All except three are brought in
on wheelchairs. Two have hands

that flutter like leashed doves:
trying to take off, but not

succeeding. One has a worry
doll of some sort on his lap.

Two slump slightly forward
and appear to fall asleep

for a few minutes at a time.
One asks where I am from

when I go to shake her hand
in greeting; then she tells me

I am from England— England.
One, when speaking, slurs

some of the ends of her lines.
A nurse or orderly sits discreetly

at the back of the room. All
are dressed comfortably,

as if they were about to go
play cards or sit in the garden

while having a cup of tea. I know
one of them, and that she at least

has family nearby; in her one-
bedroom flat, she is surrounded

by books and her favorite art.
Among them, on a Friday morning

in a room where a vase of white
flowers gleams on the grand piano

and leatherbound copies of National
Geographic line the shelves, I read

poems: on daughters, mothers, partners;
on phone calls from annoying insurance

agents; about the uncertain cargo
we push in front of us as we go,

telling ourselves there’s a bit of a ways
more, but how much more, we don’t know.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Old, blue.

Being weary yesterday with walking I sleep long, and at last up and to the office, where all the morning. At home to dinner, Mr. Deane with me. After dinner I to White Hall (setting down my wife by the way) to a Committee of Tangier, where the Duke of Yorke, I perceive, do attend the business very well, much better than any man there or most of them, and my [mind] eased of some trouble I lay under for fear of his thinking ill of me from the bad successe in the setting forth of these crew men to Tangier.
Thence with Mr. Creed, and walked in the Parke, and so to the New Exchange, meeting Mr. Moore, and he with us. I shewed him no friendly look, but he took no notice to me of the Wardrobe business, which vexes me. I perceive by him my Lord’s business of his family and estate goes very ill, and runs in debt mightily. I would to God I were clear of it, both as to my owne money and the bond of 1000l., which I stand debtor for him in, to my cozen Thomas Pepys. Thence by coach home and to my office a little, and so to supper and to bed.

in walking sleep
I attend business better
than most thinking men

but would to God I were clear
as my own money

I stand for little


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 21 June 1664.

It having been a very cold night last night I had got some cold, and so in pain by wind, and a sure precursor of pain is sudden letting off farts, and when that stops, then my passages stop and my pain begins. Up and did several businesses, and so with my wife by water to White Hall, she to her father’s, I to the Duke, where we did our usual business. And among other discourse of the Dutch, he was merrily saying how they print that Prince Rupert, Duke of Albemarle, and my Lord Sandwich, are to be Generalls; and soon after is to follow them “Vieux Pen;” and so the Duke called him in mirth Old Pen.
They have, it seems, lately wrote to the King, to assure him that their setting-out ships were only to defend their fishing-trade, and to stay near home, not to annoy the King’s subjects; and to desire that he would do the like with his ships: which the King laughs at, but yet is troubled they should think him such a child, to suffer them to bring home their fish and East India Company’s ships, and then they will not care a fart for us.
Thence to Westminster Hall, it being term time, meeting Mr. Dickering, he tells me how my Lady last week went to see Mrs. Becke, the mother; and by and by the daughter came in, but that my Lady do say herself, as he says, that she knew not for what reason, for she never knew they had a daughter, which I do not believe. She was troubled, and her heart did rise as soon as she appeared, and seems the most ugly woman that ever she saw. This if true were strange, but I believe it is not.
Thence to my Lord’s lodgings; and were merry with the young ladies, who make a great story of their appearing before their mother the morning after we carried them, the last week, home so late; and that their mother took it very well, at least without any anger. Here I heard how the rich widow, my Lady Gold, is married to one Neale, after he had received a box on the eare by her brother (who was there a sentinel, in behalf of some courtier) at the door; but made him draw, and wounded him. She called Neale up to her, and sent for a priest, married presently, and went to bed. The brother sent to the Court, and had a serjeant sent for Neale; but Neale sent for him up to be seen in bed, and she owned him for her husband: and so all is past. It seems Sir H. Bennet did look after her.
My Lady very pleasant. After dinner came in Sir Thomas Crew and Mr. Sidney, lately come from France, who is growne a little, and a pretty youth he is; but not so improved as they did give him out to be, but like a child still. But yet I can perceive he hath good parts and good inclinations.
Thence with Creed, who dined here, to Westminster to find out Mr. Hawly, and did, but he did not accept of my offer of his being steward to my Lord at sea.
Thence alone to several places about my law businesses, and with good success; at last I to Mr. Townsend at the Wardrobe, and received kind words from him to be true to me against Captain Ferrers his endeavours to get the place from my father as my Lord hath promised him.
Here met Will. Howe, and he went forth with me; and by water back to White Hall to wait on my Lord, who is come back from Hinchinbroke; where he has been about 4 or 5 days. But I was never more vexed to see how an over-officious visitt is received, for he received me with as little concernment as in the middle of his discontent, and a fool I am to be of so servile a humour, and vexed with that consideration I took coach home, and could not get it off my mind all night.
To supper and to bed, my wife finding fault with Besse for her calling upon Jane that lived with us, and there heard Mrs. Harper and her talk ill of us and not told us of it. With which I was also vexed, and told her soundly of it till she cried, poor wench, and I hope without dissimulation, and yet I cannot tell; however, I was glad to see in what manner she received it, and so to sleep.

old and in pain
I would bring my heart

ugly as the mother of a wound
to you

like the sea alone with a captain
in the middle of a sound sleep


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 20 June 1664.

after “Object,” Meret Oppenheim

When I touched your nape,
my finger came away

slick as if after a birth
inspection. But one,

two, three birds emerged
from between your breast-

bone and your shoulder
blade, then made their way

to the nearest thing
covered with leaves.

Under the canopy I wait
with these empty vessels,

midwife to air: my spoons
of skin and hair tipping.

Should I paint over every
surface with white? Empty

all drawers, feed all moth-
balled things to the wind, open

the shutters that have hidden
themselves from the light?

I want to unburden each corner
of remainders and afterthoughts,

pour rice and beans and herbs into
clear containers, smooth out sheets

and linens; cup water in my palms,
press them into the lines on my face.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Standard bearer.

(Lord’s day). Up, and all the morning and afternoon (only at dinner at home) at my office doing many businesses for want of time on the week days. In the afternoon the greatest shower of rain of a sudden and the greatest and most continued thunder that ever I heard I think in my life. In the evening home to my wife, and there talked seriously of several of our family concernments, and among others of bringing Pall out of the country to us here to try to put her off, which I am very desirous, and my wife also of. So to supper, prayers, which I have of late too much omitted. So to bed.

at dinner
sudden thunder ringing out
the prayer omitted


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 19 June 1664.

From morning till 11 at night (only a little at dinner at home) at my office very busy, setting many businesses in order to my great trouble, but great content in the end. So home to supper and to bed.
Strange to see how pert Sir W. Pen is to-day newly come from Portsmouth with his head full of great reports of his service and the state of the ships there. When that is over he will be just as another man again or worse. But I wonder whence Mr. Coventry should take all this care for him, to send for him up only to look after his Irish business with my Lord Ormond and to get the Duke’s leave for him to come with so much officiousness, when I am sure he knows him as well as I do as to his little service he do.

from morning till night a din
to trouble but content me

strange how a new mouth
is just another wonder


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 18 June 1664.

Up, and to my office, where I dispatched much business, and then down by water to Woolwich to make a discovery of a cheate providing for us in the working of some of our own ground Tows into new cordage, to be sold to us for Riga cordage.
Thence to Mr. Falconer’s, where I met Sir W. Batten and Lady, and Captain Tinker, and there dined with them, and so to the Dockyarde and to Deptford by water, and there very long informing myself in the business of flags and bewpers and other things, and so home late, being weary, and full of good information to-day, but I perceive the corruptions of the Navy are of so many kinds that it is endless to look after them, especially while such a one as Sir W. Batten discourages every man that is honest. So home to my office, there very late, and then to supper and to bed mightily troubled in my mind to hear how Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes do labour all they can to abuse or enable others to abuse the King.

where do I discover
our own flag

home being weary
and full of corruption

endless to look after the rages
that nest in my mind


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 17 June 1664.

When it’s time, that flotilla
of sound in the trees— a great

rushing echo at their hems. After long
silence, they emerge into their gold-

outlined awakening. Our ears fill
with the tumult of wings opening,

of being opened, singed, tiled:
desire’s radio signals pinging.