For the Pennance that Man Taketh of Himselfe Was Not Shewid Me—

To Calais, I thought, to Calais
where I will eat chicken fricaseed
So much in France that if I died
my effects to the king and no one else—
From the bedroom to the kitchen
to the office and up stairs and down
And the doorframe of the bathroom 
and in the tall ship from Dover…
Oh how little I wanted to be there!
Dover, Calais, a chicken waiting 
Fricaseed in the little parlour
facing the king’s portrait, the king 
With his chickens, his tall men
with chicken legs, they call this 
Calais, Calais, Calais, this feeling,
these men, this steaming dinner
If only I could turn this ship around
scorn this scowling shore, forget Calais
Forget this feeling, if I could bow
before some one other than the king
The king and myself and his portrait—

Okay being broken. I wait until the day is almost done to write that. The child, the parent, and the adult: the child demands, the parent forbids, and the adult decides. Unless I am remembering that incorrectly. 

To judge and to blame is neither the province of the student or the master. When anger blossoms it is a return in its own way. 

Close in anger. When he speaks I often become angry. And it is not because of anything he has done or said to me. It is because he reminds me of someone I was once close to—and via his speech I am returned to them.


What does it mean to write
a poem that is angry? Little fox
raising a stone to his head-height
threatening lords and ladies 
on the path. This morning I rose 
into a feeling, a kind of dampness
despite the nice weather, a cold 
dark cloth draped over my head,
stuffed in my guts. Last night, 
in haste, I pulled open a bag 
of chamomile, spilled its seeds 
over my cup, drank it anyway, 
without filter. Nothing angry there.
Except my haste was to avoid
another feeling. I knew what
I was brewing up. Knew what
was coming, or wasn’t. What 
would not. Oh to feel as clear
and sharp and sure as I felt
overlooking the old streetcars,
certain it was a crime to be made
to clean up a mess that wasn’t 
mine—my earliest memory
a toddler’s anger, mildly Byronic
I sometimes think—the self-
importance, someone who doesn’t
know the world is any bigger
than what he is able to see. Doesn’t
understand that the injustice
doesn’t extend beyond his self

Small ziplock of liver treats in my winter coat, cut into tiny cubes that have somehow retained their shape. Hallam is almost unpassable on the south side—but I learn quickly that the ice isn’t everywhere so thick. Nostalgic light—children wait in their coats, kicking at the snow, while their parents lock up behind them. 

Second light like this in which I do not know you. Wake up from a dream that turns angry—you’ve invited someone to stay with you in the house up north, you take the master bedroom, I sleep in the basement, and still you won’t talk to me. I’m working outside and you go into the garage to paint—to get away, you say. There’s an animal strung up via something hanging down from the rafters, from a kite or lifejacket or the straps of something else displaced. It is struggling in the dim light. 

It seems like a dog—a whippet—but as I move closer I discover it is a fawn, panicked and wild. And you aren’t painting. You’re sitting on the tractor, where you explain that the deer was like that when you entered, and that anyway you’ve given up the dog that I thought it was—he had some minor complication which compelled you to make a switch. 

I am surprised that you could do that.  

I think we should lower the deer but am too afraid to go near it—you seem unconcerned, don’t want to help me, and are proven right in the end, as the deer shakes itself loose, bounds out of the garage on its own when I go to check up on it again. Still we aren’t talking, but communicating in the pages of a spiral-bound notebook that you’ve taken with you into the garage. 

Things are going well until you begin to write “Maybe next year…” and then cross it out. (“Is it evil?” you have recently wondered while making a similar statement.) I say I am going to march into the bedroom, kick the man—you say his name is “Jeff”—out. That’s not why I am angry but it feels like something I can control. In any case there’s really no reason he should be there—you have taken things too far, involved me when I need not be involved.

Something I picked up from the internet: “I am allowed to be angry with people when they hurt me, even if they are sensitive and can’t cope well with being told they did something wrong. Their sensitivity does not mean I have to bottle up my feelings and their lack of coping skills does not make me expressing my anger abusive.” 

Times when I couldn’t even say it. Couldn’t report the feeling without a back up, a fight. Even knowing that I loved you. What was left then but eruption, without the privacy of disengagement, of working towards some good end for bad feelings? If there is no room for disappointment then everything comes to an end. 

But I know I did the same.

Oh well. On my walk back this morning a mantra from a meditation that I am intimately familiar with comes to me, over and over. The most important phrase, I suddenly realize—notice, and let go. Notice, and let go. Acknowledgment and dispersal. It’s what I’m training myself to do. 

The first time I had to soften my anger. Anger as protection—I had to give it up, soften it and acknowledge what I really felt. Now I find myself reluctant to—I want to protect myself from feeling so soft. Want to be protected, as if I am going to battle. But I don’t see any battle on the horizon. See no other combatants. Only a mix of anger and softness, tangled in a cloud that I want to dissipate. It’s not good for me, all of this anger. I need to release all of it—the anger, the softness, and find myself in some other position… not quite one, not quite the other—something that is alive, generous, gentle, and in-between.