Winter Den

still from Winter Den
This entry is part 33 of 33 in the series Pandemic Season

 

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Limbs against the snow, outlined with more snow. Treetops no longer canopies but the bare nets of need. Their no-longer-rare caresses and collisions in the winter wind. The moans of the ice-bound. How tormented they’d be if they hadn’t retreated to the underworld, that silken matrix of rootlets and hyphae, to trade fermented memories of sunlight for the bones of a mouse.

winter den
a slow leak of breath
growing needles

snowy meadow
seedhead bending into
its own pit

We who cannot hibernate, isolated in our boxes of wood or brick, fight the cold any way we can. A poet posts a selfie taken by snowlight. A long-Covid survivor befriends the horse stabled beneath her apartment. The snow plowman dreams of combine harvesters bringing in the crop: a wintry mix. One of his chickens goes gaga over her egg.

cold sun
the fetal curl
of rhododendron leaves

What fever do I still need to break? I take a dose of Vitamin D with my morning outrage. Whose salt-block ignorance or black-ice tongue are we taking offense at today?

crescent moon
a snowflake’s asterisk
in my windpipe

It’s snowing right over there, on the other side of the valley, in soft syllables of Plattdeutsch. Fresh coyote tracks cross my own and I follow them back to a den under an outcrop of Tuscarora quartzite. I walk on, until the last bit of daylight has drained from the sky.

blinking
through the night forest
cell tower

house shaking
from the oil furnace
from the wind

***

Process notes

The longer I delay finishing these things, the longer they get. The delay in this case was due not to procrastination, but indecision about whether to make a haibun or a linked verse sequence with the footage and haiku I had, plus some difficulty in finding the right soundtrack. I’m not completely satisfied with the somewhat canned-sounding piece of music I ended up using here; I just needed to finish up so I could move on.

When I started making haiga with still photos at the beginning of the year, I wondered how it might impact my video-making. What I’m discovering is that, while it does scratch kind of the same itch, it’s given additional impetus to my haiku writing, so that I end up with more than enough material for both projects. The trick is remembering to shoot both video and still photos — if I’m looking for one, I’m not necessarily looking for the other.

Head cleaner

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Lord’s day). Up, and with my wife to Church, and at noon home to dinner. No strangers there; and all the afternoon and evening very late doing serious business of my Tangier accounts, and examining my East India accounts, with Mr. Poynter, whom I employed all this day, to transcribe it fair; and so to supper, W. Hewer with us, and so the girl to comb my head till I slept, and then to bed.

examining my accounts
I employ a girl
to comb my head

*

(Lord’s day). Up, and with my wife to Church, and at noon home to dinner. No strangers there; and all the afternoon and evening very late doing serious business of my Tangier accounts, and examining my East India accounts, with Mr. Poynter, whom I employed all this day, to transcribe it fair; and so to supper, W. Hewer with us, and so the girl to comb my head till I slept, and then to bed.

no angers
mining my head
I slept

Erasure poems derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 26 January 1668.

Pelikula

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
In Tagalog, the word for movie or film 
is pelikula, which borrows from the Spanish 
pelicula; this leans, in turn, toward 
the Italian pellicula, typically meaning 
the place where people go to watch the latest 
movies. Before Netflix or Hulu, the projectionist 
leans out of his overheated second-floor booth, 
impatiently waiting for the runner to arrive 
from the next town, panting as he hands over 
the second reel. It gets there just in time 
for him to feed the film into the sprocket-
lined rollers, in time to fend off jeers 
and insults peppered with whistles and boos 
from the restive audience. In the old days, 
this was also the way films were distributed 
in the Philippines. My father once told me 
as we drove through Pangasinan on the way 
to Manila that a town at one end of a bridge
was named Carmen, and the one at the other
end was named Rosales, after a Filipina
actress considered the queen of cinema
in the '40s and '50s. When not playing
the sweetly pliable girlfriend, Carmen 
was cast either as flirt or unbending 
matriarch but was one of the highest
paid actresses of her time. I was surprised 
to learn that in WWII, during the Japanese 
Occupation, she became a guerilla and 
sharpshooter, sometimes donning a fake 
mustache during forays— which proves once again 
that one should never underestimate a woman, 
in film or in real life. Like woman or girl,
pellicula is also a diminutive— related to pellis, 
meaning a rough blanket of skin or hide scraped 
from an animal's body. It makes me think of summer 
evenings when neighbors might hang a dropcloth 
over their garage doors and bring out a cheap 
portable projector so everyone on the street 
can bring their kids and friends over for some 
al fresco viewing. Under a proscenium arch
of stars or a canopy of trees, we can hide
our faces in each other's arms, watching sky-
scrapers topple like paper models as floodwaters 
pour through cities at the end of the world. 
We could graze cheeks tenderly, as the mutant 
hero writhes in agony when blades spring from between 
his adamantium-coated bones. He changes form: a kind 
of werewolf; a versipellis, meaning skin and turn.  

Problematizical

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to the office, where busy all the morning, and then at noon to the ’Change with Mr. Hater, and there he and I to a tavern to meet Captain Minors, which we did, and dined; and there happened to be Mr. Prichard, a ropemaker of his acquaintance, and whom I know also, and did once mistake for a fiddler, which sung well, and I asked him for such a song that I had heard him sing, and after dinner did fall to discourse about the business of the old contract between the King and the East India Company for the ships of the King that went thither, and about this did beat my brains all the afternoon, and then home and made an end of the accounts to my great content, and so late home tired and my eyes sore, to supper and to bed.

which to be
a ropemaker or a sun

the old East India Company
or the rains

no end of accounts
to tire my yes

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 25 January 1668.

Windrose

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
A feeling

You try to measure it
walk its length

The distance from door
to street corner
to train 
station

to the nearly
empty terminal

Ascending or 
descending

The steepness
of a trail

The surprise
of houses beyond a ridge

And without doubt
the rain

Beside myself

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up before day to my Tangier accounts, and then out and to a Committee of Tangier, where little done but discourse about reduction of the charge of the garrison, and thence to Westminster about orders at the Exchequer, and at the Swan I drank, and there met with a pretty ingenious young Doctor of physic, by chance, and talked with him, and so home to dinner, and after dinner carried my wife to the Temple, and thence she to a play, and I to St. Andrew’s church, in Holburne, at the Quest House, where the company meets to the burial of my cozen Joyce; and here I staid with a very great rabble of four or five hundred people of mean condition, and I staid in the room with the kindred till ready to go to church, where there is to be a sermon of Dr. Stillingfleete, and thence they carried him to St. Sepulchre’s. But it being late, and, indeed, not having a black cloak to lead her with, or follow the corpse, I away, and saw, indeed, a very great press of people follow the corpse. I to the King’s playhouse, to fetch my wife, and there saw the best part of “The Mayden Queene,” which, the more I see, the more I love, and think one of the best plays I ever saw, and is certainly the best acted of any thing ever the House did, and particularly Becke Marshall, to admiration. Found my wife and Deb., and saw many fine ladies, and sat by Colonell Reames, who understands and loves a play as well as I, and I love him for it. And so thence home; and, after being at the Office, I home to supper, and to bed, my eyes being very bad again with overworking with them.

you carried me to the burial
of my still corpse

which I think one
of the best I ever saw

who loves as well
as the eyes

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 24 January 1668.

Imago

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Besides your birth name, you were given 
another name from a secret baptism, meant 

to confuse spirits waiting to snatch you 
up at play or lead you to the well. You 

remember a bath towel, edge embroidered 
with daisy chains, threaded  with its 

syllables. It meant Girl with Chipped
Teeth, Girl with Scabbed Knees, Girl  

with pock-marked face. The towel dried 
in the open, a flag rigged to mean look 

away, she isn't who you want. Nobody said 
double or shadow. Outside in the world:

you stepped out of that jerry-built 
altar, careful to rinse the musk-smell 

of magnolias from your nape. You 
learned to answer but quietly. How long 

did it take before the two of you drew 
closer to one another, breathed 

in unison under blankets, clasped 
hands under a billow of netting. 

 

Afterglow

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

At the Office all the morning; and at noon find the Bishop of Lincolne come to dine with us; and after him comes Mr. Brisband; and there mighty good company. But the Bishop a very extraordinary good-natured man, and one that is mightily pleased, as well as I am, that I live so near Bugden, the seat of his bishopricke, where he is like to reside: and, indeed, I am glad of it. In discourse, we think ourselves safe for this year, by this league with Holland, which pleases every body, and, they say, vexes France; insomuch that D’Estrades; the French Embassador in Holland, when he heard it, told the States that he would have them not forget that his master is at the head of 100,000 men, and is but 28 years old; which was a great speech. The Bishop tells me he thinks that the great business of Toleration will not, notwithstanding this talk, be carried this Parliament; nor for the King’s taking away the Deans’ and Chapters’ lands to supply his wants, they signifying little to him, if he had them, for his present service. He gone, I mightily pleased with his kindness, I to the office, where busy till night, and then to Mrs. Turner’s, where my wife, and Deb., and I, and Batelier spent the night, and supped, and played at cards, and very merry, and so I home to bed. She is either a very prodigal woman, or richer than she would be thought, by her buying of the best things, and laying out much money in new-fashioned pewter; and, among other things, a new-fashioned case for a pair of snuffers, which is very pretty; but I could never have guessed what it was for, had I not seen the snuffers in it.

the morning after
is an ordinary one

his prick is like an ambassador
to supply his wants

they gone with the night
my bed is prodigal

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 23 January 1668.

Landscape, with Interior and Wind Tunnels

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
I've been thinking of architecture;
the ways we shape matter in order 
for the body to move both more 
cleanly and more 
hiddenly in space.

How often my thigh makes contact
with the same corner of the bed
in the morning as I swim 
upward and out of 
a miasma of dreams—

The milk-screen of the body 
bears the marks of each darker 
letter; sprouts bluegreen
branches that lighten 
and aureole with time.

It's said that when a body blossoms 
with coronas of shadow, it needs
a deeper listening. Perhaps 
the way you, combing through
grass, might then come  

upon a lost bone or pearl. I am
almost sure the infinite began 
somewhere: a point, a scintillant, 
before it birthed itself
a million luminous bees.

They circled the known universe before 
changing frequency. The shells that carried 
them drifted on the wind. It's why we turn, 
as if in search of a corridor 
without obstruction.
 
 



Breath of life

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, mightily busy all the morning at the office. At noon with Lord Brouncker to Sir D. Gawden’s, at the Victualling-Office, to dinner, where I have not dined since he was Sheriff: He expected us; and a good dinner, and much good company; and a fine house, and especially two rooms, very fine, he hath built there. His lady a good lady; but my Lord led himself and me to a great absurdity in kissing all the ladies, but the finest of all the company, leaving her out, I know not how; and I was loath to do it, since he omitted it. Here little Chaplin dined, who is like to be Sheriff the next year; and a pretty humoured little man he is. I met here with Mr. Talents, the younger, of Magdalene College, Chaplain here to the Sheriff; which I was glad to see, though not much acquainted with him. This day come the first demand from the Commissioners of Accounts to us, and it contains more than we shall ever be able to answer while we live, and I do foresee we shall be put to much trouble and some shame, at least some of us. Thence stole away after dinner to my cozen Kate’s, and there find the Crowner’s jury sitting, but they could not end it, but put off the business to Shrove Tuesday next, and so do give way to the burying of him, and that is all; but they all incline to find it a natural death, though there are mighty busy people to have it go otherwise, thinking to get his estate, but are mistaken. Thence, after sitting with her and company a while, comforting her: though I can find she can, as all other women, cry, and yet talk of other things all in a breath. So home, and there to cards with my wife, Deb., and Betty Turner, and Batelier, and after supper late to sing. But, Lord! how did I please myself to make Betty Turner sing, to see what a beast she is as to singing, not knowing how to sing one note in tune; but, only for the experiment, I would not for 40s. hear her sing a tune: worse than my wife a thousand times, so that it do a little reconcile me to her. So late to bed.

the Lord is a great absurdity
to contain

more than we shall ever
be able to bury

but otherwise take
comfort in the breath

and see what beast
is singing now

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 22 January 1668.