All night she sifts torn
paper into garbage bags,

careful not to leave
a trail of names or living

places. Hard enough to be
the one passed over.

Hard to be the one whose face
becomes easily mistaken

in the bland light that pours
through early trains. So

she doesn’t want to hand over
the secrets of her middle

names, the passwords to
her childhood. Once,

when she was very ill, the elders
shouted a different name

over and over her fevered form.
They embroidered its ugly

syllables on face towels
and pressed them to her brow.

Somehow her soul knew then
to crawl into its quietest

room, the one she still
retreats into on hearing

winds shift and grasses
lengthen into shadow,

on hearing demons inspecting
for hiding places in the earth.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

(Lord’s day). Up, and having many businesses at the office to-day I spent all the morning there drawing up a letter to Mr. Coventry about preserving of masts, being collections of my own, and at noon home to dinner, whither my brother Tom comes, and after dinner I took him up and read my letter lately of discontent to my father, and he is seemingly pleased at it, and cries out of my sister’s ill nature and lazy life there.
He being gone I to my office again, and there made an end of my morning’s work, and then, after reading my vows of course, home and back again with Mr. Maes and walked with him talking of his business in the garden, and he being gone my wife and I walked a turn or two also, and then my uncle Wight fetching of us, she and I to his house to supper, and by the way calling on Sir G. Carteret to desire his consent to my bringing Maes to him, which he agreed to. So I to my uncle’s, but staid a great while vexed both of us for Maes not coming in, and soon he came, and I with him from supper to Sir G. Carteret, and there did largely discourse of the business, and I believe he may expect as much favour as he can do him, though I fear that will not be much. So back, and after sitting there a good while, we home, and going my wife told me how my uncle when he had her alone did tell her that he did love her as well as ever he did, though he did not find it convenient to show it publicly for reasons on both sides, seeming to mean as well to prevent my jealousy as his wife’s, but I am apt to think that he do mean us well, and to give us something if he should die without children.
So home to prayers and to bed.
My wife called up the people to washing by four o’clock in the morning; and our little girl Susan is a most admirable Slut and pleases us mightily, doing more service than both the others and deserves wages better.

I spent all morning preserving
a collection of cries
work and desire
greed and fear and love
to show publicly if I should die
without children


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 21 February 1663/64.

After news
of the travel ban,

I begin to knit
a garment the color

of lichen, the color
of moss steeped

in clear mountain
streams. I hope

to never finish,
to nightly unravel.

I think I know
who it is for

but as long as there
remain obstacles

to its delivery,
perhaps the pigeons

will sleep with heads
bent beneath one wing,

perhaps the spirits
will continue their

restless hovering: not
finding a ledge eager

to give up its warmth, a
shell not hardened to quartz.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Thread.

finding a pair

of bronzed shells

in the field.

And if a pair

of gunmen pump

twenty-seven bullets

into their victim‘s body

at the intersection

of Clarin and Zamora,

what will the children

in the passenger seat

remember? Dull glint,

the vehicle coasting

to a stop. The sounds

numbed vessels make

as every small gold

cell breaks and breaks.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Farmer.

Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon to the ‘Change with Mr. Coventry and thence home to dinner, after dinner by a gaily down to Woolwich, where with Mr. Falconer, and then at the other yard doing some business to my content, and so walked to Greenwich, it being a very fine evening and brought right home with me by water, and so to my office, where late doing business, and then home to supper and to bed.

morning and noon
change into green evening
I water my bed


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 20 February 1663/64.

Up in good order in my head again and shaved myself, and then to the office, whither Mr. Cutler came, and walked and talked with me a great while; and then to the ‘Change together; and it being early, did tell me several excellent examples of men raised upon the ‘Change by their great diligence and saving; as also his owne fortune, and how credit grew upon him; that when he was not really worth 1100l., he had credit for 100,000l. of Sir W. Rider how he rose; and others. By and by joyned with us Sir John Bankes; who told us several passages of the East India Company; and how in his very case, when there was due to him and Alderman Mico 64,000l. from the Dutch for injury done to them in the East Indys, Oliver presently after the peace, they delaying to pay them the money, sent them word, that if they did not pay them by such a day, he would grant letters of mark to those merchants against them; by which they were so fearful of him, they did presently pay the money every farthing.
By and by, the ‘Change filling, I did many businesses, and about 2 o’clock went off with my uncle Wight to his house, thence by appointment we took our wives (they by coach with Mr. Mawes) and we on foot to Mr. Jaggard, a salter, in Thames Street, for whom I did a courtesy among the poor victuallers, his wife, whom long ago I had seen, being daughter to old Day, my uncle Wight’s master, is a very plain woman, but pretty children they have. They live methought at first in but a plain way, but afterward I saw their dinner, all fish, brought in very neatly, but the company being but bad I had no great pleasure in it. After dinner I to the office, where we should have met upon business extraordinary, but business not coming we broke up, and I thither again and took my wife; and taking a coach, went to visit my Ladys Jemimah and Paulina Montagu, and Mrs. Elizabeth Pickering, whom we find at their father’s new house in Lincolne’s Inn Fields; but the house all in dirt. They received us well enough; but I did not endeavour to carry myself over familiarly with them; and so after a little stay, there coming in presently after us my Lady Aberguenny and other ladies, we back again by coach, and visited, my wife did, my she cozen Scott, who is very ill still, and thence to Jaggard’s again, where a very good supper and great store of plate; and above all after supper Mrs. Jaggard did at my entreaty play on the Vyall, but so well as I did not think any woman in England could and but few Maisters, I must confess it did mightily surprise me, though I knew heretofore that she could play, but little thought so well. After her I set Maes to singing, but he did it so like a coxcomb that I was sick of him.
About 11 at night I carried my aunt home by coach, and then home myself, having set my wife down at home by the way. My aunt tells me they are counted very rich people, worth at least 10 or 12,000l., and their country house all the yeare long and all things liveable, which mightily surprises me to think for how poore a man I took him when I did him the courtesy at our office.
So after prayers to bed, pleased at nothing all the day but Mrs. Jaggard playing on the Vyall, and that was enough to make me bear with all the rest that did not content me.

to raise a rose
is to grant salt to a fish
I had no great pleasure in it

but I find the fields
all in dirt
like livable prayers


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 19 February 1663/64.

Some Friday evenings after work, father had a staff
member help him carry it home from the City Hall,
from the fourth branch of the City Court where he

presided— we lived but a ten minute walk from there,
and a cab while helpful would be extravagant. I was
a high school junior and had just finished a course

in typing and stenography, and was to help him
whenever he worked on court decisions. We started
after supper, the typewriter in its blue-gray metal

case sitting heavy like some relic from the last
World War at one end of the table. He composed
on lined yellow legal pad, scrupulous about

the format I was to transfer, stroke by stroke,
to paper. The hammers of the keys I pressed
cut through carbon paper layers to spell out

headings, case or docket numbers, dispositions,
summaries, before coming to the all-important
opinion— the part where he was to craft a ruling

based on analysis of the law as applied to the facts.
As fill-in clerk with no legal training or experience,
I could not discuss the intricacies of these undertakings.

But as I watched and read and copied, the import was not lost
on me: before the machine, there is the fact of language.
And before that, the processes of well-considered thought.

At the park, they gather
on Sundays to be washed

in a river of sound: bevy
of tongues, unloosed after

fortnights of quiet bowing,
slippers only in the house,

saying only Yes or Okay Madam
or Here is the change. Every girl

has a story, words that branch
into new distances from the tree.

Fountains splash their chain
of quilted echoes.

Every unrimmed space unlocks
a few hours, every morsel

they exchange both vestige
and confiscated passport.

Called up to the office and much against my will I rose, my head aching mightily, and to the office, where I did argue to good purpose for the King, which I have been fitting myself for the last night against Mr. Wood about his masts, but brought it to no issue. Very full of business till noon, and then with Mr. Coventry to the African House, and there fell to my Lord Peterborough’s accounts, and by and by to dinner, where excellent discourse, Sir G. Carteret and others of the African Company with us, and then up to the accounts again, which were by and by done, and then I straight home, my head in great pain, and drowsy, so after doing a little business at the office I wrote to my father about sending him the mastiff was given me yesterday. I home and by daylight to bed about 6 o’clock and fell to sleep, wakened about 12 when my wife came to bed, and then to sleep again and so till morning, and then:

the night wood
is as full of business
as a clock when I am asleep


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 18 February 1663/64.