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Via Negativa



Purveyors of fine poetry since 2003.



Updated: 2018-02-23T05:14:19Z

 



Drunkard’s dream

2018-02-23T05:14:19Z

I enter a pub in London, thirsty but nearly broke. What’s your cheapest cask ale, I ask the bartender, who happens to be the comedian Margaret Cho. This one’s only […]

I enter a pub in London, thirsty but nearly broke. What’s your cheapest cask ale, I ask the bartender, who happens to be the comedian Margaret Cho. This one’s only a pound a pint, she says, pointing to a handle with an iron cross logo on it. No one wants to drink it because it’s racist. Gosh, I say, I’m not a racist, but that’s really cheap! It’s also very tasty, she says. Classic English bitter. She pulls a pint for me and I take a sip. It certainly slips down easy. But I’ve barely finished it when she announces last call. I order five more pints and start tossing them back. Oddly, I can’t feel the alcohol at all. I mean, sure, I drink mainly for the taste, but I enjoy a bit of a buzz, too. Apparently even where racism is concerned, you get what you pay for. I notice Margaret looking intently at me and writing something down on a small clipboard. I wake up thinking: What excellent casting! Who’d ever have thought to have Margaret Cho play the devil?

      drinking alone
      among the flowers of evil—
      the bees are all dead




Farmhand

2018-02-23T04:30:54Z

Up, and to the office (having a mighty pain in my forefinger of my left hand, from a strain that it received last night) in struggling ‘avec la femme que […]

Up, and to the office (having a mighty pain in my forefinger of my left hand, from a strain that it received last night) in struggling ‘avec la femme que je’ mentioned yesterday, where busy till noon, and then my wife being busy in going with her woman to a hot-house to bathe herself, after her long being within doors in the dirt, so that she now pretends to a resolution of being hereafter very clean. How long it will hold I can guess. I dined with Sir W. Batten and my Lady, they being now a’days very fond of me.
So to the ‘Change, and off of the ‘Change with Mr. Wayth to a cook’s shop, and there dined again for discourse with him about Hamaccos and the abuse now practised in tickets, and more like every day to be. Also of the great profit Mr. Fen makes of his place, he being, though he demands but 5 per cent. of all he pays, and that is easily computed, but very little pleased with any man that gives him no more.
So to the office, and after office my Lord Brunkerd carried me to Lincolne’s Inne Fields, and there I with my Lady Sandwich (good lady) talking of innocent discourse of good housewifery and husbands for her daughters, and the luxury and looseness of the times and other such things till past 10 o’clock at night, and so by coach home, where a little at my office, and so to supper and to bed.
My Lady tells me how my Lord Castlemayne is coming over from France, and is believed will be made friends with his Lady again.
What mad freaks the Mayds of Honour at Court have: that Mrs. Jenings, one of the Duchesses mayds, the other day dressed herself like an orange wench, and went up and down and cried oranges; till falling down, or by such accident, though in the evening, her fine shoes were discerned, and she put to a great deale of shame.
That such as these tricks being ordinary, and worse among them, thereby few will venture upon them for wives: my Lady Castlemayne will in merriment say that her daughter (not above a year old or two) will be the first mayde in the Court that will be married.
This day my Lord Sandwich writ me word from the Downes, that he is like to be in towne this week.

pain in my hand
from struggling with doors in the dirt

how I hold it now
like a leased field

where oranges fall in the evening
and few venture upon them


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 21 February 1665.




The mouth cannot stop

2018-02-22T04:53:25Z

working— it opens and closes and chews, it eats and drinks. It purses and preens toward a wand of color then blots the traces of a kiss or its approach. […]

working— it opens
and closes and chews,
it eats and drinks.
It purses and preens
toward a wand of color
then blots the traces
of a kiss or its
approach. Snip
the fine hairs
on each side of
the philtrum:
Cupid’s bow, love
charm, indentation
left when a finger
pressed the lips
together to keep
the wisdom of
the world or
a simple secret
from spilling out
and escaping.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Chainsaw.




Lunatic

2018-02-22T02:26:38Z

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: "common people have their own lord the sun high but quiet as a well I would write a letter to a better lower one and venture to hire her from month to month"

Up, and with Sir J. Minnes to attend the Duke, and then we back again and rode into the beginning of my Lord Chancellor’s new house, near St. James’s; which common people have already called Dunkirke-house, from their opinion of his having a good bribe for the selling of that towne. And very noble I believe it will be. Near that is my Lord Barkeley beginning another on one side, and Sir J. Denham on the other. Thence I to the House of Lords and spoke with my Lord Bellasses, and so to the ‘Change, and there did business, and so to the Sun taverne, haling in the morning had some high words with Sir J. Lawson about his sending of some bayled goods to Tangier, wherein the truth is I did not favour him, but being conscious that some of my profits may come out by some words that fell from him, and to be quiet, I have accommodated it. Here we dined merry; but my club and the rest come to 7s. 6d., which was too much. Thence to the office, and there found Bagwell’s wife, whom I directed to go home, and I would do her business, which was to write a letter to my Lord Sandwich for her husband’s advance into a better ship as there should be occasion. Which I did, and by and by did go down by water to Deptford, and then down further, and so landed at the lower end of the town, and it being dark ‘entrer en la maison de la femme de Bagwell’, and there had ‘sa compagnie’, though with a great deal of difficulty, ‘neanmoins en fin j’avais ma volont d’elle’, and being sated therewith, I walked home to Redriffe, it being now near nine o’clock, and there I did drink some strong waters and eat some bread and cheese, and so home. Where at my office my wife comes and tells me that she hath hired a chamber mayde, one of the prettiest maydes that ever she saw in her life, and that she is really jealous of me for her, but hath ventured to hire her from month to month, but I think she means merrily. So to supper and to bed.

common people have
their own lord the sun
high but quiet as a well

I would write a letter
to a better lower one
and venture to hire her
from month to month


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 20 February 1665.




Life index

2018-02-21T03:50:24Z

“Aristaeus wept, when he saw all his bees killed and honeycombs abandoned incomplete.” ~ Ovid, Fasti 1. 363 ff (trans.Boyle) The wasp is more aggressive than the honeybee, which dies […]

“Aristaeus wept, when he saw all his bees killed and honeycombs abandoned incomplete.” ~ Ovid, Fasti 1. 363 ff (trans.Boyle)

The wasp is more aggressive than the honeybee,
which dies after it stings. In the flecked

gold haze of his approach, K looks at the hand
on which the insect has landed. The apiaries

hum with suggestive life, even in that blasted
world. Who is their saint? Where are the fields

of flowers opening their throats to cloudless
wind, or vines and olive groves? Surely

there was a moment before it was too late,
before toxic sugar calmed the waters; when

they brushed their hind legs on the threshold,
lifting away from our poppy-heavy hearts.




Mean drunk

2018-02-21T03:06:28Z

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: "sometimes pleased sometimes eased evening comes by accident let Scotch haunt and scour our house I fell and made my disturbance beat her down in the cellar"

Lay in bed, it being Lord’s day, all the morning talking with my wife, sometimes pleased, sometimes displeased, and then up and to dinner. All the afternoon also at home, and Sir W. Batten’s, and in the evening comes Mr. Andrews, and we sung together, and then to supper, he not staying, and at supper hearing by accident of my mayds their letting in a rogueing Scotch woman that haunts the office, to helpe them to washe and scoure in our house, and that very lately, I fell mightily out, and made my wife, to the disturbance of the house and neighbours, to beat our little girle, and then we shut her down into the cellar, and there she lay all night. So we to bed.

sometimes pleased sometimes eased
evening comes by accident

let Scotch haunt
and scour our house

I fell and made my disturbance
beat her down in the cellar


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 19 February 1665.




Moor your craft higher up than the enemy, facing the sun

2018-02-23T03:56:05Z

[after Sun Tzu] When the sleeve is turned inside out and held to the cheek, it means the traveler must spend another night under the pines with his grief. When […]

[after Sun Tzu]

When the sleeve is turned inside out
and held to the cheek, it means

the traveler must spend another night
under the pines with his grief.

When the face bends over the hands,
it recreates the shedding or stifling

of tears. What does it mean to look
directly at the sun? One tight bud

that finally unfurls in a cupful of water.
Perhaps a reprieve. A smooth stone pillow.

Perhaps the waters boiling with foam
and the cries of sentinel birds.

Perhaps the voices of the dead, borne on
the great wave of their coming vindication.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Floating world Ukiyo.




If not from this life, from the next

2018-02-20T04:32:11Z

…we for whom grief is so often the source of our spirit’s growth— ~ From The Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke They poisoned the water before taking it away. They […]

…we for whom grief is so often the source of our spirit’s growth—
~ From The Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke

They poisoned the water
before taking it away. They said:

choose a death alone in a park
with no witnesses, or one

in a schoolroom, in the company
of others. They said you can’t

have it all, though you have
but little. So they schemed

to separate sibling from sibling,
parent from child. Before the corpses

were evicted or buried, one of their own
remembered to snap the rosary chains

they clutched in their hands:
for revenge, and to keep the border

permeable— that thin line dividing
this world and the next and the next.




Chef

2018-02-20T02:00:09Z

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: "I experiment with marrow bones and a mad mouth one plate for the king and another for the clock and then home to supper and my sandwich hips sing"

Up, and to the office, where sat all the morning; at noon to the ‘Change, and thence to the Royall Oake taverne in Lumbard Streete, where Sir William Petty and the owners of the double-bottomed boat (the Experiment) did entertain my Lord Brunkard, Sir R. Murrey, myself, and others, with marrow bones and a chine of beefe of the victuals they have made for this ship; and excellent company and good discourse: but, above all, I do value Sir William Petty.
Thence home; and took my Lord Sandwich’s draught of the harbour of Portsmouth down to Ratcliffe, to one Burston, to make a plate for the King, and another for the Duke, and another for himself; which will be very neat.
So home, and till almost one o’clock in the morning at my office, and then home to supper and to bed.
My Lord Sandwich, and his fleete of twenty-five ships in the Downes, returned from cruising, but could not meet with any Dutchmen.

I experiment with marrow bones
and a mad mouth

one plate for the king
and another for the clock

and then home to supper
and my sandwich hips sing


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 18 February 1665.




Hymn of tempering

2018-02-19T03:48:05Z

[ ~ with a line from Sam Roxas-Chua 姚’s Echolalia in Script ] I love the homely egg, even after it’s broken: my flawed desiderata, my failed cartography. I distrust […]

[ ~ with a line from Sam Roxas-Chua 姚’s Echolalia in Script ]

I love the homely egg, even after it’s broken:
my flawed desiderata, my failed cartography.

I distrust those who warn against dreams—
those who say dreamers are swindlers,

peddlers of moldy bean curd, fake
pashmina. Look around, there are many

far more evil than the dreams they warn us
not to harbor. They wear identical dark

suits and cannot look straight at the camera
even while professing apology or regret.

Whereas I love the irregular weave of a hand-
loomed blanket, how and where it holds itself

most accountable to light: the thin spots,
the possibility of future breaking. Every use

thus beautifies the tally of a thing’s im-
perfections; which isn’t the same as saying

it is flawed. I admire what’s entered fire
yet stays supple, acutely reflective.

The leather-faced slapper coaxes gold to tendrils.
We’ll wear what the blows will never finish.