Poems & poem-like things

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

It’s fall, season of the apple— iconic
fruit of this America, mounds of excess
littering the grounds of orchards
from want of migrant hands to pick
the harvest clean: their red the banner
of every girl or woman who tips her head up
to the knowledge of her power— which means
she can see the way things work in the world,
and chooses not to be shamed any longer
for calling it. For what did the hissing
in the leaves tell her that she didn’t
already know, or the laughter behind
closed doors when she ran, groping
her way out? Don’t pretend you don’t
know what I want,
said every snake
in the grass. Survival means no one
dies, but someone is forced to take
the fall: the smallest bird, the lowest
fruit— though the fruit isn’t to blame
for its sheen, nor the star for marking
the place where its light was last seen.

(Lord’s day). Up and, after being trimmed, to the office, whither I upon a letter from the Duke of Albemarle to me, to order as many ships forth out of the river as I can presently, to joyne to meet the Dutch; having ordered all the Captains of the ships in the river to come to me, I did some business with them, and so to Captain Cocke’s to dinner, he being in the country. But here his brother Solomon was, and, for guests, myself, Sir G. Smith, and a very fine lady, one Mrs. Penington, and two more gentlemen. But, both [before] and after dinner, most witty discourse with this lady, who is a very fine witty lady, one of the best I ever heard speake, and indifferent handsome. There after dinner an houre or two, and so to the office, where ended my business with the Captains; and I think of twenty-two ships we shall make shift to get out seven. (God helpe us! men being sick, or provisions lacking.) And so to write letters to Sir Ph. Warwicke, Sir W. Coventry, and Sir G. Carteret to Court about the last six months’ accounts, and sent away by an express to-night.
This day I hear the Pope is dead; and one said, that the newes is, that the King of France is stabbed, but that the former is very true, which will do great things sure, as to the troubling of that part of the world, the King of Spayne being so lately dead. And one thing more, Sir Martin Noell’s lady is dead with griefe for the death of her husband and nothing else, as they say, in the world; but it seems nobody can make anything of his estate, whether he be dead worth anything or no, he having dealt in so many things, publique and private, as nobody can understand whereabouts his estate is, which is the fate of these great dealers at everything.
So after my business being done I home to my lodging and to bed.

trim as a ship out of the river
present to joy

the river her other self
witty with different hands

and visions to express
true troubling art

no grief for the body
or any private sin


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 8 October 1665.

Up and to the office along with Mr. Childe, whom I sent for to discourse about the victualling business, who will not come into partnership (no more will Captain Beckford ), but I do find him a mighty understanding man, and one I will keep a knowledge of. Did business, though not much, at the office; because of the horrible crowd and lamentable moan of the poor seamen that lie starving in the streets for lack of money. Which do trouble and perplex me to the heart; and more at noon when we were to go through them, for then a whole hundred of them followed us; some cursing, some swearing, and some praying to us.
And that that made me more troubled was a letter come this afternoon from the Duke of Albemarle, signifying the Dutch to be in sight, with 80 sayle, yesterday morning, off of Solebay, coming right into the bay. God knows what they will and may do to us, we having no force abroad able to oppose them, but to be sacrificed to them. Here come Sir W. Rider to me, whom I sent for about the victualling business also, but he neither will not come into partnership, but desires to be of the Commission if there be one. Thence back the back way to my office, where very late, very busy. But most of all when at night come two waggons from Rochester with more goods from Captain Cocke; and in houseing them at Mr. Tooker’s lodgings come two of the Custome-house to seize them, and did seize them but I showed them my ‘Transire’. However, after some hot and angry words, we locked them up, and sealed up the key, and did give it to the constable to keep till Monday, and so parted. But, Lord! to think how the poor constable come to me in the dark going home; “Sir,” says he, “I have the key, and if you would have me do any service for you, send for me betimes to-morrow morning, and I will do what you would have me.” Whether the fellow do this out of kindness or knavery, I cannot tell; but it is pretty to observe.
Talking with him in the high way, come close by the bearers with a dead corpse of the plague; but, Lord! to see what custom is, that I am come almost to think nothing of it.
So to my lodging, and there, with Mr. Hater and Will, ending a business of the state of the last six months’ charge of the Navy, which we bring to 1,000,000l. and above, and I think we do not enlarge much in it if anything. So to bed.

the lament of men that lie in the streets
some cursing
some praying

hot words locked up
the key is kindness

but close by a corpse I am come
almost to think nothing of it


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 7 October 1665.

I wanted to have a retinue, to be
married, to do. I wanted a house

and some kind of picket fence.
A knife, one of several, in a block.

A plate of crystal with facets cut
into its cheeks. Be careful what

you wish— a button undone
can lead to more buttons than

your fingers can undo. An eggshell
dome cracks under the soft

weight of a spoon. Is there a double
yolk inside that guesthouse for two?

I practiced signing a new name
until it learned me by heart. I shucked

it off but somewhere, there are books
and things stamped with that shape.

Up, and having sent for Mr. Gawden he come to me, and he and I largely discoursed the business of his Victualling, in order to the adding of partners to him or other ways of altering it, wherein I find him ready to do anything the King would have him do. So he and I took his coach and to Lambeth and to the Duke of Albemarle about it, and so back again, where he left me. In our way discoursing of the business and contracting a great friendship with him, and I find he is a man most worthy to be made a friend, being very honest and gratefull, and in the freedom of our discourse he did tell me his opinion and knowledge of Sir W. Pen to be, what I know him to be, as false a man as ever was born, for so, it seems, he hath been to him. He did also tell me, discoursing how things are governed as to the King’s treasure, that, having occasion for money in the country, he did offer Alderman Maynell to pay him down money here, to be paid by the Receiver in some county in the country, upon whom Maynell had assignments, in whose hands the money also lay ready. But Maynell refused it, saying that he could have his money when he would, and had rather it should lie where it do than receive it here in towne this sickly time, where he hath no occasion for it. But now the evil is that he hath lent this money upon tallys which are become payable, but he finds that nobody looks after it, how long the money is unpaid, and whether it lies dead in the Receiver’s hands or no, so the King he pays Maynell 10 per cent. while the money lies in his Receiver’s hands to no purpose but the benefit of the Receiver.
I to dinner to the King’s Head with Mr. Woolly, who is come to instruct me in the business of my goods, but gives me not so good comfort as I thought I should have had. But, however, it will be well worth my time though not above 2 or 300l.. He gone I to my office, where very busy drawing up a letter by way of discourse to the Duke of Albemarle about my conception how the business of the Victualling should be ordered, wherein I have taken great pains, and I think have hitt the right if they will but follow it. At this very late and so home to our lodgings to bed.

I know what I know
to be false

how things in the hand refuse us
gives me comfort

a thought should be worth
one wing


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 6 October 1665.

I am always trying to make my way

to that clearing where the gods

hewn from wood sit patiently

watching over their stores of grain—

They fix me with a look I can feel

no matter how far I still am

from that goal: by the shiver

that runs down my spine I know the light

cupped by each tree late in the day

is beaten almost to its thinnest;

a sheet that ripples, numen in each

dent and vein. And I am draped

in the cloth of everything woven before

my time: syllables issue from my lips

in sleep, whose meanings I ache for

all the hours I’m awake. Take me

in your arms, I beg of the unseen.

They only stroke my cheek the same

way I was nudged as a child, made

to keep up on a path whose end

kept vanishing in the just up ahead.

In old photographs, the formal
subject is often always posed:
holding an open parasol, standing
midway on a staircase or with one
foot on the running board of a car.
One could say, a favorite subtext
is certainty: everything finding
its place in the world, everything
pressed into service for a theme:
pulchritude, or coming of age;
and after, the ceremonies of coupling
and aging. The baby in its christening
smock, doll-like in the tiny casket.
The hero coming back bemedalled
after war: one arm in a sling,
one trouser leg hiding the shadow
of an exploded limb. Flowers
or a fake trellis in the background:
as if the figures were mere adornment
to the true subject which is time.