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Via Negativa



Purveyors of fine poetry since 2003.



Updated: 2017-11-22T05:17:24Z

 



Now or never

2017-11-22T05:17:24Z

Today is four parts mulch, one part roots negotiating with one part water. Or: too much earth, too much gravity, too many regrets packed away in jars or pickling in […]

Today is four parts mulch, one part roots negotiating
with one part water. Or: too much earth, too much

gravity, too many regrets packed away in jars or pickling
in the cellar. I’ve envied air plants in their miniature

clay pots, suspended by slender cords of leather. They lean
so slightly on close to nothing. They even thrive. Did I

ever feel like them, seemingly unperturbed by the imminence
of early passing? The blue half life bright and moldering

away in its dish; carnival masks pleating into their base
of sequins and glue. I think I will miss me too when I

am gone. Let’s open the tins of escargot someone left
in the back of the pantry, and eat them with buttered toast.

So many things others call trivial can give such glorious
pleasure: a sliver of soap; a whole spoonful of chocolate.




Hymnal

2017-11-22T04:03:52Z

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: "church laced with silver discourse praying look after our rope to sing is a simple thing true and round as time"

(Lord’s day). Up, and with my wife to church, where Pegg Pen very fine in her new coloured silk suit laced with silver lace. Dined at home, and Mr. Sheply, lately come to town, with me. A great deal of ordinary discourse with him. Among other things praying him to speak to Stankes to look after our business. With him and in private with Mr. Bodham talking of our ropeyarde stores at Woolwich, which are mighty low, even to admiration. They gone, in the evening comes Mr. Andrews and sings with us, and he gone, I to Sir W. Batten’s, where Sir J. Minnes and he and I to talk about our letter to my Lord Treasurer, where his folly and simple confidence so great in a report so ridiculous that he hath drawn up to present to my Lord, nothing of it being true, that I was ashamed, and did roundly and in many words for an houre together talk boldly to him, which pleased Sir W. Batten and my Lady, but I was in the right, and was the willinger to do so before them, that they might see that I am somebody, and shall serve him so in his way another time.
So home vexed at this night’s passage, for I had been very hot with him, so to supper and to bed, out of order with this night’s vexation.

church laced
with silver discourse
praying look after our rope

to sing
is a simple thing
true and round as time


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 20 November 1664.




Analog

2017-11-20T17:12:31Z

How to live in time, how to have it acknowledge the gold- brown body you press into its hull? Consult a rune, fortunes slipped into a shell— You will need […]

How to live in time, how to have it acknowledge the gold-
brown body you press into its hull? Consult a rune, fortunes

slipped into a shell— You will need to make an important
decision this year
; or Change is soon coming. But when

is the future’s bony finger not scratching at the window,
or bending back the stalks of wheat as if to make a path

for the unseen’s passing? It’s hard not to grieve for all
the slow sifting above. But rising at dawn, I marvel

at the sky’s coloring: saffron of a mango’s cheek, velvety
peach. Fruit out of season. Or a dry tremor of wings

unhinging in the canopy. Sometimes the moon remains visible,
blade of dented silver poking through the branches. Tiny

forms affix themselves to the substrate where the sea
rises through a network of roots, no longer negotiating.




Propitiation

2017-11-21T02:43:47Z

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: "the Dow down the river is red with light a late rite"

All the morning at the office, and without dinner down by galley up and down the river to visit the yards and ships now ordered forth with great delight, and so home to supper, and then to office late to write letters, then home to bed.

the Dow down
the river is red with light
a late rite


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 19 November 1664.




Six feet down

2017-11-21T02:22:16Z

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: "this grave I occupy you may have after me by accident or angel like a long last word I could not say and so must be"

Up and to the office, and thence to the Committee of the Fishery at White Hall, where so poor simple doings about the business of the Lottery, that I was ashamed to see it, that a thing so low and base should have any thing to do with so noble an undertaking.
But I had the advantage this day to hear Mr. Williamson discourse, who come to be a contractor with others for the Lotterys, and indeed I find he is a very logicall man and a good speaker.
But it was so pleasant to see my Lord Craven, the chaireman, before many persons of worth and grave, use this comparison in saying that certainly these that would contract for all the lotteries would not suffer us to set up the Virginia lottery for plate before them, “For,” says he, “if I occupy a wench first, you may occupy her again your heart but you can never have her maidenhead after I have once had it,” which he did more loosely, and yet as if he had fetched a most grave and worthy instance. They made mirth, but I and others were ashamed of it.
Thence to the ‘Change and thence home to dinner, and thence to the office a good while, and thence to the Council chamber at White Hall to speake with Sir G. Carteret, and here by accident heard a great and famous cause between Sir G. Lane and one Mr. Phill. Whore, an Irish business about Sir G. Lane’s endeavouring to reverse a decree of the late Commissioners of Ireland in a Rebells case for his land, which the King had given as forfeited to Sir G. Lane, for whom the Sollicitor did argue most angell like, and one of the Commissioners, Baron, did argue for the other and for himself and his brethren who had decreed it. But the Sollicitor do so pay the Commissioners, how four all along did act for the Papists, and three only for the Protestants, by which they were overvoted, but at last one word (which was omitted in the Sollicitor’s repeating of an Act of Parliament in the case) being insisted on by the other part, the Sollicitor was put to a great stop, and I could discern he could not tell what to say, but was quite out. Thence home well pleased with this accident, and so home to my office, where late, and then to supper and to bed.
This day I had a letter from Mr. Coventry, that tells me that my Lord Brunkard is to be one of our Commissioners, of which I am very glad, if any more must be.

this grave I occupy
you may have after me
by accident or angel
like a long last word
I could not say and so
must be


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 18 November 1664.




Small insinuations

2017-11-18T01:45:33Z

Insinuation of impostor against their bonafides. Insinuation of time as imponderable longing for salt and rice and fish, and many other things I can’t dream, and so can’t name. The […]

Insinuation of impostor against their bonafides.
Insinuation of time as imponderable longing for salt
and rice and fish, and many other things I can’t dream,
and so can’t name. The idea of gods always wanting
a taste: first or last. In tide pools, every octopus
is related to the squid. I could live as well in rocks
and caves. Wherever I find myself, I learn to become
my own infinite ecosystem. When they call me dog, I bare
my fangs. I nose at the sky, where I am the brightest star.
When I am stripped from the stalk before I’ve even had
a chance to flower, like buds of the Flinders rose I
allow to be embalmed in brine. Always, it comes down
to the question of how to live in time, how to have it
acknowledge the gold-brown body you press into its hull.




Bonafides

2017-11-18T02:02:17Z

They look at me like someone tamed out of the wilderness: burned out of foreign villages made from thatch, unbathed and stuttering amid the ruins. How did I come to […]

They look at me like someone tamed out of the wilderness:
burned out of foreign villages made from thatch, unbathed
and stuttering amid the ruins. How did I come to learn
their geometry, take their measure, provide blueprints
for their progeny’s future? A friend once advised, as we
tended the copy machine: work quietly at your perfection,
for they resent being shown up. That was decades ago;
now, she’s both physician and COO. Even so, the self-
important person gasping for breath in the ER insists
that he be seen by “a real doctor.” In classrooms where I
have stood under fluorescent lights, marker in hand before
the whiteboard, I’m the one who points out: woman, not
a women; could have, not could of; in spite, not despite,
of. Insinuation of impostor against their bonafides.




Pilgrim’s Regress

2017-11-19T03:35:42Z

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: "how do I continue to lose it all after night received me like a strange ear from the ground up"

Up and to my office, and there all the morning mighty busy, and taking upon me to tell the Comptroller how ill his matters were done, and I think indeed if I continue thus all the business of the office will come upon me whether I will or no.
At noon to the ‘Change, and then home with Creed to dinner, and thence I to the office, where close at it all the afternoon till 12 at night, and then home to supper and to bed.
This day I received from Mr. Foley, but for me to pay for it, if I like it, an iron chest, having now received back some money I had laid out for the King, and I hope to have a good sum of money by me, thereby, in a few days, I think above 800l. But when I come home at night, I could not find the way to open it; but, which is a strange thing, my little girle Susan could carry it alone from one table clear from the ground and set upon another, when neither I nor anyone in my house but Jane the cook-mayde could do it.

how do I continue to lose it all
after night received me
like a strange ear
from the ground up


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 17 November 1664.




You think you know who we are

2017-11-16T04:54:57Z

Are we the kind of people you think we are: law-abiding, peace-loving, generally not rocking the boat, wanting the same kinds of opportunities afforded others, speaking such perfect English learned […]

Are we the kind of people you think we are: law-abiding,
peace-loving, generally not rocking the boat, wanting the same
kinds of opportunities afforded others, speaking such perfect
English learned on the way here— Aren’t we more than lumpia-
and-pancit-eating, more than karaoke-mic-wielding, more
than are-you-a-nurse or are-you-a-doctor, are-you-a-mail-order-
bride or the wife of the Oklahoma bomber; more than the crazy
boxer or the woman with three thousand pairs of shoes; more than
the madman’s boast of how he can rape and kill or cause to be killed
outside of the law; more than the Italian designer’s killer, more
than the maids in Hong Kong who sleep on a makeshift pallet
wedged between refrigerator and stove— Aren’t we the islands
you ceded then annexed after a staged war; that you ordered
turned into a howling wilderness, tamed, then plundered?




Churchyard

2017-11-17T17:25:56Z

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys: "a dead rose is tending some other air the ordinary pains us at the burial of a little boy"

My wife not being well, waked in the night, and strange to see how dead sleep our people sleep that she was fain to ring an hour before any body would wake. At last one rose and helped my wife, and so to sleep again.
Up and to my business, and then to White Hall, there to attend the Lords Commissioners, and so directly home and dined with Sir W. Batten and my Lady, and after dinner had much discourse tending to profit with Sir W. Batten, how to get ourselves into the prize office or some other fair way of obliging the King to consider us in our extraordinary pains.
Then to the office, and there all the afternoon very busy, and so till past 12 at night, and so home to bed.
This day my wife went to the burial of a little boy of W. Joyce’s.

a dead rose is tending
some other air

the ordinary pains us
at the burial of a little boy


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 16 November 1664.