Stealthy

Up betimes, and vexed with my people for having a key taken out of the chamber doors and nobody knew where it was, as also with my boy for not being ready as soon as I, though I called him, whereupon I boxed him soundly, and then to my business at the office and on the Victualling Office, and thence by water to St. James’s, whither he is now gone, it being a monthly fast-day for the plague. There we all met, and did our business as usual with the Duke, and among other things had Captain Cocke’s proposal of East country goods read, brought by my Lord Bruncker, which I make use of as a monkey do the cat’s foot. Sir W. Coventry did much oppose it, and it’s likely it will not do; so away goes my hopes of 500l..
Thence after the Duke into the Parke, walking through to White Hall, and there every body listening for guns, but none heard, and every creature is now overjoyed and concludes upon very good grounds that the Dutch are beaten because we have heard no guns nor no newes of our fleete. By and by walking a little further, Sir Philip Frowde did meet the Duke with an expresse to Sir W. Coventry (who was by) from Captain Taylor, the Storekeeper at Harwich, being the narration of Captain Hayward of The Dunkirke; who gives a very serious account, how upon Monday the two fleetes fought all day till seven at night, and then the whole fleete of Dutch did betake themselves to a very plain flight, and never looked back again. That Sir Christopher Mings is wounded in the leg; that the Generall is well. That it is conceived reasonably, that of all the Dutch fleete, which, with what recruits they had, come to one hundred sayle, there is not above fifty got home; and of them, few if any of their flags. And that little Captain Bell, in one of the fire-ships, did at the end of the day fire a ship of 70 guns.
We were all so overtaken with this good newes, that the Duke ran with it to the King, who was gone to chappell, and there all the Court was in a hubbub, being rejoiced over head and ears in this good newes.
Away go I by coach to the New Exchange, and there did spread this good newes a little, though I find it had broke out before. And so home to our own church, it being the common Fast-day, and it was just before sermon; but, Lord! how all the people in the church stared upon me to see me whisper to Sir John Minnes and my Lady Pen. Anon I saw people stirring and whispering below, and by and by comes up the sexton from my Lady Ford to tell me the newes (which I had brought), being now sent into the church by Sir W. Batten in writing, and handed from pew to pew. But that which pleased me as much as the newes, was, to have the fair Mrs. Middleton at our church, who indeed is a very beautiful lady. Here after sermon comes to our office 40 people almost of all sorts and qualities to hear the newes, which I took great delight to tell them. Then home and found my wife at dinner, not knowing of my being at church, and after dinner my father and she out to Hales’s, where my father is to begin to sit to-day for his picture, which I have a desire to have. I all the afternoon at home doing some business, drawing up my vowes for the rest of the yeare to Christmas; but, Lord! to see in what a condition of happiness I am, if I would but keepe myself so; but my love of pleasure is such, that my very soul is angry with itself for my vanity in so doing. Anon took coach and to Hales’s, but he was gone out, and my father and wife gone. So I to Lovett’s, and there to my trouble saw plainly that my project of varnished books will not take, it not keeping colour, not being able to take polishing upon a single paper. Thence home, and my father and wife not coming in, I proceeded with my coach to take a little ayre as far as Bow all alone, and there turned back and home; but before I got home, the bonefires were lighted all the towne over, and I going through Crouched Friars, seeing Mercer at her mother’s gate, stopped, and ‘light, and into her mother’s, the first time I ever was there, and find all my people, father and all, at a very fine supper at W. Hewer’s lodging, very neatly, and to my great pleasure. After supper, into his chamber, which is mighty fine with pictures and every thing else, very curious, which pleased me exceedingly. Thence to the gate, with the women all about me, and Mrs. Mercer’s son had provided a great many serpents, and so I made the women all fire some serpents. By and by comes in our faire neighbour, Mrs. Turner, and two neighbour’s daughters, Mrs. Tite, the elder of whom, a long red-nosed silly jade; the younger, a pretty black girle, and the merriest sprightly jade that ever I saw. With them idled away the whole night till twelve at night at the bonefire in the streets. Some of the people thereabouts going about with musquets, and did give me two or three vollies of their musquets, I giving them a crowne to drink; and so home. Mightily pleased with this happy day’s newes, and the more, because confirmed by Sir Daniel Harvy, who was in the whole fight with the Generall, and tells me that there appear but thirty-six in all of the Dutch fleete left at the end of the voyage when they run home. The joy of the City was this night exceeding great.

the sound of a cat’s foot
like the ground in flight

a little fire whispering up
the bat in the church

so light a wing to polish
the bone of the ear


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 6 June 1666.

midnight snail

View on Vimeo.

The process for making this videohaiku was a bit more convoluted than most. It started with my shooting a pretty good video of a snail descending a dead vine in the garden and continued with several days of adequate but not amazing haiku drafts. Then a long and varied open-mike reading (36 readers!) at London’s Poetry Cafe last night kind of re-set my thinking on the train ride home, and the haiku had taken a dramatically different direction by the time I started the short walk home. Then I encountered the snail in the video above, crossing the sidewalk of our residential street. The iPhone isn’t brilliant at shooting video in low light, but when I looked at the footage on my laptop this morning, I really liked all the glisteny bits. A bit of web research and a short walk later, I had the haiku I ended up using.

I mention all this in part to make the point that haiku are rarely easy to write, despite—or because—they are so short. (And I’m grateful to the host of the open mike reading, Niall O’Sullivan, for making that point at last night’s reading as well, in response to my sharing a couple of haibun. He then launched into a mini rant against 5-7-5 folk haiku, which was quite amusing. I see from his website that this is a regular theme of his.)

The snail is Cornu aspersum, the garden snail or Mediterranean land snail—the same species prized for escargots. It’s considered native here, though I suspect the Romans introduced it for culinary purposes.

Swamp

Up, and to the office, where all the morning, expecting every houre more newes of the fleete and the issue of yesterday’s fight, but nothing come. At noon, though I should have dined with my Lord Mayor and Aldermen at an entertainment of Commissioner Taylor’s, yet it being a time of expectation of the successe of the fleete, I did not go, but dined at home, and after dinner by water down to Deptford (and Woolwich, where I had not been since I lodged there, and methinks the place has grown natural to me), and thence down to Longreach, calling on all the ships in the way, seeing their condition for sayling, and what they want. Home about 11 of the clock, and so eat a bit and to bed, having received no manner of newes this day, but of The Rainbow’s being put in from the fleete, maimed as the other ships are, and some say that Sir W. Clerke is dead of his leg being cut off.

alder
at the water

down where I had not been
since the place has grown natural

a bit of rainbow
maimed as a dead leg


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 5 June 1666.

Losing strategy

Up, and with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Pen to White Hall in the latter’s coach, where, when we come, we find the Duke at St. James’s, whither he is lately gone to lodge. So walking through the Parke we saw hundreds of people listening at the Gravel-pits, and to and again in the Parke to hear the guns, and I saw a letter, dated last night, from Strowd, Governor of Dover Castle, which says that the Prince come thither the night before with his fleete, but that for the guns which we writ that we heard, it is only a mistake for thunder; and so far as to yesterday it is a miraculous thing that we all Friday, and Saturday and yesterday, did hear every where most plainly the guns go off, and yet at Deale and Dover to last night they did not hear one word of a fight, nor think they heard one gun. This, added to what I have set down before the other day about the Katharine, makes room for a great dispute in philosophy, how we should hear it and they not, the same wind that brought it to us being the same that should bring it to them: but so it is.
Major Halsey, however (he was sent down on purpose to hear newes), did bring newes this morning that he did see the Prince and his fleete at nine of the clock yesterday morning, four or five leagues to sea behind the Goodwin, so that by the hearing of the guns this morning we conclude he is come to the fleete.
After wayting upon the Duke, Sir W. Pen (who was commanded to go to-night by water down to Harwich, to dispatch away all the ships he can) and I home, drinking two bottles of Cocke ale in the streete in his new fine coach, where no sooner come, but newes is brought me of a couple of men come to speak with me from the fleete; so I down, and who should it be but Mr. Daniel, all muffled up, and his face as black as the chimney, and covered with dirt, pitch, and tarr, and powder, and muffled with dirty clouts, and his right eye stopped with okum. He is come last night at five o’clock from the fleete, with a comrade of his that hath endangered another eye. They were set on shore at Harwich this morning, and at two o’clock, in a catch with about twenty more wounded men from the Royall Charles.
They being able to ride, took post about three this morning, and were here between eleven and twelve. I went presently into the coach with them, and carried them to Somerset-House-stairs, and there took water (all the world gazing upon us, and concluding it to be newes from the fleete, and every body’s face appeared expecting of newes) to the Privy-stairs, and left them at Mr. Coventry’s lodging (he, though, not being there); and so I into the Parke to the King, and told him my Lord Generall was well the last night at five o’clock, and the Prince come with his fleete and joyned with his about seven. The King was mightily pleased with this newes, and so took me by the hand and talked a little of it. Giving him the best account I could; and then he bid me to fetch the two seamen to him, he walking into the house. So I went and fetched the seamen into the Vane room to him, and there he heard the whole account.
THE FIGHT.
How we found the Dutch fleete at anchor on Friday half seas over, between Dunkirke and Ostend, and made them let slip their anchors. They about ninety, and we less than sixty. We fought them, and put them to the run, till they met with about sixteen sail of fresh ships, and so bore up again. The fight continued till night, and then again the next morning from five till seven at night. And so, too, yesterday morning they begun again, and continued till about four o’clock, they chasing us for the most part of Saturday and yesterday, we flying from them. The Duke himself, then those people were put into the catch, and by and by spied the Prince’s fleete coming, upon which De Ruyter called a little council (being in chase at this time of us), and thereupon their fleete divided into two squadrons; forty in one, and about thirty in the other (the fleete being at first about ninety, but by one accident or other, supposed to be lessened to about seventy); the bigger to follow the Duke, the less to meet the Prince. But the Prince come up with the Generall’s fleete, and the Dutch come together again and bore towards their own coast, and we with them; and now what the consequence of this day will be, at that time fighting, we know not. The Duke was forced to come to anchor on Friday, having lost his sails and rigging. No particular person spoken of to be hurt but Sir W. Clerke, who hath lost his leg, and bore it bravely. The Duke himself had a little hurt in his thigh, but signified little.
The King did pull out of his pocket about twenty pieces in gold, and did give it Daniel for himself and his companion; and so parted, mightily pleased with the account he did give him of the fight, and the successe it ended with, of the Prince’s coming, though it seems the Duke did give way again and again. The King did give order for care to be had of Mr. Daniel and his companion; and so we parted from him, and then met the Duke [of York], and gave him the same account: and so broke up, and I left them going to the surgeon’s and I myself by water to the ‘Change, and to several people did give account of the business. So home about four o’clock to dinner, and was followed by several people to be told the newes, and good newes it is. God send we may hear a good issue of this day’s business!
After I had eat something I walked to Gresham College, where I heard my Lord Bruncker was, and there got a promise of the receipt of the fine varnish, which I shall be glad to have. Thence back with Mr. Hooke to my house and there lent some of my tables of naval matters, the names of rigging and the timbers about a ship, in order to Dr. Wilkins’ book coming out about the Universal Language.
Thence, he being gone, to the Crown, behind the ‘Change, and there supped at the club with my Lord Bruncker, Sir G. Ent, and others of Gresham College; and all our discourse is of this fight at sea, and all are doubtful of the successe, and conclude all had been lost if the Prince had not come in, they having chased us the greatest part of Saturday and Sunday.
Thence with my Lord Bruncker and Creed by coach to White Hall, where fresh letters are come from Harwich, where the Gloucester, Captain Clerke, is come in, and says that on Sunday night upon coming in of the Prince, the Duke did fly; but all this day they have been fighting; therefore they did face again, to be sure. Captain Bacon of The Bristoll is killed. They cry up Jenings of The Ruby, and Saunders of The Sweepstakes. They condemn mightily Sir Thomas Teddiman for a coward, but with what reason time must shew.
Having heard all this Creed and I walked into the Parke till 9 or 10 at night, it being fine moonshine, discoursing of the unhappinesse of our fleete, what it would have been if the Prince had not come in, how much the Duke hath failed of what he was so presumptuous of, how little we deserve of God Almighty to give us better fortune, how much this excuses all that was imputed to my Lord Sandwich, and how much more he is a man fit to be trusted with all those matters than those that now command, who act by nor with any advice, but rashly and without any order. How bad we are at intelligence that should give the Prince no sooner notice of any thing but let him come to Dover without notice of any fight, or where the fleete were, or any thing else, nor give the Duke any notice that he might depend upon the Prince’s reserve; and lastly, of how good use all may be to checke our pride and presumption in adventuring upon hazards upon unequal force against a people that can fight, it seems now, as well as we, and that will not be discouraged by any losses, but that they will rise again.
Thence by water home, and to supper (my father, wife, and sister having been at Islington today at Pitt’s) and to bed.

flee fight flee flee
flee flee flee flee

FIGHT flee fight flee
flee flee flee fight

fight fight fight flee
fight flee fight


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 4 June 1666 (account of the Four Days’ Battle).

Oh say can you see

(Lord’s-day; Whit-sunday). Up, and by water to White Hall, and there met with Mr. Coventry, who tells me the only news from the fleete is brought by Captain Elliott, of The Portland, which, by being run on board by The Guernsey, was disabled from staying abroad; so is come in to Aldbrough. That he saw one of the Dutch great ships blown up, and three on fire. That they begun to fight on Friday; and at his coming into port, he could make another ship of the King’s coming in, which he judged to be the Rupert: that he knows of no other hurt to our ships.
With this good newes I home by water again, and to church in the sermon-time, and with great joy told it my fellows in the pew. So home after church time to dinner, and after dinner my father, wife, sister, and Mercer by water to Woolwich, while I walked by land, and saw the Exchange as full of people, and hath been all this noon as of any other day, only for newes.
I to St. Margaret’s, Westminster, and there saw at church my pretty Betty Michell, and thence to the Abbey, and so to Mrs. Martin, and there did what ‘je voudrais avec her, both devante and backward, which is also muy bon plazer. So by and by he come in, and after some discourse with him I away to White Hall, and there met with this bad newes farther, that the Prince come to Dover but at ten o’clock last night, and there heard nothing of a fight; so that we are defeated of all our hopes of his helpe to the fleete. It is also reported by some Victuallers that the Duke of Albemarle and Holmes their flags were shot down, and both fain to come to anchor to renew their rigging and sails.
A letter is also come this afternoon, from Harman in the Henery; which is she [that] was taken by Elliott for the Rupert; that being fallen into the body of the Dutch fleete, he made his way through them, was set on by three fire-ships one after another, got two of them off, and disabled the third; was set on fire himself; upon which many of his men leapt into the sea and perished; among others, the parson first. Have lost above 100 men, and a good many women (God knows what is become of Balty), and at last quenched his own fire and got to Aldbrough; being, as all say, the greatest hazard that ever any ship escaped, and as bravely managed by him. The mast of the third fire-ship fell into their ship on fire, and hurt Harman’s leg, which makes him lame now, but not dangerous.
I to Sir G. Carteret, who told me there hath been great bad management in all this; that the King’s orders that went on Friday for calling back the Prince, were sent but by the ordinary post on Wednesday; and come to the Prince his hands but on Friday; and then, instead of sailing presently, he stays till four in the evening. And that which is worst of all, the Hampshire, laden with merchants’ money, come from the Straights, set out with or but just before the fleete, and was in the Downes by five in the clock yesterday morning; and the Prince with his fleete come to Dover but at ten of the clock at night. This is hard to answer, if it be true. This puts great astonishment into the King, and Duke, and Court, every body being out of countenance. So meeting Creed, he and I by coach to Hide Parke alone to talke of these things, and do blesse God that my Lord Sandwich was not here at this time to be concerned in a business like to be so misfortunate.
It was a pleasant thing to consider how fearfull I was of being seen with Creed all this afternoon, for fear of people’s thinking that by our relation to my Lord Sandwich we should be making ill construction of the Prince’s failure. But, God knows, I am heartily sorry for the sake of the whole nation, though, if it were not for that, it would not be amisse to have these high blades find some checke to their presumption and their disparaging of as good men.
Thence set him down in Covent Guarden and so home by the ‘Change, which is full of people still, and all talk highly of the failure of the Prince in not making more haste after his instructions did come, and of our managements here in not giving it sooner and with more care and oftener thence.
After supper to bed.

news is a blown-on fire
becoming our backward flag

not a dangerous thing
like people thinking

or a heart sorry for the whole high
disparaging of care


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 3 June 1666.

Poetry Blog Digest 2019: Week 23

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 found poetry bloggers pondering existential themes: being at home, surviving, healing, cultivating acceptance, dealing with digital ghosts, coming to terms with evil, learning from trees, (not) procrastinating, being whole.


No matter the journey. No matter other roads taken. No matter you misplaced the map of your life behind a wheel of grief. No matter you took a multitude of detours.

Because as you look out the plane window, you understand the agency of this place. How it has been etched in your mind over decades of slow accrual through streams you have fished, forests you have hiked, mountains you have climbed, lakes you have swam in, oceans you have sailed.

And how like its great river that flows to the sea, it also flows through you, and you call it by name—home.

Carey Taylor, Return Flight

It seems to me that all the poets I originally gravitated towards, and whose books I bought were ‘northern’. Or, at the least, not metropolitan. When they weren’t self-evidently ‘northern’ they were ‘regional’; they came with distinct voices that could not be described as RP, and would lose something important if they were read in RP…and I guess that what they would lose would be music, rhythm, texture. I’ve shared the idea with other writers that this poetry was somehow more ‘committed’, less inclined to be ironic, more inclined to wear its heart on its sleeve. I know it’s teetering on the edge of a generalising sentimentality, but I’m trying hard to be honest, to nail some kind of felt truth. One of my northern poet friends opined that ‘metropolitan’ poetry was ‘too cool for school’, that it prided itself in its avoidance of a felt emotional engagement. I don’t know if that’s accurate or fair. But something about it resonates enough for me to want to try to pin down that elusive idea of ‘north’ and ‘northernness’.

Let’s start with ‘accent’, and (predictably) with a quotation from Tony Harrison’s ‘Them and Uz’.

“All poetry (even Cockney Keats?) you see 
‘s been dubbed by [ɅS] into RP, 
Received Pronunciation please believe [ɅS] 
your speech is in the hands of the Receivers”

Harrison spoke for tens of thousands of us who, in the 50’s, were harried for our accents in the Grammar Schools we sat scholarships to get into. It goes deeper than accent…which we can train ourselves to change. It springs from lexis, the words themselves, their resonance, their heft and texture. All the Old English, Germanic, Scandinavian words.

John Foggin, Northwords: Bob Beagrie

It took a long time to get here,
sailing, drifting, 
and dreaming, curled,

homesick 
and world-sick,

so much alike,
the young and the old.

Past lives peeled off like skins,
and I turned and tumbled and traveled

only to find myself 
in front of these closed gates.

Claudia Serea, Young/Old

I started counting the months that we’ve been recovering.  We’re mostly recovered in the big house, except for some of the difficult decisions about what comes back in the house from the cottage.  But the cottage needs serious attention, and I am just so tired.

I’m also thinking of a poem I wrote years ago.  I got the title from a powerful essay by Philip Gerard that appears in one of the very first books about how to teach creative non-fiction.  My poem was written years after after Hurricane Wilma (which wreaked devestation in 2 months after Katrina, just after we had finished up our hurricane Katrina clean-up) when I found myself weeping in the car, flooded by post-hurricane despair, even though the clean-up had been done and regular life mostly restored:

What They Don’t Tell You About Hurricanes

You expected the ache in your lazy
muscles, as you hauled debris
to the curb, day after day.

You expected your insurance
agent to treat
you like a lover spurned.

You expected to curse
your bad luck,
but then feel grateful
when you met someone suffering
an even more devastating loss.

You did not expect
that months, even years afterwards
you would find yourself inexplicably
weeping in your car, parked
in a garage that overlooks
an industrial wasteland.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Hurricane Season Begins

I spent almost a whole day going to my hematologist down at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. My doctor there I have known for fifteen years. The last time we talked it was when we thought I might be dying of liver cancer, and we talked about safe biopsies and chemo and surgery obstacles. This time I brought her my newest book and we discussed my mild anemia (she’s worried about it, but I’m not) and MS drug risks and pain drugs and pain clinic consultations. I sat in the reclining chairs watching the beautiful Puget sound blue by all the people getting chemo and waiting to get chemo. I wound through the blood lab around patients much worse off than me. It gives you perspective, these kinds of visits. The doctor, which was very unusual, gave me a hug at the end of the appointment. It felt like a blessing, a sort of hopeful encouragement. I walked out into the rainy early evening, feeling the ghost of my previous experiences, of the fear of death, and the gratefulness of feeling alive.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Poems Up at WordGathering, Woodinville Wine Country, and a Day at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

I walked up to Renshin afterward and said: I have a problem with this idea. There is a similar concept in Byron Katie, that you can’t argue with life because it’s perfect exactly as it is. And it shows up in all kinds of Zen books. It makes a certain kind of sense, and it does help in achieving a certain level of equanimity. But it’s one thing for me to apply that insight to my own life, another thing entirely to tell someone else that.

Ah, but you’re making a big jump there, Renshin said. Who said anything about telling someone else what to do or what to think?

And then she added: Watch out for that first step – it’s a doozy.

I was briefly stunned. She had in fact identified something about the way my particular mind works, and showed it to me in a few seconds of casual conversation. All I could think to do was bow.

Later, as I was leaving, I was sort of backing out the front door of the church while saying goodbye to a few people in the breezeway. And I almost fell over because there was a step down from the door – a tiny little step.

stumbling ::
the gap between the sky
and the ground

D. F. Tweney, Watch out for that first step

So how can I react to these digital ghosts and the griefs they awaken: online reminders of my wedding, or of my mother who has died, or of friendships that evaporated or hopes that didn’t come to pass? The only answer I have is to feel whatever I feel — the sorrow, the wistfulness, the regret — and to thank my heart for its capacity to feel both the bitter and the sweet.

And I can choose to be real, even in digital spaces. Even when what’s real is a hurt or an ache, a memory or a sorrow. Because I think being real with ourselves and one another is what we’re here for in this life. Because I think spiritual life asks our authenticity. Because life is too short for pretense. Because being real comes with its own blessings, its own reward.

Rachel Barenblat, Fragments: digital ghosts, gratitude, and grief

Here is what I want you to know about the silence, still as death and colder: it moved from you to me, see, here in this bonecage gone titanium, this immune system propped by goblin armies:
 
couplets emerge from scar, relentlessly enjambed. This body is a verse form dealing with both loss and love, but choked by anaphylaxis there is no scheme. The poet’s moniker appears at the end.
 
Once I took you all the way in, once I choked. They are peculiar twins, vulnerability and memory: I am made and remade as neural network linking like things, a synesthesia.

JJS, June 4, 2019: Ghazalish, The Flood

John Sibley Williams’ As One Fire Consumes Another presents a familiar world full of burnings carried out on both the grand and intimate scale. I love the way the newspaper-like columns of prose poetry in his work provide a social critique of violence in American culture while working within the boundaries of self, family, and the natural world. The book permeates an apocalyptic tension, but what makes it so great is the way in which his poems envision the kind of fires that not only provide destruction but also illuminate a spark of hope.  And I also interviewed Williams about his book, which will be coming out on NBP podcast soon (seems like most of my poetry reading is focused around my podcasting work these days).  

Andrea Blythe, Culture Consumption: May 2019

There was a rash of gang shootings in Seattle over the last month, and my precious, gentle friend and co-worker recently saw the fresh body of a seventeen-year-old kid shot to death, bleeding out on the sidewalk at the hospital campus she works at. I didn’t realize the extent of her trauma until a recent get-together with my colleagues from my hospital’s other campuses. My co-worker is someone who I would consider a classic “good person,” a warm, kind human being who is probably a little too trusting. Part of her trauma came from the shock of seeing true evil at play. 

I am coming to realize that it’s been been a luxury for me to go through life believing that people are essentially good. We hear about horrible things happening all of the time, but until we come face to face with them, they remain more or less theoretical. We can’t really process that human beings have darkness and savagery within them until we see something like that. And because we don’t see it in other people, it’s very hard to see it in ourselves. And that’s the really dangerous part. In trying to process this local tragedy, I spent the morning listening to a podcast about the much bigger and far more atrocious My Lai massacre. It drove home to me how important it is to not get complacent about our own potential for evil. Believing that humanity is essentially good is dangerous and foolish. We have to face the truth of who we are as human beings and be vigilant, or we will fall to prey to savagery, violence and acts of inhumanity, no matter how “good” we convince ourselves we are. 

Kristen McHenry, Good People, Dark Places

A great deal of thought and planning had gone into the manner of the preservation of Bergen-Belsen. The absence of any of the accommodation huts, the vehicle parks, the workshops, the guards’ quarters, the administrative buildings that had once filled the grim estate and the restitution of the heathland and copses that had gone under their foundations creates a powerfully moving sense of a territory both haunted by the unendurable horrors of the past and yet now salved and dignified by nature. It’s an extraordinary place – an eloquent testimony both to utter destruction and tenacious survival. I shall never forget our quiet, slow day amongst the harebells and the graves.

ARTEFACTS

There is the heaped equality
of spectacles, the comfort
of linked arms –
wire, gold and tortoiseshell,
the white opacity
of the tilted lens.

There is the kicking scramble
of empty shoes, piled
like bean pods, shelled
of movement, scuffed and dusty
from the longest walk
in the world.

There is the hollow clothing,
the empty-handed gloves,
the headless hats and cap,
the hanks of hair, bagged,
sprung teeth in boxes,
stamped and labelled.

Bones we know;
we scrambled up and out
of the millennium
on bones.  These clothes,
these artefacts endure,
undiminished, unconsumed.

Dick Jones, BERGEN-BELSEN

I’ve been thinking about trees because I’m reading Peter Wohlleben’s 2016 book The Hidden Life of Trees. The text reads like a friendly forester inviting readers to learn what he loves about trees and their encounters with us, with the environment (soil, air, sun, water, pollutants, pests, fungi), and with one another. I have to say I remain somewhat skeptical about the scientific veracity of his source material, but I do enjoy his warm enthusiasm for his subjects and his reminders that we humans don’t know even the smallest fraction of what goes on in the planet’s interconnected and unplumbed depths.

Although some critics object to what they see as too much anthropomorphism in Wohllebehn’s book, his use of the analogy of the human and the tree “bodies” makes his information about how trees and forests work easy to grasp.

For science nerds, there are other texts. The Hidden Life of Trees is meant to make the less scientifically-inclined reader more aware of his or her environment, to convince the average human being to consider plant life more consciously.

~

I take many photos of trees; and they appear in my poems pretty regularly, not as main characters but in supporting roles–not symbolic, but actual. Wohllebehn’s book may influence my work somehow…possible inspiration? But then, the trees themselves, especially the oldest ones, are inspiration enough.

Ann E. Michael, Trees

This is a beautiful and gentle book.  It does not claim to be poetry, but it is written by a poet and it begins with a powerful image, comparing the children of a large family to pansies, which “are a persistent breed.  They take to the same soil, year after year.”  If you didn’t read the back of the book it would take you until the third of these finely crafted vignettes to find out what is going on; this is the story of a compassionate woman who needs a babysitter and ends up learning about a sub-culture very different from her own.  The young woman she hires teaches her bit by bit about another way of living, of understanding one’s place in the world.

Young people, who only hear bad stories about different peoples, such as Muslims or unwanted immigrants, should read this book.  So should those who are older and weary of bad news.  The writing is concise, elegant, and honest about the narrator’s mistakes and misunderstandings, as well as about the limits to the relationship.

No, these are not prose poems, but they are close cousins.  I will share it with my poetry group and I expect that they will like it as well as I do.

Ellen Roberts Young, Recommendation: Pansies by Carol Barrett

When we were in our first years of library programming endeavors, people often wondered how we had so many ideas.  For workshops, for panels, for focus topics.  What I didn’t share were the back burners, or the ones that were a little too costly or the effort vs result ratio was poor.  I have suggestions for workshop ideas in my notebook that have been there for 3 or more years that I’m still hoping to make happen down the line. And maybe they’ll happen, or maybe they’ll get pushed out of the way by newer, better ideas.

In my notebook, there is a page full of tiny post-its for art projects, another with writing projects.   Another with anthology projects and other press doings.  Another with crafty things I’d like to make for the shop.  This is all in addition to the half finished things–like unusual creatures, postcards from the blue swallow, the mermaid anthology, swim. They stand like a weight in my other hand while the things I do finish or see to the end balance in the other.  I try not to let them get too out of whack, otherwise I flounder about feeling like I never finish anything I’ve started.  But I remind myself I do.  Just not those particular  things.

Kristy Bowen, on ideas, and too many of them

This also made me remember something that happened in (or to) my writing life many years ago. My daughters were young, I had my first full-time teaching job, and I told a writing friend that I would write…later. I may have said that maybe I wouldn’t ever get back to writing. In any case, I gave the clear impression that despite an MFA in poetry and all my huge writing goals, which my friend knew all about, I was going to put off writing.

She wrote me a letter — old school, sat down and wrote it in long-hand and mailed it to me (of course, that happened more often back then, but we did have email). She said something like this:

No one cares if you write. The world is not going to come and pound on your door and insist that you write. No one will miss it if you don’t write. They won’t even know. Meanwhile, life will unfold. You’ll get older. You’ll get farther and farther from your writing dreams. Eventually you’ll say to your grandchildren, “I used to write.” But your grandchildren won’t especially care either. It makes no difference whether you write or not. EXCEPT TO YOU. A place inside YOU will dry up and never be expressed if you don’t write. YOU will miss it. YOU will care. The only way to keep your writing alive, to keep this important part of yourself alive, is to write.

I probably have this letter somewhere. I should have framed it. I took it seriously (even though it was like that small, inner voice that I so often don’t heed). And I kept writing. Often, I didn’t have much time; I had little kids for a lot of years; I had a teaching career; I had teenagers and a mother who was ill. Nonetheless, I made a little time every day and I wrote. Some days the little bit of time turned into enough time.

And it has mattered. It has mattered to me. Writing has sustained me and saved me and even made things like parenting and teaching richer and more enjoyable. I am glad that I kept writing.

Bethany Reid, Procrastination Kills

A hot day. That’s OK. If I hated the heat I wouldn’t love the Sacramento Valley like I do. I like a hot, dry summer and a cool, wet winter. 

There’s a lot going on. There’s my two on-going poetry reading series. There’s the events I attend as poet laureate, another one tomorrow. I am giving a reading in Sacramento this coming Monday. The homeless shelter where I volunteer as a board member is always active. My church is always active. My wife and I are part of an extended family group that I love very much. And then there’s all the chores that I put off. Never put off for tomorrow the procrastination you can do today.

And I love all those things. But what do I love best? Simply being. I meditate twice a day, write poems, wander around town. There’s a park right across the street from my house. I can watch the light changing against the huge pine trees as the hours pass. There’s an owl – at least one. At night, when it’s cool I like to go out there and listen for the owl. 2 AM, 3 AM, just whenever I happen to wake up. I see what the clouds and the moon are up to. Then I go back to bed.

And you?

James Lee Jobe, Journal Update – 04 June 2019

That Poem You Wrote

             is only half of something unsaid
hold it                next to the mirror
             so that it looks                 whole

do you look whole?      how

             can you tell?

Romana Iorga, That Poem You Wrote

Gun lover

Up, and to the office, where certain newes is brought us of a letter come to the King this morning from the Duke of Albemarle, dated yesterday at eleven o’clock, as they were sailing to the Gunfleete, that they were in sight of the Dutch fleete, and were fitting themselves to fight them; so that they are, ere this, certainly engaged; besides, several do averr they heard the guns all yesterday in the afternoon. This put us at the Board into a tosse.
Presently come orders for our sending away to the fleete a recruite of 200 soldiers. So I rose from the table, and to the Victualling office, and thence upon the River among several vessels, to consider of the sending them away; and lastly, down to Greenwich, and there appointed two yachts to be ready for them; and did order the soldiers to march to Blackewall. Having set all things in order against the next flood, I went on shore with Captain Erwin at Greenwich, and into the Parke, and there we could hear the guns from the fleete most plainly. Thence he and I to the King’s Head and there bespoke a dish of steaks for our dinner about four o’clock. While that was doing, we walked to the water-side, and there seeing the King and Duke come down in their barge to Greenwich-house, I to them, and did give them an account [of] what I was doing. They went up to the Parke to hear the guns of the fleete go off. All our hopes now are that Prince Rupert with his fleete is coming back and will be with the fleete this even: a message being sent to him to that purpose on Wednesday last; and a return is come from him this morning, that he did intend to sail from St. Ellen’s point about four in the afternoon on Wednesday [Friday], which was yesterday; which gives us great hopes, the wind being very fair, that he is with them this even, and the fresh going off of the guns makes us believe the same.
After dinner, having nothing else to do till flood, I went and saw Mrs. Daniel, to whom I did not tell that the fleets were engaged, because of her husband, who is in the R. Charles. Very pleasant with her half an hour, and so away and down to Blackewall, and there saw the soldiers (who were by this time gotten most of them drunk) shipped off. But, Lord! to see how the poor fellows kissed their wives and sweethearts in that simple manner at their going off, and shouted, and let off their guns, was strange sport.
In the evening come up the River the Katharine yacht, Captain Fazeby, who hath brought over my Lord of Aylesbury and Sir Thomas Liddall (with a very pretty daughter, and in a pretty travelling-dress) from Flanders, who saw the Dutch fleete on Thursday, and ran from them; but from that houre to this hath not heard one gun, nor any newes of any fight.
Having put the soldiers on board, I home and wrote what I had to write by the post, and so home to supper and to bed, it being late.

the certain clock of a gun

the fleet rose of a gun

the plain dish of a gun

the drunk kiss of a gun


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 2 June 1666.

Simulacra

Being prevented yesterday in meeting by reason of the fast day, we met to-day all the morning. At noon I and my father, wife and sister, dined at Aunt Wight’s here hard by at Mr. Woolly’s, upon sudden warning, they being to go out of town to-morrow. Here dined the faire Mrs. Margaret Wight, who is a very fine lady, but the cast of her eye, got only by an ill habit, do her much wrong and her hands are bad; but she hath the face of a noble Roman lady. After dinner my uncle and Woolly and I out into their yarde, to talke about what may be done hereafter to all our profits by prizegoods, which did give us reason to lament the losse of the opportunity of the last yeare, which, if we were as wise as we are now, and at the peaceable end of all those troubles that we met with, all might have been such a hit as will never come again in this age, and so I do really believe it. Thence home to my office and there did much business, and at night home to my father to supper and to bed.

o my woolly eye
and woolly ear

if we were as wise as we are now
we might have become real


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 1 June 1666.

dog walking

View on Vimeo.

The first draft of this haiku was considerably cleverer, complete with a self-reflexive pun, but ultimately simpler was better, I thought. Especially if the video is black and white.

Flies on the table

Waked very betimes in the morning by extraordinary thunder and rain, which did keep me sleeping and waking till very late, and it being a holiday and my eye very sore, and myself having had very little sleep for a good while till nine o’clock, and so up, and so saw all my family up, and my father and sister, who is a pretty good-bodied woman, and not over thicke, as I thought she would have been, but full of freckles, and not handsome in face. And so I out by water among the ships, and to Deptford and Blackewall about business, and so home and to dinner with my father and sister and family, mighty pleasant all of us; and, among other things, with a sparrow that our Mercer hath brought up now for three weeks, which is so tame that it flies up and down, and upon the table, and eats and pecks, and do everything so pleasantly, that we are mightily pleased with it.
After dinner I to my papers and accounts of this month to sett all straight, it being a publique Fastday appointed to pray for the good successe of the fleete. But it is a pretty thing to consider how little a matter they make of this keeping of a Fast, that it was not so much as declared time enough to be read in the churches the last Sunday; but ordered by proclamation since: I suppose upon some sudden newes of the Dutch being come out.
To my accounts and settled them clear; but to my grief find myself poorer than I was the last by near 20l., by reason of my being forced to return 50l. to Downing, the smith, which he had presented me with. However, I am well contented, finding myself yet to be worth 5,200l..
Having done, to supper with my wife, and then to finish the writing fair of my accounts, and so to bed.
This day come to town Mr. Homewood, and I took him home in the evening to my chamber, and discoursed with him about my business of the Victualling, which I have a mind to employ him in, and he is desirous of also, but do very ingenuously declare he understands it not so well as other things, and desires to be informed in the nature of it before he attempts it, which I like well, and so I carried him to Mr. Gibson to discourse with him about it, and so home again to my accounts.
Thus ends this month, with my mind oppressed by my defect in my duty of the Victualling, which lies upon me as a burden, till I get myself into a better posture therein, and hinders me and casts down my courage in every thing else that belongs to me, and the jealousy I have of Sir W. Coventry’s being displeased with me about it; but I hope in a little time to remedy all.
As to publique business; by late tidings of the French fleete being come to Rochelle (how true, though, I know not) our fleete is divided; Prince Rupert being gone with about thirty ships to the Westward as is conceived to meet the French, to hinder their coming to join with the Dutch.
My Lord Duke of Albemarle lies in the Downes with the rest, and intends presently to sail to the Gunfleete.

flies on the table
this fast day
pray for us


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 31 May 1666.