Up and to my office, where busy all the morning about Mr. Gauden’s account, and at noon to dinner with him at the Dolphin, where mighty merry by pleasant stories of Mr. Coventry’s and Sir J. Minnes’s, which I have put down some of in my book of tales. Just as I was going out my uncle Thomas came to the with a draught of a bond for him and his sons to sign to me about the payment of the 20l. legacy, which I agreed to, but he would fain have had from me the copy of the deed, which he had forged and did bring me yesterday, but I would not give him it. Says I perceive then you will keep it to defame me with, and desired me not to speak of it, for he did it innocently. Now I confess I do not find any great hurt in the thing, but only to keep from me a sight of the true original deed, wherein perhaps there was something else that may touch this business of the legacy which he would keep from me, or it may be, it is really lost as he says it is. But then he need not have used such a slight, but confess it without danger.
Thence by coach with Mr. Coventry to the Temple, and thence I to the Six Clerks’ office, and discoursed with my Attorney and Solicitor, and he and I to Mr. Turner, who puts me in great fear that I shall not get retayned again against Tom Trice; which troubles me.
Thence, it being night, homewards, and called at Wotton’s and tried some shoes, but he had none to fit me. He tells me that by the Duke of York’s persuasion Harris is come again to Sir W. Davenant upon his terms that he demanded, which will make him very high and proud. Thence to another shop, and there bought me a pair of shoes, and so walked home and to my office, and dispatch letters by the post, and so home to supper and to bed, where to my trouble I find my wife begin to talk of her being alone all day, which is nothing but her lack of something to do, for while she was busy she never, or seldom, complained. She hath also a pain in the place which she used to have swellings in; and that that troubles me is that we fear that it is my matter that I give her that causes it, it never coming but after my having been with her.
The Queen is in a good way of recovery; and Sir Francis Pridgeon hath got great honour by it, it being all imputed to his cordiall, which in her dispaire did give her rest and brought her to some hopes of recovery.
It seems that, after the much talk of troubles and a plot, something is found in the North that a party was to rise, and some persons that were to command it are found, as I find in a letter that Mr. Coventry read to-day about it from those parts.

in my book of tales you desire me
not to speak
only to touch

a pair of shoes let alone all day
seldom complain
despair is an art

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 24 October 1663.

The roof of the first house we owned was discovered
to jut over the property line, past its official limits.

It wasn’t a simple matter of revising the blueprint:
boundary issues made others aware of their limits.

The issue was settled, meaning some payment was made. Less
than a year later, an earthquake further tested our limits.

The edifice survived, the foundation intact; but other
repairs cost. We sold it to settle our debt limits.

That was a cruel year: one of calamity, of losses and deaths.
When I prayed I cried, pushed to the ends of my limits.

By some grace we survived, only to be ushered into other
predicaments. I forgot: the Fates deal out stuff, without limits.

Lately and besides, I am tired of being the first one others come to
in every crisis; I need to learn how to say I have my limits.

In a quiet room, the therapist draws one circle engulfing another:
This, she says, is what it looks like when one doesn’t set limits.

Days, weeks, months, a lifetime goes by. How can you tell when
the people and things in your life are straining your limits?

It’s lonely running loops around this track. The course is shrouded
with fog. I can’t see where I’ve come from, nor any marked limits.

Often I pause, sit on my haunches, lie prone on the ground—
pockets empty, flanks aching, heart fit to burst from its limits.

bust of Anna de Noailles by Rodin

I thought I was

So calm and sad I thought I was,
resigned to noble silence,
as befits a weary heart,
but evening, with its slipping,
sliding wind, its cooling,
vegetable smells,
this peaceful landscape
where desire lies dreaming,
seems determined to undo
my safe but joyless rest,
compelling me to face
these artful, airy games
that overwhelm and plunder
warming earth and fading skies
– ah, gentle, porous evening,
perfumed with vanilla,
why would you want to hurt
the ever hopeful girl
within my tense, half-open,
hesitating heart?

Je croyais être

Je croyais être calme et triste,
Simplement, sans demander mieux
Que ce noble état sérieux
D’un coeur lassé. Le soir insiste:
Avec les glissements du vent
Et la froide odeur des herbages,
Et cette paix des paysages
Sur qui le désir est rêvant,
Il défait mon repos sans joie,
Ce repos qui protégeait bien,
Il exige, hélas, que je voie
Ces rusés jeux aériens
Où tout s’enveloppe et se pille,
Du sol tiède aux clartés des cieux…
– Pourquoi, soir mol et spongieux
D’où coule un parfum de vanille,
Blessez-vous, dans mon coeur serré
Qui soudain s’entr’ouvre et vacille,
Cette éternelle jeune fille
Qui ne peut cesse d’espérer?



Here in the wake of dazzling day
comes fine, devoted night.
It feels as if the sky is bowed
beneath a tranquil weight of stars.
The juddering breath of a train
sets even this calm hillside
beating to its hearty rhythm.
Here in the darkness every
shimmering sound – a voice,
a footfall or a shutter slammed –
gleams like a marble or a rosary bead.
Can this airy, empathetic
but mysterious night, so gentle
and attuned to all our thoughts,
really be built upon graves?
This evening, dear, your love,
your tenderness, is all I need,
my soul’s contented only
when I have no hopes or plans.
We talk so much of souls,
but sated with pleasures
all we need is languorous rest.
Our hearts cry out for nothing more
– content to live or die,
we’ve found this calm and ease.
Dearest companion, is it just
desire we suffer from?


Après le jour luisant d’entrain
Voici la nuit, dévote et fine,
Il semble que le ciel s’incline
Par le poids des astres sereins.
Le soufflé saccadé d’un train
Transmet à la calme colline
Sa palpitation d’airain.
Dans l’ombre, les bruits qui scintillent,
– Bruits de pas, de voix, de volets –
Semblent polis comme des billes,
Comme les grains d’un chapelet.
– Ȏ Nuit, compatissant mystère!
Se peut-il, quand l’air est si doux
Et semble penser avec nous,
Qu’il y ait des morts dans la terre!
– Je n’ai besoin de rien ce soir
Grâce à ta tendresse amoureuse,
Une âme n’est vraiment heureuse
Que sans projets et sans espoirs.
Nous parlons sans cesse de l’âme,
Pourtant, après ce long plaisir,
Tout nous est paresse et loisir,
Plus rien en nos coeurs ne réclame;
Nous pourrions vivre ou bien mourir
Contents ainsi, calmes, à l’aise,
– Ȏ mon cher compagnon, serait-ce
Qu’on souffre que de désir?


Photo: Unfinished bust of Anna de Noailles – Rodin, 1906, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Anna de Noailles (1876-1933) was highly praised and acknowledged as a philosophical and aesthetic influence by Rilke, Proust and Colette. Prolific and beloved poet, novelist, patron, muse, she was heaped with honours and thousands lined the streets for her state funeral. Then she disappeared from the canon – surely mostly for the usual reason that she was a woman, but perhaps also because, written in iconoclastic times for European poetry, all of her poems rhyme.

I can’t help finding even the most sensitive and skilful rhymed translations of her poems rather wordy and distant from the originals – French rhymes so much more easily and lightly. But it’s also true that de Noailles consistently defended form and rhyme at a time when many poets were abandoning them, so these attempts to better capture her emotional intensity in unrhymed translations are very tentative.

Up, and this morning comes Mr. Clerke, and tells me that the Injunction against Trice is dismissed again, which troubles me much. So I am to look after it in the afternoon. There comes also by appointment my uncle Thomas, to receive the first payment of his daughter’s money. But showing of me the original of the deed by which his daughter gives her right to her legacy to him, and the copy of it attested by the Scrivener, for me to keep by me, I did find some difference, and thereupon did look more into it, and at last did find the whole thing a forgery; yet he maintained it again and again, upon oath, that it had been signed and sealed by my cozen Mary ever since before her marriage. So I told him to his teeth he did like a knave, and so he did, and went with him to the Scrivener at Bedlam, and there found how it came to pass, viz., that he had lost, or pretends to have lost, the true original, and that so he was forced to take this course; but a knave, at least a man that values not what he swears to, I perceive he is. But however I am now better able to see myself fully secured before I part with the money, for I find that his son Charles has right to this legacy till the first 100l. of his daughter’s portion be paid, he being bond for it. So I put him upon getting both his sons to be bound for my security, and so left him and so home, and then abroad to my brother’s, but found him abroad at the young couple that was married yesterday, and he one of the Br[ide’s] men, a kinswoman (Brumfield) of the Joyces married to an upholster.
Thence walked to the King’s Head at Charing Cross and there dined, and hear that the Queen slept pretty well last night, but her fever continues upon her still. It seems she hath never a Portuguese doctor here.
Thence by appointment to the Six Clerks’ office to meet Mr. Clerke, which I did and there waited all the afternoon for Wilkinson my attorney, but he came not, and so vexed and weary we parted, and I endeavoured but in vain to have found Dr. Williams, of whom I shall have use in Trice’s business, but I could not find him. So weary walked home; in my way bought a large kitchen knife and half dozen oyster knives. Thence to Mr. Holliard, who tells me that Mullins is dead of his leg cut off the other day, but most basely done.
He tells me that there is no doubt but that all my slyme do come away in my water, and therefore no fear of the stone; but that my water being so slymy is a good sign. He would have me now and then to take a clyster, the same I did the other day, though I feel no pain, only to keep me loose, and instead of butter, which he would have to be salt butter, he would have me sometimes use two or three ounces of honey, at other times two or three ounces of Linseed oil.
Thence to Mr. Rawlinson’s and saw some of my new bottles made, with my crest upon them, filled with wine, about five or six dozen.
So home and to my office a little, and thence home to prepare myself against T. Trice, and also to draw a bond fit for my uncle and his sons to enter into before I pay them the money. That done to bed.

tell me I am to receive the first payment
or find the whole thing a forgery

like Bedlam the original field
joy married to fever

a dozen knives dead in that water
I would now take instead of oil

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 23 October 1663.

Precario seems almost
the same as peligro
though the first sounds slightly
more delicate than the latter,
so it is possible to imagine
a small glass vase on the window-
sill, and a cat padding through
the apartment— Not the metal
grates staring from each door
along the alley, not the chain
link fences or security
warning signs. As children
we used to dig for hours
in the gravel, roll an inner
tube down the deserted street.
No one thought it unwise that we
walked by ourselves to the corner
store to buy iced coconut candy
or tubes of plastic balloon.
No van with tinted windows
waited, engines idling,
at the end of the block
under a dangerous sky.

~ after Thomas Lux’s “Ode to the Joyful Ones

And what of the others? Should they not
also be protected like the joyful ones?

They stumble even more among us: make
mistakes they never seem to learn from,

even after having made them again and again.
Family coffers are drained from being used

for bail, to bribe some offended party to look
away and not press charges, to fix the damage

done by hands or feet that bashed the door in
or a car windshield in the middle of some consuming,

unjoyful rage. When they are with others, the aura
of their crippling pain will sometimes obliterate

every other sense in the room. And then you realize
how fleeting joy is, how pleasure evaporates

before the dew dries off the leaf in the morning.
They eye the better piece of pork chop on the table,

the slice of cake, the plate of imported ham
and cheese, and transfer the good sheets

to their beds— They want it all, for in them
is such a hunger not even milk and honey

at midnight could appease. As for the light,
they want it as much as you, perhaps even more:

having lived seemingly so far from it for so long,
a mere sliver in the distance drives the sharpest

pang into their hearts— Oh what they would give
to simply throw off the covers, open a window, walk

out the door into a blinding field of radiance that won’t
extract too high a price for the grace of living inside it.

Up to the office, where we sat till noon and then I home to dinner, and after dinner with my wife to her study and there read some more arithmetique, which she takes with great ease and pleasure. This morning, hearing that the Queen grows worse again, I sent to stop the making of my velvet cloake, till I see whether she lives or dies.
So a little abroad about several businesses, and then home and to my office till night, and then home to supper, teach my wife, and so to bed.

where we sat
with great ease
the oak lives or dies

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 22 October 1663.

“a dream, a cloud, a flash of lightning…”

~ The Diamond Sutra

By candlelight,
the dented cup
is burnished.

As darkness falls,
garden stones gleam
like polished granite.

The river’s surface: rows
of whipped foam, faces
open to the wind.

Up, and by and by comes my brother Tom to me, though late (which do vex me to the blood that I could never get him to come time enough to me, though I have spoke a hundred times; but he is very sluggish, and too negligent ever to do well at his trade I doubt), and having lately considered with my wife very much of the inconvenience of my going in no better plight, we did resolve of putting me into a better garb, and, among other things, to have a good velvet cloake; that is, of cloth lined with velvet and other things modish, and a perruque, and so I sent him and her out to buy me velvet, and I to the Exchange, and so to Trinity House, and there dined with Sir W. Batten, having some business to speak with him, and Sir W. Rider. Thence, having my belly full, away on foot to my brother’s, all along Thames Streete, and my belly being full of small beer, I did all alone, for health’s sake, drink half a pint of Rhenish wine at the Still-yard, mixed with beer.
From my brother’s with my wife to the Exchange, to buy things for her and myself, I being in a humour of laying out money, but not prodigally, but only in clothes, which I every day see that I suffer for want of, I so home, and after a little at my office, home to supper and to bed.
Memorandum: This morning one Mr. Commander, a scrivener, came to me from Mr. Moore with a deed of which. Mr. Moore had told me, that my Lord had made use of my name, and that I was desired by my Lord to sign it. Remembering this very well, though understanding little of the particulars, I read it over, and found it concern Sir Robt. Bernard and Duckinford, their interest in the manor of Brampton. So I did sign it, declaring to Mr. Commander that I am only concerned in having my name at my Lord Sandwich’s desire used therein, and so I sealed it up after I had signed and sealed the deed, and desired him to give it so sealed to Mr. Moore. I did also call at the Wardrobe this afternoon to have told Mr. Moore of it, but he was not within, but knowing Mr. Commander to have the esteem of a good and honest man with my Lord Crew, I did not doubt to intrust him with the deed after I had signed it.
This evening after I came home I begun to enter my wife in arithmetique, in order to her studying of the globes, and she takes it very well, and, I hope, with great pleasure, I shall bring her to understand many fine things.

a slug is light lined with velvet
a modish rider on foot

full of beer he is a prodigal memorandum
signed and sealed
on the arithmetic of pleasure

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 21 October 1663.

Up and to the office, where we sat; and at noon Sir G. Carteret, Sir J. Minnes, and I to dinner to my Lord Mayor’s, being invited, where was the Farmers of the Customes, my Lord Chancellor’s three sons, and other great and much company, and a very great noble dinner, as this Mayor is good for nothing else. No extraordinary discourse of any thing, every man being intent upon his dinner, and myself willing to have drunk some wine to have warmed my belly, but I did for my oath’s sake willingly refrain it, but am so well pleased and satisfied afterwards thereby, for it do keep me always in so good a frame of mind that I hope I shall not ever leave this practice. Thence home, and took my wife by coach to White Hall, and she set down at my Lord’s lodgings, I to a Committee of Tangier, and thence with her homeward, calling at several places by the way. Among others at Paul’s Churchyard, and while I was in Kirton’s shop, a fellow came to offer kindness or force to my wife in the coach, but she refusing, he went away, after the coachman had struck him, and he the coachman. So I being called, went thither, and the fellow coming out again of a shop, I did give him a good cuff or two on the chops, and seeing him not oppose me, I did give him another; at last found him drunk, of which I was glad, and so left him, and home, and so to my office awhile, and so home to supper and to bed.
This evening, at my Lord’s lodgings, Mrs. Sarah talking with my wife and I how the Queen do, and how the King tends her being so ill. She tells us that the Queen’s sickness is the spotted fever; that she was as full of the spots as a leopard which is very strange that it should be no more known; but perhaps it is not so. And that the King do seem to take it much to heart, for that he hath wept before her; but, for all that; that he hath not missed one night since she was sick, of supping with my Lady Castlemaine; which I believe is true, for she says that her husband hath dressed the suppers every night; and I confess I saw him myself coming through the street dressing of a great supper to-night, which Sarah says is also for the King and her; which is a very strange thing.

the farmers of chance eat for nothing
every man intent upon his belly

satisfied by the offer of
a good cuff on the chops

as full as a leopard
known to take heart at a great supper

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 20 October 1663.