This entry is part 18 of 91 in the series Toward Noon: 3verses


The slow and steady
accumulation of snow
making everything strange

reminds me of my father
reading aloud to the family
from a book in his lap,

the whisper of pages turning,
each of us building a picture
all our own.

Short-order cook

To the office all the morning. My wife and people at home busy to get things ready for tomorrow’s dinner. At noon, without dinner, went into the City, and there meeting with Greatorex, we went and drank a pot of ale. He told me that he was upon a design to go to Teneriffe to try experiments there. With him to Gresham Colledge (where I never was before), and saw the manner of the house, and found great company of persons of honour there.
Thence to my bookseller’s, and for books, and to Stevens, the silversmith, to make clean some plate against to-morrow, and so home, by the way paying many little debts for wine and pictures, &c., which is my great pleasure.
Home and found all things in a hurry of business, Slater, our messenger, being here as my cook till very late.
I in my chamber all the evening looking over my Osborn’s works and new Emanuel Thesaurus Patriarchae.
So late to bed, having ate nothing to-day but a piece of bread and cheese at the ale-house with Greatorex, and some bread and butter at home.

The city: a great experiment,
there where I never found

a clean plate against tomorrow,
paying many little debts

and all things in a hurry of business.
As cook, looking over my work,

I ate nothing but bread and cheese
and bread and butter.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 23 January 1660/61.

Ichigo Ichie (one lifetime, one encounter)

A tea gathering cannot be repeated, and the host and guests feel that this is an encounter that can only occur once in a lifetime.
glossary, Japanese Tea Culture: The Omotesenke Tradition

The room isn’t right: too bright, too perfect,
despite its location in the most venerable
Zen temple in all Kyoto.
The one white lily is a cliché.
And the participants are far too numerous:
15 more than the optimal five.
Examining the implements cannot fail
to become a perfunctory exercise.
The wealthy ladies of the tea ceremony club
from Sakai—hometown of Sen no Rikyū—
sigh for the lack of wabi & sabi.
But then their special guest, a tall,
funny-looking foreigner, enters the room
& hits his head against a ceiling beam
with a satisfying thump.
He grins foolishly & everyone laughs.

How like Daruma now the kettle appears,
round & stolid! And the bamboo whisk
marooned in the dark bowl—how at home!
The foreigner settles into place
& the circle tightens a little
as everyone strains to hear his murmured Japanese,
so beautifully flawed.

Mom at 36

While she talks on the phone,
her blue pen seems to have
a life of its own,
makes abstract flowers
& filigree
& Gordian knots
all around the list of birds seen
on her morning walk.
I watch fascinated
as I eat my allotted three
fresh peanut-butter cookies,
each bearing the print of a fork’s
uncomplicated foot.

Educational Films

This entry is part 13 of 22 in the series Alternate Histories


In elementary school, sometimes we would drop everything & watch movies in the middle of a slow afternoon, old educational films from Coronet, Encylopedia Brittanica & Disney. My favorites were the ones with time-lapse photography. A great boat would take shape in minutes as scaffolding expanded like notebook doodles & workers leapt & swarmed as quick as thought. Or the classic: the wonder of a bud becoming a bloom, shedding its petals & swelling into a fruit.

Most educational of all were the rare occasions when the teacher would decide to feed the film back through the projector as she rewound it, so that everything went backwards at high speed. The law of gravity was replaced by the law of levity. We laughed & laughed as raindrops rose from puddles & cars sped through intersections in reverse gear without a single crash. You had to pay attention; everything happened so fast. I saw an oak shrink, furl its first green flags & curl up, the acorn closing around it like a healed wound. I saw a collapsed building rise from the dead, bullets return to their guns like homing pigeons & an ashen cloud condense & give birth to a bomb.


I used to be embarrassed to call these ridges mountains until I went to Mississippi and saw what they called hills.


The end of October, and a dandelion is in full bloom beside the driveway. I recall that the Brits refer to dandelion seedheads as clocks. This one, when it appears, will be some six months slow.


Three mornings ago I dreamt I was reading a new-to-me poet. I’m enough of a lucid dreamer that I know when I’m dreaming, most of the time, so I tried hard to memorize a few lines so I could claim them as my own when I woke. But I only managed to retain a single word: “apparatus.”


Last night I dreamt I was writing a poem about that Chandler Harris creation the tar baby. Most of us are smarter than Br’er Rabbit, but also more foolish: we know it’s only tar, but we tangle with it anyway.


We should wear masks 364 days of the year and only take them off for Halloween. That would be a terrifying revelation.


I wonder how many members of think tanks have ever spent time in a drunk tank?


The temperature’s right on the line between warm and cool. A fly walking on the windowpane staggers a bit as it crosses a white expanse of sky.