Last things first

Sam Pepys and me

Being with my Lord in the morning about business in his cabin, I took occasion to give him thanks for his love to me in the share that he had given me of his Majesty’s money, and the Duke’s. He told me he hoped to do me a more lasting kindness, if all things stand as they are now between him and the King, but, says he, “We must have a little patience and we will rise together; in the mean time I will do you all the good jobs I can.” Which was great content for me to hear from my Lord.
All the morning with the Captain, computing how much the thirty ships that come with the King from Scheveling their pay comes to for a month (because the King promised to give them all a month’s pay), and it comes to 6,538l., and the Charles particularly 777l. I wish we had the money. All the afternoon with two or three captains in the Captain’s cabin, drinking of white wine and sugar, and eating pickled oysters, where Captain Sparling told us the best story that ever I heard, about a gentleman that persuaded a country fool to let him gut his oysters or else they would stink.
At night writing letters to London and Weymouth, for my Lord being now to sit in the House of Peers he endeavours to get Mr. Edward Montagu for Weymouth and Mr. George for Dover.
Mr. Cooke late with me in my cabin while I wrote to my wife, and drank a bottle of wine and so took leave of me on his journey and I to bed.

to love the last things
we must have
a little time

all the good ships
come for a month
of wine and oysters

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 2 June 1660.


Sam Pepys and me

This morning Mr. Sheply disposed of the money that the Duke of York did give my Lord’s servants, 22 ducatoons came to my share, whereof he told me to give Jaspar something because my Lord left him out. I did give Mr. Sheply the fine pair of buckskin gloves that I bought myself about five years ago.
My Lord took physic to-day, and so come not out all day. The Captain on shore all day.
After dinner Captain Jefferys and W. Howe, and the Lieutenant and I to ninepins, where I lost about two shillings and so fooled away all the afternoon.
At night Mr. Cooke comes from London with letters, leaving all things there very gallant and joyful. And brought us word that the Parliament had ordered the 29th of May, the King’s birthday, to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny, and the King’s return to his Government, he entering London that day.
My wife was in London when he came thither, and had been there a week with Mr. Bowyer and his wife.
My poor wife has not been well a week before, but thanks be to God is well again. She would fain see me and be at her house again, but we must be content. She writes word how the Joyces grow very rich and very proud, but it is no matter, and that there was a talk that I should be knighted by the King, which they (the Joyces) laugh at; but I think myself happier in my wife and estate than they are in theirs.
To bed. The Captain come on board, when I was going to bed, quite fuddled; and himself the next morning told me so too, that the Vice-Admiral, Rear-Admiral, and he had been drinking all day.

money on my old thin skin
where I lost a ring

if god would again be word
it should befuddle

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 1 June 1660.

The Gods

They haven't stopped running
             their hands through the grass,

springing the doors and windows 
             open, pinning feathers and bird-

talons to the rafters like bunting. This too,
             we've been told, is the language

of their love. In the midst of fevered sleep, 
             I hear them discuss the geometry

of natural disasters, how we who don't 
             claim immortality can only see 

the blade edge of a storm as it bears down,
            and not the remote majesty of its eye

whirling in darkness. They haven't stopped
           beguiling me with the stippled language

of light on water, the bronze backs of oxen 
           bowing beneath the unbearable 

softness of sunsets. I can't always tell
           whether they've thrown me into 

the maw of a magnificent desolation,  
           or a quicksand of joy which I fear 

will drown me before I can churn 
           its currents into a talisman. before

I fulfill another impossible task to make me
           good again, free of debt, in their sight.

Peaceful Societies: Alternatives to Violence and War by Bruce D. Bonta

cover of Peaceful Societies, featuring an image of San rock art

Might it be possible to build a more peaceful world by studying other societies that are already peaceful? It seems logical, right?

I’m grateful to the Global Center for Nonkilling for undertaking the publication of my Dad’s last book, Peaceful Societies: Alternatives to Violence and War, which we discovered in his papers after he died – even Mom hadn’t known about it! It’s his attempt to distill everything he’d learned from 25 years of deep immersion in the anthropological literature about peaceful societies around the world. It’s available as a free download (PDF) or a $15 paperback.

Is it possible to draw conclusions about the possibilities of building a more peaceful world by studying peaceful societies? In response, this book attempts to demonstrate that peaceful societies are inspiring and that they frequently shed light on difficult aspects of the paths to peacefulness; but there are no good, easy, or obvious answers. These groups of people provide inspiration about possibilities, however. The careful reader should be inspired to look for ways forward on many different issues related to building a more peaceful world by studying societies featured in this book: Lepchas, Ifaluk, Semai, Piaroa, Batek, Buid, Ladakh, Kadar, Chewong, Paliyan and others.

Failing to mention that he’d been working on this was typical of Dad, a deeply private person with an unusually low need for external validation. I’ve also been reflecting lately on his boundless faith in human beings to do the right thing – faith not always repaid, of course, but somehow still undaunted. I don’t think he ever really understood why his work documenting peaceful societies never got a whole lot of traction in activist circles, let alone with policy-makers. He just didn’t understand ethnocentrism and parochialism, and how much even supposedly open-minded people are really not interested in learning from non-Western societies, or even from groups like the Amish or Hutterites. But as I think Dad tries to suggest with his opening story of conversing about peacefulness at a local Audubon Society event, true open-mindedness is often more common among people who are not experts in a field and don’t already have their minds made up. Perhaps over time the message will spread. I’m cautiously optimistic that this publication will reach faith leaders, community organizers, and other grassroots leaders for whom alternatives to violence and competition seem less like an ideological challenge than an urgent, practical need.

For more on the book, here’s the Center’s press release. Please share widely. Thank you.

Like a Wake

Like a wake, but no one has come 
to sing karaoke, play pusoy dos or 
mah jong, drink rum and warm 

coke. No flowers with funerary 
smells in the living room, no 
curling satin ribbons, names 

inked in permanent marker—they 
are not the only things that bleed. 
There are no votives or pictures 

in frames on a mantel strewn 
with White Rabbit candies, shiny 
tangerines, saucers of food offerings. 

But there are things that, when they go
from your life, feel like a death, a mourning.
Long road of grieving, no headstone in sight.


Sam Pepys and me

This day my Lord took physic, and came not out of his chamber.
All the morning making orders. After dinner a great while below in the great cabin trying with W. Howe some of Mr. Laws’ songs, particularly that of “What is a kiss,” with which we had a great deal of pleasure.
After that to making of orders again. Captain Sparling of the Assistance brought me a pair of silk stockings of a light blue, which I was much pleased with.
The Captain and I to supper, and after that a most pleasant walk till 10 at night with him upon the deck, it being a fine evening.
My pain was gone again that I had yesterday, blessed be God.
This day the month ends, I in very good health, and all the world in a merry mood because of the King’s coming.
This day I began to teach Mr. Edward; who I find to have a very good foundation laid for his Latin by Mr. Fuller. I expect every minute to hear how my poor wife do.
I find myself in all things well as to body and mind, but troubled for the absence of my wife.

below the kiss
a pair of silk stockings

blue as a walk at night
my pain gone again

God coming in Latin
in the absence of my wife

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 31 May 1660.


sun in the crowns
of the oaks

ringing less
like a church bell

than the beeper on a truck
backing into a quarry pit

coming over top of the mingled
voices of birds

whose throats each mix
two vocal tracks

into a single braid ah
the wood thrush

redstart red-eyed vireo
and that alluring odor

from a bank of dame’s-rocket
trembling in one spot

i thought just as a chipmunk’s
tail was disappearing

into the lilies
of the valley


Natures are close to one another. It is by practice that they become far apart.
Kongzi, Analects 17.2 (tr. Brian W. Van Norden)

Ode to the Serviceberry

Late spring, bordering on summer. 
Bunnies at twilight come to eat the clover.
They have no fear as long as we are
behind glass, though the blinds are open.
Down the road, people are walking
their dogs and children run ahead in that
way that leaves their voices behind.
We pluck the darkest red berries
from the tree in the schoolyard: saskatoon, 
shadbush, wild-plum, shadblow; otherwise 
known as serviceberry—herald announcing 
when shad swam up coastal rivers in spring. 
And in an older tongue, blow could mean 
in a state of blossoming, also during that 
time of year when the soil had softened 
enough after a hard winter so bodies 
could be laid in the ground. Traveling 
preachers held a service under the trees, 
while birds filled themselves with sugar.

Last resort

Sam Pepys and me

About eight o’clock in the morning the lieutenant came to me to know whether I would eat a dish of mackerel, newly catched, for my breakfast, which the Captain and we did in the coach.
All yesterday and to-day I had a great deal of pain in making water and in my back, which made me afeard. But it proved nothing but cold, which I took yesterday night.
All this morning making up my accounts, in which I counted that I had made myself now worth about 80l., at which my heart was glad, and blessed God.
Many Dover men come and dine with my Lord. My Lord at ninepins in the afternoon. In the afternoon Mr. Sheply told me how my Lord had put me down for 70 guilders among the money which was given to my Lord’s servants, which my heart did much rejoice at.
My Lord supped alone in his chamber. Sir R. Stayner supped with us, and among other things told us how some of his men did grumble that no more of the Duke’s money come to their share and so would not receive any; whereupon he called up those that had taken it, and gives them three shares apiece more, which was very good, and made good sport among the seamen. To bed.

a new catch for the captain
of my fear

making myself heartless
over the ants

alone with the old
grumble of money

come to a nowhere
called the sea

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 30 May 1660.

Revolving Door

The child struggling to name big
feelings has been heard to cry

when he is sad, Make me happy.
What makes him sad? A small

turn in some expectation, or a more 
momentous change: moving houses,

his school closing for the summer,  
familiar routines supplanted by new. 

We all want to feel we've not been 
abandoned—that the one we love

has merely stepped into another room
to brush her teeth or take a shower,

put the breakfast plates into the dish-
washer. How does one learn to forgive

happiness like a paper airplane, crisply 
folded, that lofts but holds only seconds 

in the air? How is even just a momentary 
sadness a revolving door? Stuck 

in the middle, we panic at the thought 
of glass panels closing in, while 

everyone else who's passed through  
goes on with the rest of the day.