Poems & poem-like things

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

There are certain flowers and leaves
that turn slippery as soap when bruised—

swished into a plastic flask of water
with a few granules of detergent,

they made the largest, most glorious
bubbles which we blew with makeshift

spools of bent clothes hangers—
The same type of wire that girls

who’d been foolish would use to try
and empty themselves, scour that room

before a cell, another body, could grow
into a larger shape to take up residence

in their own. This is how I took one
of my cousin’s friends to the ER:

doubled over in pain, until the orderlies
drew the privacy curtains then whisked

her off to the operating room. That
was the last time I saw her, until

she popped up recently on Facebook:
with a lover, a grown daughter; smiling,

slipped away from who knows what cowl
might have dropped around her shoulders.

Up, and all day long finishing and writing over my will twice, for my father and my wife, only in the morning a pleasant rencontre happened in having a young married woman brought me by her father, old Delkes, that carries pins always in his mouth, to get her husband off that he should not go to sea, ‘une contre pouvait avoir done any cose cum else, but I did nothing, si ni baisser her’. After they were gone my mind run upon having them called back again, and I sent a messenger to Blackwall, but he failed. So I lost my expectation. I to the Exchequer, about striking new tallys, and I find the Exchequer, by proclamation, removing to Nonesuch.
Back again and at my papers, and putting up my books into chests, and settling my house and all things in the best and speediest order I can, lest it should please God to take me away, or force me to leave my house.
Late up at it, and weary and full of wind, finding perfectly that so long as I keepe myself in company at meals and do there eat lustily (which I cannot do alone, having no love to eating, but my mind runs upon my business), I am as well as can be, but when I come to be alone, I do not eat in time, nor enough, nor with any good heart, and I immediately begin to be full of wind, which brings my pain, till I come to fill my belly a-days again, then am presently well.

a man that carries pins in his mouth
should not go to sea

my chest full of wind
I cannot fill my belly

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 11 August 1665.

How many words can you speak
into a phone? A pair of goats,

bleating from thin cords
that tether them to the base

of a guava tree. Where they traced
circles in the dust, they shat small

hard pellets. Who owns this land?
Is there a deed, a title, a lien

holder? The plumbing is old and rusty.
Water from the tank leaks in rivulets

before it can climb into the house.
So many questions and too many holes

in the walls. Who stole the light
bulbs out of their sockets, dis-

connected the refrigerator?
The mailman bangs on the gate

with a rock. No one hears
or no one answers.

Up betimes, and called upon early by my she-cozen Porter, the turner’s wife, to tell me that her husband was carried to the Tower, for buying of some of the King’s powder, and would have my helpe, but I could give her none, not daring any more to appear in the business, having too much trouble lately therein. By and by to the office, where we sat all the morning; in great trouble to see the Bill this week rise so high, to above 4,000 in all, and of them above 3,000 of the plague. And an odd story of Alderman Bence’s stumbling at night over a dead corps in the streete, and going home and telling his wife, she at the fright, being with child, fell sicke and died of the plague. We sat late, and then by invitation my Lord Brunker, Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Batten and I to Sir G. Smith’s to dinner, where very good company and good cheer. Captain Cocke was there and Jacke Fenn, but to our great wonder Alderman Bence, and tells us that not a word of all this is true, and others said so too, but by his owne story his wife hath been ill, and he fain to leave his house and comes not to her, which continuing a trouble to me all the time I was there.
Thence to the office and, after writing letters, home, to draw over anew my will, which I had bound myself by oath to dispatch by to-morrow night; the town growing so unhealthy, that a man cannot depend upon living two days to an end. So having done something of it, I to bed.

over a corpse in the street

and at the fright
over my oath
a wing

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 10 August 1665.

In the corners, under and through
the floorboards. In the kitchen
cupboards. Under the sink, wherever
traces of human debris have piled up
with empty bottles, plastic food
wrappers, dirty silverware. One
drowned in the bathroom, grey
and slowly spinning under yellow
light. Where is the Piper
to lead them to wider water:
over the falls, away from the town,
away from the widows curled under
thin sheets in the cold? Lead them
into the homes of the merciless.
There, let them feast unrestrained.

Up betimes to my office, where Tom Hater to the writing of letters with me, which have for a good while been in arreare, and we close at it all day till night, only made a little step out for half an houre in the morning to the Exchequer about striking of tallys, but no good done therein, people being most out of towne.
At noon T. Hater dined with me, and so at it all the afternoon. At night home and supped, and after reading a little in Cowley’s poems, my head being disturbed with overmuch business to-day, I to bed.

ice letters
close all day
night striking out at noon
in the owl’s poems

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 9 August 1665.

Up and to the office, where all the morning we sat. At noon I home to dinner alone, and after dinner Bagwell’s wife waited at the door, and went with me to my office, en lequel jo haze todo which I had a corazón a hazer con ella. So parted, and I to Sir W. Batten’s, and there sat the most of the afternoon talking and drinking too much with my Lord Bruncker, Sir G. Smith, G. Cocke and others very merry. I drunk a little mixed, but yet more than I should do. So to my office a little, and then to the Duke of Albemarle’s about some business. The streets mighty empty all the way, now even in London, which is a sad sight. And to Westminster Hall, where talking, hearing very sad stories from Mrs. Mumford; among others, of Mrs. Michell’s son’s family. And poor Will, that used to sell us ale at the Hall-door, his wife and three children died, all, I think, in a day. So home through the City again, wishing I may have taken no ill in going; but I will go, I think, no more thither.
Late at the office, and then home to supper, having taken a pullet home with me, and then to bed.
The news of De Ruyter’s coming home is certain; and told to the great disadvantage of our fleete, and the praise of De Ruyter; but it cannot be helped, nor do I know what to say to it.

in the haze of the afternoon
drinking too much
my empty wishing

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 8 August 1665.

“Traté de ahogar mis penas… pero las condenadas aprendieron a nadar.”
[“I tried to drown my sorrows… but those I’d condemned learned to swim.”] ~ Frida Kahlo

At night do you hear a fiddle sleep,
a wheelchair creak? The body works

until it doesn’t. The body limps
to the end of the road until it can’t

wait for the bus anymore. And closure
is hard to come by, even when it might

signify an end: perhaps to suffering,
to pain, uncertainty, ordinary tedium.

And what happens to pleasure, to ease,
the consonance of one limb working

as well as the other; the wondrous
machine giving off such poignant sounds

only when surfaces are scratched
by a needle? What now, in the pause

between one impasse and another, except
the admission of what can’t be known?


In response to Via Negativa: Nearer my god.

I am sitting on the deck in the heat
that hasn’t dissolved yet though it is evening,
because I want to be in the open, away
from the smells of oil & frying in the kitchen
though this makes me fair game for Asian tiger
mosquitoes circling my ankles & arms
& the sides of my neck. I feel the grief
that comes not only from histories I could recite
even in my sleep, but also from the wreckage
of the future, whose foghorn sounds closer
& closer each night. I am reading a poem
by Alice Notley, which she ends by saying
I have nothing to show for my time but poems/
what do you have
… The pot of mint that survived
this brutal weather sends up its faint
sweet-pungent trail of breath & I don’t know
if it’s this which undoes me or if it’s those words.
& I don’t care anymore if this is cliché but my heart
is breaking & I wish the curtain of cicada trills
were thick enough for me to drown in. How sure
they seem of their purpose & how to accomplish it—
Wait years & years, spend it all on one thing,
then quit this earth— If I had their certainty
would I give up all I had too without
questioning? Now it gets close to the end
but my inventory is small; & it isn’t the kind
that could provide what others desperately
need or want. I am only one piece in a story
I don’t know the end or beginning of; I’m in a state
of perpetual second-guessing & if there’s anyone
who might know the answers, they’re long gone
from this world or maybe they were never here,
yet they’re always the first to pass judgment.

Up, and with great pleasure looking over my wife’s pictures, and then to see my Lady Pen, whom I have not seen since her coming hither, and after being a little merry with her, she went forth and I staid there talking with Mrs. Pegg and looking over her pictures, and commended them; but, Lord! so far short of my wife’s, as no comparison. Thence to my wife, and there spent, talking, till noon, when by appointment Mr. Andrews come out of the country to speake with me about their Tangier business, and so having done with him and dined, I home by water, where by appointment I met Dr. Twisden, Mr. Povy, Mr. Lawson, and Stockdale about settling their business of money; but such confusion I never met with, nor could anything be agreed on, but parted like a company of fools, I vexed to lose so much time and pains to no purpose.
They gone, comes Rayner, the boatmaker, about some business, and brings a piece of plate with him, which I refused to take of him, thinking indeed that the poor man hath no reason nor encouragement from our dealings with him to give any of us any presents. He gone, there comes Luellin, about Mr. Deering’s business of planke, to have the contract perfected, and offers me twenty pieces in gold, as Deering had done some time since himself, but I both then and now refused it, resolving not to be bribed to dispatch business, but will have it done however out of hand forthwith.
So he gone, I to supper and to bed.

pleasure is a spent country
having laws but no art

like pain
which the poor have perfected
and now refuse out of hand

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 7 August 1665.