March 2017

I was much like you then, wanting
a life beyond streets roofed in old foil,

beyond splints that bowed under the pear-
shaped weight of homely green fruit. I knew

how to peel them close to the flesh, run
my hands under water to rinse off their sap.

My heart sighed as I worked to fold them
in sheets of pastry that did not cloy

despite their bruising in sugar; or carve
them into islands of jade suspended

in steam. For all dreams are frugal
until they cleave through topsoil,

until their tight-coiled spirals
stretch to the last breaking point.

Up betimes, and to my office, where by and by comes Povy, Sir W. Rider, Mr. Bland, Creed, and Vernatty, about my Lord Peterborough’s accounts, which we now went through, but with great difficulty, and many high words between Mr. Povy and I; for I could not endure to see so many things extraordinary put in, against truthe and reason. He was very angry, but I endeavoured all I could to profess my satisfaction in my Lord’s part of the accounts, but not in those foolish idle things, they say I said, that others had put in.
Anon we rose and parted, both of us angry, but I contented, because I knew all of them must know I was in the right. Then with Creed to Deptford, where I did a great deal of business enquiring into the business of canvas and other things with great content, and so walked back again, good discourse between Creed and I by the way, but most upon the folly of Povy, and at home found Luellin, and so we to dinner, and thence I to the office, where we sat all the afternoon late, and being up and my head mightily crowded with business, I took my wife by coach to see my father. I left her at his house and went to him to an alehouse hard by, where my cozen Scott was, and my father’s new tenant, Langford, a tailor, to whom I have promised my custom, and he seems a very modest, carefull young man. Thence my wife coming with the coach to the alley end I home, and after supper to the making up my monthly accounts, and to my great content find myself worth above 900l., the greatest sum I ever yet had. Having done my accounts, late to bed.
My head of late mighty full of business, and with good content to myself in it, though sometimes it troubles me that nobody else but I should bend themselves to serve the King with that diligence, whereby much of my pains proves ineffectual.

difficult to see anything
in the art of the foolish

an art content
with the canvas as is
making up nobody but themselves


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 31 March 1664.

Up very betimes to my office, and thence at 7 o’clock to Sir G. Carteret, and there with Sir J. Minnes made an end of his accounts, but staid not dinner, my Lady having made us drink our morning draft there of several wines, but I drank nothing but some of her coffee, which was poorly made, with a little sugar in it.
Thence to the ‘Change a great while, and had good discourse with Captain Cocke at the Coffee-house about a Dutch warr, and it seems the King‘s design is by getting underhand the merchants to bring in their complaints to the Parliament, to make them in honour begin a warr, which he cannot in honour declare first, for fear they should not second him with money. Thence homewards, staying a pretty while with my little she milliner at the end of Birchin Lane, talking and buying gloves of her, and then home to dinner, and in the afternoon had a meeting upon the Chest business, but I fear unless I have time to look after it nothing will be done, and that I fear I shall not. In the evening comes Sir W. Batten, who tells us that the Committee have approved of our bill with very few amendments in words, not in matter.
So to my office, where late with Sir W. Warren, and so home to supper and to bed.

I drink her wine
but not her coffee

I am buying love
not an ear

evening comes with few words
to my bed


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 30 March 1664.

Water from the taps tastes like chlorine.
There is a fine sifting of green and yellow
on patio chairs, on every car down the block.
Filmy on the surface of swimming pools.
I never learned to swim though I have
dreams of slicing through clear water:
my arms a slow windmill pulling me
closer to the edge. I keep the fine
white tufts of Queen Anne’s Lace
in my sights. They bob in sympathy
with my efforts. Only a wading bird
keeps perfectly still, not judging.

Because my father’s brother-in-law was a captain,

it happened that I was born at an army hospital named

after the 25th president of the United States, the one

who dropped down on his knees when he realized

that the Philippines had dropped into [their] laps, some gift

apparently from a higher force that gives nations and people

like us wholesale to the ones who hold the reins of power.

Two summers ago when I returned to that city, even at midnight

the heat was oppressive. The taxi drove past the camp enclosure,

past row after row of billboards and ragged palms, the outline

of the city’s new high rises crowding out the shanties and back

alleys the poor inhabit, where they sleep and eat and try

to ply their various tinkers’ trades, where they die almost nightly

now in the streets, targets of random vigilante killings. O manifest,

O destiny. McKinley said he slept soundly: …and the next

morning I sent for the chief engineer of the War Department

(our map-maker), and I told him to put the Philippines

on the map of the United States (pointing to a large map

on the wall of his office), and there they are, and there

they will stay while I am President! I too dropped

into the world, though not quite in the same way: my origins

a murky destiny that passed through bodies annexed

in furtive and unexpected ways. Was there joy,

was there defeat in surrender? There was nothing left…

to do but to take them all, …educate [them], and uplift

and civilize and Christianize them, and by God’s

grace do the very best we could by them.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Talking head.

Was called up this morning by a messenger from Sir G. Carteret to come to him to Sir W. Batten’s, and so I rose and thither to him, and with him and Sir J. Minnes to, Sir G. Carteret’s to examine his accounts, and there we sat at it all the morning. About noon Sir W. Batten came from the House of Parliament and told us our Bill for our office was read the second time to-day, with great applause, and is committed. By and by to dinner, where good cheere, and Sir G. Carteret in his humour a very good man, and the most kind father and pleased father in his children that ever I saw. Here is now hung up a picture of my Lady Carteret, drawn by Lilly, a very fine picture, but yet not so good as I have seen of his doing. After dinner to the business again without any intermission till almost night, and then home, and took coach to my father to see and discourse with him, and so home again and to my office, where late, and then home to bed.

this rose
on an app
is art

picture by picture
without intermission
I almost see


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 29 March 1664.

This is the first morning that I have begun, and I hope shall continue to rise betimes in the morning, and so up and to my office, and thence about 7 o’clock to T. Trice, and advised with him about our administering to my brother Tom, and I went to my father and told him what to do; which was to administer and to let my cozen Scott have a letter of Atturny to follow the business here in his absence for him, who by that means will have the power of paying himself (which we cannot however hinder) and do us a kindness we think too. But, Lord! what a shame, methinks, to me, that, in this condition, and at this age, I should know no better the laws of my owne country!
Thence to Westminster Hall, and spent till noon, it being Parliament time, and at noon walked with Creed into St. James’s Parke, talking of many things, particularly of the poor parts and great unfitness for business of Mr. Povy, and yet what a show he makes in the world. Mr. Coventry not being come to his chamber, I walked through the house with him for an hour in St. James’s fields’ talking of the same subject, and then parted, and back and with great impatience, sometimes reading, sometimes walking, sometimes thinking that Mr. Coventry, though he invited us to dinner with him, was gone with the rest of the office without a dinner. At last, at past 4 o’clock I heard that the Parliament was not up yet, and so walked to Westminster Hall, and there found it so, and meeting with Sir J. Minnes, and being very hungry, went over with him to the Leg, and before we had cut a bit, the House rises, however we eat a bit and away to St. James’s and there eat a second part of our dinner with Mr. Coventry and his brother Harry, Sir W. Batten and Sir W. Pen.
The great matter today in the House hath been, that Mr. Vaughan, the great speaker, is this day come to towne, and hath declared himself in a speech of an houre and a half, with great reason and eloquence, against the repealing of the Bill for Triennial Parliaments; but with no successe: but the House have carried it that there shall be such Parliaments, but without any coercive power upon the King, if he will bring this Act. But, Lord! to see how the best things are not done without some design; for I perceive all these gentlemen that I was with to-day were against it (though there was reason enough on their side); yet purely, I could perceive, because it was the King’s mind to have it; and should he demand any thing else, I believe they would give it him.
But this the discontented Presbyters, and the faction of the House will be highly displeased with; but it was carried clearly against them in the House.
We had excellent good table-talke, some of which I have entered in my book of stories. So with them by coach home, and there find (bye my wife), that Father Fogourdy hath been with her to-day, and she is mightily for our going to hear a famous Reule preach at the French Embassador’s house: I pray God he do not tempt her in any matters of religion, which troubles me; and also, she had messages from her mother to-day, who sent for her old morning-gown, which was almost past wearing; and I used to call it her kingdom, from the ease and content she used to have in the wearing of it. I am glad I do not hear of her begging any thing of more value, but I do not like that these messages should now come all upon Monday morning, when my wife expects of course I should be abroad at the Duke’s.
To the office, where Mr. Norman came and showed me a design of his for the storekeeper’s books, for the keeping of them regular in order to a balance, which I am mightily satisfied to see, and shall love the fellow the better, as he is in all things sober, so particularly for his endeavour to do something in this thing so much wanted.
So late home to supper and to bed, weary-with walking so long to no purpose in the Park to-day.

in poor parts of the world
fields go hungry
or rise to eat a peak

but we have excellent table-talk
my wife and I

her old morning gown
almost past use
like balance to the sober


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 28 March 1664.

A body undulates in the shallows,
glass hive prosperous with bones.

This is the way debts multiply:
one branch growing into a tree.

I too want to break with the past
without choking on its filaments.

But the throat is a white-lit tunnel,
silvery measure that drops into the bay.

What does a line etch beyond two
points? Blue beginning. Blue end.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Oligarch.

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed wrangling with my wife about the charge she puts me to at this time for clothes more than I intended, and very angry we were, but quickly friends again. And so rising and ready I to my office, and there fell upon business, and then to dinner, and then to my office again to my business, and by and by in the afternoon walked forth towards my father’s, but it being church time, walked to St. James’s, to try if I could see the belle Butler, but could not; only saw her sister, who indeed is pretty, with a fine Roman nose. Thence walked through the ducking-pond fields; but they are so altered since my father used to carry us to Islington, to the old man’s, at the King’s Head, to eat cakes and ale (his name was Pitts) that I did not know which was the ducking-pond nor where I was. So through Fleet lane to my father’s, and there met Mr. Moore, and discoursed with him and my father about who should administer for my brother Tom, and I find we shall have trouble in it, but I will clear my hands of it, and what vexed me, my father seemed troubled that I should seem to rely so wholly upon the advice of Mr. Moore, and take nobody else, but I satisfied him, and so home; and in Cheapside, both coming and going, it was full of apprentices, who have been here all this day, and have done violence, I think, to the master of the boys that were put in the pillory yesterday. But, Lord! to see how the train-bands are raised upon this: the drums beating every where as if an enemy were upon them; so much is this city subject to be put into a disarray upon very small occasions. But it was pleasant to hear the boys, and particularly one little one, that I demanded the business. He told me that that had never been done in the city since it was a city, two prentices put in the pillory, and that it ought not to be so.
So I walked home, and then it being fine moonshine with my wife an houre in the garden, talking of her clothes against Easter and about her mayds, Jane being to be gone, and the great dispute whether Besse, whom we both love, should be raised to be chamber-mayde or no. We have both a mind to it, but know not whether we should venture the making her proud and so make a bad chamber-mayde of a very good natured and sufficient cook-mayde.
So to my office a little, and then to supper, prayers and to bed.

I tend to business with old
man’s hands

as full of violence
as a small city

two ices that ought to be moons
in a garden gone bad


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 27 March 1664.

You go out and sit in the crucible
that isn’t dark yet but precedes it,

where the bee whirs suspended
in a white thread of its own making.

You think of how maybe it’s possible
to turn back the small waves of brooding

that touched everything all morning,
how with effort you might find

some footing as this vehicle lurches
ever onward through something

difficult called the future.
And while it’s true we’re creatures

of appetite, never completely appeased,
the sweetgum continues to drop

its everlasting arsenal of brittle
brown pods— they can puncture your skin,

send a sepsis raging through the veins
and into your brain or heart. What

will you do then when you’re truly
paralyzed, unable to hoist your voice

or a hand to signal in the air? Better
to learn how the smallest stones divide

the onrushing current; how the eddies swell
with sorrows that break then eventually recede.