Politics

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up pretty betimes and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon I home to dinner, where uncle Thomas dined with me, as he do every quarter, and I paid him his pension; and also comes Mr. Hollier a little fuddled, and so did talk nothing but Latin, and laugh, that it was very good sport to see a sober man in such a humour, though he was not drunk to scandal. At dinner comes a summons for this office and the Victualler to attend a Committee of Parliament this afternoon, with Sir D. Gawden, which I accordingly did, with my papers relating to the sending of victuals to Sir John Harman’s fleete; and there, Sir R. Brookes in the chair, we did give them a full account, but, Lord! to see how full they are and immoveable in their jealousy that some means are used to keep Harman from coming home, for they have an implacable desire to know the bottom of the not improving the first victory, and would lay it upon Brouncker. Having given them good satisfaction I away thence, up and down, wanting a little to see whether I could get Mrs. Burroughes out, but elle being in the shop ego did speak con her much, she could not then go far, and so I took coach and away to Unthanke’s, and there took up my wife and Deb., and to the Park, where, being in a hackney, and they undressed, was ashamed to go into the tour, but went round the park, and so with pleasure home, where Mr. Pelling come and sat and talked late with us, and he being gone, I called Deb. to take pen, ink, and paper and write down what things come into my head for my wife to do in order to her going into the country, and the girl, writing not so well as she would do, cried, and her mistress construed it to be sullenness, and so away angry with her too, but going to bed she undressed me, and there I did give her good advice and baiser la, elle weeping still; and yo did take her, the first time in my life, sobra mi genu and did poner mi mano sub her jupes and toca su thigh, which did hazer me great pleasure; and so did no more, but besando-la went to my bed.

office scandal
the implacable faction
dressed all in paper

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 31 March 1668

Red clay

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up betimes, and so to the office, there to do business till about 10 o’clock, and then out with my wife and Deb. and W. Hewer by coach to Common-garden Coffee-house, where by appointment I was to meet Harris; which I did, and also Mr. Cooper, the great painter, and Mr. Hales: and thence presently to Mr. Cooper’s house, to see some of his work, which is all in little, but so excellent as, though I must confess I do think the colouring of the flesh to be a little forced, yet the painting is so extraordinary, as I do never expect to see the like again. Here I did see Mrs. Stewart’s picture as when a young maid, and now just done before her having the smallpox: and it would make a man weep to see what she was then, and what she is like to be, by people’s discourse, now. Here I saw my Lord Generall’s picture, and my Lord Arlington and Ashly’s, and several others; but among the rest one Swinfen, that was Secretary to my Lord Manchester, Lord Chamberlain, with Cooling, done so admirably as I never saw any thing: but the misery was, this fellow died in debt, and never paid Cooper for his picture; but, it being seized on by his creditors, among his other goods, after his death, Cooper himself says that he did buy it, and give 25l. out of his purse for it, for what he was to have had but 30l.. Being infinitely satisfied with this sight, and resolving that my wife shall be drawn by him when she comes out of the country, I away with Harris and Hales to the Coffee-house, sending my people away, and there resolve for Hales to begin Harris’s head for me, which I will be at the cost of. After a little talk, I away to White Hall and Westminster, where I find the Parliament still bogling about the raising of this money: and every body’s mouth full now; and Mr. Wren himself tells me that the Duke of York declares to go to sea himself this year; and I perceive it is only on this occasion of distaste of the Parliament against W. Pen’s going, and to prevent the Prince’s: but I think it is mighty hot counsel for the Duke of York at this time to go out of the way; but, Lord! what a pass are all our matters come to! At noon by appointment to Cursitor’s Alley, in Chancery Lane, to meet Captain Cocke and some other creditors of the Navy, and their Counsel, Pemberton, North, Offly, and Charles Porter; and there dined, and talked of the business of the assignments on the Exchequer of the 1,250,000l. on behalf of our creditors; and there I do perceive that the Counsel had heard of my performance in the Parliamenthouse lately, and did value me and what I said accordingly. At dinner we had a great deal of good discourse about Parliament: their number being uncertain, and always at the will of the King to encrease, as he saw reason to erect a new borough. But all concluded that the bane of the Parliament hath been the leaving off the old custom of the places allowing wages to those that served them in Parliament, by which they chose men that understood their business and would attend it, and they could expect an account from, which now they cannot; and so the Parliament is become a company of men unable to give account for the interest of the place they serve for.
Thence, the meeting of the Counsel with the King’s Counsel this afternoon being put off by reason of the death of Serjeant Maynard’s lady, I to White Hall, where the Parliament was to wait on the King; and they did: and it was to be told that he did think fit to tell them that they might expect to be adjourned at Whitsuntide, and that they might make haste to raise their money; but this, I fear, will displease them, who did expect to sit as long as they pleased, and whether this be done by the King upon some new counsel I know not, for the King must be beholding to them till they do settle this business of money. Great talk to-day as if Beaufort was come into the Channel with about 20 ships, and it makes people apprehensive, but yet the Parliament do not stir a bit faster in the business of money. Here I met with Creed, expecting a Committee of Tangier, but the Committee met not, so he and I up and down, having nothing to do, and particularly to the New Cockpit by the King’s Gate in Holborne, but seeing a great deal of rabble we did refuse to go in, but took coach and to Hide Park, and there till all the tour was empty, and so he and I to the Lodge in the Park, and there eat and drank till it was night, and then carried him to White Hall, having had abundance of excellent talk with him in reproach of the times and managements we live under, and so I home, and there to talk and to supper with my wife, and so to bed.

garden
the color of flesh

like a man that died
in a bog

mouth full
of some unheard Thou

in a rough old
custom of the place

to give the sun someone
to be reborn

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 30 March 1668

Poetry Blog Digest 2021, Week 16

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.

Earth Day was this past week, and as cynical as I’ve become about that, what with rampant corporate greenwashing, making everything about consumer behavior rather than policy solutions, etc., I was surprised and pleased by the variety of off-beat and genuinely insightful perspectives I encountered in the poetry blogs. As usual with themed editions of the digest, however, there’s also plenty of interesting miscellaneous stuff toward the end. Enjoy.


The hand knows the pen, and greets it the way old friends do when they meet by accident on the street. The paper is there, waiting. The afternoon gets very quiet, and waits with the kind of patience that one sees in the elderly. An anxious excitement hangs in the air. Dust mites are watching as if they know, as if they understand. It is almost time. In a moment, the poem will begin.

James Lee Jobe, Truth? Sometimes. Not always.

The old masters were never wrong—
Auden knew this. Bruegel, too, understood
our worry: that all wars are plagues.
That plagues are endemic to the human condition.
And when the dead rise, there are those
who don’t even notice.

Christine Klocek-Lim, How to survive in an apocalypse

I’m wary of calls for unity. It’s not that I’m cynical (maybe a little), and I’ve certainly been idealistic in my time; but long experience and lots of stories and histories and my father’s background in how people behave in groups have led to feeling circumspect about unity. It works with people, yes, but it also leads to the worst aspects of tribalism. To the fostering of rigid ideologies. To acts against outliers, to the construct of evil Others. […]

For myself, I choose diversity. The earth manages its diversity wonderfully, even when human beings thwart it. Milkweed seeds and thistle find their ways into monoculture cornfields. Plants and insects gradually populate the rubble we make.

When circumstances keep me in a tribe-like bubble, I read books and poems that show me other perspectives, other climes, other social cultures, cities, classes, geographies–other histories than my own. I find ways to explore, in person or virtually, artwork and film work, drama, music, and dances from places I may never visit but without which I would be less attuned to the World. To its wonders, which are many. Insert here, instead of a unified goal all people “should” achieve, Whitman’s “Kosmos” or Hopkins’ “Pied Beauty” with its line “All things counter, original, spare, strange;” or, more contemporary, Vievee Francis’ glorious “Another Antipastoral” that states:

Don’t you see? I am shedding my skins. I am a paper hive, a wolf spider,
the creeping ivy, the ache of a birch, a heifer, a doc.

Ann E. Michael, Wary of unity

Lately I’ve been thinking about foxes. While walking my dog Red through the neighborhood, we saw (or smelled from Red’s point of view) a fox sunning itself in the middle of the street with a carefree attitude. It lifted its hind leg to scratch an ear as we approached. The mail carrier driving by said he sees that fox and others regularly in different parts of the neighborhood.

A large tract of farmland adjacent to our suburban street was sold a few years ago. A sizable woodland was plowed over and turned into another subdivision, so many of the animals that used to live there have had to migrate. In the last week or so I’ve encountered, wild turkeys, coyotes, Canada geese, mallard ducks, and now, this fox.

Christine Swint, Foxes, Archetypes, and Escape

Woodpigeons hunch on the open fence
in the freezing wind and rain
despite you providing shelter.

Woodpigeons perch on the gutters
and shit on the windows,
then fly off applauding themselves.

Sue Ibrahim, Woodpigeons

It’s in my next book, this place all fairy mounds and shifting beaver waterways, too apparently small to get lost in, yet every time, unpredictable tiny wild.

It’s the alive nature of risk, how even short and new paths suddenly turn bog, or turn left when the signs point right.

At the crossroads, sorrow to have to choose, again, one wrong over another. There should be a path unobstructed, somewhere.

Lacking that, there is just this that can only be enough for a short while already run too long.

JJS, The tiny wilds

I really like that phrase of Bob Horne’s…‘landscape made language’. It chimes with Macfarlane’s ‘landmarks’. Unconsciously, I hyphenate it. landscape-made-language.  And also language-made-landscape.  So much of Alison’s poetry is a poetry of place. A topological poetry if you like. Her landscape is particularly that of the watershed lands between the old textile towns of Yorkshire and Lancashire [2]; sour moorland tops, incut valleys full of canals and railway lines, and bridges. Old mills and dyeworks in small valleys, sometimes slightly sinister, gradually falling into dissolution; millponds and leats. Valley sides thick with sycamore and balsam.A layered, imbricated landscape, and one she knows intimately, about which she writes with what is often a textured precision. […]

Four years ago, while walking her dog in a familiar place, she slipped, broke her spine, almost drowned in a millpond, from which she somehow managed to drag herself, until she was found.

John Foggin, Catching up: Alison Lock’s “Lure”

On this Earth Day, I could have written about Iceland, where new earth is being born this very minute. But instead, here is a painting of an elemental landscape in Greece, one that’s probably existed in various forms for as long as human beings have gathered fruit from trees and fish from the sea: stony soil, an olive tree, the sea just beyond. If we listen, maybe we can hear the tinkle of bells on the collars of sheep and goats, herded into a hollow just beyond the picture frame… In Mexico, perhaps the olive would be replaced by some agaves. These are the sorts of natural and agricultural landscapes of basic sustainability that exist all over the world, which are threatened by climate change, and which we must protect. 

As I painted and thought about these things, I enjoyed knowing that some of the pigments I was using came directly from the earth too, and that water — the most basic substance of all — was the medium in which they were dissolved. But the connections go far deeper than the food we eat, or the elements we use in our daily lives.

For instance, it’s iron that gives its red color to the earth that was at my feet in this picture, and there’s an iron molecule in the center of each hemoglobin molecule in our blood, which is why it appears red.

Most of the time, we don’t even think about these interconnections. But actually we are creatures of the earth, just as much as the old olive tree with its roots in the rocks: it’s true on the macro level of our interdependency for life itself, and it’s true on the micro level of the smallest cells in our bodies.

Beth Adams, A Greek Landscape for Earth Day

Something about the bird that dropped
its feathers so it could remember
what it’s like to be naked in the mouth
of the world—Sometimes it mouthed
the shape of what sounded like love
or a kiss or a call. Even if it didn’t,
we had to forgive it for confusing
salt for sugar, for what dissolves easily
in foam. We stood without moving,
or learned to stop running away.

Luisa A. Igloria, Epiphora

Still thinking about Earth Day.

I read an interesting blog post – and an interesting comment there about how humans cooperating with one another is the key to the success of our species.

I’ve been thinking. What is the measure of success here? That we’ve overpopulated the earth? Overwhelmed other species? Poisoned our own homes? Occasionally wiped out huge swathes of our fellow humans in the name of “good”?

And what is the time frame here? Will we be as successful as the horseshoe crab? The jellyfish? It longevity a criteria? Is it to literally be the last man standing when we’ve eviscerated the earth entirely to make plastic toys? When the world is quiet but for our own voices?

Ren Powell, The Success of Our Species

seedling of another species :: is the language that i speak

Grant Hackett [no title]

… looking out of the patio windows, the grass pale because it hasn’t rained, and earlier, a goldfinch picking away at the curly branches of the twisted hazel. A cool breeze lulls the pine in the neighbour’s garden, cone-tipped branches, the place where the magpie likes to hop about, serious and concentrating on his next big find – a blackbird’s or a sparrow’s egg – and there’s a house sparrow, dipping and sipping the water from the birdbath, freckling the patio with droplets…

self isolation
picking up a dead fly
by its wings

Julie Mellor, Self isolation

It’s Earth Day, and this morning I spent my early hours rereading Passings, 15 poems about extinct birds—a luminous, heartbreaking, award-winning collection of poems from Holly J. Hughes.

Passings was first published in 2016 by Expedition Press as a limited-edition letterpress chapbook. It garnered national attention in 2017 when it received an American Book Award from The Before Columbus Foundation. As Holly says in her acknowledgments, “fitting that a small letterpress, itself an endangered art form, would be honored.” More than fitting, richly deserved.

It is our great good fortune that in 2019, Passings was reprinted by Jill McCabe Johnson’s Wandering Aengus Press. Although the gratitudes are slightly expanded, it is essentially the same and available from the press, or your independent bookstore

Bethany Reid, Holly Hughes: PASSINGS

In the meantime, I’m making plans for seminary housing.  On campus housing is cheap and furnished.  There’s also an option for intentional communal housing, but I’ve decided not to go that route.  In my younger years, I’d have gone that route, but these days, I’m in a more monastic cell kind of mindset.  This shift intrigues me.  I’ve requested a one bedroom apartment.

I have a vision of arriving at seminary with my sourdough starter, some musical instruments, and my markers.

Yesterday we transplanted seedlings.  We’ve been growing plants from seeds that we’ve collected from plants we’ve been growing.  Everything I researched told me that we would not be able to grow milkweed from seeds, but we gave it a try, and now we have 30 seedlings.  We did the same thing with peppers, cilantro, and dill.  We’ll continue to house them as long as we can.  

The future seems murky with possibilities.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Housing Options

Thumbing
through the old photo album I pause at that photo,
remember how my dad dug up the rose before
the old house was sold, replanted it in my
parents’ backyard. A few pages later
there it is, twirling over my parents’
porch, now only a picture in an
album. Gone from this earth,
like my grandparents,
like my mother,
one day,
like
me.

Charlotte Hamrick, NaPoWriMo Day 20

Even in the
is-ness of all things—
snow doused rut,
bleak skeleton of blackberry—
there is a waiting:
water of what’s next,
small fist of intent.
Who can live in the moment
amid all this soon-to-be:
bud of laurel,
aspen’s catkin, thirst
of the dirt road?

Marilyn McCabe, The poet’s game: or, On Waiting

Oh, moralizing culture! Since we have so little understanding of where we are, there will be endless pronouncements of where we are. Certainties about what we’ve learned from the pandemic, and prophetic images of our future.  The more we don’t know, the more we must say.  The more we shouldn’t say, the more we will.  No good void goes unfilled.  Enter a slogan.  

Carpe Diem?  It seems obviously capacious, which gives everyone room to pick bones.  The dessicated twigs in front of the carved letters in the photo look like they hide a sarcophagus.  Latin and Horace and Odes might overwhelm the swinging modern individualist, even if they agree with a misreading of “Seize the Day” as a consumer-ish urge to achieve personal triumph.  

Ideologues of a different stripe might battle the hedonistic “go for it” message, again misreading the more philosophic horticulturalish reminder to pluck and gather flowers at their moment.  To pluck each day in its fullness.

So little can be said.  It’s no wonder we keep at it. 

Jill Pearlman, The Carpe Diem Dilemma

no one thrives in a factory
we need sun on our faces
& snow underfoot

a hundred miles
with the crockpot on low
& some beer in the fridge

up the mountain
write your name
down the mountain, cook

the drone circles the summit
captures his tiny image there
one arm raised, smiling

Jason Crane, POEM: he lives in a van

Stupidity fairly oozes from me, these days. Dull ignorance and prejudice. I grow brittle. I roam my little spaces and think my my old stupid thoughts. The sky is a little airless cap over my little airless neighborhood. I count, and count, and count: the number of breaths since I started trying to sleep; the seconds until I take my eggs off the stove, the eighths of inches my waist has grown or shrunk, the number of pull ups done today. Sometimes I count backwards: from thirty to zero, while I wait for the oximeter to stabilize its numbers. For the novelty and piquancy of it. That’s how large the sphere of my mental operations has become.

This is where some extravagant meditation on natural beauty is supposed to come in: some memory of Mt Hood seen over the railyards at sunset, or the glowing fume of a waterfall before it drops into the deep green shadow of the Columbia Gorge. Really? I’m going to address this stupidity with images borrowed from picture postcards? Is anyone disposed to believe in that? Certainly I’m not.

All right. So that’s my state of mind. And my body? My back is totally borked, as it has not been in years. I had thought I was done with that affliction, but here it is again. And it gives the lie to the dreams of immortality I’ve been indulging of late: dreams of becoming so very healthy, so lean and fit, fasted and refitted, that I simply never decay. Such nonsense. 9% life extension in female mice: that is not immortality, Mr Favier. That’s another couple years of being an elderly male primate. If it translates at all.

Dale Favier, Counting Backwards

These are mangoes of desperation,
mangoes that were given promises
of eternal youth, but promises
were misleading at best, if not lies.
These are mangoes left to marinate
in the faint wishes of another
kind of life, wishes that sucked the life
right out of everything around them.
Still, this will have to be good enough
because these are the mangoes I have
here and now, and they are my dessert.

PF Anderson, Mangoes

The disposable
line ask for
nothing.

Write something
hard like rock
brought up

by winter’s
heave, left
to warm

in spring sun,
permanent,
mythic.

Tom Montag, THE DISPOSABLE

The lilacs are out on the island and are beginning to open on my deck. Lilacs make me giddy and stupid. Lilacs make me slather myself with fancy girl perfume and wear my tiara to the grocery store. Lilacs make me dance. Lilacs are the smooth rock hidden in my boot the secret to my creaky hips in the morning. I wanted nothing more than to be the famous Lilac Queen or one of the famous Lilac Princesses of Spokane when I was growing up. Of course I was not. I have grown weirdly nostalgic for the smell of city busses and lilacs in a vase or purloined lilacs in my arms. They grew everywhere when I was a girl. I thought they were wild flowers but they are in fact intentional. When I was a girl my stepfather told me that if I ever saw lilacs growing randomly in the woods or in some deserted old place it meant someone lived there once and loved there enough to plant those gorgeous flowers intentionally.

Rebecca Loudon, Pig and farm report

dry stonewalling
we move the stone Buddha 
a blackbird visits

Jim Young [no title]

The man who sells magazines has the largest hands I’ve ever seen.  

               Keeps licking his fingers, fondling the pages. His tongue darts out, 

                                  then back in and my knees ache with spring. With the hinges in my haunches, 

the feathers in my lungs.  The whipoorwill spins on its weathervane

                in every direction. What is desire, but a soft turning of every gear

                                  in the body? The wrought interior, where the prism shatters with sun.

Kristy Bowen, napowrimo day no. 22

I’m fascinated by Fredericton-based poet Mary Germaine’s lyric scenes, displayed through her full-length debut, Congratulations, Rhododendrons (Toronto ON: House of Anansi Press, 2021). Congratulations, Rhododendrons is a collection of poems braided together from odd musings, recollections and observations, and long stretches of lyric that run out and across beyond the patterns of narrative sentence. Consider the title of the poem “The Look on Your Face When You Learn / They Make Antacids Out of Marble,” and its subsequent opening: “Who knows the name of the empire that took your arms, or the earthquake / that left you to drag your way, legless, to the top of the rubble.” Her perspective is delightfully odd and slightly skewed. Uniquely singular and refreshing, Germaine provides new life into the narrative-driven lyric. Consider, too, the title of the poem “Upon Hearing How Long It Takes a Plastic Bag to Break Down,” that includes: “”We built them to make it easy / to carry groceries, gym shoes, / shorelines, treetops, and dog shit. / And they do. And they will, until the end / of time, or the next five hundred years— / whichever comes first. I will be buried / and I’m not sorry some plastic will outstay / my appreciation of sunsets. I suspect even sunsets / will be garbage by then.” Or again, the poem “Every Poem Where I Have to Pee in It Is a Pastoral,” that includes: “This is why everyone hates nature: / nothing to buy out here. / Plenty to smell but nothing good to eat. / Nobody knows that better // than the night-browsers, riding the crooked / wheel of their shopping carts / up and down the laneways, perusing for / who knows, finding wire hangers.” I think it is safe to say that Germaine is writing some of the finest poem-titles I’ve seen in some time. They are remarkable for their evocative wit and slightly twisted humour.

rob mclennan, Mary Germaine, Congratulations, Rhododendrons

This morning I was looking through the National Trust news and came across the latest Spring initiative, #blossomwatch, in which they are asking people to photograph blossom (I think the official day for it is tomorrow) and flood our social media channels with gorgeous pink and white. I dutifully downloaded the PDF ‘information pack’ and in it found a poem written by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett in response to members of the public who had contributed their thoughts on Spring. I confess I’d not heard of Elizabeth-Jane, and a crowd-sourced poem doesn’t always bode well, but I absolutely loved it and found myself reading it several times and wanting to show people.

I can’t post the whole poem here, and the extracts on the NT site and here on the Guardian website (which tells the whole story of how it was written) don’t do it justice, as the beauty is (for me) how the poem builds and ends. So do download the ‘pack’ and read the full poem.

Robin Houghton, #Blossomwatch poem by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett

It was Earth Day this week. Last Earth Day, I planted an apple tree and cherry tree in my yard, and over the last year, we’ve faithfully watered, fertilized them, and kept the deer from eating them, and this year, we were rewarded with a few leaves and a couple of blossoms on each. This last year we planted a Strawberry Tree and another cherry (this time, a fruiting Rainier cherry) and we are watching them grow in containers on the back deck. The birds love them. All of the tulips are almost done blooming now – remember last weekend, they had just opened? It’s definitely been a week to celebrate that brief burst of bloom as much as possible, and attend to the garden, cutting back, planting, putting coffee grounds on the roses. Sometimes it’s time to plant, and sometimes it’s time to nurture what you’ve already planted. Maybe I should try this on myself!

Jeannine Hall Gailey, National Poetry Month, Lilacs, Apple Blossoms and Melancholy, Earth Day, Zoom Poetry Inspirations, and a Book Giveaway

A cat wants to be a Cadillac. A Cadillac wants to be a garbage truck.

A garbage truck wants to be a wet dream. A wet dream wants to be heaven.

Heaven wants to be a dive bar. A dive bar wants to be diamonds.

Diamonds want to be handfuls of dirt. Handfuls of dirt want to be thrown into graves.

Graves want to be winds. Winds want to be human. And humans forever want to be everything at once.

Rich Ferguson, The Chain of Want

This tool has a smooth handle, satisfying to the hand. There’s a burn mark from some long-ago scorching-hot stove. The iron twists and curls. It’s beautiful; I think in one of my early apartments I hung it on the kitchen wall as an ornament. Today it was the perfect tool for flipping pumpernickel bagels in their simmering bath before putting them in the oven to bake. 

Learning to make bagels was one of the projects I planned for myself, imagining the long isolated pandemic winter. I baked loaf after loaf of rye bread, and soft golden challah almost every week. I kept putting off the bagel project. Maybe on a subconscious level I wanted to keep a treat for myself, something to look forward to in this year of solitude and grief. 

But the winter is past. The snows are over and gone. Every day more people here become vaccinated. (Though in India, the pandemic is raging worse than ever…) Baking bagels today felt like an act of hope. I don’t need to defer the tiny sweetness of trying a new recipe lest I need that sweetness to get me through some other, worse, day than this.

Rachel Barenblat, Unanswered

Recently I was chatting with two poet friends, and we remarked on how we did enjoy rain in a poem. 

Well, I feel the same way – actually, more so – about telephones.

Often, mentions of phones in poems can be immensely lonely and forlorn. There are of course famous examples. Philip Larkin’s ‘Aubade’ draws towards its wonderful close via:

Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring   
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.

Selima Hill’s ‘Cow’ has, in passing, 

unscrupulous restaurant-owners
who stumble, pink-eyed, from stale beds
into a world of lobsters and warm telephones

I never seem to forget these insomniac glimpses / images. Both also feature (almost horribly) real, physical telephones – in work spaces left empty and dark at night. Phones ringing in our lonelier lives.

In Sarah Jackson’s poem ‘The Red Telephone’ a small boy’s enormous impulse to get through to his mother almost overcomes the insurmountable obstacle – that he has only a toy phone, ‘red plastic with a curly white cord’, with which to do so.

Charlotte Gann, MEANWHILE TELEPHONES CROUCH

As the book might say, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? As the book also might say, I have been away. Which is to say, right here, shuffling around the same square footage of study for the last eight months, just like everyone else.

What have I been up to? I can’t really say, except that I have been engaging with the process. Except it has been a pleasure to dive into real head space and not have to think about communicating publiclly with anyone. Except that I want to stay here a little longer.

How to put it? William Stafford once said that a writer is someone who ‘is not so much someone who has something to say as she is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things she would not have thought of if she had not started to say them.’ I love that. It’s long been a touchstone for me.

So the one thing I thought I was working on has turned out to be other things, or rather more things, and those things are requiring of me that I spend more time with them and by the same token less with you, here.

Anthony Wilson, Head. Space.

It’s been hard. Excellent visiting nurses came in daily for extremely painful and elaborate wound care, but meanwhile I was learning to keep a mostly-incapacitated elderly woman safe, clean, fed, hydrated, and as content as possible. She was very grateful to get home. From her bed or the nearby recliner, she was following the Chauvin trial and news of violence across the country; she was also interested in the “helicopter” on Mars and in Prince Phillip’s funeral procession. When a phlebotomist couldn’t find a vein, my mother slyly said, “It’s Prince Phillip’s fault,” although I don’t think anyone understood she was joking but me. When she slept, I read some news, a bit of a mystery novel, and a bit of social media. I’ve been able to do maybe an hour a day of my own work, but it’s hard to concentrate. Logistically and emotionally, there’s a lot going on. I started writing a poem a few days ago involving the strange in-betweenness of illness, the haunted noises my mother’s refrigerator makes during the middle of the night, and her repeated statement that someone was trying to get in the front door–maybe those three weirdnesses could hang together? Anyway, I was interrupted.

Lesley Wheeler, Diagnosis / verdict

Anecdotal Poetry. What does this term mean to you? In my experience, it’soften invoked disparagingly and dismissively by certain critics, reviewers and editors to describe work that seems to take a rooted place or experience as a point of departure. It’s used to imply the poems under scrutiny are somehow lacking in imagination and of less consequent artistic value than pieces that have been written via other approaches.

In fact, this perspective isn’t just a slight on the poetry in question, but also a misinterpretation of the very essence of the genre’s transformational powers. In summary, it encapsulates a wilful confusion of the nature of poetic truth, as if such poems were a simple relaying and portrayal of fact.

What term might be used in its place? Realist Poetry is useless, as it also imposes similar pigeonholing limits that are equally and intrinsically absurd. For example, surrealism is simmering away just under the surface in any decent so-called realist poem. On second thoughts, I’ll leave this last question to people who are obliged to answer it by academic demands and constraints…

Matthew Stewart, Anecdotal Poetry…?

The police often have a rather bombastic way of expressing themselves which is based upon demonstrating power via vocabulary and particularly via polysyllabic and longwinded effusions. However, if this is the means by which linguistic prestige and authority is gained, it’s misguided.

The poetry world isn’t that different. Both fields seem to have this general assumption that intelligence is gauged via grandiloquence. Something isn’t ‘stolen’, it’s ‘purloined’. The suspect didn’t just run away, no, they ‘absquatulated from the purlieus of the malfeasance’.

This is extreme, and of course, made-up, but it does show you that the places where elite language once were, are now the preserve of goons and florid language isn’t clever, at all. Poetry should really be trying to be accessible, not trying to exhibit and strut, and I suspect that people (poets) who use inkhorn language are actually trying to disguise a deeper deficiency in their work…

Richie McCaffery, Poetic licence REVOKED

I have cried at three video games in my entire life: “Syberia”, when Kate finally finds the woolly mammoths, “Gone Home” at the end when the big secret is revealed, and this one, called “Lost Words: Beyond the Page.” I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was written by Rhianna Pratchett, who is the daughter of Sir Terry Pratchett, the famed fantasy and sci-fi writer best known for the Discworld series. Terry Pratchett died after a battle with Alzheimer’s, and this game revolves around the main character Izzy’s struggle with her beloved grandma’s mental deterioration after a stroke. The game toggles between two alternating sequences—one is the young girl’s journal, where the words light up on the page and you reveal new pictures and words as you move through the written sentences, and one is a side-scroller that enacts the fantasy story that the girl is writing to help her cope with her grief and the chaos in her family. In one journal scene, Izzy recalls a trip to the beach with her grandmother, who was a marine biologist, and is introduced to the concept of bioluminescence. It’s one of the most beautiful, jaw-dropping scenes I’ve ever seen in a video game, and I feel like if I try to explain it I’m going to botch it.

I think at the core of what I want to get across here, and what I’ve been trying for years to explain, is that some of the very best literature out there now lives in the realm of video games. I know that this is anathema for academics and others who have outmoded ideas about gaming and gamers, but it’s the truth. It’s partly why I have been so drawn to certain games over the years and talk so much about games on this blog. I feel that there is a huge world of literary excellence that writers are missing out on by eschewing games. “Lost Words: Beyond the Page” is a perfect example. I’m so glad that I found it, and I feel compelled to share it with you, dear readers. If you don’t game at all, it’s a gentle introduction to gaming—it’s not twitchy; it’s very intuitive and forgiving, and it will be easy to learn. I would urge you to branch out and give it a try. I don’t know how far into the game I am or much more I have to go, but I find myself not wanting it to end.

Kristen McHenry, Baby Mystery, Game Rave, Literary Anathema

On those days, not infrequent, when I feel diminished as a poet, I still have a sense of confidence in my ability to write a really good book review. It’s become my writing practice and my connection with other poets. I like to think of the practice as my own personal MFA program. Writing poetry book reviews has deeply enriched my reading and writing experience– it’s taught me how to read “closely” and shown me how to recognize the craft of syntax, tone, meter, musicality. I believe it’s made me a better poet. It’s given me opportunities to connect with other poets and within the larger community of poetry.

Two years ago, in March 2019, I launched The Poetry Cafe Online: a Meeting Place Where Poetry Chapbooks are Celebrated and Reviewed with my review of Lauren Davis’s Each Wild Things Consent.

The goal of The Poetry Cafe is to create a comfortable, inviting home where interested poetry lovers can enter, feel welcomed, and read reviews of poetry chapbooks. As curator of The Poetry Café, I’ve received chapbooks from more than 100 poets. I’ve written many reviews myself, but more amazingly, I have published reviews by 27 guest reviewers and as of today, a total of 54 Reviews! I’ve also added Interviews to the site.

The project has grown far beyond my expectations. If you are not following it, please click over and add your email address to follow Cafe postings, usually once a week. I’m always looking for new reviewers or interviewers, and I could sure use some help with managing the site.

Risa Denenberg, A Writing Practice: Book Reviews

Last year I planned to take a break from #NaPoWriMo because I thought I’d be busy promoting “The Significance of a Dress” (still available as a print or ebook from Arachne Press). However, the pandemic led to cancellations so I ended up doing #NaPoWriMo, finding art an inspiration to compensate for the lack of planning. This year, I thought I’d take the break I’d planned last year but I found myself writing a poem on 1 April. Call it habit or discipline, but April seems to be a month for drafting poems.

It’s also a good month to start new habits. The drear, winter mornings have gone, clocks have gone forward an hour on to British Summer Time so the evenings are staying lighter for longer and the outdoors is looking greener with plants coming back to life. For me it’s also the month before hayfever really starts, a breathing space before outdoors becomes hellish. There’s a plus to having to wear a mask. I rarely bother with new year’s resolutions, but when I do I usually see January and February as planning, thinking months and get resolutions underway in March/April as the season turns. January’s a horrible month to start anything: there’s that post-holiday lull, the weather’s discouraging and it’s still dark at beginning and end of the day.

During the pandemic, I have been relatively privileged: classed as a keyworker but able to work from home with enough space to set up an office-at-home that’s not in my living area. Since my writing has always happened in the gaps around everything else, it still happens in the gaps around everything else. I don’t have a routine: a poem wants to be written, it gets written, a short story haunts me, it gets written and I’ve always got something to review. I think my breathing would have to stop before the writing does.

Emma Lee, NaPoWriMo 2021 and the Value of Writing Communities

Oral traditionalist

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Lord’s day). Up, and I to Church, where I have not been these many weeks before, and there did first find a strange Reader, who could not find in the Service-book the place for churching women, but was fain to change books with the clerke: and then a stranger preached, a seeming able man; but said in his pulpit that God did a greater work in raising of an oake-tree from an akehorne, than a man’s body raising it, at the last day, from his dust (shewing the possibility of the Resurrection): which was, methought, a strange saying. At home to dinner, whither comes and dines with me W. Howe, and by invitation Mr. Harris and Mr. Banister, most extraordinary company both, the latter for musique of all sorts, the former for everything: here we sang, and Banister played on the theorbo, and afterwards Banister played on his flageolet, and I had very good discourse with him about musique, so confirming some of my new notions about musique that it puts me upon a resolution to go on and make a scheme and theory of musique not yet ever made in the world. Harris do so commend my wife’s picture of Mr. Hales’s, that I shall have him draw Harris’s head; and he hath also persuaded me to have Cooper draw my wife’s, which, though it cost 30l., yet I will have done. Thus spent the afternoon most deliciously, and then broke up and walked with them as far as the Temple, and there parted, and I took coach to Westminster, but there did nothing, meeting nobody that I had a mind to speak with, and so home, and there find Mr. Pelling, and then also comes Mrs. Turner, and supped and talked with us, and so to bed. I do hear by several that Sir W. Pen’s going to sea do dislike the Parliament mightily, and that they have revived the Committee of Miscarriages to find something to prevent it; and that he being the other day with the Duke of Albemarle to ask his opinion touching his going to sea, the Duchess overheard and come in to him, and asks W. Pen how he durst have the confidence to offer to go to sea again, to the endangering the nation, when he knew himself such a coward as he was, which, if true, is very severe.

I have been a reader
who could not find a book

but God did a greater work
raising an oak from an acorn

than a man’s body from dust
or any sort of new theory

in the world that I have raw
yet done deliciously

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 29 March 1668

Devotee

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to the office, where all the morning busy, and at noon home to dinner with my clerks; and though my head full of business, yet I had a desire to end this holyday week with a play; and so, with my wife and Deb., to the King’s house, and there saw “The Indian Emperour,” a very good play indeed, and thence directly home, and to my writing of my letters, and so home to supper and to bed for fearing my eyes. Our greatest business at the office to-day is our want of money for the setting forth of these ships that are to go out, and my people at dinner tell me that they do verily doubt that the want of men will be so great, as we must press; and if we press, there will be mutinies in the town; for the seamen are said already to have threatened the pulling down of the Treasury Office; and if they do once come to that, it will not be long before they come to ours.

a head full of desire
is holy with play

my eyes want to go out
and my doubt mutinies

amen said
I own the treasury

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 28 March 1668

Growth

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and walked to the waterside, and thence to White Hall to the Duke of York’s chamber, where he being ready he went to a Committee of Tangier, where I first understand that my Lord Sandwich is, in his coming back from Spayne, to step over thither, to see in what condition the place is, which I am glad of, hoping that he will be able to do some good there, for the good of the place, which is so much out of order. Thence to walk a little in Westminster Hall, where the Parliament I find sitting, but spoke with nobody to let me know what they are doing, nor did I enquire. Thence to the Swan and drank, and did baiser Frank, and so down by water back again, and to the Exchange a turn or two, only to show myself, and then home to dinner, where my wife and I had a small squabble, but I first this day tried the effect of my silence and not provoking her when she is in an ill humour, and do find it very good, for it prevents its coming to that height on both sides which used to exceed what was fit between us. So she become calm by and by and fond, and so took coach, and she to the mercer’s to buy some lace, while I to White Hall, but did nothing, but then to Westminster Hall and took a turn, and so to Mrs. Martin’s, and there did sit a little and talk and drink, and did hazer con her, and so took coach and called my wife at Unthanke’s, and so up and down to the Nursery, where they did not act, then to the New Cockpit, and there missed, and then to Hide Parke, where many coaches, but the dust so great, that it was troublesome, and so by night home, where to my chamber and finished my pricking out of my song for Mr. Harris (“It is decreed”), and so a little supper, being very sleepy and weary since last night, and so by 10 o’clock to bed and slept well all night.
This day, at noon, comes Mr. Pelling to me, and shews me the stone cut lately out of Sir Thomas Adams’ (the old comely Alderman’s) body, which is very large indeed, bigger I think than my fist, and weighs above twenty-five ounces and, which is very miraculous, he never in all his life had any fit of it, but lived to a great age without pain, and died at last of something else, without any sense of this in all his life.
This day Creed at White Hall in discourse told me what information he hath had, from very good hands, of the cowardice and ill-government of Sir Jer. Smith and Sir Thomas Allen, and the repute they have both of them abroad in the Streights, from their deportment when they did at several times command there; and that, above all Englishmen that ever were there, there never was any man that behaved himself like poor Charles Wager, whom the very Moores do mention, with teares sometimes.

the Lord and I walk a little
and squabble in my sleep

night is a stone cut out
of a man’s body

bigger than my fist
which is in good hands

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 27 March 1668

Night from the inside (4)

Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights - Hell - detail from bottom
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Night from the Inside

 

Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights - Hell - detail from top

Moonlight in the kitchen is a sign of God.
Anne Carson

Does the moon ever shine in my kitchen with its northeast window? Maybe only in January, on the full moon known as Wolf, or Popping Trees, or Absence of Bears.

*

night train
and the rattling wind
in one bed

*

2:00 a.m. road
without cars the tarmac’s
own carcass

*

smeared
into mere roadkill
so many stars

*

future fossil
all these travels written
in my teeth

*

One set of keys for the day and one for the night. But if the locks fill with rain they will drown and our souls will devolve like cetaceans, returning to the deep and its sunless music, now with microplastic.

*

Nautical twilight. A distant, non-human wail from one of the farms in the valley. Microdrops of rain on my face.

The pleasure of watching headlights move through a forest ten miles away.

*

Through the bottom of my mug, my other hand shrinks into an insect: seat of my soul, dung beetle. Scarab sacred only to a little world of shit.

Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights - Hell - detail from middle

When you sit or lie1 on the forest floor, in a strong wind you may feel slight movements beneath you: tree roots working the night shift.

*

It’s too cold for the bat. Now the moon is recalling all shadows.

Do trees feel the moonlight? If so, it must be the lightest caress.

*

Gazing directly at the moon for too long feels disrespectful, especially when it’s just beginning the monthly molt.

*

A voice off in the forest calls You and after several seconds the response: Yah.

*

That lone window still lit at 4:00 in the morning. The patch of dim light it inflicts on the edge of the forest.

*

nocturne
every hidden hammer
hitting its string

nocturne
the pianist’s fingers
not her own

nocturne
I can’t stop fantasizing
about soup

*

With their frog mouths and weird nocturnal calls, the nightjars wouldn’t seem out of place in one of Hieronymous Bosch’s teeming tableaux.2 One North American species, the common poorwill, is the only bird known to go into a prolonged state of torpor very like hibernation.

every time
I go out to take a leak
whip-poor-will

*

lunar
landscapes of my childhood
aglow with bleakness

*

cedar tree
knocking at my house
must be sleepless too

*

The first hint of dawn in the sky and in the forest the first hint of gray. It begins its daily dwindling into mere woods.


1 Due to the threat of Lyme disease, this is of course best done in a tent.

2 I do a web search and sure enough, Bosch gave Lucifer the head of a nightjar:

Hieronymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights - Hell - detail from bottom

World enough and time

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up betimes to the office, where by and by my Lord Brouncker and I met and made an end of our business betimes. So I away with him to Mrs. Williams’s, and there dined, and thence I alone to the Duke of York’s house, to see the new play, called “The Man is the Master,” where the house was, it being not above one o’clock, very full. But my wife and Deb. being there before, with Mrs. Pierce and Corbet and Betty Turner, whom my wife carried with her, they made me room; and there I sat, it costing me 8s. upon them in oranges, at 6d. a-piece. By and by the King come; and we sat just under him, so that I durst not turn my back all the play. The play is a translation out of French, and the plot Spanish, but not anything extraordinary at all in it, though translated by Sir W. Davenant, and so I found the King and his company did think meanly of it, though there was here and there something pretty: but the most of the mirth was sorry, poor stuffe, of eating of sack posset and slabbering themselves, and mirth fit for clownes; the prologue but poor, and the epilogue little in it but the extraordinariness of it, it being sung by Harris and another in the form of a ballet. Thence, by agreement, we all of us to the Blue Balls, hard by, whither Mr. Pierce also goes with us, who met us at the play, and anon comes Manuel, and his wife, and Knepp, and Harris, who brings with him Mr. Banister, the great master of musique; and after much difficulty in getting of musique, we to dancing, and then to a supper of some French dishes, which yet did not please me, and then to dance and sing; and mighty merry we were till about eleven or twelve at night, with mighty great content in all my company, and I did, as I love to do, enjoy myself in my pleasure as being the height of what we take pains for and can hope for in this world, and therefore to be enjoyed while we are young and capable of these joys. My wife extraordinary fine to-day, in her flower tabby suit, bought a year and more ago, before my mother’s death put her into mourning, and so not worn till this day: and every body in love with it; and indeed she is very fine and handsome in it. I having paid the reckoning, which come to almost 4l., we parted: my company and William Batelier, who was also with us, home in a coach, round by the Wall, where we met so many stops by the Watches, that it cost us much time and some trouble, and more money, to every Watch, to them to drink; this being encreased by the trouble the ’prentices did lately give the City, so that the Militia and Watches are very strict at this time; and we had like to have met with a stop for all night at the Constable’s watch, at Mooregate, by a pragmatical Constable; but we come well home at about two in the morning, and so to bed.
This noon, from Mrs. Williams’s, my Lord Brouncker sent to Somersett House to hear how the Duchess of Richmond do; and word was brought him that she is pretty well, but mighty full of the smallpox, by which all do conclude she will be wholly spoiled, which is the greatest instance of the uncertainty of beauty that could be in this age; but then she hath had the benefit of it to be first married, and to have kept it so long, under the greatest temptations in the world from a King, and yet without the least imputation.
This afternoon, at the play, Sir Fr. Hollis spoke to me as a secret, and matter of confidence in me, and friendship to Sir W. Pen, who is now out of town, that it were well he were made acquainted that he finds in the House of Commons, which met this day, several motions made for the calling strictly again upon the Miscarriages, and particularly in the business of the Prises, and the not prosecuting of the first victory, only to give an affront to Sir W. Pen, whose going to sea this year do give them matter of great dislike. So though I do not much trouble myself for him, yet I am sorry that he should have this fall so unhappily without any fault, but rather merit of his own that made him fitter for this command than any body else, and the more for that this business of his may haply occasion their more eager pursuit against the whole body of the office.

I am alone as the clock
or an orange in translation

mean as a little sun
blue at the difficulty of love

do I take this world to be my wife
today in her flower suit

a body in love is so much
well-oiled uncertainty

its secret motions calling up
a sea of my own

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 26 March 1668

Encounters

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and walked to White Hall, there to wait on the Duke of York, which I did: and in his chamber there, first by hearing the Duke of York call me by my name, my Lord Burlington did come to me, and with great respect take notice of me and my relation to my Lord Sandwich, and express great kindness to me; and so to talk of my Lord Sandwich’s concernments. By and by the Duke of York is ready; and I did wait for an opportunity of speaking my mind to him about Sir J. Minnes, his being unable to do the King any service, which I think do become me to do in all respects, and have Sir W. Coventry’s concurrence therein, which I therefore will seek a speedy opportunity to do, come what will come of it.
The Duke of York and all with him this morning were full of the talk of the ’prentices, who are not yet [put] down, though the guards and militia of the town have been in armes all this night, and the night before; and the ’prentices have made fools of them, sometimes by running from them and flinging stones at them. Some blood hath been spilt, but a great many houses pulled down; and, among others, the Duke of York was mighty merry at that of Damaris Page’s, the great bawd of the seamen; and the Duke of York complained merrily that he hath lost two tenants, by their houses being pulled down, who paid him for their wine licenses 15l. a year. But here it was said how these idle fellows have had the confidence to say that they did ill in contenting themselves in pulling down the little bawdyhouses, and did not go and pull down the great bawdy-house at White Hall. And some of them have the last night had a word among them, and it was “Reformation and Reducement.” This do make the courtiers ill at ease to see this spirit among people, though they think this matter will not come to much: but it speaks people’s minds; and then they do say that there are men of understanding among them, that have been of Cromwell’s army: but how true that is, I know not.
Thence walked a little to Westminster, but met with nobody to spend any time with, and so by coach homeward, and in Seething Lane met young Mrs. Daniel, and I stopt, and she had been at my house, but found nobody within, and tells me that she drew me for her Valentine this year, so I took her into the coach, and was going to the other end of the town, thinking to have taken her abroad, but remembering that I was to go out with my wife this afternoon, I only did hazer her para tocar my prick con her hand which did hazer me hazer; and so to a milliner at the corner shop going into Bishopsgate and Leadenhall Street, and there did give her eight pair of gloves, and so dismissed her, and so I home and to dinner, and then with my wife to the King’s playhouse to seeThe Storme,” which we did, but without much pleasure, it being but a mean play compared with “The Tempest,” at the Duke of York’s house, though Knepp did act her part of grief very well. Thence with my wife and Deb. by coach to Islington, to the old house, and there eat and drank till it was almost night, and then home, being in fear of meeting the ’prentices, who are many of them yet, they say, abroad in the fields, but we got well home, and so I to my chamber a while, and then to supper and to bed.

I hear the sand
speaking my mind

I have been flinging stones
at the sea all night

how true is west
with nobody home

and you my valentine
going to see the storm act
her part of grief

and meeting who but me

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 25 March 1668

Tumult

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up pretty betimes, and so there comes to me Mr. Shish, to desire my appearing for him to succeed Mr. Christopher Pett, lately dead, in his place of Master-Shipwright of Deptford and Woolwich, which I do resolve to promote what I can. So by and by to White Hall, and there to the Duke of York’s chamber, where I understand it is already resolved by the King and Duke of York that Shish shall have the place. From the Duke’s chamber Sir W. Coventry and I to walk in the Matted Gallery; and there, among other things, he tells me of the wicked design that now is at last contriving against him, to get a petition presented from people that the money they have paid to W. Coventry for their places may be repaid them back; and that this is set on by Temple and Hollis of the Parliament, and, among other mean people in it, by Captain Tatnell: and he prays me that I will use some effectual way to sift Tatnell what he do, and who puts him on in this business, which I do undertake, and will do with all my skill for his service, being troubled that he is still under this difficulty. Thence up and down Westminster by Mrs. Burroughes her mother’s shop, thinking to have seen her, but could not, and therefore back to White Hall, where great talk of the tumult at the other end of the town, about Moore-fields, among the ’prentices, taking the liberty of these holydays to pull down bawdy-houses. And, Lord! to see the apprehensions which this did give to all people at Court, that presently order was given for all the soldiers, horse and foot, to be in armes! and forthwith alarmes were beat by drum and trumpet through Westminster, and all to their colours, and to horse, as if the French were coming into the town! So Creed, whom I met here, and I to Lincolne’s Inn-fields, thinking to have gone into the fields to have seen the ’prentices; but here we found these fields full of soldiers all in a body, and my Lord Craven commanding of them, and riding up and down to give orders, like a madman. And some young men we saw brought by soldiers to the Guard at White Hall, and overheard others that stood by say, that it was only for pulling down the bawdy-houses; and none of the bystanders finding fault with them, but rather of the soldiers for hindering them. And we heard a justice of the Peace this morning say to the King, that he had been endeavouring to suppress this tumult, but could not; and that, imprisoning some in the new prison at Clerkenwell, the rest did come and break open the prison and release them; and that they do give out that they are for pulling down the bawdy-houses, which is one of the greatest grievances of the nation. To which the King made a very poor, cold, insipid answer: “Why, why do they go to them, then?” and that was all, and had no mind to go on with the discourse. Mr. Creed and I to dinner to my Lord Crew, where little discourse, there being none but us at the table, and my Lord and my Lady Jemimah, and so after dinner away, Creed and I to White Hall, expecting a Committee of Tangier, but come too late. So I to attend the Council, and by and by were called in with Lord Brouncker and Sir W. Pen to advise how to pay away a little money to most advantage to the men of the yards, to make them dispatch the ships going out, and there did make a little speech, which was well liked, and after all it was found most satisfactory to the men, and best for the king’s dispatch, that what money we had should be paid weekly to the men for their week’s work until a greater sum could be got to pay them their arrears and then discharge them. But, Lord! to see what shifts and what cares and thoughts there was employed in this matter how to do the King’s work and please the men and stop clamours would make a man think the King should not eat a bit of good meat till he has got money to pay the men, but I do not see the least print of care or thoughts in him about it at all. Having done here, I out and there met Sir Fr. Hollis, who do still tell me that, above all things in the world, he wishes he had my tongue in his mouth, meaning since my speech in Parliament. He took Lord Brouncker and me down to the guards, he and his company being upon the guards to-day; and there he did, in a handsome room to that purpose, make us drink, and did call for his bagpipes, which, with pipes of ebony, tipt with silver, he did play beyond anything of that kind that ever I heard in my life; and with great pains he must have obtained it, but with pains that the instrument do not deserve at all; for, at the best, it is mighty barbarous musick. So home and there to my chamber, to prick out my song, “It is Decreed,” intending to have it ready to give Mr. Harris on Thursday, when we meet, for him to sing, believing that he will do it more right than a woman that sings better, unless it were Knepp, which I cannot have opportunity to teach it to.
This evening I come home from White Hall with Sir W. Pen, who fell in talk about his going to sea this year, and the difficulties that arise to him by it, by giving offence to the Prince, and occasioning envy to him, and many other things that make it a bad matter, at this time of want of money and necessaries, and bad and uneven counsels at home, — for him to go abroad: and did tell me how much with the King and Duke of York he had endeavoured to be excused, desiring the Prince might be satisfied in it, who hath a mind to go; but he tells me they will not excuse him, and I believe it, and truly do judge it a piece of bad fortune to W. Pen.

do the wicked pray for tumult
the holy drum and trumpet

fields full of soldiers
riding up and down

or the bawdy work of a tongue
that barbarous tune

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 24 March 1668