they do not loiter
here for long

they say they come
to watch the fish and learn

the ways of water
what it takes to stand

as long as the egret does
doubling the image

on the stilled surface
before it remembers

the length
of its wingspan

but don’t speak
of greatness yet

what is the end
or the beginning

from the middle
which looks both ways


In response to Via Negativa: Above the river.

Up betimes and settled some necessary papers relating to my security in the accounts which I lately passed with my Lord Sandwich; then to the office and there all the morning sitting. So home to dinner and then abroad with my wife by water to Westminster, and there left her at my Lord’s lodgings, talking with Mrs. Harper about her kinswoman’s coming to my wife next week. And I to Jervas the barber’s, and there was trimmed, and did deliver back a periwigg, which he brought by my desire the other day to show me, having some thoughts, though no great desire or resolution yet to wear one, and so I put it off for a while.
Thence to my wife, and calling at both the Exchanges, buying stockings for her and myself, and also at Leadenhall, where she and I, it being candlelight, bought meat for to-morrow, having never a mayde to do it, and I myself bought, while my wife was gone to another shop, a leg of beef, a good one, for six pense, and my wife says is worth my money. So walked home, with a woman carrying our things, and had a very pleasant walk from White-hall home. So to my office and there despatched some business; and so home and to supper and to bed.
We called at Toms as we came by, and saw his new building, which will be very convenient. But I am mightily displeased at a letter he sent me last night, to borrow 20l. more of me, and yet gives me no account, as I have long desired, how matters stand with him in the world. I am troubled also to see how, contrary to my expectation, my brother John neither is the scholler nor minds his studies as I thought would have done, but loiters away his time, so that I must send him soon to Cambridge again.

thoughts wear off
light as thin ice

give no account how matters
stand in the world

how other minds
would loiter on a bridge

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 29 August 1663.

At the office betimes (it being cold all night and this morning, and a very great frost they say abroad, which is much, having had no summer at all almost), where we sat, and in the afternoon also about settling the establishment of the number of men borne on ships, &c., till the evening, and after that in my closet till late, and quite tired with business, home to supper and to bed.

night road
and the numb men borne on it

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 28 August 1663.

Though I too live in a blur of worlds, I am one
shade of brown: my blood not as obviously mixed.

Who gave me this nose? I have no dimples. I have a brow
broad as a page. The eyes tell when I am smiling.

And eyebrows constitute a language of their own. Never
asleep, they are two republics separated by a bridge.

Do you know the power of discarded fishbones?
I know delight can interchange with dilate.

I’ve strung the dried stumps of my daughters’ birth
cords on a safety pin; this is one way I keep them close.

Do you know the sound the tin bucket makes, the shape
of its mouth as it looks at the sky from inside the well?

In the bird house made from hollowed-out wood: wasps
coming and going. They are not angry yet, only nesting.

The ginger flower’s torch burns with scent in the middle
of the garden. Not even the rain can put it out.

Newspaper stories of lifeless bodies fished out of
the gutter: too many now every day to number.

Their wrists are bound, their mouths sealed
with tape. Before they died, who had their number?

Along the canals, a rash of deep green vines:
their arms bear yellow flowers, too many to number.

At the height of summer, the flowers give way
to fruit. The bloated fall— some number.

The rest are allowed to live awhile, then are reaped to assuage
hunger. The problem is with hunger that knows no number.

The bigger the maw, the bigger the hunger. It won’t stop:
what can’t be satisfied has no belief in limits, in numbers.


In response to Via Negativa: Issue.

Up, after much pleasant talke with my wife and a little that vexes me, for I see that she is confirmed in it that all that I do is by design, and that my very keeping of the house in dirt, and the doing of this and any thing else in the house, is but to find her employment to keep her within and from minding of her pleasure, in which, though I am sorry to see she minds it, is true enough in a great degree.
To my office, and there we sat and despatched much business. Home and dined with my wife well, and then up and made clean my closet of books, and had my chamber a third time made very clean, so that it is now in a very fine condition.
Thence down to see some good plank in the river with Sir W. Batten and back again, it being a very cold day and a cold wind. Home again, and after seeing Sir W. Pen, to my office, and there till late doing of business, being mightily encouraged by every body that I meet withal upon the ‘Change and every where else, that I am taken notice of for a man that do the King’s business wholly and well. For which the Lord be praised, for I know no honour I desire more.
Home to supper, where I find my house very clean from top to bottom again to my great content. I found a feacho (as he calls it) of fine sugar and a case of orange-flower water come from Mr. Cocke, of Lisbon, the fruits of my last year’s service to him, which I did in great justice to the man, a perfect stranger. He sends it me desiring that I would not let Sir J. Minnes know it, from whom he expected to have found the service done that he had from me, from whom he could expect nothing, and the other failed him, and would have done I am sure to this day had not I brought it to some end.
After supper to bed.

from the river
a cold body

from each flower a fruit
a perfect stranger

from me no one

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 27 August 1663, written while listening to Entheos.

I read some kinds of flowers,
crushed, are used to stain
the fingernails of girls;
that if the color stays
till winter, it means
they’ll find their love.
I never under a full moon
breathed the name of someone
whose love I wanted, nor looked
in the mirror at midnight
to catch sight of his face.
I walked the dark streets once,
I remember: a child growing
in my belly, my heart
no longer sure
of promises I’d made.
I knocked on the doors
of friends who took me in
and fed me, who said
nothing that I didn’t
need to hear.
When I went home
to take up my life again,
that kindness stayed
long past winter, past
the bloom that faded
from my hands.


In response to Via Negativa: Investor.

Up, and after doing something in order to the putting of my house in order now the joynery is done, I went by water to White Hall, where the Court full of waggons and horses, the King and Court going this day out towards the Bath, and I to St. James’s, where I spent an hour or more talking of many things to my great content with Mr. Coventry in his chamber, he being ready to set forth too with the Duke to-day, and so left him, and I meeting Mr. Gauden, with him to our offices and in Sir W. Pen’s chamber did discourse by a meeting on purpose with Mr. Waith about the victualling business and came to some issue in it.
So home to dinner, and Mr. Moore came and dined with me, and after dinner I paid him some money which evened all reckonings between him and me to this day, and for my Lord also I paid him some money, so that now my Lord owes me, for which I have his bond, just 700l..
After long discourse with him of the fitness of his giving me a receipt for this money, which I for my security think necessary and he otherwise do not think so, at last, after being a little angry, and I resolving not to let go my money without it, he did give me one.
Thence I took him, and he and I took a pleasant walk to Deptford and back again, I doing much business there. He went home and I home also, indoors to supper, being very glad to see my house begin to look like itself again, hoping after this is over not to be in any dirt a great while again, but it is very handsome, and will be more when the floors come to be of one colour.
So weary to bed.
Pleased this day to see Captain Hickes come to me with a list of all the officers of Deptford Yard, wherein he, being a high old Cavalier, do give me an account of every one of them to their reproach in all respects, and discovers many of their knaverys; and tells me, and so I thank God I hear every where, that my name is up for a good husband for the King, and a good man, for which I bless God; and that he did this by particular direction of Mr. Coventry.

in order to put my house in order
now the joy is all
in my issue

money giving me money for my money
like hands of one color
for every god

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 26 August 1663.

Up very early and removed the things out of my chamber into the dining room, it being to be new floored this day. So the workmen being come and falling to work there, I to the office, and thence down to Lymehouse to Phin. Pett’s about masts, and so back to the office, where we sat; and being rose, and Mr. Coventry being gone, taking his leave, for that he is to go to the Bath with the Duke to-morrow, I to the ‘Change and there spoke with several persons, and lastly with Sir W. Warren, and with him to a Coffee House, and there sat two hours talking of office business and Mr. Wood’s knavery, which I verily believe, and lastly he tells me that he hears that Captain Cocke is like to become a principal officer, either a Controller or a Surveyor, at which I am not sorry so either of the other may be gone, and I think it probable enough that it may be so.
So home at 2 o’clock, and there I found Ashwell gone, and her wages come to 50s., and my wife, by a mistake from me, did give her 20s. more; but I am glad that she is gone and the charge saved.
After dinner among my joyners, and with them till dark night, and this night they made an end of all; and so having paid them 40s. for their six days’ work, I am glad they have ended and are gone, for I am weary and my wife too of this dirt.
My wife growing peevish at night, being weary, and I a little vexed to see that she do not retain things in her memory that belong to the house as she ought and I myself do, I went out in a little seeming discontent to the office, and after being there a while, home to supper and to bed.
To-morrow they say the King and the Duke set out for the Bath.
This noon going to the Exchange, I met a fine fellow with trumpets before him in Leadenhall-street, and upon enquiry I find that he is the clerk of the City Market; and three or four men carried each of them an arrow of a pound weight in their hands. It seems this Lord Mayor begins again an old custome, that upon the three first days of Bartholomew Fayre, the first, there is a match of wrestling, which was done, and the Lord Mayor there and Aldermen in Moorefields yesterday: to-day, shooting: and to-morrow, hunting. And this officer of course is to perform this ceremony of riding through the city, I think to proclaim or challenge any to shoot. It seems that the people of the fayre cry out upon it as a great hindrance to them.

I spoke with coffee
like a dark ear of night

and went out
into the leaden street

men carried the weight of the fields
yesterday today and tomorrow
through the city

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 25 August 1663, written while listening to Godflesh’s classic album Streetcleaner.

Just you and I in the attic,
My father.
The walls have collapsed.
Flesh has given way.
The debris of the blue sky tumbles all around.
I see your face more clearly.
You’re weeping.
Tonight we share the same age
Before these her remembered hands

10 o’ clock.
The wall clock striking
And blood recoiling.
Everyone’s gone.
House closed.
Far away the wind pushes at an early star.

No-one remains.
But you are there,
My father,
And like bindweed,
My arm tugging at yours,
You wipe away my tears,
hot across your fingers.

Il n’y a plus que toi et moi dans la mansarde

Mon père
Les murs sont écroulés
La chair s’est écroulée
Des gravats de ciel bleu tombent de tous côtés
Je vois mieux ton visage
Tu pleures
Et cette nuit nous avons le même âge
Au bord des mains qu’elle a laissées

Dix heures
La pendule qui sonne
Et le sang qui recule
Il n’y a plus personne
Maison fermée
Le vent qui pousse au loin une étoile avancée

Il n’y a plus personne
Et tu es là
Mon père
Et comme un liseron
Mon bras grimpe à ton bras
Tu effaces mes larmes
En te brûlant les doigts.

(René-Guy CADOU, Amis les Anges, 1943)