Poems & poem-like things

Original poetry, translations and videopoems by the authors of this blog. (See Poets and poetry for criticism, etc.)

Early morning: someone putting a kettle on the stove,
cracking an egg on the skillet’s rim; lid of the trash

can opening and falling back on itself to receive the cast-
off shell. Somewhere in the house, steam rising around

a body standing under the warm spray. Yesterday, we sat
around the table to eat and give thanks, slipping

sticks of cinnamon and woody stars of anise into the wine.
This time of year, past a certain hour, the world

darkens rapidly, enclosing each flame-like tongue lightly
tethered to the branch. Any day now, all of them will lie

in heaps, carpeting the ground. Russet and brass, lichen’s
bitter yellow: they are most achingly beautiful before they go.

Even the sleek white egret that stood still at the water’s edge
for hours unlocks its one folded leg; stretches, then flies away.

At the office all the morning. Sir G. Carteret, upon a motion of Sir W. Batten’s, did promise, if we would write a letter to him, to shew it to the King on our behalf touching our desire of being Commissioners of the Prize office. I wrote a letter to my mind and, after eating a bit at home (Mr. Sheply dining and taking his leave of me), abroad and to Sir G. Carteret with the letter and thence to my Lord Treasurer’s; wherewith Sir Philip Warwicke long studying all we could to make the last year swell as high as we could. And it is much to see how he do study for the King, to do it to get all the money from the Parliament all he can: and I shall be serviceable to him therein, to help him to heads upon which to enlarge the report of the expense. He did observe to me how obedient this Parliament was for awhile, and the last sitting how they begun to differ, and to carp at the King’s officers; and what they will do now, he says, is to make agreement for the money, for there is no guess to be made of it. He told me he was prepared to convince the Parliament that the Subsidys are a most ridiculous tax (the four last not rising to 40,000l.), and unequall. He talks of a tax of Assessment of 70,000l. for five years; the people to be secured that it shall continue no longer than there is really a warr; and the charges thereof to be paid.
He told me, that one year of the late Dutch warr cost 1,623,000l. Thence to my Lord Chancellor’s, and there staid long with Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes, to speak with my lord about our Prize Office business; but, being sicke and full of visitants, we could not speak with him, and so away home.
Where Sir Richard Ford did meet us with letters from Holland this day, that it is likely the Dutch fleete will not come out this year; they have not victuals to keep them out, and it is likely they will be frozen before they can get back.
Captain Cocke is made Steward for sick and wounded seamen.
So home to supper, where troubled to hear my poor boy Tom has a fit of the stone, or some other pain like it. I must consult Mr. Holliard for him.
So at one in the morning home to bed.

touching the head of the king
for this
they wounded a stone

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 22 November 1664.

A sliver of soap, a whole spoonful of chocolate. Time
to do nothing but sink into the oblivion of the ordinary,
read books, sleep until noon. When will such voluptuousness
be within reach, instead of seeming almost obscene? Once,
a catalog arrived in the mail addressed to the previous
tenant— I gaped at the glossy pictures: mounds of pearl-
escent caviar from the Caspian sea, ink-dark and salty; one
tiny kilogram the cost of 3 months’ mortgage, which
the caption warned should on no account be scooped up
with metal spoons, only crystal or bone. My luxuries
are smaller and monastic: the welcome blank between
chores, the silence of a cold yard punctuated by the pass
of a rake through fallen leaves; steam from a kettle,
hands grateful for the warmth steeping in a bowl.

Up, and with them to the Lords at White Hall, where they do single me out to speake to and to hear, much to my content, and received their commands, particularly in several businesses. Thence by their order to the Attorney General’s about a new warrant for Captain Taylor which I shall carry for him to be Commissioner in spite of Sir W. Batten, and yet indeed it is not I, but the ability of the man, that makes the Duke and Mr. Coventry stand by their choice.
I to the ‘Change and there staid long doing business, and this day for certain newes is come that Teddiman hath brought in eighteen or twenty Dutchmen, merchants, their Bourdeaux fleete, and two men of warr to Portsmouth. And I had letters this afternoon, that three are brought into the Downes and Dover; so that the warr is begun: God give a good end to it!
After dinner at home all the afternoon busy, and at night with Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes looking over the business of stating the accounts of the navy charge to my Lord Treasurer, where Sir J. Minnes’s paper served us in no stead almost, but was all false, and after I had done it with great pains, he being by, I am confident he understands not one word in it. At it till 10 at night almost.
Thence by coach to Sir Philip Warwicke’s, by his desire to have conferred with him, but he being in bed, I to White Hall to the Secretaries, and there wrote to Mr. Coventry, and so home by coach again, a fine clear moonshine night, but very cold.
Home to my office awhile, it being past 12 at night; and so to supper and to bed.

the received spit
of news in the mouth
War Moon

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 21 November 1664.

Today is four parts mulch, one part roots negotiating
with one part water. Or: too much earth, too much

gravity, too many regrets packed away in jars or pickling
in the cellar. I’ve envied air plants in their miniature

clay pots, suspended by slender cords of leather. They lean
so slightly on close to nothing. They even thrive. Did I

ever feel like them, seemingly unperturbed by the imminence
of early passing? The blue half life bright and moldering

away in its dish; carnival masks pleating into their base
of sequins and glue. I think I will miss me too when I

am gone. Let’s open the tins of escargot someone left
in the back of the pantry, and eat them with buttered toast.

So many things others call trivial can give such glorious
pleasure: a sliver of soap; a whole spoonful of chocolate.

(Lord’s day). Up, and with my wife to church, where Pegg Pen very fine in her new coloured silk suit laced with silver lace. Dined at home, and Mr. Sheply, lately come to town, with me. A great deal of ordinary discourse with him. Among other things praying him to speak to Stankes to look after our business. With him and in private with Mr. Bodham talking of our ropeyarde stores at Woolwich, which are mighty low, even to admiration. They gone, in the evening comes Mr. Andrews and sings with us, and he gone, I to Sir W. Batten’s, where Sir J. Minnes and he and I to talk about our letter to my Lord Treasurer, where his folly and simple confidence so great in a report so ridiculous that he hath drawn up to present to my Lord, nothing of it being true, that I was ashamed, and did roundly and in many words for an houre together talk boldly to him, which pleased Sir W. Batten and my Lady, but I was in the right, and was the willinger to do so before them, that they might see that I am somebody, and shall serve him so in his way another time.
So home vexed at this night’s passage, for I had been very hot with him, so to supper and to bed, out of order with this night’s vexation.

church laced
with silver discourse
praying look after our rope

to sing
is a simple thing
true and round as time

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 20 November 1664.

How to live in time, how to have it acknowledge the gold-
brown body you press into its hull? Consult a rune, fortunes

slipped into a shell— You will need to make an important
decision this year
; or Change is soon coming. But when

is the future’s bony finger not scratching at the window,
or bending back the stalks of wheat as if to make a path

for the unseen’s passing? It’s hard not to grieve for all
the slow sifting above. But rising at dawn, I marvel

at the sky’s coloring: saffron of a mango’s cheek, velvety
peach. Fruit out of season. Or a dry tremor of wings

unhinging in the canopy. Sometimes the moon remains visible,
blade of dented silver poking through the branches. Tiny

forms affix themselves to the substrate where the sea
rises through a network of roots, no longer negotiating.

All the morning at the office, and without dinner down by galley up and down the river to visit the yards and ships now ordered forth with great delight, and so home to supper, and then to office late to write letters, then home to bed.

the Dow down
the river is red with light
a late rite

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 19 November 1664.

Up and to the office, and thence to the Committee of the Fishery at White Hall, where so poor simple doings about the business of the Lottery, that I was ashamed to see it, that a thing so low and base should have any thing to do with so noble an undertaking.
But I had the advantage this day to hear Mr. Williamson discourse, who come to be a contractor with others for the Lotterys, and indeed I find he is a very logicall man and a good speaker.
But it was so pleasant to see my Lord Craven, the chaireman, before many persons of worth and grave, use this comparison in saying that certainly these that would contract for all the lotteries would not suffer us to set up the Virginia lottery for plate before them, “For,” says he, “if I occupy a wench first, you may occupy her again your heart but you can never have her maidenhead after I have once had it,” which he did more loosely, and yet as if he had fetched a most grave and worthy instance. They made mirth, but I and others were ashamed of it.
Thence to the ‘Change and thence home to dinner, and thence to the office a good while, and thence to the Council chamber at White Hall to speake with Sir G. Carteret, and here by accident heard a great and famous cause between Sir G. Lane and one Mr. Phill. Whore, an Irish business about Sir G. Lane’s endeavouring to reverse a decree of the late Commissioners of Ireland in a Rebells case for his land, which the King had given as forfeited to Sir G. Lane, for whom the Sollicitor did argue most angell like, and one of the Commissioners, Baron, did argue for the other and for himself and his brethren who had decreed it. But the Sollicitor do so pay the Commissioners, how four all along did act for the Papists, and three only for the Protestants, by which they were overvoted, but at last one word (which was omitted in the Sollicitor’s repeating of an Act of Parliament in the case) being insisted on by the other part, the Sollicitor was put to a great stop, and I could discern he could not tell what to say, but was quite out. Thence home well pleased with this accident, and so home to my office, where late, and then to supper and to bed.
This day I had a letter from Mr. Coventry, that tells me that my Lord Brunkard is to be one of our Commissioners, of which I am very glad, if any more must be.

this grave I occupy
you may have after me
by accident or angel
like a long last word
I could not say and so
must be

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 18 November 1664.

Insinuation of impostor against their bonafides.
Insinuation of time as imponderable longing for salt
and rice and fish, and many other things I can’t dream,
and so can’t name. The idea of gods always wanting
a taste: first or last. In tide pools, every octopus
is related to the squid. I could live as well in rocks
and caves. Wherever I find myself, I learn to become
my own infinite ecosystem. When they call me dog, I bare
my fangs. I nose at the sky, where I am the brightest star.
When I am stripped from the stalk before I’ve even had
a chance to flower, like buds of the Flinders rose I
allow to be embalmed in brine. Always, it comes down
to the question of how to live in time, how to have it
acknowledge the gold-brown body you press into its hull.