~ Mellisuga helenae

It’s so quiet at night.
In these rooms, each one
prays in her own compartment

to whatever gods might listen
this side of the ocean. Don’t you
want to be accounted for too,

invited in: no longer the permanent
house guest, no longer the dark-
skinned maid with the chamois rag,

betrothed to furniture perennially
in need of polishing? The silences
don’t necessarily mean the saints

have retreated into their rose quartz
caverns, lain down in their fern-lined
crypts. If you see a butterfly or humming-

bird drumming on a plume for nectar,
think of what the soul must have been
before it fell into this world.


In response to Via Negativa: News Junkie.

(Lord’s day). Up and to church all of us. At noon comes Anthony and W. Joyce (their wives being in the country with my father) and dined with me very merry as I can be in such company. After dinner walked to Westminster (tiring them by the way, and so left them, Anthony in Cheapside and the other in the Strand), and there spent all the afternoon in the Cloysters as I had agreed with Jane Welsh, but she came not, which vexed me, staying till 5 o’clock, and then walked homeward, and by coach to the old Exchange, and thence to my aunt Wight’s, and invited her and my uncle to supper, and so home, and by and by they came, and we eat a brave barrel of oysters Mr. Povy sent me this morning, and very merry at supper, and so to prayers and to bed.
Last night it seems my aunt Wight did send my wife a new scarfe, laced, as a token for her many givings to her. It is true now and then we give them some toys, as oranges , &c., but my aime is to get myself something more from my uncle’s favour than this.

church can cloy
but not a clock

and so I pray
to be true now

give them some toy
but my aim is thin

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 18 September 1664.

Up and to the office, where Mr. Coventry very angry to see things go so coldly as they do, and I must needs say it makes me fearful every day of having some change of the office, and the truth is, I am of late a little guilty of being remiss myself of what I used to be, but I hope I shall come to my old pass again, my family being now settled again.
Dined at home, and to the office, where late busy in setting all my businesses in order, and I did a very great and a very contenting afternoon’s work.
This day my aunt Wight sent my wife a new scarfe, with a compliment for the many favours she had received of her, which is the several things we have sent her. I am glad enough of it, for I see my uncle is so given up to the Wights that I hope for little more of them. So home to supper and to bed.

to see things go old
makes me fearful of change

I used to be old as a settled business
content with any little ore

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 17 September 1664.

Up betimes and to my office, where all the morning very busy putting papers to rights. And among other things Mr. Gauden coming to me, I had a good opportunity to speak to him about his present, which hitherto hath been a burden to me, that I could not do it, because I was doubtfull that he meant it as a temptation to me to stand by him in the business of Tangier victualling; but he clears me it was not, and that he values me and my proceedings therein very highly, being but what became me, and that what he did was for my old kindnesses to him in dispatching of his business, which I was glad to hear, and with my heart in good rest and great joy parted, and to my business again. At noon to the ‘Change, where by appointment I met Sir W. Warren, and afterwards to the Sun taverne, where he brought to me, being all alone, 100l. in a bag, which I offered him to give him my receipt for, but he told me, no, it was my owne, which he had a little while since promised me and was glad that (as I had told him two days since) it would now do me courtesy; and so most kindly he did give it me, and I as joyfully, even out of myself, carried it home in a coach, he himself expressly taking care that nobody might see this business done, though I was willing enough to have carried a servant with me to have received it, but he advised me to do it myself. So home with it and to dinner; after dinner I forth with my boy to buy severall things, stools and andirons and candlesticks, &c., household stuff, and walked to the mathematical instrument maker in Moorefields and bought a large pair of compasses, and there met Mr. Pargiter, and he would needs have me drink a cup of horse-radish ale, which he and a friend of his troubled with the stone have been drinking of, which we did and then walked into the fields as far almost as Sir G. Whitmore’s, all the way talking of Russia, which, he says, is a sad place; and, though Moscow is a very great city, yet it is from the distance between house and house, and few people compared with this, and poor, sorry houses, the Emperor himself living in a wooden house, his exercise only flying a hawk at pigeons and carrying pigeons ten or twelve miles off and then laying wagers which pigeon shall come soonest home to her house. All the winter within doors, some few playing at chesse, but most drinking their time away. Women live very slavishly there, and it seems in the Emperor’s court no room hath above two or three windows, and those the greatest not a yard wide or high, for warmth in winter time; and that the general cure for all diseases there is their sweating houses, or people that are poor they get into their ovens, being heated, and there lie. Little learning among things of any sort. Not a man that speaks Latin, unless the Secretary of State by chance. Mr. Pargiter and I walked to the ‘Change together and there parted, and so I to buy more things and then home, and after a little at my office, home to supper and to bed. This day old Hardwicke came and redeemed a watch he had left with me in pawne for 40s. seven years ago, and I let him have it. Great talk that the Dutch will certainly be out this week, and will sail directly to Guinny, being convoyed out of the Channel with 42 sail of ships.

morning paper
the temptation to stand by
with my heart in a bag

though I have carried a tick
from miles away
into my bed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 16 September 1664.

Under the table she swings and swings
her feet. They still look girlish, but

for the pucker of old flesh behind each
knee; and the bunion pushing against

the worn fabric of shoe. It pains to imagine
how she gropes her way in the dark from bedroom

to bathroom then lies back down on a mattress
almost as old as me; or longs for a blue flame

at midnight to heat water in a kettle for tea.
Meanwhile the wind whistles through gaps

in the floor: its long trail a daily laceration,
coming from far away. It says when you’re young

you want to make your fame by doing something
outrageous, something that strives for importance.

When you’re older you start not giving a fuck,
not making apologies. And then when you’re old

you want merely not to have to beg to rest your bones
inside the shell of a cup, inside a linen-lined trunk.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

The corpse of a bee hangs
six feet above the garden;
the writing spider is nowhere
to be found. So why do ducks’
feet have webbing? Two
nylon ropes were knotting
under the pier. Have you
fallen asleep yet? Dreams
make the best worst jokes.
They start and clear
their throats but then
never conclude. When
was the last time you
were in that country?
No one is clapping.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

At the office all the morning, then to the ‘Change, and so home to dinner, where Luellin dined with us, and after dinner many people came in and kept me all the afternoon, among other the Master and Wardens of Chyrurgeon’s Hall, who staid arguing their cause with me; I did give them the best answer I could, and after their being two hours with me parted, and I to my office to do business, which is much on my hands, and so late home to supper and to bed.

at the office so many kept
their best answer
their two parted hands

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 15 September 1664.

There are folders and old newspapers in every corner and more than forty bags of mildewed clothes in the foyer, in the spare room— nobody now knows what is in them. Aunty has finally agreed to let the cleaning women take them to the gate for the next trash pickup. There may have been silks ties serge suits a yellow sheath with a ribbon on one shoulder. Dark sable slippers with holes in the arch. Trousers in a small houndstooth check sweater sets of mohair navy skirts of plain cotton. White slips with small rosettes and lace trim a tan leather coat with brass buttons and two breast pockets once borrowed by nephew S. without asking the summer he came into town. Sixteen but eager to get his driver’s license early he begged uncle to use some of his influence at the city hall. Maybe in one of them is the fleecy bathrobe with two pockets— one for holding a folded novena to St. Jude and the other a pair of nailclippers. And the yellow shirt with rust colored dots that uncle liked to wear each new year’s eve the one with a dark stain on the cuff from forgetting at the last minute to toss a firecracker into the yard. Sometimes we are seized with fear like that or a sudden pall of misunderstanding. Perhaps that’s when the world kind of stands still. Then part of the future comes through the haze like a warning. And it is so strange and frightening it roots us to the spot. We don’t even feel the small flames beginning to eat at the outlines of our hands.

Up, and wanting some things that should be laid ready for my dressing myself I was angry, and one thing after another made my wife give Besse warning to be gone, which the jade, whether out of fear or ill-nature or simplicity I know not, but she took it and asked leave to go forth to look a place, and did, which vexed me to the heart, she being as good a natured wench as ever we shall have, but only forgetful.
At the office all the morning and at noon to the ‘Change, and there went off with Sir W. Warren and took occasion to desire him to lend me 100l., which he said he would let the have with all his heart presently, as he had promised me a little while ago to give me for my pains in his two great contracts for masts 100l., and that this should be it. To which end I did move it to him, and by this means I hope to be, possessed of the 100l. presently within 2 or 3 days.
So home to dinner, and then to the office, and down to Blackwall by water to view a place found out for laying of masts, and I think it will be most proper. So home and there find Mr. Pen come to visit my wife, and staid with them till sent for to Mr. Bland’s, whither by appointment I was to go to supper, and against my will left them together, but, God knows, without any reason of fear in my conscience of any evil between them, but such is my natural folly. Being thither come they would needs have my wife, and so Mr. Bland and his wife (the first time she was ever at my house or my wife at hers) very civilly went forth and brought her and W. Pen, and there Mr. Povy and we supped nobly and very merry, it being to take leave of Mr. Bland, who is upon going soon to Tangier. So late home and to bed.

I made a jade city for the heart
to have a heart in

I hope to be possessed by evil
but very civilly

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 14 September 1664.

Don’t tell
Speak of something else

Don’t play
with matches or your own heat

Don’t stick your fingers
into dirty holes

Close your eyes
as the throat opens with each bearing down

Do you want me
to return you to your real home

I am smoke or sugar
or its more homely double

I was the arms that raised you
not the belly you were riven from


In response to Via Negativa: Caregiver.