods turn into islands. We huddle 
indoors, wait for the storm's wide flamenco skirts 

to settle with calmer rhythms. Some 
take out prayer beads, kneel before their gods
or saints. Elsewhere, priests and shamans

count the years since the last time 
a volcano rumbled out of sleep, the last
time people believed warnings 

written in books, old tales of deluge. 
Our ailments don't lack for diagnosis—
yet we hammer and saw down more forests,

race to build another tallest building  
to reach the fabled stars. At night 
when I wake under a tent of new terrors, 

I want to learn from the bees and spiders 
how to honeycomb my trembling cells, 
how to sew a strong and tensile web;

how to nest my heart in still pulsing coral.
Will an angel sound a trumpet made of whelk,
will a chorus of boulders sing an aria about

the rubbled earth? Fire and ice, 
cocktails and picnics by the beach—
here we are still plucking chords for music, 

playing darts, tugging on strings to keep things aloft.
There is no more fire to steal, no thunderbolt to cast
at prophets hurling their voices out of the whirlwind.



Sam Pepys and me

This morning came my brother-in-law Balty to see me, and to desire to be here with me as Reformado, which did much trouble me. But after dinner (my Lord using him very civilly, at table) I spoke to my Lord, and he presented me a letter to Captain Stokes for him that he should be there. All the day with him walking and talking, we under sail as far as the Spitts. In the afternoon, W. Howe and I to our viallins, the first time since we came on board. This afternoon I made even with my Lord to this day, and did give him all the money remaining in my hands.
In the evening, it being fine moonshine, I staid late walking upon the quarter-deck with Mr. Cuttance, learning of some sea terms; and so down to supper and to bed, having an hour before put Balty into Burr’s cabin, he being out of the ship.

this desire
to be here and sail far

as the money remaining
in my hands

the fine moon
learning to put out

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 6 April 1660.


Sam Pepys and me

Infinity of business all the morning of orders to make, that I was very much perplexed that Mr. Burr had failed me of coming back last night, and we ready to set sail, which we did about noon, and came in the evening to Lee roads and anchored. At night Mr. Sheply overtook us who had been at Gray’s Market this morning. I spent all the afternoon upon the deck, it being very pleasant weather. This afternoon Sir Rich. Stayner and Mr. Creed, after we were come to anchor, did come on board, and Creed brought me 30l., which my Lord had ordered him to pay me upon account, and Captain Clerke brought me a knotted cane. At night very sleepy to bed.

infinity failed
to anchor us
who had been gray weather

a creed brought order
brought me
a knotted cane

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 5 April 1660.

Here she lies

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
buried in a frozen stack of make-ahead meals

under a mound of clean but unfolded laundry

indistinguishable from an accumulation of small
         appliances in the basement

next to the weed-whacker in the shed

in a drawer of practically new paints and brushes 

indoors but pointed like a Celestron telescope to the stars

touching spine after spine lined up on the bookshelves

tracing an imagined pilgimage on a map 


Sam Pepys and me

This morning I dispatch many letters of my own private business to London. There come Colonel Thomson with the wooden leg, and General Pen, and dined with my Lord and Mr. Blackburne, who told me that it was certain now that the King must of necessity come in, and that one of the Council told him there is something doing in order to a treaty already among them. And it was strange to hear how Mr. Blackburne did already begin to commend him for a sober man, and how quiet he would be under his government, &c.
I dined all alone to prevent company, which was exceeding great to-day, in my cabin.
After these two were gone Sir W. Wheeler and Sir John Petters came on board and staid about two or three hours, and so went away.
The Commissioners came to-day, only to consult about a further reducement of the Fleet, and to pay them as fast as they can.
I did give Davis, their servant, 5l. 10s. to give to Mr. Moore from me, in part of the 7l. that I borrowed of him, and he is to discount the rest out of the 36s. that he do owe me.
At night, my Lord resolved to send the Captain of our ship to Waymouth and promote his being chosen there, which he did put himself into a readiness to do the next morning.

many letters of my lone pen
burn the ear

how quiet is the wheel
of a fast mouth

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 4 April 1660.


Sam Pepys and me

Late to bed. About three in the morning there was great knocking at my cabin, which with much difficulty (so they say) waked me, and I rose, but it was only for a packet, so went to my bed again, and in the morning gave it my Lord.
This morning Capt. Isham comes on board to see my Lord and drunk his wine before he went into the Downs, there likewise come many merchants to get convoy to the Baltique, which a course was taken for.
They dined with my Lord, and one of them by name Alderman Wood talked much to my Lord of the hopes that we have now to be settled, (under the King he meant); but my Lord took no notice of it. After dinner which was late my Lord went on shore, and after him I and Capt. Sparling went in his boat, but the water being almost at low water we could not stay for fear of not getting into our boat again. So back again. This day come the Lieutenant of the Swiftsure, who was sent by my Lord to Hastings, one of the Cinque Ports, to have got Mr. Edward Montagu to have been one of their burgesses, but could not, for they were all promised before. After he had done his message, I took him and Mr. Pierce, the surgeon (who this day came on board, and not before), to my cabin, where we drank a bottle of wine. At night, busy a-writing, and so to bed. My heart exceeding heavy for not hearing of my dear wife, and indeed I do not remember that ever my heart was so apprehensive of her absence as at this very time.

a great knocking in me
and I went down
like a boat at low water

I urge the surgeon on

my heart exceeding my heart

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 3 April 1660.

In the long quiet of the afterhours,

only the hum of crickets. Distantly,

the passage of eighteen-wheelers. 

Some nights, emergency sirens 

and flashing lights. When I can't

go back to sleep, I turn toward 

the window. I don't get up—I just 

lie there. Maybe I'm waiting for 

the moon's milky  light to come

through the blinds; maybe,

the flap of wings or a shingle's

rattle. Some noise, any welcome

noise to let me know there's still

a chance the thing I wish for most

could arrive, though as of now,

I have not heard anything.