Crisis of identity

In the morning I was able to put on a wide shoe on the foot, and to the office without much pain, and there sat all the morning. At noon home to dinner, where Creed to discourse of our Tangier business, which stands very bad in the business of money, and therefore we expect to have a committee called soon, and to acquaint them among other things with the order come to me for the not paying of any more pensions. We dined together, and after dinner I to the office, and there very late, very busy, doing much business indeed, and so with great comfort home to supper, and so to bed to ease my foot, which toward night began to ake.

in the morning I was a wide shoe
at noon a committee
and after dinner a bus
which toward night began to ache


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 16 July 1667.

Descent

still from Descent
This entry is part 20 of 20 in the series Pandemic Season

 

Watch on Vimeo.

katydids
in and out of sync
our ragged breaths

In dreams, my hometown in central Pennsylvania has partially merged with London. There are multiple high-rise apartment buildings now, rather than just one, the river is wider, the paper mill has become a sprawling industrial complex, and the poor section of town now has a distinctly bohemian flavor. Wandering the wooded hill in the center of town, I find a nearly deserted, glassed-in staircase, and descend it in great leaps, nearly flying. My British wife, undercover as a Bond girl, asks how I can do that and not get hurt. This is all just a dream, I tell her. Is it real for you?

katydids
together apart
together

***

Process notes

My own field recording of the nightly common true katydid chorus is the soundtrack for a video haibun based on a recent dream. I used footage from the Prelinger Archives: someone’s old home movie from a trip to London, and a documentary advertising Redbook magazine (which I also used earlier in this sequence, for Face Masks), all treated with a simple vignetted effect. I couldn’t decide whether it was better to have the images dark and night-like or garish and dream-like, so I settled for a blend of the two reflecting the contrasting conditions of the source films. No doubt a professional film maker could’ve done a better job with the dream sequence, but as usual I’m OK with something that evokes approximately the feeling I had while writing the text.

As for the haibun, I find it both humdrum and exciting: humdrum as dream narrations go (especially in the middle of an increasingly scary political/economic situation with the pandemic continuing to rage unchecked—where’s the fear and paranoia?!) but mildly exciting for the haiku, where I hit upon the idea of including two different versions of essentially the same idea, and sandwiching the dream between them.

My Mother is Not at Home

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
My mother is not at home, but 
in a care home where she gets
three hot meals a day and nurses
look after her needs. The home
she left before she was admitted
to the care home was a split-
level built on the side of a hill.
This was not the home of my child-
hood, but a home she bought 
when the upkeep of the former
became too much for her. When
she still lived in this house 
on the hill, others lived with her:
but they siphoned off her running
water and electricity. I'm told
that her marble coffee table and 
two end tables have gone missing, 
and her sewing machine. Now 
that she isn't there, lights 
are ablaze in every window.
So many people say this is 
a commonplace story. No one has
any solution and I don't know 
what to do. They want me to drop 
everything and just go. The nurses 
say sometimes she sits in the yard 
in her wheelchair and begins to sing.
  
  

Day and night

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

…in great pain all night long so as I was not able to go to-day to wait on the Duke of York with my fellows, but was forced in bed to write the particulars for their discourse there, and kept my bed all day, and anon comes Mrs. Turner, and new-dressed my foot, and did it so, that I was at much ease presently, and so continued all day, so as I slept much and well in the daytime, and in the evening rose and eat something, where our poor Jane very sad for the death of her poor brother, who hath left a wife and two small children. I did give her 20s. in money, and what wine she needed, for the burying him. This evening come to see me Pelling, and we did sing together, and he sings well indeed, and after supper I was willing to go to bed to ease my foot again, which I did, and slept well all night.

I wait
in bed all day
dressed
for burying

come to see me
and sing
sing
to ease my night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 15 July 1667.

America

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

America, it’s the day after
another hurricane hurtles
through towns, a fringe
of tornados leading the way.
The Baptist Church on the corner
of 38th and Bluestone has its face
sheared off completely by blades
of wind. Oak trees lie on their sides,
unpinned from lawns. Pine
branches intersect with power
lines. America, I used to believe
in your storied generosity: how
firefighters and volunteers alike
paddled through high water
to pluck shivering families off
their roofs; how police tapped
on the window to ask if every-
thing was alright instead of
ordering an entire family,
down to the youngest child,
to lie on the asphalt, arms
crossed behind their backs.
My only crime, said Carlos
Bulosan, is to be a Filipino in
America.
Did you know the nurse
who checks your vitals in the crowded
ICU first studied to be a teacher, and
her husband who drives a truck
has a degree in physics? All night,
the warning signals blare on
and off. One of the neighbors
worries about the man who sat
bundled in a blanket on the corner
across the drugstore. The rain
was still falling, but there was
no more room in the shelters.

Night train

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Lord’s day). Up, and my wife, a little before four, and to make us ready; and by and by Mrs. Turner come to us, by agreement, and she and I staid talking below, while my wife dressed herself, which vexed me that she was so long about it keeping us till past five o’clock before she was ready. She ready; and, taking some bottles of wine, and beer, and some cold fowle with us into the coach, we took coach and four horses, which I had provided last night, and so away. A very fine day, and so towards Epsum, talking all the way pleasantly, and particularly of the pride and ignorance of Mrs. Lowther, in having of her train carried up? The country very fine, only the way very dusty. We got to Epsum by eight o’clock, to the well; where much company, and there we ’light, and I drank the water: they did not, but do go about and walk a little among the women, but I did drink four pints, and had some very good stools by it. Here I met with divers of our town, among others with several of the tradesmen of our office, but did talk but little with them, it growing hot in the sun, and so we took coach again and to the towne, to the King’s Head, where our coachman carried us, and there had an ill room for us to go into, but the best in the house that was not taken up. Here we called for drink, and bespoke dinner; and hear that my Lord Buckhurst and Nelly are lodged at the next house, and Sir Charles Sidly with them and keep a merry house. Poor girl! I pity her; but more the loss of her at the King’s house. Here I saw Gilsthrop, Sir W. Batten’s clerk that hath been long sick, he looks like a dying man, with a consumption got, as is believed, by the pox, but God knows that the man is in a sad condition, though he finds himself much better since his coming thither, he says. W. Hewer rode with us, and I left him and the women, and myself walked to church, where few people, contrary to what I expected, and none I knew, but all the Houblons, brothers, and them after sermon I did salute, and walk with towards my inne, which was in their way to their lodgings. They come last night to see their elder brother, who stays here at the waters, and away to-morrow. James did tell me that I was the only happy man of the Navy, of whom, he says, during all this freedom the people have taken of speaking treason, he hath not heard one bad word of me, which is a great joy to me; for I hear the same of others, but do know that I have deserved as well as most. We parted to meet anon, and I to my women into a better room, which the people of the house borrowed for us, and there to dinner, a good dinner, and were merry, and Pendleton come to us, who happened to be in the house, and there talked and were merry. After dinner, he gone, we all lay down after dinner (the day being wonderful hot) to sleep, and each of us took a good nap, and then rose; and Tom Wilson come to see me, and sat and talked an hour; and I perceive he hath been much acquainted with Dr. Fuller (Tom) and Dr. Pierson, and several of the great cavalier parsons during the late troubles; and I was glad to hear him talk of them, which he did very ingeniously, and very much of Dr. Fuller’s art of memory, which he did tell me several instances of. By and by he parted, and we took coach and to take the ayre, there being a fine breeze abroad; and I went and carried them to the well, and there filled some bottles of water to carry home with me; and there talked with the two women that farm the well, at 12l. per annum, of the lord of the manor, Mr. Evelyn (who with his lady, and also my Lord George Barkeley’s lady, and their fine daughter, that the King of France liked so well, and did dance so rich in jewells before the King at the Ball I was at, at our Court, last winter, and also their son, a Knight of the Bath, were at church this morning). Here W. Hewer’s horse broke loose, and we had the sport to see him taken again. Then I carried them to see my cozen Pepys’s house, and ’light, and walked round about it, and they like it, as indeed it deserves, very well, and is a pretty place; and then I walked them to the wood hard by, and there got them in the thickets till they had lost themselves, and I could not find the way into any of the walks in the wood, which indeed are very pleasant, if I could have found them. At last got out of the wood again; and I, by leaping down the little bank, coming out of the wood, did sprain my right foot, which brought me great present pain, but presently, with walking, it went away for the present, and so the women and W. Hewer and I walked upon the Downes, where a flock of sheep was; and the most pleasant and innocent sight that ever I saw in my life — we find a shepherd and his little boy reading, far from any houses or sight of people, the Bible to him; so I made the boy read to me, which he did, with the forced tone that children do usually read, that was mighty pretty, and then I did give him something, and went to the father, and talked with him; and I find he had been a servant in my cozen Pepys’s house, and told me what was become of their old servants. He did content himself mightily in my liking his boy’s reading, and did bless God for him, the most like one of the old patriarchs that ever I saw in my life, and it brought those thoughts of the old age of the world in my mind for two or three days after. We took notice of his woolen knit stockings of two colours mixed, and of his shoes shod with iron shoes, both at the toe and heels, and with great nails in the soles of his feet, which was mighty pretty: and, taking notice of them, “Why,” says the poor man, “the downes, you see, are full of stones, and we are faine to shoe ourselves thus; and these,” says he, “will make the stones fly till they sing before me.” I did give the poor man something, for which he was mighty thankful, and I tried to cast stones with his horne crooke. He values his dog mightily, that would turn a sheep any way which he would have him, when he goes to fold them: told me there was about eighteen scoare sheep in his flock, and that he hath four shillings a week the year round for keeping of them: so we posted thence with mighty pleasure in the discourse we had with this poor man, and Mrs. Turner, in the common fields here, did gather one of the prettiest nosegays that ever I saw in my life. So to our coach, and through Mr. Minnes’s wood, and looked upon Mr. Evelyn’s house; and so over the common, and through Epsum towne to our inne, in the way stopping a poor woman with her milk-pail, and in one of my gilt tumblers did drink our bellyfulls of milk, better than any creame; and so to our inne, and there had a dish of creame, but it was sour, and so had no pleasure in it; and so paid our reckoning, and took coach, it being about seven at night, and passed and saw the people walking with their wives and children to take the ayre, and we set out for home, the sun by and by going down, and we in the cool of the evening all the way with much pleasure home, talking and pleasing ourselves with the pleasure of this day’s work, Mrs. Turner mightily pleased with my resolution, which, I tell her, is never to keep a country-house, but to keep a coach, and with my wife on the Saturday to go sometimes for a day to this place, and then quit to another place; and there is more variety and as little charge, and no trouble, as there is in a country-house. Anon it grew dark, and as it grew dark we had the pleasure to see several glow-wormes, which was mighty pretty, but my foot begins more and more to pain me, which Mrs. Turner, by keeping her warm hand upon it, did much ease; but so that when we come home, which was just at eleven at night, I was not able to walk from the lane’s end to my house without being helped, which did trouble me, and therefore to bed presently, but, thanks be to God, found that I had not been missed, nor any business happened in my absence. So to bed, and there had a cerecloth laid to my foot and leg alone, but…

on the night train
we grow into our coach

drink like brothers
sleep like wells of light

walk ’round like lost sheep
far from any houses

read like patriarchs
shod with iron shoes

we fly through the night
cool as a glowworm


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 14 July 1667.

Heatstroke

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up pretty betimes, it being mighty hot weather, I lying this night, which I have not done, I believe, since a boy, I am sure not since I had the stone before, with only a rugg and a sheet upon me. To my chamber, and my wife up to do something, and by chance we fell out again, but I to the office, and there we did at the board much business, though the most was the dividing of 5000l. which the Lords Commissioners have with great difficulty found upon our letter to them this week that would have required 50,000l. among a great many occasions. After rising, my Lord Anglesey, this being the second time of his being with us, did take me aside and asked me where I lived, because he would be glad to have some discourse with me. This I liked well enough, and told him I would wait upon him, which I will do, and so all broke up, and I home to dinner, where Mr. Pierce dined with us, who tells us what troubles me, that my Lord Buckhurst hath got Nell away from the King’s house, lies with her, and gives her 100l. a year, so as she hath sent her parts to the house, and will act no more.1 And yesterday Sir Thomas Crew told me that Lacy lies a-dying of the pox, and yet hath his whore by him, whom he will have to look on, he says, though he can do no more; nor would receive any ghostly advice from a Bishop, an old acquaintance of his, that went to see him. He says there is a strangeness between the King and my Lady Castlemayne, as I was told yesterday.
After dinner my wife and I to the New Exchange, to pretty maid Mrs. Smith’s shop, where I left my wife, and I to Sir W. Coventry, and there had the opportunity of talk with him, who I perceive do not like our business of the change of the Treasurer’s hand, and he tells me that he is entered the lists with this new Treasurer before the King in taking away the business of the Victualling money from his hand, and the Regiment, and declaring that he hath no right to the 3d. per by his patent, for that it was always heretofore given by particular Privy Seal, and that the King and Council just upon his coming in had declared 2000l. a year sufficient. This makes him angry, but Sir W. Coventry I perceive cares not, but do every day hold up his head higher and higher, and this day I have received an order from the Commissioners of the Treasury to pay no more pensions for Tangier, which I am glad of, and he tells me they do make bold with all things of that kind. Thence I to White Hall, and in the street I spied Mrs. Borroughs, and took a means to meet and salute her and talk a little, and then parted, and I home by coach, taking up my wife at the Exchange, and there I am mightily pleased with this Mrs. Smith, being a very pleasant woman. So home, and resolved upon going to Epsum tomorrow, only for ayre, and got Mrs. Turner to go with us, and so home and to supper (after having been at the office) and to bed. It is an odd and sad thing to say, that though this be a peace worse than we had before, yet every body’s fear almost is, that the Dutch will not stand by their promise, now the King hath consented to all they would have. And yet no wise man that I meet with, when he comes to think of it, but wishes, with all his heart, a war; but that the King is not a man to be trusted with the management of it. It was pleasantly said by a man in this City, a stranger, to one that told him that the peace was concluded, “Well,” says he, “and have you a peace?” — “Yes,” says the other. — “Why, then,” says he, “hold your peace!” partly reproaching us with the disgracefulness of it, that it is not fit to be mentioned; and next, that we are not able to make the Dutch keep it, when they have a mind to break it.
Sir Thomas Crew yesterday, speaking of the King of France, how great a man he is, why, says he, all the world thought that when the last Pope died, there would have been such bandying between the Crowns of France and Spain, whereas, when he was asked what he would have his ministers at Rome do, why, says he, let them choose who they will; if the Pope will do what is fit, the Pope and I will be friends. If he will not, I will take a course with him: therefore, I will not trouble myself; and thereupon the election was despatched in a little time — I think in a day, and all ended.

in hot weather lying
with only a sheet upon me
like a ghost

there is a strangeness
between hand and head
and I miss the body’s city

when I at last die
will I be friends with it


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 13 July 1667.

Mapa Etnográfico

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Show me what swells
                 gathering momentum

without breaking
                 Defending from unjust

punishment
                 what requires only to be

unoccupied, open

                 as a field of wheat 
                 as a field of cotton

Unchartered

                 but not irregular
                 or without law

Before the survey and the postcard

                 islands knew how to breathe
                 even in the dark

You couldn't tell 

                 teeth 
                 from wet pearls of rice

Poetry Blog Digest 2020, Week 31

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. This week’s theme, if there is one, might be described rather too glibly as “feeling low in high summer.” A lot of l-words make an appearance: languor, lugubrious, limbo, lemon, lime, light, lines, luxuriousness. Lockdown, of course. And still, life.


scissoring low
between lamb and ewe: 
the heatwave swallows

Matthew Paul, Some summer haiku

I always feel trapped by August, its thick cluster of vowels.  Clotted.  Lugubrious, made for a lazy tongue.  Made for  limbs given up to the sun.  If it were a kitchen sauce, it would need to be thinned.  If there is a gust in August’s nature, we don’t feel it until the second half.  

Just what augur lurks in August?  Something is hiding in plain sight of its sun.  Its heaviness portends.  The gods know what hangs in the balance, but who can read the signs?  In the long wash of hazy beach sunset, reams of moody air rolled out, I can’t find a pattern.  The gulls are dropping mussel shells on rocks.  Sandpipers perform their own nutcracker suite in the just-washed shoreline.  Their pattern is their business. 

Jill Pearlman, What augurs, August?

Sound of morning,
the O of the
sorrowful dove

opening like a
vowel, like a sigh
after loving.

Tom Montag, SOUND OF MORNING

When the milk was delivered midmorning            languor
cradled in the crook of the household

On the coal stove blazed by asthmatic breaths
coffee beans splayed open         peaberry plantation 50 – 50

Uma Gowrishankar, The coffee drinkers

When I participate in or host zoom chats, I’ve tried to be conscious of what kind of visual impression I make. Though I’m not a person with a closet full of bright colored clothing, I’ve worn a lot more of it this spring and summer. Color always lifts my mood — most of us respond that way. For some reason, human beings seem to echo or take cues from their environment, and while people in the south have no trouble wearing tropical colors, we northerners are notorious for wearing black, grey, brown and white in the colder months, just when everyone needs color the most. (But we’re Canadians — wouldn’t want to stand out too much!) Anyway, all I’m saying is that I’ve been conscious of the effect of color on my spirits during this pandemic, and when I was trying to get back into doing some artwork, it wasn’t linework that drew me in, but pure color.

Beth Adams, Hermit Diary 34: The Transformative Power of Color

Moisture is clinging to everything –
on the undersides of flower petals
it glistens like starlight,
on the edges of the awning where it
drops on my head just as I step
out from under,
on the slick black back of my cat
slinking through the bushes hunting
lizards.
But I am dry, dry, dry […]

Charlotte Hamrick, Dry Spell

Most days I find myself in this strange limbo of having no idea what the next few months will be like. What the next few weeks, the next few days. It’s hard to plan for programming and other library things when it’s a very real possibility that Illinois will hit the red zone again and we’ll all be working entirely from home. I’m making good faith gestures that it will not. Planning exhibits, thinking about my ILL workflows, buying fall clothes (I found an oatmeal sweater dream dress on Poshmark and put it in my cart so fast I got whiplash, because, yes, it’s time to start propagating that fall wardrobe. ) I’m ready for fall after the last few hot, muggy days, which seem to have cleared–last night was cool and windy enough to knock my conditioner & shampoo off the window ledge in the shower. If we have been robbed of cookouts and beach going, and really, just going anywhere or doing anything until 2021 at least, fall is pretty homebody-ish for me anyway. I mostly just want to stay in and watch horror movies, though if we’re honest, that’s pretty much ALL year.

Kristy Bowen, notes & things | 7/31/2020

Here we are in high summer — my favorite season of the year, all lush and green. And I can’t help bracing for the winter , knowing the likelihood that the pandemic will surge again when flu season arrives and when we’re all confined to poorly-ventilated indoor spaces. I’m always a bit fearful of the oncoming winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder hits me every year, even when I do all the right things. This year I am extra-afraid, because I imagine that winter will mean not only long dark nights and bitter cold but also lockdown again, and shortages again, and rising death rates again, and loneliness. 

This morning I went to Caretaker [Farm] with my son to get this week’s vegetables. As I bent to the green bean rows and lifted each plant to scan for beans, I breathed the scent of clean dirt and greenery through my soft fabric mask. Remembering the indigenous wisdom in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass (which I’ve read several times) I pressed my palms to the earth and murmured a thank-you to the soil, the plants, the careful loving farmers, and the whole web of life that makes it possible for me to pluck these vibrant, beautiful beans from their runners and bring them home.

Rachel Barenblat, Comfort

The yoga teacher says lift
your palms to your chest;
turn it into a box
of intention. Then lie
down and bring your hands
to your sides. Imagine
your corpse floating down-
river, leaving everything
and everyone behind.

Luisa A. Igloria, Portrait:  Savasana

I love the process of starting small with a still life and then enlarging it, and then at the end slowly taking away each object. Which is better, the more minimalist version with just the one vase, or the addition of shells, flowers from our garden, then lemons, the skull? For me it doesn’t really matter, it’s the process that’s the thing. These small gestures. Standing up on the sofa with my camera and then jumping down to nudge a shell, turn the vase, heading to the kitchen to peel the lemon, wondering if the skull is too much, pulling the one broken bloom out to dangle its head, turning the nautilus so you can’t see the broken off part, turning it back so you can. I’m blessing the still life, all still lifes, their quiet, their infinite nature. I’m blessing the held breath of the photographer, the perfect blooms and the more ragged ones. I’m loving the way all the time I’m shooting, Fantin-Latour is in the back of my mind and how art and loving art and objects and flowers connects us through time. It’s a small thing to love, but it helps.

Shawna Lemay, Love Small and Obscure Things

And so I feel awake to my mind, to the words on the page and to the world, the latter of which is both good and bad. Don’t turn your back, she says. Even when it aches, she says, and I’m trying.

This week has been an absolute mess, including a couple really miserable work days and one morning in which I had to Google “what to do if you get wasp and hornet spray in your eye.” The week has also contained its share of pure magic, like the doe and twin fawns I watch from my porch. Like the gladiolis (nearly 4 feet tall!) near my walkway. Like the sky that’s ours to see whenever we want to look up. […]

Morning, after all, has been pawing at me these last few months. Pay attention to me, it’s cried. (Meowwwww.) Its persistence has not been a metaphor: it has the claws to back it up.

Just as autopilot didn’t last, this wide awake nesting mode can’t either. It’s not only that perimenopause is calling a bunch of the shots. My normal rhythm — though not as rapid fire as the hormone-influenced one — is to race and rest, race and rest. Race, race, race.

Collapse.

Rest.

I’m trying to go slowly this time. I am trying to set no expectations about “results.” I’m trying to change where I place “value,” In doing so, I hope to be able to sustain it a while.

I told my therapist earlier this week all the things that I was sick of, including striving, which led us to talk about how to recognize what does work. “When it feels good,” she said, “pay attention. What are the ingredients?”

It’s easy to say what to leave out of the recipe: long hours at work, hornet spray in your eye, wild hormones, cat scratches on your calf and a fucking global pandemic, for starters. A simple invitation to name what it is about the fawns that moves you? Much more challenging. But also: it’s exactly what writers do. We grope for meaning. At least it’s what we do when we show up, when we accept that other invitation: Be here. That is what we must practice.

Carolee Bennett, on “groping for meaning” with natalie goldberg during a global pandemic

Some days even the flat roads
present as inclines and inclines
persuade me they are really hills
while any actual hill has risen
to an unknowable height. And then
I glance through the trees
at the side of the lane, the glitter
of sunlight, the short grass
stretching to the horizon, and I feel
the opening of my own heart
as I run through the world,
overcoming, for now, that ridge
of resistance and accepting it all:
flat roads, hills, how the world
is composed of joy and woe, of light
and shade and we are the bearers.

Lynne Rees, Poem: Resistance

These little messages from the outside world can hold more portent than they might have a few months ago. This can mean a rejection has more impact, or that a postcard can carry more weight. I’m trying to avoid using Facebook (because of their ethical decisions and misinformation problems, along with thinking it might be detrimental for mental health in a way Instagram and Twitter are not) so I end up spending more time in the physical world. Physical objects like books and magazines get more attention, and I want them to be beautiful and encouraging. I bring in spring-scented sweet peas in a jar, cut dahlias in cases around the house, the occasional rose in a bud case. There is some mythology that hummingbirds were messengers from the gods. If so, I hope they bring good news. We could use it.

I’m also trying to support the businesses I love (and want to survive) with e-commerce as much as possible, whether that’s buying a dress or a book or a box of produce from my local farmer’s stands (here’s a link to 21 Acres, my favorite in  Woodinville, and Tonnemaker Farm stand, which also has a beautiful u-pick garden). I also want to support visual artists and other writers when I can. I’m not wealthy, but I feel like coughing up a few dollars for a literary magazine subscription or someone’s new book might help keep artists and publishers alive, and maybe deliver that hopeful or positive note that someone might need.

Because I am a writer with two poetry manuscripts circulating, waiting for good news on either one is a kind of excruciating hobby. I agonize over title and organization, whether to include new poems, whether to take out old ones. I feel like putting time towards writing and revising is at least a positive place to put some of my frustrated, homebound energies. I wish I had a big “yes” from the universe right now, from a dream publisher. I hope I get over this superbug soon so I can get a little way back to “normal.”

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Finding Inspiration Where You Need It, Looming Messages from the Outside World

I was half-heartedly cleaning out the hall closet the other day in an ongoing bid to find my long-lost Fitbit, and I realized that I have done nothing crafting-wise in many, many months. I have had no desire to sew, to make rugs, to finish my many unfinished projects, or to paint or draw. I firmly believe this is directly related to COVID-19 and the subsequent stress it’s caused me. I feel like I am instinctively reserving my energy right now. I have had to go into work every single damn day of this pandemic and cope with the massive stress that is involved in working in a hospital during a global outbreak, and I don’t have the luxury of any leftover energy to generate the creative impulses necessary to crafting. It makes me sad. I feel deadened in that way, and I don’t think that it’s good for me. And it seems weirdly tied in with my unwillingness to make a hair appointment, although I don’t know why the two would be related. Perhaps it has something to do with a sense of luxuriousness. Part of why I enjoy getting my hair cut is that for one entire hour, I get to feel special and taken care of and a little bit fussed over. It’s worth paying a little extra money to go to a place where it smells nice and looks pretty and there’s some ceremony involved in making me look slightly better. I don’t want to get my hair cut when it is going to be stressful and fraught with rules and distancing and glass partitions and fear and an “in and out as quickly as possible” mentality. That same sense of expansive luxuriousness is tied into the time and energy required to think through a creative project and execute on it. Generating the energy it requires to consider time, color, form and design at this time just seems impossible. I don’t like this. As an artistic person, the grayness and lack of vibrancy in the world right now is very disheartening. Maybe the best way to fight against it is to rebel; to somehow find the energy within to create something of beauty, no matter how small.

Kristen McHenry, Dental Stalking, Crafting Sads, New Monsters

Two years ago I bought a wetsuit and was determined to face my fear of open water – with a barrier of neoprene between.

Two, three times we swam across the tiny lake. Two, three times I had flashbacks of the Kentucky river and the nest of baby moccasins. Slow down, I said: Breathe.

This is what panic feels like. And it is almost always irrational.

Right?

Swimming in dark water is a metaphor for life – and for death. You can never know what is near. What that bump or tug might be.

Slow down.

Breathe.

Anyway.

… And get back out there.

Ren Powell, Learning to Swim

childhood 
digging up the hamster
to see the bones 

Jim Young [no title]

Tomorrow is my 67th birthday if anyone ever says I’m “67 years young” I’m going to sock them in the neck

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was 78 years old when she died she fought like a wild thing full of anger denial and general piss-offedness I love her for tossing her own goddamn five stages of grief out the window at the end

I keep thinking about the blue land crabs that marched through a Miami suburb in early June I believe they were harbingers of a strange and eerie art perhaps a reversal of doom we should have paid attention

William “pig bacon” Barr twirls his pen adjusts his glasses smooths his hair and attempts to talk over anyone but especially women right now he is leaning his head on his hand giving himself a hitler mustache with his middle finger he has a lot of tells William “pig bacon” Barr can also be called William “pig bacon” Tell

Earlier this week I gave myself a tragic haircut and now I can’t tuck it behind my ears hippos get deep cuts and scratches and ticks and bites on their skin which they can’t reach (obviously) so they enlist barbell fish to nibble them to clean and sooth them after which the hippos go into a deep happy trance this is how I feel at my hair stylist

I saw a harmonium on the side of the road just hanging out among the trees it was a perfectly good harmonium and it was on the road for two weeks I wonder where it was going and why

White men have weaponized their cars against children’s soft bodies why aren’t these republican politicians on television outraged and why is it more important to them to protect buildings instead of the soft bodies of Black men and women and children

Rebecca Loudon, Pig and farm report

I don’t know why I should blog this. I don’t feel able. John would think it absurd. He says I mustn’t lose my faith in the president, and has me take Breitbart, to say nothing of vitamin C and rare meat.

I lie in bed and look at the paper. Behind the outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day. It is always the same shape, only very numerous. And it is like people posting and tweeting alarming news at a social distance. I don’t like it a bit. I wonder–I begin to think–I wish the pharmaceutical industry would hurry up and release a vaccine!

*****

There are always new infection vectors in the wall-paper and the virus gets into my hair. In this hot weather it is awful, I cannot even walk in the garden. The CDC recommendations go round and round and round and round–they make me dizzy!

But I really have discovered something. The front pattern does move–and no wonder! The people behind the bars shake them! Nobody could climb through the pattern–it strangles so; but I see a woman wearing a mask and brandishing an absentee ballot.

Lesley Wheeler, The Yellow Wall-paper by Charlotte Lesley Perkins Wheeler Gilman

July’s wallpaper:
apricots, cherries, peaches
and the moon out there.

Not a day missing,
a full month. Empty-handed
we arrive, breathless,

Where are our colours?
What happened to the music?
There’s been no dancing,

just counting of steps.

Magda Kapa, July 2020

The lime drops to the floor and rolls under the table; you cannot reach it. It’s just that kind of dream. Whatever you want is always just beyond your reach. You can never quite do the thing that needs to be done. 

There is a lover for you, but you never make love. Or perhaps someone who is dead in your waking life is there in the dream, and seems to be well; you are glad to see each other. Neither of you mentions the death. 

Time passes. The dream changes, grows darker. There is rubble in the streets, buildings are in ruin, it is night. You are doing a job that is both familiar and unfamiliar, and you cannot actually complete the work. 

James Lee Jobe, The lime drops to the floor and rolls under the table; you cannot reach it.

1)      If new online mags appeared regularly prior to lockdown, there’s now a veritable plethora, often created and curated by well-known poets/editors, and technically adroit. Will this be a watershed moment? How many of these outlets will stay the course? Does this daily bombardment of new work mean that poems disappear into a temporal vortex even more quickly than in the past?
2)      Zoom fatigue. When people were cooped up at home in full lockdown, Zoom readings and workshops immediately became popular. However, now lives are gradually opening up beyond the boundaries of the home, is a Zoom fatigue setting in?
3)      If everyone’s anxious, that means poets are probably more so! First and foremost, this seems to be expressed in their work itself, even if it’s not consciously Covid-related.
4)      And the same anxiety for poets is also reflected in an attitude to submissions that feels even more awkward than pre-Covid. Waiting for a reply to a sub is always tough, but it’s made easier if you’ve got a busy daily routine. If you’re furloughed or stuck at home, time weighs more heavily and those subs start to stress you out.

Matthew Stewart, Ten poetry trends in the pandemic

Picking up magazines at random I had a chuckle-filled time reading the eviscerations inflicted on my fellow-poets. This came to an abrupt halt when I read the opening sentence of a review which turned out to be about my own book. It read: ‘Anthony Wilson is far too capable a writer to ever be any use as a poet.’ It did not mean this as a compliment. I read the sentence again, to check I had read it correctly. The room began to tilt. Sweat seemed to be coming out of my eyes, but I knew it was not sweat.

I went outside for a bit, onto a balcony overlooking the Thames. Even the river seemed to be tilting. I noticed that I needed to hold on to the furniture to walk.

Then I made a second terrible mistake, quickly followed by a third. I read the rest of the review of my book of poems (it got worse), then photocopied it so I could share my outrage with Rupert and Siân. Taking nothing away from their sympathy, neither course of action did anything to improve my state of mind.

Once the initial shock of my discovery had worn off I seemed to enter a long tunnel of numbness. Normal life and interactions would continue around me, but I participated in them as though hearing and observing them through a wall made of glass. Everything was muffled: sound, the taste of food, my children’s laughter. Everything except my anger.

Siân was great company on the train. She said the answer was to eat and drink my body weight in almond croissants and Virgin Trains coffee while penning offensive acrostic poems using the letters of the reviewer in question. This helped enormously.

Our tutors for the week were Jo Shapcott and Roger McGough. Keeping us busy with insane sounding exercises like writing a villanelle before lunch, they threw ideas, poems and anecdotes at us implicitly expecting that we were well up to the task not only of keeping up but writing poems of value.

This feverish and competitive atmosphere cajoled me from thinking too closely about the review. Nevertheless, as soon as I was away from company my fears about its hostility gnawed away at me. I began to believe that they were right.

I remember going to bed on the second night with a poem (Jo had set this as an exercise) that we found from a book we had plucked off the shelf at random. The idea was to read the poem aloud and to try and memorise as much of it as possible before falling asleep.  I had chosen her own anthology Emergency Kit , probably in an attempt to please her. I closed my eyes, opened the book and stabbed at a page in the darkness. The poem I had chosen turned out to be ‘Before’ by Sean O’Brien. I had a dim memory of having read it when I bought HMS Glasshouse (OUP, 1991), but now the poem seemed to come alive in a completely different way. In its meticulous calibration of that time before waking and the switch to what Les Murray calls the ‘daylight mind’, I found myself suddenly able to hold my rage and disappointment at something approaching arm’s length. The world O’Brien describes is not free of pain, far from it. But, hypnotised by its somnambulant rhythms I found myself wanting to believe in words as a force for good again. Things could be otherwise.

A miracle.

Anthony Wilson, Lifesaving Poems: Sean O’Brien’s ‘Before’

I plan to try the Sealey Challenge in August, which you can read about here. Basically it’s a dare to read a book of poetry a day during the month. Chapbooks and re-reads are fine.

I wanted to have to buy as few books as possible but ended up buying about 10. If I were in America I would use the library. I have some German-language poetry in my stack, but I read poetry in German much more slowly. That said I dipped into one of the Bachmann books and it was kind of great. Still I’m a bit daunted. I’ve included my own book and will make up the difference with chapbooks I have at home to make the challenge less demanding.

Have I talked myself out of it now? No, I’m no perfectionist. If I don’t read 31 books I won’t consider myself a failure. At the moment, nevertheless, I’ve gotten a headstart on “East Window,” a book of Asian poems translated by W.S. Merwin. It’s more than 300 pages long. It’s wonderful but days into it I am only halfway through.

I have examined my motives for joining this challenge. I wondered, do I just want to socialize online? Do I just want to post photographs of books and find affirmation? Do I want to look cool? Honestly I just want to read poetry again and especially poetry I haven’t read before. But I confess I love photographs of stacks of books, photographs of single books and photographs of books artfully arranged in pairs, triplets and quartets.

Sarah J Sloat, Sealey Challenge

Today I read Bruise Songs, by Steve Davenport. It’s a book I’ll be reviewing later, so I’ll say more about it then. Today I offer it for Day Two of the Sealey Challenge to read a poetry book a day. I had started to read around in this book when it first came, but today I read it straight through. Well, I read the first poem, “Dear Horse I Rode In On,” and then the note about it in the back, which I knew was there from my reading around, and the note mentioned the last poem, “Soundtrack for Last Words,” so I read that, and then the actual last poem, “Moon Aubade,” and then I went back to the beginning. That’s my nonlinear way of being linear.

Speaking of the moon, my husband just came in and said to go out and look at it. So I did. It’s full on this beautiful clear night. And, hey, I started this book in the morning and finished it at night, so I am linear, after all.

Kathleen Kirk, Bruise Songs

The wisdom of square foot gardening, which is to break your growing space into small, manageable portions, easily translates to writing projects. If the blank white page is your word-garden, it can seem like a pretty scary place, simultaneously empty and full of possible word-weeds. But if, as in gardening, you divide it into small parts, the prospect of filling that space is much less intimidating.

This approach is the opposite of freewriting, which instructs the writer to scribble as fast as possible for, say, five minutes. While useful in getting past a writing block, this approach would be disastrous in gardening, the equivalent of wildly scattering untold numbers of seeds all over your carefully prepared garden bed. Not just a bad idea, but one you’ll most likely regret for a long time to come.

With square foot poetry, I use 3×3-inch Post-it notes (you can also draw squares on your sheet of paper or in your journal). My favorite color is yellow, because it’s cheerful and reminds me of the sun shining on my garden (and hopefully, on my words). Now, just like in gardening, I try to fit as much as I can inside those squares, substituting words for plants. When I write on my Post-it notes, I take my time, since every word takes up proportionally more room than on a larger piece of paper. 

An advantage of using Post-it notes is that you can easily move them around, rearranging the piece of writing you’re working on (yes, I know there are programs that do this, but for now, I’m using paper). When I plan my garden, I use the same method, taking into consideration how tall the plant is, how much sun it needs, and whether I grew it there previously.

Erica Goss, Square Foot Poetry

I was pleased that I performed well under pressure.  I don’t want to be one of those people who freezes and can’t act–or worse, that falls apart in hysterics.  I was glad that I remembered my address.  But more than that, I have been trained since childhood to call 911 in an emergency.  Happily, I’ve never had to do that. 

Now in the past 6 weeks, I’ve had to make that call twice.  The first was for a student who was having chest pain and tightness and tingling in his left arm.  He was young and looked like he was in good shape, but the symptoms were close enough to heart attack symptoms that I decided it was better to call 911 than not.  He was fine, although there was some irregularity revealed by the tests that the paramedics used.  They wanted to take him to the ER, but he declined since he was sure he wasn’t in danger of a heart attack.

As I said, the rest of the day felt easy yesterday.  At 1:00, I watched the new poet laureate of Virginia being sworn in.  Maybe these events have always been livestreamed and/or recorded, and I just didn’t know it–but one of the benefits of this recent time is realizing how many of these events need to be livestreamed and recorded to reach a larger audience.  It was so inspiring to watch–it would have been inspiring regardless, but it was even more so because I know Luisa Igloria, the new Poet Laureate.

As I watched, I made this Facebook post:  “I am watching Luisa A. Igloria‘s acceptance speech–she’s being sworn in as the Poet Laureate of Virginia. How cool that we can all watch, even if we can’t travel to Virginia. And even more wonderful to know that she was chosen–it gives me great hope for the future, both the future of poetry and the future of the country. It wasn’t long ago that a female would not have been chosen, an immigrant would not have been chosen, a non-white poet would not have been chosen. She’s an amazing poet, and I’m so happy that she’s been chosen!”

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, When Your Cottage Doesn’t Catch Fire

Our world wobbles on its human-made axis of insanity and is always one blindfolded step from ruin:

pandemics, poverty, wars, and racism.

Countless beings wail in the key of pain, unable to retune themselves to ease.

Certain nights, the moon is just a trick of light;

one evening, it resembles a diamond, the next night, a dagger.

And so we strive to become one another’s steady shine,

through light and dark, rise and fall, song and smoke.

Rich Ferguson, The Moon is Never What You Thought it Was

On a day that I give into it all and do little more than sleep and eat and write these postcards, I wonder about the missives I send out into the world. Why does it matter to write snippets about bread and berries and walks and hammocks, as if such things matter in times such as these? Can it? Do they? If I write about the sweet and omit the bitter, am I delusional? Am I in denial? Am I bearing false witness if I crop loneliness and sorrow and fatigue out of my stories, or if I leave only their shadows at the edges of the margins?

Late that night a friend shares an essay, and Lyz Lenz reminds me that our stories in times such as these–all of them–are “a struggle of memory against forgetting.” They are “a struggle of nuance in the flat face of fascism.”

Reading, I understand what I often forget, and why I force myself to do joyful things even when they bring me little joy and why I write about them. It is a struggle to hold onto old joys in a new age of despair: To shape the dough, pick the berries, move the legs, still the body long enough to feel warm breeze against hot skin–and write about it. It is a struggle when such acts and the writing about them may feel trivial, inconsequential, or even self-indulgent. But they aren’t, and it isn’t.

To do such things and write about them, to remember what was sweet in the past and keep it present–even if flawed, even if lesser-than, even if the gesture feels cliched or hollow–so that it won’t disappear into some dark forest of the future, is a making-and-doing of the highest order.

As Lenz reminded me, when writers write they know: “At least I am still here.” And when we read their stories of living plot lines like our own, we know that we are, too.

Rita Ott Ramstad, Postcards, the making and doing edition

Sweeping

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
In June, the rain earnest now 
in its involvement with our 
affairs: we wielded
                     brooms 
of gathered palm rib, dragged 
their stiff tips across landings, 
courtyard paths. 
                     But how
with such flimsy instruments   
could we return what the skies  
kept doling out? 
                      Chorus 
of movements intent upon 
the stones— loosened gravel, 
old leaves, dead 
                       insects caught  
in that paradox of gathering. 
All the water in the world: 
inexhaustible, 
                 falling over balconies.