Nation, Name

Name, from Middle English. To mention, call,
            anoint, appoint. Nation, from natio, to birth.

Most of us cannot remember our true names
            before we were given the names we bear.

Some names were given to women only
            as derivatives of their husbands' names.

The prefixes to such names simply meant and 
           or of: y, de, de la. My father gave me a surname

that meant eagle or haunt of eagles; the first
           time I shed it to marry, I tried on a new name

meaning affection. Even affection can turn brutal
          or smothering—that didn't become the endgame.

I thought about it carefully when I remarried; and again
          when I raised my right hand in that ritual called 

becoming American. What name do you choose 
          to call yourself, the only country you will ever have?

By the sea

Sam Pepys and me

Up very early, and to get all my things and my boy’s packed up. Great concourse of commanders here this morning to take leave of my Lord upon his going into the Nazeby, so that the table was full, so there dined below many commanders, and Mr. Creed, who was much troubled to hear that he could not go along with my Lord, for he had already got all his things thither, thinking to stay there, but W. Howe was very high against it, and he indeed did put him out, though everybody was glad of it. After dinner I went in one of the boats with my boy before my Lord, and made shift before night to get my cabin in pretty good order. It is but little, but very convenient, having one window to the sea and another to the deck, and a good bed. This morning comes Mr. Ed. Pickering, like a coxcomb as he always was. He tells me that the King will come in, but that Monk did resolve to have the doing of it himself, or else to hinder it.

sand on the table
full of night

but one window
to the sea

and another
morning comes in

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 2 April 1660.

Prayer for Deliverance

Lord, steer me again to the edge
            of those places bristling with thrill—

right there, before the ticket-seller's booth
           while cups and saucers trace their giddy

circles overhead, and the rollercoasters' clatter  
           drowns the cries issuing from our collective

mouths. Whatever lobs the heart and makes it  
          teeter between those old frenemies, terror 

and ecstasy, also pulls it out of the shallow depths 
          where it might have just languished, thinking 

it was no better than the sludge of tea leaf 
          misfortunes. Tug hard on the harness so it 

comes loose from my shoulders; hold the gate 
          open to what lies ahead, inviting full gallop.

Summer medicine

Sam Pepys and me

(Lord’s day). Mr. Ibbott preached very well. After dinner my Lord did give me a private list of all the ships that were to be set out this summer, wherein I do discern that he hath made it his care to put by as much of the Anabaptists as he can. By reason of my Lord and my being busy to send away the packet by Mr. Cooke of the Nazeby, it was four o’clock before we could begin sermon again. This day Captain Guy come on board from Dunkirk, who tells me that the King will come in, and that the soldiers at Dunkirk do drink the King’s health in the streets. At night the Captain, Sir R. Stayner, Mr. Sheply, and I did sup together in the Captain’s cabin. I made a commission for Captain Wilgness, of the Bear, to-night, which got me 30s. So after writing a while I went to bed.

give me a private summer
I can pack a clock

we could begin again
dunk in the drink

heal together
in the mission of the bear

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 1 April 1660.

Time Travelers

how the hours have fallen
from their early days among monks

now they are uniform

save for the odd poet or naturalist
taking minutes like medicine

for whom listening might be
the purest form of devotion

at the bottom of the hollow
two migrant waterthrushes

serenade the stream
its blended whiskery gurgles

just before it vanishes
into a culvert under the railroad

and a freight train’s
ground-shaking metal

i climb into the sun
of mourning cloaks

the pale edges of their wings
dazzle like blades

as they chase and battle
over an open patch of ground

crossed by the shadows
of slow vultures

i come to a clearing where all
the oaks have died

for a pair of bluebirds

whose blink-and-you-miss-it copulation
releases a torrent of song

it is their golden hour
round and endless

here they will ravel detritus
into a nest