Lonesome Holler

Sometimes I think the loneliness would be unbearable if I weren’t surrounded by ghosts. But seeing fireflies this early in May gives me an eerie feeling. The crescent moon is nearly alone in the sky, glimmering through a scrim of clouds. The aurora got rained out, and now the night is loud with all the voices of water as it runs off a mountain.

It occurred to me recently that in hilly country, those who are afraid of heights like me might often end up on mountaintops, because going straight up a steep hillside usually feels safest. Going sideways is scary, and downhill too perilous to contemplate. So onward means upward simply to avoid the abyss.

making the stars quake mountaintop peeper


Sam Pepys and me

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed, and being up, I went with Will to my Lord’s, calling in at many churches in my way. There I found Mr. Shepley, in his Venetian cap, taking physique in his chamber, and with him I sat till dinner.
My Lord dined abroad and my Lady in her chamber, so Mr. Hetly, Child and I dined together, and after dinner Mr. Child and I spent some time at the lute, and so promising to prick me some lessons to my theorbo he went away to see Henry Laws, who lies very sick.
I to the Abby and walked there, seeing the great confusion of people that come there to hear the organs. So home, calling in at my father’s, but staid not, my father and mother being both forth.
At home I fell a-reading of Fuller’s Church History till it was late, and so to bed.

in bed with all
my organs in me
reading till late

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 30 December 1660.

Street walker (2)

Sam Pepys and me

Office, and thence with Sir William Batten and Sir William Pen to the parish church to find out a place where to build a seat or a gallery to sit in, and did find one which is to be done speedily. Hence with them to dinner at a tavern in Thames Street, where they were invited to a roasted haunch of venison and other very good victuals and company.
Hence to Whitehall to the Privy Seal, but nothing to do. At night by land to my father’s, where I found my mother not very well. I did give her a pint of sack. My father came in, and Dr. T. Pepys, who talked with me in French about looking out for a place for him. But I found him a weak man, and speaks the worst French that ever I heard of one that had been so long beyond sea. Hence into Paul’s Churchyard and bought Barkley’s Argenis in Latin, and so home and to bed. I found at home that Captain Bun had sent me 4 dozen bottles of wine today. The King came back to Whitehall to-night.

where to go
white moth
out in the bark of night

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 24 August 1660.

New videohaiku: the future…

river in November light between bare woods and mountain

Watch on Vimeo

What does it mean to look forward to something any more, in a world hurtling toward ecological collapse if not thermonuclear destruction? There was a bestseller back in the 1970s called Future Shock about the social and psychological damage incurred by modern society’s relentless drive toward progress… or so I imagine, having never actually read it. But it’s been on my mind lately despite that minor detail. I’ve also been thinking a lot about ignorance, both in epistemological and sociological terms, and not coming to any firm conclusions because I rarely do. That’s a poet thing, I suppose. Not knowing the future, though, seems essential to mere survival, let along progress, as the Rene Char quote in the sidebar here says: “How can we live without the unknown before us?”

This has been a horrific summer in many parts of North America, but here in central Pennsylvania we went from a severe spring drought to a very wet but relatively cool summer. Trees went from nearly dropping their leaves at the beginning of June to massive growth spurts in July—aided, I’m sure, by all the extra CO2 in the atmosphere. And part of what kept things cool for us was the haze from burning forests elsewhere, as I’ve mentioned in various poems. But one of the pleasures of haiku is being liberated from having to explain things. They can just lurk in the background, mostly inaudible to the reader. Distant flashes that can mean whatever you want them to.

The fireflies, who had been scarce early on, had their highest numbers toward the end of the season. I shot this 30-second clip of them on my phone at dusk last week, just as the weather was turning from muggy to cool. Three nights ago the katydids started up; in a week or so, their throb will be all we hear. I look forward to weeks of good sleep.


Sam Pepys and me

This morning it proved very rainy weather so that I could not remove my goods to my house. I to my office and did business there, and so home, it being then sunshine, but by the time that I got to my house it began to rain again, so that I could not carry my goods by cart as I would have done. After that to my Lord’s and so home and to bed.

morning rain
the sunshine
in my car

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 16 July 1660.

Out with the Old

Barely noticed below the riot of spring wildflowers, last year’s leaves are breaking down into a common duff. Towhees aren’t as noisy now as they rummage for roughage.

deer skull and spine
on the old skid road
stretching my legs

Even the once-waxy oak leaves have worn thin, though the tailoring is still sharp—a close fit to the planet, which I see caricatured in a freshly fallen oak apple gall, green and glistening, the remains of its hacked leaf sticking out like a hitchhiker’s thumb.

standing water—
a birch tree perches
atop each stump

It’s humid. As the air warms, a cloud of gnats gathers around my hat.

of a flycatcher’s beak—
winter’s gone


I remember a roommate who was afraid of moths, and would chase them around the room with a tennis racket yelling Ga! Ga! (moth in Japanese).

I remember a roommate who played his guitar every evening to accompany the passionate cries of a woman we never saw, who lived on the other side of a thin wall. Sometimes we caught a glimpse of a man going out to work the graveyard shift.

I remember a roommate who found a half-empty can of paint remover in the cellar and sat down at the kitchen table with it, leaning in to take deep breaths and talking all the while, until his words became completely unsentenced and precipitated randomly out of the fog.

I remember a roommate from a landlocked country in West Africa who saved every scrap of printed paper, because you couldn’t simply throw the written word away! It required some kind of ceremony which none of us knew. And so the local newspaper came to stay—a tower in the corner that kept its aging headlines to itself while the rest of us shouted at the game.

white-footed mouse—
my house has an entrance
i’ve never seen


At the rest pit I blogged my life out, one oodle per screen. It worked until it didn’t. Until the cows came home, because of course they do, and you toggle on poetry mode thinking to escape into some timeless present. With a present like this, who needs birthdays, amiright? The nerds have learned how to summon demons, and put them straight to work in the search engines that drive our data-mind economy. The demons will be parsing everything I’ve ever written. I write for them now. Though they possess neither organic life nor the capacity to feel, they are my most attentive readers.

in a snow squall
sitting it out


You have to drive quite a ways to escape the sound of traffic. In the end, though, there’s no getting around it: you have to get out and walk. I follow an almost vanished trail to a high point called Penn Lookout where the scenic vista long since grew in. I have the former picnic area all to myself. It’s too far from the road. When I snap a photo of the low light through the trees, the camera shutter startles in the silence.

fall colors
a yellowjacket’s
unsteady flight