Tuesday in Poetry School

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
In the craft of poetry class where only three or four students talked
and one was always excusing herself to throw up in the bathroom,
the only ones that seemed at all interested were the student with
a hearing aid, the political science major, and the student in the film
program. Most days, only my voice filled the ticking silence. Questions
hung in the air unanswered. No one made a move to slide pen on paper
or type notes. I wanted to say I didn't care, I'd let poems fill the hour
and fifteen minutes any way they wanted, give them room for their
sweep and cadence, their little rooms inhabited by frogs and quiet
ponds, their patterns in sixes, their one step forward and two steps
back, their meander and sprawl like sumi-e brushes loaded with ink
under a brilliant moon. There were days I'd walk out of the room
thinking Am I done? Should I just stop? The resident falcon swooped
out of the sky and rested on the art building's roof. On the sidewalk,
seagulls fought over the remains of someone's breakfast sandwich
in a crumpled wrapper. The book return bin looked forlorn and empty.
Everyone was either buying boba tea or espresso drinks in the cafe.

I never thought I would be

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
the dock they'd push off from when they thought
they were finally good and ready;

the template against which they might model
a life, if not a tiny waistline;

the listening post for their sorrows, the one
to approve their fashion and life choices;

the one who knew not to comment
on the tattoos, the nose and eyebrow piercings;

the one to empty and make do
until empty could apparently be more empty.


Sam Pepys and me

To Whitehall by water from Towre-wharf, where we could not pass the ordinary way, because they were mending of the great stone steps against the Coronacion. With Sir W. Pen, then to my Lord’s, and thence with Capt. Cuttance and Capt. Clark to drink our morning draught together, and before we could get back again my Lord was gone out. So to Whitehall again and, met with my Lord above with the Duke; and after a little talk with him, I went to the Banquethouse, and there saw the King heal, the first time that ever I saw him do it; which he did with great gravity, and it seemed to me to be an ugly office and a simple one. That done to my Lord’s and dined there, and so by water with parson Turner towards London, and upon my telling of him of Mr. Moore to be a fit man to do his business with Bishop Wren, about which he was going, he went back out of my boat into another to Whitehall, and so I forwards home and there by and by took coach with Sir W. Pen and Captain Terne and went to the buriall of Captain Robert Blake, at Wapping, and there had each of us a ring, but it being dirty, we would not go to church with them, but with our coach we returned home, and there staid a little, and then he and I alone to the Dolphin (Sir W. Batten being this day gone with his wife to Walthamstow to keep Easter), and there had a supper by ourselves, we both being very hungry, and staying there late drinking I became very sleepy, and so we went home and I to bed.

we eat stones
together again

a little banquet
with great gravity

ugly and simple
as the burial

of each of us
being dirt

we would not go
hungry to bed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 13 April 1661.

Portrait of the Self Moving from Love to Love

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
Absorb what heat transfers to stone. Grate
bricks of salty cheese, eat leftover red velvet

cupcakes though you know you'll be sorry you
did, afterwards. Nearly halfway through the. year,

every celebration's too quickly gone. Time scatters
feathers so recklessly on the grass, then flies away.

Grief, on the other hand, hunches in an armchair,
heavy-hipped. It hasn't moved in weeks, is sorely

in need of a shower. You try not to pay it any mind,
just going about your day. Without warning, it

keens under its breath, bursts into tears. Sometimes it
looks and sounds like a child that wants soothing.

Marvel at its persistence, its certainty you'll eventually
need to do something about it. Something real, that is.

Only a fool would give it everything. If a venomous snake
perched on your windowsill, would you offer it your neck?

Quagmires and quicksands, all the world's hidden hazards,
ready to test the trusting traveler. You read books

simply to pass the time, not necessarliy to find happiness
though it seems possible. Could you really be happy

under cloud banks, haze of smog; prospects of becoming fully
vested still a question mark in your mind? Context:

when you arrive at a certain age, every scenario's
xeriscape is minimalist—conserving moisture. You

yearn at times for the lushness of landscape, indisputable
zest before amor mundi turned into love-as-memory.

Holy diver

Sam Pepys and me

Up among my workmen, and about 7 o’clock comes my wife to see me and my brother John with her, who I am glad to see, but I sent them away because of going to the office, and there dined with Sir W. Batten, all fish dinner, it being Good Friday.
Then home and looking over my workmen, and then into the City and saw in what forwardness all things are for the Coronacion, which will be very magnificent. Then back again home and to my chamber, to set down in my diary all my late journey, which I do with great pleasure; and while I am now writing comes one with a tickett to invite me to Captain Robert Blake’s buriall, for whose death I am very sorry, and do much wonder at it, he being a little while since a very likely man to live as any I knew. Since my going out of town, there is one Alexander Rosse taken and sent to the Counter by Sir Thomas Allen, for counterfeiting my hand to a ticket, and we this day at the office have given order to Mr. Smith to prosecute him. To bed.

among men
I am all fish
magnificent in my diary

I come with a ticket
to death or wonder
in my own counterfeit hand

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 12 April 1661.


Sam Pepys and me

At 2 o’clock, with very great mirth, we went to our lodging and to bed, and lay till 7, and then called up by Sir W. Batten, so I arose and we did some business, and then came Captn. Allen, and he and I withdrew and sang a song or two, and among others took pleasure in “Goe and bee hanged, that’s good-bye.”
The young ladies come too, and so I did again please myself with Mrs. Rebecca, and about 9 o’clock, after we had breakfasted, we sett forth for London, and indeed I was a little troubled to part with Mrs. Rebecca, for which God forgive me. Thus we went away through Rochester, calling and taking leave of Mr. Alcock at the door, Capt. Cuttance going with us. We baited at Dartford, and thence to London.
But of all the journeys that ever I made this was the merriest, and I was in a strange mood for mirth. Among other things, I got my Lady to let her maid, Mrs. Anne, to ride all the way on horseback, and she rides exceeding well; and so I called her my clerk, that she went to wait upon me.
I met two little schoolboys going with pitchers of ale to their schoolmaster to break up against Easter, and I did drink of some of one of them and give him two pence.
By and by we come to two little girls keeping cows, and I saw one of them very pretty, so I had a mind to make her ask my blessing, and telling her that I was her godfather, she asked me innocently whether I was not Ned Wooding, and I said that I was, so she kneeled down and very simply called, “Pray, godfather, pray to God to bless me,” which made us very merry, and I gave her twopence.
In several places, I asked women whether they would sell me their children, but they denied me all, but said they would give me one to keep for them, if I would.
Mrs. Anne and I rode under the man that hangs upon Shooter’s Hill, and a filthy sight it was to see how his flesh is shrunk to his bones.
So home and I found all well, and a deal of work done since I went.
I sent to see how my wife do, who is well, and my brother John come from Cambridge.
To Sir W. Batten’s and there supped, and very merry with the young ladles. So to bed very sleepy for last night’s work, concluding that it is the pleasantest journey in all respects that ever I had in my life.

to the rose I am a bee

my fast chest
journeys with me

keeping a blessing
for the man that hangs

on Shooter’s Hill
flesh shrunk to his bones

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 11 April 1661.

What I Was Taught, Growing Up

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
Remember when you leave the room, 
you off the light. You also off the TV.
The milk in the ref is bad now.
But if you keep drinking coffee you will stop growing.
Don't eat so much ice cream. You will always catch colds.
I don't know why you call it pins and needles.
I am not a pin's cushion.
When there is that feeling in my feet
it is the devil squeezing.
The way to cure it is to spit on your finger
and make the sign of the cross on top of it.
Then the devil freezes. He cannot move.
If you are eating and I have to leave the house,
you must turn your plate to the right
and again to the right. Make a complete circle.
Like you are driving a car.
That way I won't meet an accident.
I will teach you how to measure a cloth
to make sure it fits you
without going in the fitting room..
You take the waist, one in each hand,
and fold it around your neck,
like you are choking yourself
but not really choking.
It will fit well, you will see.
You have to thank me that I did not eat
many eggplants when you were
in my stomach. See, your pwet is smooth
and has no shadow, no dark blue color.
See that moth on the orchid plant?
Don't sneeze. That is your dead
grandfather coming to visit.


Sam Pepys and me

In the morning to see the Dockhouses. First, Mr. Pett’s, the builder, and there was very kindly received, and among other things he did offer my Lady Batten a parrot, the best I ever saw, that knew Mingo so soon as it saw him, having been bred formerly in the house with them; but for talking and singing I never heard the like. My Lady did accept of it.
Then to see Commissioner Pett’s house, he and his family being absent, and here I wondered how my Lady Batten walked up and down with envious looks to see how neat and rich everything is (and indeed both the house and garden is most handsome), saying that she would get it, for it belonged formerly to the Surveyor of the Navy.
Then on board the Prince, now in the dock, and indeed it has one and no more rich cabins for carved work, but no gold in her.
After that back home, and there eat a little dinner. Then to Rochester, and there saw the Cathedrall, which is now fitting for use, and the organ then a-tuning. Then away thence, observing the great doors of the church, which, they say, was covered with the skins of the Danes, and also had much mirth at a tomb, on which was “Come sweet Jesu,” and I read “Come sweet Mall,” &c., at which Captain Pett and I had good laughter.
So to the Salutacion tavern, where Mr. Alcock and many of the town came and entertained us with wine and oysters and other things, and hither come Sir John Minnes to us, who is come to-day to see “the Henery,” in which he intends to ride as Vice-Admiral in the narrow seas all this summer. Here much mirth, but I was a little troubled to stay too long, because of going to Hempson’s, which afterwards we did, and found it in all things a most pretty house, and rarely furnished, only it had a most ill access on all sides to it, which is a greatest fault that I think can be in a house.
Here we had, for my sake, two fiddles, the one a base viall, on which he that played, played well some lyra lessons, but both together made the worst musique that ever I heard.
We had a fine collacion, but I took little pleasure in that, for the illness of the musique and for the intentness of my mind upon Mrs. Rebecca Allen.
After we had done eating, the ladies went to dance, and among the men we had, I was forced to dance too; and did make an ugly shift. Mrs. R. Allen danced very well, and seems the best humoured woman that ever I saw. About 9 o’clock Sir William and my Lady went home, and we continued dancing an hour or two, and so broke up very pleasant and merry, and so walked home, I leading Mrs. Rebecca, who seemed, I know not why, in that and other things, to be desirous of my favours and would in all things show me respects.
Going home, she would needs have me sing, and I did pretty well and was highly esteemed by them.
So to Captain Allen’s (where we were last night, and heard him play on the harpsicon, and I find him to be a perfect good musician), and there, having no mind to leave Mrs. Rebecca, what with talk and singing (her father and I), Mrs. Turner and I staid there till 2 o’clock in the morning and was most exceeding merry, and I had the opportunity of kissing Mrs. Rebecca very often.
Among other things Captain Pett was saying that he thought that he had got his wife with child since I came thither. Which I took hold of and was merrily asking him what he would take to have it said for my honour that it was of my getting? He merrily answered that he would if I would promise to be godfather to it if it did come within the time just, and I said that I would. So that I must remember to compute it when the time comes.

a parrot talking
like a commissioner for the navy

on all the narrow seas
in my mind

I make him sing as often
as I ask for god

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 10 April 1661.

On the Back of a Cow, Vampire Bats French-kiss with Mouthfuls of Blood

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
A pair tiptoe-fly across the soft dark, then do 
a kind of running jump, landing on the cow's nape.

What does it feel, or does it feel at all; or is it mostly
unbothered? It only shakes its head a little, tethered

as it is to the fence, when they begin their blood-
feast. St. Augustine wrote, Inhabit, and you shall be

inhabited. Dwell, and you shall be dwelt in.*
You could
call it love, this investment in another; this shared

appetite for what sustains life. But the bats are only
being true to their nature. If they lick each others' mouths,

it's precious currency rather than a kiss: not ardor
but a social bond. It's posible to languish from a lack

of love, even die of a broken heart. In many accounts,
the lovestruck sport a pallor akin to being drained of blood.

(*Sermon on Love, 10)


Sam Pepys and me

…and lay and slept well till 3 in the morning, and then waking, and by the light of the moon I saw my pillow (which overnight I flung from me) stand upright, but not bethinking myself what it might be, I was a little afeard, but sleep overcame all and so lay till high morning, at which time I had a candle brought me and a good fire made, and in general it was a great pleasure all the time I staid here to see how I am respected and honoured by all people; and I find that I begin to know now how to receive so much reverence, which at the beginning I could not tell how to do.
Sir William and I by coach to the dock and there viewed all the storehouses and the old goods that are this day to be sold, which was great pleasure to me, and so back again by coach home, where we had a good dinner, and among other strangers that come, there was Mr. Hempson and his wife, a pretty woman, and speaks Latin; Mr. Allen and two daughters of his, both very tall and the youngest very handsome, so much as I could not forbear to love her exceedingly, having, among other things, the best hand that ever I saw.
After dinner, we went to fit books and things (Tom Hater being this morning come to us) for the sale, by an inch of candle, and very good sport we and the ladies that stood by had, to see the people bid. Among other things sold there was all the State’s arms, which Sir W. Batten bought; intending to set up some of the images in his garden, and the rest to burn on the Coronacion night. The sale being done, the ladies and I and Captain Pett and Mr. Castle took barge and down we went to see the Sovereign, which we did, taking great pleasure therein, singing all the way, and, among other pleasures, I put my Lady, Mrs. Turner, Mrs. Hempson, and the two Mrs. Allens into the lanthorn and I went in and kissed them, demanding it as a fee due to a principall officer, with all which we were exceeding merry, and drunk some bottles of wine and neat’s tongue, &c. Then back again home and so supped, and after much mirth to bed.

in the light of the moon
my little candle and I
are strangers

you love being
in the state’s arms
to burn the night down

sovereign as
the singing horn
of a bottle

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 9 April 1661.