2017

I knew when he’d gone out on the porch,
I knew when she’d locked the door
to their bedroom.
From my window I could see
where he sat with his forehead cradled
in his palm, the edge of his nape
milky in moonlight.
I wanted to shout Stop
being so dramatic! Stop making the air
so heavy with your sad misunderstandings!

The glistening barbs thrown
before breakfast was even on the table,
the knives and forks and fruit
whistling through the air like compact
missiles. No one paid attention
to the narrowing orbits of the stars,
or whether spiders fell from the insides
of open umbrellas. I sat under one
wishing for a telegram to come from overseas,
for a hand to pluck me out from under
the bathroom sink where I crouched.
When they didn’t, I discovered I could break
through the skin of my silence. I discovered
words which could plow through the earth
and start up with the sound of an eighteen-
wheeler, to drown out these little hells
and their tiresome ping-ponging
back and forth in space.

Up and to my office, whither by and by comes Mr. Cholmely, and staying till the rest of the company come he told me how Mr. Edward Montagu is turned out of the Court, not [to] return again. His fault, I perceive, was his pride, and most of all his affecting to seem great with the Queene and it seems indeed had more of her eare than any body else, and would be with her talking alone two or three hours together; insomuch that the Lords about the King, when he would be jesting with them about their wives, would tell the King that he must have a care of his wife too, for she hath now the gallant: and they say the King himself did once ask Montagu how his mistress (meaning the Queene) did. He grew so proud, and despised every body, besides suffering nobody, he or she, to get or do any thing about the Queene, that they all laboured to do him a good turn. They also say that he did give some affront to the Duke of Monmouth, which the King himself did speak to him of. But strange it is that this man should, from the greatest negligence in the world, come to be the miracle of attendance, so as to take all offices from everybody, either men or women, about the Queene. Insomuch that he was observed as a miracle, but that which is the worst, that which in a wise manner performed [would] turn to his greatest advantage, was by being so observed employed to his greatest wrong, the world concluding that there must be something more than ordinary to cause him to do this. So he is gone, nobody pitying but laughing at him; and he pretends only that he is gone to his father, that is sick in the country.
By and by comes Povy, Creed, and Vernatty, and so to their accounts, wherein more trouble and vexation with Povy. That being done, I sent them going and myself fell to business till dinner. So home to dinner very pleasant. In the afternoon to my office, where busy again, and by and by came a letter from my father so full of trouble for discontents there between my mother and servants, and such troubles to my father from hence from Cave that hath my brother’s bastard that I know not what in the world to do, but with great trouble, it growing night, spent some time walking, and putting care as much as I could out of my head, with my wife in the garden, and so home to supper and to bed.

how an ear must suffer
out in the world
miracle of attendance to nobody
a cave in the growing night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 20 May 1664.

Wasn’t there joy, wasn’t there appetite
and expectation? Weren’t the jets of steam

from the laundry a welcome veil on the skin?
Wasn’t the stucco on the wall a way to keep

the sugar trails alive longer? Didn’t the ants
crowd every baseboard and the geckos plummet

like dark green weights at dusk? Wasn’t the blown
glass lamp an ochre pool that wings papered,

night after sultry night? And wasn’t there a bed
with sheets of cotton, surrounded by nets of gauze?

Didn’t the water flower crimson in the basin
and the child open its mouth to the moon?

Up, and it being very rayny weather, which makes it cooler than it was, by coach to Charing Cross with Sir W. Pen, who is going to Portsmouth this day, and left him going to St. James’s to take leave of the Duke, and I to White Hall to a Committee of Tangier; where God forgive how our Report of my Lord Peterborough’s accounts was read over and agreed to by the Lords, without one of them understanding it! And had it been what it would, it had gone: and, besides, not one thing touching the King’s profit in it minded or hit upon.
Thence by coach home again, and all the morning at the office, sat, and all the afternoon till 9 at night, being fallen again to business, and I hope my health will give me leave to follow it.
So home to supper and to bed, finding myself pretty well. A pretty good stool, which I impute to my whey to-day, and broke wind also.

rainy day—
a rough reed touching
all the wind


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 19 May 1664.

Here’s the quote now made famous in
the Disney movie: “Ohana means family;
and family means nobody gets left behind
or forgotten.” And no matter how cheesy,
I can’t erase it from my head, nor

the moment when the alien adoptee
recreates in the child’s bedroom
the scene, to frightening scale, where
Godzilla stomps through San Francisco,
terrorizing the people, chewing up cars,

tossing suspension bridge pilings aside
like so many pretzel sticks. And of course
he doesn’t know he’s only acting out
what some psychologists have called
the Theory of Abandonment: how,

given the trauma of neglect,
emotional or physical detachment,
the psyche responds with fear
or lashes out in rage especially
when the sphere of the intimate

comes to bear down again to make
its complicated claims on him. All
I can think of is how in my ohana
(so close in sound to the Filipino
tahanan) circumstances have made it

so that I’ve physically left my children behind
enough times—for school, for work, to build
a new life and relationships— I wonder if I’m not
the sole cause of their own difficulties whenever
that sad, dark beast comes down from its lair

to rampage through their lives. At such
times I can’t see, blind through my own griefs,
but to follow in their wake: holding out my arms
even as I step sideways through the pile of broken
toys, and the shards the hula girl lamp has become.

I’ve heard that phrase, The Angel
of History
; have read about it in works
of both poetry and philosophy, accounts
of wars after which, naturally, the dead

wind up entombed or buried in the soil,
their gravestones adorned with carved
cherubs or soot-stained angels with somber
faces— their heavy wings plume downward,

as if never to fly again. The angel holds
its hands aloft: as if to annoint, as if
to gesture at the immensity and utter
inaddressability of everything that’s

taken place, that’s been done to you—
which is why it’s often easier to still
the lips into silence, easier to stand
through the years as if made of stone,

as if stone doesn’t crack or break.
Has the Angel seen everything I’ve
always wanted so badly to know, but
no one will tell me? Has it witnessed

how and where two bodies made the seed
sown into the soil of my becoming? In every
photograph I have, my father’s brow is mine;
but I can’t tell which parts of mother’s

younger sister’s face I can claim, whether he took
it in his hands, if he was gentle, if he was rough,
if he demanded some show of loyalty that could not
answer back except in surrender, in the belief

there was no other choice. No one ever talks
about such things, and so the specifics are
lost to me; but since history is even then what
has happened, can the Angel therefore be held

complicit? Is the Angel the sponsor who must have
looked on without stopping any of what it saw:
in a back room, in a bathroom stall, in the kitchen
when no one else was at home? I don’t have feelings

for the Angel. I do have feelings for the people
it turned into my kin; for the bonds it multiplied
in ways they also strained to wear through the years
they lived together, fiercely guarding secrets,

loving and hating and fighting in the same space.
They are who they are, in the end: their portraits
thumbnailed into every side story, their skin oils
part of every bit of furniture in which they rested

their bodies; their blurred reflections haunting me
from the bottom of every pot into which I’ll ever
cast my gaze. Love and Duty, Love and Hate, Honor,
History— I want to say Enough, but the Angel isn’t done

with whatever it thinks it wants to do. I want to say Tell me
everything exactly as it happened, tell me what it means
;
but then I realize there are secrets they’ve taken
to the grave that even the Angel could not know.

Up and within all the morning, being willing to keep as much as I could within doors, but receiving a very wakening letter from Mr. Coventry about fitting of ships, which speaks something like to be done, I went forth to the office, there to take order in things, and after dinner to White Hall to a Committee of Tangier, but did little. So home again and to Sir W. Pen, who, among other things of haste in this new order for ships, is ordered to be gone presently to Portsmouth to look after the work there. I staid to discourse with him, and so home to supper, where upon a fine couple of pigeons, a good supper; and here I met a pretty cabinet sent me by Mr. Shales, which I give my wife, the first of that sort of goods I ever had yet, and very conveniently it comes for her closett. I staid up late finding out the private boxes, but could not do some of them, and so to bed, afraid that I have been too bold to-day in venturing in the cold.
This day I begun to drink butter-milke and whey, and I hope to find great good by it.

door awakening
like a new mouth

a couple of pigeons come close
finding the box too bold

venturing to drink and eat by it


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 18 May 1664.

Slept well all night and lay long, then rose and wrote my letter to my father about Pall, as we had resolved last night. So to dinner and then to the office, finding myself better than I was, and making a little water, but not yet breaking any great store of wind, which I wonder at, for I cannot be well till I do do it. After office home and to supper and with good ease to bed, and endeavoured to tie my hands that I might not lay them out of bed, by which I believe I have got cold, but I could not endure it.

night rose let me go
to bed and tie
my hands

I might be old
but I could endure


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 17 May 1664.

Think of the doorway
leading to the house—

the brass knocker,
the two ornamentals

by the steps. Think
of the bay windows

that looked out over
the drive; upstairs

the room without
curtains, with only

a bed, a chair, a desk.
What was the name

of the tree in whose
branches night herons

came to roost; the name
of the river, and the boat

the neighbors tethered
at the pier? Who fell

from the mast one New
Year Eve stringing

lights? There’s a haze
some days over the water

and the scene dissolves.
Today it’s Tuesday

and almost summer.
Yesterday you tried

to remember a dream.
Tomorrow you’ll wake

and hope to recognize
whose hand you hold,

where you parked the car
before you got here.