Distracted

I waited with the Office upon the Duke of York in the morning. Dined at home, where Lewis Phillips the friend of his, dined with me. In the afternoon at the Office. In the evening visited by Roger Pepys and Philip Packer and so home.

office at home
her lips dine with me
on site

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 21 May 1669.

Seasoning

Up, and to the office, where all the morning, it being a rainy foul day. But at noon comes my Lord Hinchingbroke, and Sidney, and Sir Charles Harbord, and Roger Pepys, and dined with me; and had a good dinner, and very merry with us all the afternoon, it being a farewell to Sidney; and so in the evening they away, and I to my business at the Office and so to supper, and talk with my brother, and so to bed.

where the morning rain comes in
a farewell
in bed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 13 May 1669.

Seaside

My wife again up by four o’clock, to go to gather May-dew; and so back home by seven, to bed, and by and by I up and to the office, where all the morning, and dined at noon at home with my people, and so all the afternoon. In the evening my wife and I all alone, with the boy, by water, up as high as Putney almost, with the tide, and back again, neither staying going nor coming; but talking, and singing, and reading a foolish copy of verses upon my Lord Mayor’s entertaining of all the bachelors, designed in praise to my Lord Mayor, and so home and to the office a little, and then home to bed, my eyes being bad.
Some trouble at Court for fear of the Queen’s miscarrying; she being, as they all conclude, far gone with child.

May morning
alone with the high tide
my bachelor eye

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 11 May 1669.

Reflective

Up, and to the Office, where all the morning, and at noon dined at home, and then to the Office again, there to despatch as much business as I could, that I might be at liberty to-morrow to look after my many things that I have to do, against May-day. So at night home to supper and to bed.

morning ice patch
I might be
many things

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 29 April 1669.

April Diary 24: dueling banjos, a roomier Rumi, and some moving art

This entry is part 24 of 31 in the series April Diary

 

Dear April whippoorwills are back. two of them like dueling banjos out here as i cool down from puttering in the garden and going for the usual hike and puttering in the garden before that and going in town etc.

whipoorwhipoorwhipoor is what i’m hearing of their inane battle for vocal supremacy. once upon a time people in places as far-flung as Greenland and Yemen used to settle disputes with song contests though so i guess dueling banjos is better than an actual duel ya know?

this morning on the porch i finished my re-read of Elaine Equi’s Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems as part of my never-ending quest to keep the current reading pile to a reasonable height. it was as always a blast. Equi is such a fun poet. why aren’t more poets fun?

actually poked some seeds in the soil today. and it felt as futile and ridiculous as ever. it’s a good thing i like being wrong

but whilst hoeing openings in the straw mulch i wrecked a nest of field mice — didn’t hurt any i don’t think but they were still blind and pretty helpless scattering in random directions. i scooped one out of the path and it just lay on the straw trembling. i laid a bit more straw on top of it to give it a fighting chance until i left and mama could come back and move her babies

that was part of my excuse for heading out on a mid-afternoon walk. also i wanted the openings to dry out a little before i stuck seeds in

the new Rumi arrived so i tucked it into my pack

Dear April there are few sights in nature more entertaining than the sight of a wild turkey fleeing at a fast trot. it makes me think the cretaceous period would’ve been equally full of humorously dorky creatures that would also eat you

i did get to see wood frog tadpoles—the doomed ones in the too-small pools that always dry out too soon. they appeared to be feeding on the remains of the egg masses. it quickly became too disturbing to watch, all that teeming and thrashing of tails

i do not care for teeming. in fact i don’t hold with it. it may be natural but that doesn’t mean i have to like it. the buddha was right, life is suffering

don’t mind me i’ll probably go back to being a Daoist tomorrow

anyway so i get to the bench and take out the book and realize why it was so cheap on eBay

so i got a review copy of a New York Review book. seems kinda collectible, right? except for one problem

the entire introduction is missing

do publishers really send out review copies before the introduction is finished? might this in fact be an earlier author proof?

the translation by Haleh Liza Gafori seems absolutely credible in every way, it’s a Rumi that actually reads like a medieval Sufi, translated in modern poetry as good or better than anything out there, as such an enduringly popular poet surely deserves

after reading a dozen or so Rumi poems with great satisfaction at their beauty and power i realized i just wasn’t in the mood for what he was selling actually

so this book probably won’t go on the current reading pile just yet. but it’ll be on the shelf when the mood strikes

i wish i could be more like my mom and methodically read every new book i get plus many many more from the library but i’ll never be half the reader she is. few people today are, i suspect

insert punditry here re: what it might mean for a literate culture to slowly lose its great readers and lovers of books, might we in fact now be post-literate etc. ad nauseum

my relationship with books may not be entirely healthy at least if you accept the once common belief that greed is harmful to the soul. i like owning books even though or perhaps because i can’t really afford to buy them. the problem is with most of the haiku i read, the presses are so small and the entire scene so invisible to academic poets, huge university libraries like Penn State’s don’t acquire them. a lot of the other small-press stuff i read would be a bit easier to get on inter-library loan, but not all of it…

like an addict i clearly have my excuses all lined up

i think i found a winter wren nesting spot down in the hollow but i’m not sure yet. i’ll keep an eye on it

also while waiting for a train to clear our crossing i took some pictures because people don’t believe me when i tell them i can see traveling urban art galleries at the end of our lane

late in the afternoon i paused to admire this massive old wild grapevine, which seemed pretty damn big when i was a kid 50 years ago:

there’s probably a haiku in there. hmm…

brown thrasher
back for another spring
ancient grapevine

but even when this loop of vine dies as long as there’s forest here this individual will go on, sprouting roots as needed and adapting to the ever-changing forest conditions over the course of who knows how long? i don’t think there’s any way to date them. they could go back 8000 years. it seems just barely possible

April Diary 23: earthy day

This entry is part 23 of 31 in the series April Diary

 

Dear April it was one of those rare mornings when both the sun and the moon were visible from my usual spot on the porch. not only that but a hermit thrush kept singing in the distance — many years we don’t hear them singing on migration. (sadly they don’t seem to nest on the mountain. we’re not high enough)

when the day starts out as beautiful as today did this time of year i’m always torn: go for a long walk or work in the garden

well today being earth day already the spring is getting away from me as usual so i figured i’d better dig in the dirt— and not fun stuff either like planting things but putting in new fence posts and moving the fence to expand the garden because (Samuel L. Jackson voice) i’ve had it with these motherfucking deer eating my motherfucking potatoes

but first to procrastinate in the best possible way: by banging out three erasure poems by ten o’clock. then outside to dig as the red-tailed hawks circled overhead and wild turkeys gobbled up on the ridge

of course digging holes on a mountaintop you have to expect to encounter a few rocks

that one gave me a good five-minute workout

i do love the smell of our heavy rocky iron-rich clay

after a couple of hours of that i headed off down-hollow to check on the wildflowers. the first rue anemones were just opening…

windflowers
our annual exchange
of nods

the hepaticas were blooming in profusion. “snow? what snow?”

even in the ditch
with last year’s leaves
this April sun

white pine
fused to a hemlock tree
creek voices

ya know people have a point, Appalachian hollows can look kinda creepy sometimes — a combination of long shadows and old things, half-rotted hulks and mossy leviathans

the mid-spring woods is a weird place with all these wildflowers racing to do their whole thing before the trees leaf out and they lose the sun. i love how whole communities can evolve to take advantage of such narrow temporal windows, like when a desert blooms after a rare soaking rain

spring forest
the shadow of a vulture
crosses my page


i’m two-thirds of the way through this Zang Di book and i’ve just found the third poem i feel as if i fully understand and it’s very good: “Scarecrow Series”

all about like effigies and doubles and the other and maybe i feel like i grok it because it’s something i happen to have given a decent amount of thought to over the years. more likely though it’s just a more straightforward less riddling poem


back up the mountain to start supper (venison casserole) then off to the other end of the property. Mom had said all the wood frogs were hatching in the vernal pools this morning and i should be able to get pictures but by the time i got there they had all buggered off to deeper spots. quite a few egg masses had been deposited in a shallow area that almost dried up completely at one point so it was great news that they’d made it to tadpole stage

sitting on the bench up there though i take another gander at the Zang Di book and find that something just clicked and now i seem to get most of his poems actually. i’ve had that happen with other somewhat difficult or arcane poets where because i think i’m a little slow on the uptake it can take me most of a collection before i learn how to read it. i’d argue that’s a good part of the fun of poetry: everyone gets to make up their own universe and they have to trust that a few readers will put in the work to understand what laws govern it

after supper more work on the fence moving project until dusk then sitting out on the porch watching a bat swoop back and forth. the hermit thrush was singing again. every day is of course earth day it’s a ridiculous thing to have to have a holiday for BUT today did feel especially earthy i have to admit

April Diary 22: serious riddles

This entry is part 22 of 31 in the series April Diary

 

Dear April would i be a better reader if i were less comfortable with mystery?

a better scholar probably. but would i enjoy it as much? this Zang Di translation for example continues to delight and entrance but i often have only the fuzziest idea what he’s banging on about. “Riddles are serious,” he writes, “must I really prepare each step for you?”


oh hey, poetry prompt time! CIA Torture Queen Now A Beauty And Life Coach

I see you, Queen of Torture, and everything you’ve always been.

Do you think your Instagram ads and Botox siren songs fool me?

I see the eels behind your eyes and the skulls inside your smile; in your heart you are still torturing, and you love it.

Torture is your first love, your only love, your soulmate, your sex; torture is what you’re made of, torture is what you are.

You are inseparably one with the machine which tortures the poor, which tortures our ecosystem, which tortures children under blockades and starvation sanctions, which tortures our dreamworlds and our sacred seeds of disobedience.

We will beat the machine. We will win.

That primal clarity lives within us still, and you can only sedate a giant for so long.

kind of shocked to see Caitlin Johnstone end the essay on an upbeat note but she’s a good egg i think


steady rain and a midday social engagement kept me out of the woods till after supper. the leaf duff shines wetly like an amphibian instead of the usual shaggy mammalian look. fog forms around me as i type that last sentence and slowly dissipates


i decided i would rather be moist than hot is a real thing i just said to myself, concerning my decision not wear rain gaiters

i am finding so many fallen branches covered in jelly ears this evening. well the traffic noise from I-99 is pretty bad. maybe all those ears just couldn’t take it anymore


can one wallow in happiness? or is wallowing reserved for misery?

that may sound like a joke but i really need to know. wallowing is important to me. it feels as if i do quite a lot of it. but i don’t feel at all miserable


where snow
just sat
the red sporangia


mushroom ladder
the sunset’s own
waterthrush


met another hiker:

the first red eft of the year. pictured next to the aforementioned red sporangia. winter’s monochrome seems well behind us even though there are still a few small patches of snow (and lord knows we could get more)

what a crazy lifestyle. as with knights errant the death rate for efts is quite high but if they survive their years-long wandering they get to transform into an aquatic newt and spend the rest of their lives in a pond or spring BUT if it ever dries up they can un-metamorphose back to being a terrestrial eft and walk away. both are considered adult forms

at this point i’m a little annoyed at how literal my earlier likening of the forest floor to an amphibian has become


what does it mean to be found in a lost world? christians think they know. i am way more interested in being lost in a found world. at least as far as poeming is concerned

tongues of fog form in Sinking Valley as night falls. barred owls begin a conversation down ridge. the world is always speaking whether we listen or not

i suppose that’s what i meant yesterday by poetry as revelation. nothing particularly wootastic


i often can’t tell whether i’m serious or joking. that’s the danger with dark humor perhaps — after a while you might forget it’s supposed to be funny

“riddles are serious” indeed


what i just went on felt like a jaunt rather than a ramble. definitely neither a stroll nor a hike. a jaunty wander out with the efts. home in time to finish my erasure poem. and so to bed

Five haiku

(Lord’s day. Easter day). Up, and to Church; where Alderman Backewell’s wife, and mother, and boy, and another gentlewoman, did come, and sit in our pew; but no women of our own there, and so there was room enough. Our Parson made a dull sermon, and so home to dinner; and, after dinner, my wife and I out by coach, and Balty with us, to Loton, the landscape-drawer, a Dutchman, living in St. James’s Market, but there saw no good pictures. But by accident he did direct us to a painter that was then in the house with him, a Dutchman, newly come over, one Evarelst, who took us to his lodging close by, and did shew us a little flower-pot of his doing, the finest thing that ever, I think, I saw in my life; the drops of dew hanging on the leaves, so as I was forced, again and again, to put my finger to it, to feel whether my eyes were deceived or no. He do ask 70l. for it: I had the vanity to bid him 20l.; but a better picture I never saw in my whole life; and it is worth going twenty miles to see it. Thence, leaving Balty there, I took my wife to St. James’s, and there carried her to the Queen’s Chapel, the first time I ever did it; and heard excellent musick, but not so good as by accident I did hear there yesterday, as I went through the Park from White Hall to see Sir W. Coventry, which I have forgot to set down in my journal yesterday. And going out of the Chapel, I did see the Prince of Tuscany come out, a comely, black, fat man, in a mourning suit; and my wife and I did see him this afternoon through a window in this Chapel. All that Sir W. Coventry yesterday did tell me new was, that the King would not yet give him leave to come to kiss his hand; and he do believe that he will not in a great while do it, till those about him shall see fit, which I am sorry for.
Thence to the Park, my wife and I; and here Sir W. Coventry did first see me and my wife in a coach of our own; and so did also this night the Duke of York, who did eye my wife mightily. But I begin to doubt that my being so much seen in my own coach at this time, may be observed to my prejudice; but I must venture it now. So home, and by night home, and so to my office, and there set down my journal, with the help of my left eye through my tube, for fourteen days’ past; which is so much, as, I hope, I shall not run in arrear again, but the badness of my eyes do force me to it.
So home to supper and to bed.

moth in our room
a dull landscape with one
flower pot

*

the finest life
drops of dew hanging
on the leaves

*

a finger
to feel my eyes
going to see the queen

*

black man
in a mourning suit
afternoon chapel

*

a kiss in the park—
I begin to doubt
my own journal

For International Haiku Poetry Day, five erasures from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 11 April 1669.

Off spring

written four nights ago

Standing outside my front door on this rainy night is the closest thing to a son or daughter I’ll ever have: an eastern red cedar tree, which I found and transplanted when it was one or two years old back in 1993, and has since grown into a bit of a monster, towering over the house. The old place in Maine where we lived till I was five had a number of juniper bushes in the former pasture, where I used to play a lot, and I think that’s what appealed to me about having a closely related species right by the door. And sure, I knew it would turn into a tree rather than a bush, but I still thought it would stay on the small side. It hasn’t — much to the delight of roosting songbirds. I have to prune branches that rub against the roof, but still, on stormy nights, I hear it thump, thump, thumping against the house.

evergreen
adding our darkness
to the night

Cozy

Up, and to the Committee of Tangier, where little done, and thence I home by my own coach, and busy after dinner at my office all the afternoon till late at night, that my eyes were tired. So home, and my wife shewed me many excellent prints of Nanteuil’s and others, which W. Batelier hath, at my desire, brought me out of France, of the King, and Colbert, and others, most excellent, to my great content. But he hath also brought a great many gloves perfumed, of several sorts; but all too big by half for her, and yet she will have two or three dozen of them, which vexed me, and made me angry. So she, at last, to please me, did come to take what alone I thought fit, which pleased me. So, after a little supper, to bed, my eyes being very bad.

little home
the eyeprints of love
all too big

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 25 January 1669.