Poem

(with a line from Dilruba Ahmed)


at first
with tenderness and then


with fierce intensity,

the myths of childhood

merge with those
of older age. the bed

sheets wet with effluvia
and vegetable matter,

the windows streaked
with fingerprints.

in the yellow glow,
the widow moves from one

streetlamp to another,
like a spider looking

to jump on an electric
current in the air.

Instructions for Keeping On & Making Do

Nobody said it would be easy.
Nobody said you can take it
all back because you're tired
or you find out it doesn't work.
Nobody said your heart could fill
like a reservoir and then
go bone dry the next day.
Nobody can give you what you want
that you can't find in a swirled
tulip on the foam of an expensive
coffee, or in the lay-away folds
of a heavy winter coat. So what
do you do with the screen that sticks
between the window and the wind,
with the suitcase's broken zipper
and the pile of neatly folded
underclothes? Nobody told you
an orange moon means nothing
good could ever be coming
your way. Nobody said a coin
or a button couldn't be used
as a piece in chess or monopoly,
that a regular microphone
couldn't double for karaoke
as long as you can find
song lyrics on your phone.


Parliament of fools

Up, and all the morning at the office, getting the list of all the ships and vessels employed since the war, for the Committee of Parliament. At noon with it to Sir W. Coventry’s chamber, and there dined with him and W. Batten, and W. Pen, and after dinner examined it and find it will do us much right in the number of men rising to near the expense we delivered to the Parliament. W. Coventry and I (the others going before the Committee) to Lord Bruncker’s for his hand, and find him simply mighty busy in a council of the Queen’s. He come out and took in the papers to sign, and sent them mighty wisely out again. Sir W. Coventry away to the Committee, and I to the Mercer’s, and there took a bill of what I owe of late, which comes to about 17l.. Thence to White Hall, and there did hear Betty Michell was at this end of the towne, and so without breach of vowe did stay to endeavour to meet with her and carry her home; but she did not come, so I lost my whole afternoon. But pretty! how I took another pretty woman for her, taking her a clap on the breech, thinking verily it had been her. Staid till W. Batten and W. Pen come out, and so away home by water with them, and to the office to do some business, and then home, and my wife do tell me that W. Hewer tells her that Mercer hath no mind to come. So I was angry at it, and resolved with her to have Falconbridge’s girle, and I think it will be better for us, and will please me better with singing. With this resolution, to supper and to bed.

a parliament with a pen is
a parliament of paper

an ow comes out of each owe

how to think with no ink


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 1 October 1666.

Up and down

(Lord’s day). Up, and to church, where I have not been a good while: and there the church infinitely thronged with strangers since the fire come into our parish; but not one handsome face in all of them, as if, indeed, there was a curse, as Bishop Fuller heretofore said, upon our parish. Here I saw Mercer come into the church, which I had a mind to, but she avoided looking up, which vexed me. A pretty good sermon, and then home, and comes Balty and dined with us. A good dinner; and then to have my haire cut against winter close to my head, and then to church again. A sorry sermon, and away home. W. Pen and I to walk to talk about several businesses, and then home; and my wife and I to read in Fuller’s Church History, and so to supper and to bed.
This month ends with my mind full of business and concernment how this office will speed with the Parliament, which begins to be mighty severe in the examining our accounts, and the expence of the Navy this war.

church thronged
with strangers
one face looking up

*

haircut in winter
I talk about the history
of mining


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 30 September 1666.

Building site

Still from "Building site" showing a digger in the middle distance surrounded by huge mounds of dirt.

View on Vimeo.

Where does all this soil end up, I wonder? It’s being removed to make room for the un-earth of a mass transit hub which, it seems, nobody really wants except for the investors.

Not the most brilliant footage, but I’m kind of pleased with the haiku.

Dream-making

Today I wear the round 
beaded earrings with fringed
golden tassels my eldest
daughter got for me, made
by women who live in Lake Sebu,
famous for the T'boli weave
they make called t'nalak—
stripped abacá bark, organically
dyed of bark and leaves, each
ripply panel the equivalent
of a chapter from a dream.
I wonder what pattern
I could pull from my own
dreams, especially if
I've forgotten about them
as soon as I open my eyes.
I think everyone should be
given a chance to make something
tangible from a dream at least
once: a recipe dictated in
a dream, a dress with glorious
detail they've only ever seen
in a dream. A mural or
collage in which wild-
flowers open their mouths
like a choir to sing the most
unforgettable songs never
heard by the human ear.

Poem with Partial History of the Deadlift

My husband loves the part in Les Misérables 
when a man pinned under the wheels of a cart

is begging for help, but no one in that busy
marketplace moves to rescue him except

for the ex-convict Jean Valjean AKA Mayor
Madeleine. Valjean crawls beneath the cart

and with nearly superhuman strength lifts it
to free the man. In my opinion this counts

as a deadlift, which according to all
the dictionaries I've consulted

literally means the lifting of a dead
weight from the ground, oftentimes from

a squatting position. Javert, the town's
police inspector, is instantly reminded

of the only man he's ever seen do such
a thing— a prisoner who can't quite shuck

his thieving habits and is on the lam again
soon after his release. Then there's the stone

that archaeologists unearthed from ancient
times in Olympia, Greece, with a handprint

on it and the inscription "Bybon, son of Phola,
lifted me over his head with one hand." I don't

know anything else about Bybon, but this week I read
on social media a story about a seven-year-old boy

of Filipino and Hmong ancestry who's training
to deadlift three times his weight; he says he

owes his strength to his favorite food, lumpia.
When I tell this story to a new poet friend,

he thinks I'm talking about the cumbia, a dance
originating in Panama or Colombia, in which

partners step back then front, front then back,
while rhythmically swaying hips and arms to mild

percussion. To dance passably well you can't
drag your feet around like stones, so there's that

to be said about a kind of similarity to what
the weightlifter aims to do: hoist a weight even

for a few clean seconds, in seeming defiance of
the gravity that keeps wanting to take us down

to our usual abject position in mud and muck.
So we want to wrap our hands around the merest

gleam of silver, to use our body as both boulder
and lever until it comes loose in one smooth move.




The first rose

A little meeting at the office by Sir W. Batten, Sir W. Pen, and myself, being the first since the fire. We rose soon, and comes Sir W. Warren, by our desire, and with Sir W. Pen and I talked of our Scotch motion, which Sir W. Warren did seem to be stumbled at, and did give no ready answer, but proposed some thing previous to it, which he knows would find us work, or writing to Mr. Pett to be informed how matters go there as to cost and ways of providing sawyers or saw-mills. We were parted without coming to any good resolution in it, I discerning plainly that Sir W. Warren had no mind to it, but that he was surprised at our motion. He gone, I to some office business, and then home to dinner, and then to office again, and then got done by night the lists that are to be presented to the Parliament Committee of the ships, number of men, and time employed since the war, and then I with it (leaving my wife at Unthanke’s) to St. James’s, where Sir W. Coventry staid for me, and I perused our lists, and find to our great joy that wages, victuals, wear and tear, cast by the medium of the men, will come to above 3,000,000; and that the extraordinaries, which all the world will allow us, will arise to more than will justify the expence we have declared to have been at since the war, viz., 320,000l., he and I being both mightily satisfied, he saying to me, that if God send us over this rub we must take another course for a better Comptroller. So parted, and I to my wife, who staid for the finishing her new best gowne (the best that ever I made her) coloured tabby, flowered, and so took it and her home; and then I to my people, and having cut them out a little more work than they expected, viz., the writing over the lists in new method, I home to bed, being in good humour, and glad of the end we have brought this matter to.

the first rose
to rise perused
our joy, wages,
wear and tear

the war that we take for
a better red flower

the cut-over bed


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 29 September 1666.

Back alleys

still from "back alleys" showing two alleys side by side

View on Vimeo.

The latest videohaiku. I’ve been fascinated by the contrast between the super-scruffy Billy Fury Way, connecting West Hampstead and Finchley Road, and the posh alleys on Hampstead Hill just the east of it – my walking route to Hampstead Heath passes through both. This time of year, especially, it’s fascinating what decay looks like in each environment. Which is more magical, more portal-like? (I waver on this.) And which back alley better exemplifies the wabi-sabi aesthetic: the one colorful as a year-round fall, with dead pigeons and abandoned shopping carts, or the the one as clean and “natural” as a Zen temple?