May 2017

Up, and called upon Mr. Hollyard, with whom I advised and shall fall upon some course of doing something for my disease of the wind, which grows upon me every day more and more. Thence to my Lord Sandwich’s, and while he was dressing I below discoursed with Captain Cooke, and I think if I do find it fit to keep a boy at all I had as good be supplied from him with one as any body. By and by up to my Lord, and to discourse about his going to sea, and the message I had from Mr. Coventry to him. He wonders, as he well may, that this course should be taken, and he every day with the Duke, who, nevertheless, seems most friendly to him, who hath not yet spoke one word to my Lord of his desire to have him go to sea. My Lord do tell me clearly that were it not that he, as all other men that were of the Parliament side, are obnoxious to reproach, and so is forced to bear what otherwise he would not, he would never suffer every thing to be done in the Navy, and he never be consulted; and it seems, in the naming of all these commanders for this fleete, he hath never been asked one question. But we concluded it wholly inconsistent with his honour not to go with this fleete, nor with the reputation which the world hath of his interest at Court; and so he did give me commission to tell Mr. Coventry that he is most willing to receive any commands from the Duke in this fleete, were it less than it is, and that particularly in this service. With this message I parted, and by coach to the office, where I found Mr. Coventry, and told him this. Methinks, I confess, he did not seem so pleased with it as I expected, or at least could have wished, and asked me whether I had told my Lord that the Duke do not expect his going, which I told him I had. But now whether he means really that the Duke, as he told me the other day, do think the Fleete too small for him to take or that he would not have him go, I swear I cannot tell. But methinks other ways might have been used to put him by without going in this manner about it, and so I hope it is out of kindness indeed.
Dined at home, and so to the office, where a great while alone in my office, nobody near, with Bagwell’s wife of Deptford, but the woman seems so modest that I durst not offer any courtship to her, though I had it in my mind when I brought her in to me. But I am resolved to do her husband a courtesy, for I think he is a man that deserves very well.
So abroad with my wife by coach to St. James’s, to one Lady Poultny’s, where I found my Lord, I doubt, at some vain pleasure or other. I did give him a short account of what I had done with Mr. Coventry, and so left him, and to my wife again in the coach, and with her to the Parke, but the Queene being gone by the Parke to Kensington, we staid not but straight home and to supper (the first time I have done so this summer), and so to my office doing business, and then to my me last month, and now come to 930l..
I was told to-day, that upon Sunday night last, being the King’s birth-day, the King was at my Lady Castlemayne’s lodgings (over the hither-gates at Lambert’s lodgings) dancing with fiddlers all night almost; and all the world coming by taking notice of it, which I am sorry to hear.
The discourse of the town is only whether a warr with Holland or no, and we are preparing for it all we can, which is but little.
Myself subject more than ordinary to pain by winde, which makes me very sad, together with the trouble which at present lies upon me in my father’s behalf, rising from the death of my brother, which are many and great. Would to God they were over!

it is a disease of the wind
to keep going to sea

fleet as the fleet
but too small for the great ice
or a ship on a still night

dancing
preparing for an ordinary death


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 31 May 1664.

Dichoso el árbol que es apenas sensitivo,
y más la piedra dura, porque ésta ya no siente…
~ Rubén Darío, “Lo fatal”

I don’t know that the tree is neither
happy nor sentient, or that the rock

wouldn’t feel a thing: why not light
or shade, why not parched summer

if sediment breaks down from water
flowing? Wasn’t it just last weekend

that the boy we heard of yesterday as dead,
looked for one moment straight into our eyes

as he bagged the last of our groceries,
saying Did you find everything you need?

Hydrangea mass their heads of pale white
and lilac beneath the window, like girls
in dotted swiss lace communion veils
huddled in a circle, sharing secrets—

Too early before the age
of formal confession, I had a few
myself that I never could disclose
until much later, only as an adult

when finally I’d learned the vocabulary
for what was done to me. Don’t tell, the man
said, with his oily locks and oily fingers:
pinning my two wrists like stalks to the green.

Lay long, the bells ringing, it being holiday, and then up and all the day long in my study at home studying of shipmaking with great content till the evening, and then came Mr. Howe and sat and then supped with me. He is a little conceited, but will make a discreet man. He being gone, a little to my office, and then home to bed, being in much pain from yesterday’s being abroad, which is a consideration of mighty sorrow to me.

bells ringing all day long on one ration of sorrow


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 30 May 1664.

(Whitsunday. King’s Birth and Restauration day). Up, and having received a letter last night desiring it from Mr. Coventry, I walked to St. James’s, and there he and I did long discourse together of the business of the office, and the warr with the Dutch; and he seemed to argue mightily with the little reason that there is for all this. For first, as to the wrong we pretend they have done us: that of the East Indys, for their not delivering of Poleron, it is not yet known whether they have failed or no; that of their hindering the Leopard cannot amount to above 3,000l. if true; that of the Guinny Company, all they had done us did not amount to above 200l. or 300l. he told me truly; and that now, from what Holmes, without any commission, hath done in taking an island and two forts, hath set us much in debt to them; and he believes that Holmes will have been so puffed up with this, that he by this time hath been enforced with more strength than he had then, hath, I say, done a great deale more wrong to them.
He do, as to the effect of the warr, tell me clearly that it is not any skill of the Dutch that can hinder our trade if we will, we having so many advantages over them, of winds, good ports, and men; but it is our pride, and the laziness of the merchant.
He seems to think that there may be some negotiation which may hinder a warr this year, but that he speaks doubtfully as unwilling I perceive to be thought to discourse any such thing.
The main thing he desired to speake with me about was, to know whether I do understand my Lord Sandwich’s intentions as to going to sea with this fleete; saying, that the Duke, if he desires it, is most willing to it; but thinking that twelve ships is not a fleete fit for my Lord to be troubled to go out with, he is not willing to offer it to him till he hath some intimations of his mind to go, or not. He spoke this with very great respect as to my Lord, though methinks it is strange they should not understand one another better at this time than to need another’s mediation.
Thence walked over the Parke to White Hall, Mr. Povy with me, and was taken in a very great showre in the middle of the Parke that we were very wet. So up into, the house and with him to the King’s closett, whither by and by the King came, my Lord Sandwich carrying the sword. A Bishopp preached, but he speaking too low for me to hear behind the King’s closett, I went forth and walked and discoursed with Colonell Reames, who seems a very willing man to be informed in his business of canvas, which he is undertaking to strike in with us to serve the Navy.
By and by my Lord Sandwich came forth, and called me to him: and we fell into discourse a great while about his business, wherein he seems to be very open with me, and to receive my opinion as he used to do; and I hope I shall become necessary to him again. He desired me to think of the fitness, or not, for him to offer himself to go to sea; and to give him my thoughts in a day or two.
Thence after sermon among the ladies on the Queene’s side; where I saw Mrs. Stewart, very fine and pretty, but far beneath my Lady Castlemayne.
Thence with Mr. Povy home to dinner; where extraordinary cheer. And after dinner up and down to see his house. And in a word, methinks, for his perspective upon his wall in his garden, and the springs rising up with the perspective in the little closett; his room floored above with woods of several colours, like but above the best cabinet-work I ever saw; his grotto and vault, with his bottles of wine, and a well therein to keep them cool; his furniture of all sorts; his bath at the top of his house, good pictures, and his manner of eating and drinking; do surpass all that ever I did see of one man in all my life.
Thence walked home and found my uncle Wight and Mr. Rawlinson, who supped with me. They being gone, I to bed, being in some pain from my being so much abroad to-day, which is a most strange thing that in such warm weather the least ayre should get cold and wind in me. I confess it makes me mighty sad and out of all content in the world.

to argue mightily with little reason
I pretend to know
whether I do or not

a word too low to hear
went forth with me into the woods
like a cool furniture of air


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 29 May 1664.

Up pretty well as to pain and wind, and to the office, where we sat close and did much business. At noon I to the ‘Change, and thence to Mr. Cutler’s, where I heard Sir W. Rider was, where I found them at dinner and dined with them, he having yesterday and to-day a fit of a pain like the gout, the first time he ever had it. A good dinner. Good discourse, Sir W. Rider especially much fearing the issue of a Dutch warr, wherein I very highly commend him. Thence home, and at the office a while, and then with Mr. Deane to a second lesson upon my Shipwrightry, wherein I go on with great pleasure. He being gone I to the office late, and so home to supper and to bed. But, Lord! to see how my very going to the ‘Change, and being without my gowne, presently brought me wind and pain, till I came home and was well again; but I am come to such a pass that I shall not know what to do with myself, but I am apt to think that it is only my legs that I take cold in from my having so long worn a gowne constantly.

where we sat close
like the first time
ever on ship
I am come to not know
what to do with
my legs


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 28 May 1664.

Weak sun after days of rain, an opening
that lets the sense of light through—

unlike in that city which is only
ever raining no matter what the time

of day or year, no matter where you might
flee to seek comfort from a different

clime. It didn’t use to feel so hostile,
it didn’t use to feel so cold. When

did the roofs of houses turn
into the backs of blades, when

did each house extinguish its lights
one by one on your approach? When

did even the eye adrift in the wide
grey desert above give up its surveilling,

when did it become this indifferent to all
the selfishness it should have burned below?

In the rundown house of your forebears, even
when the rats run nightly across the piano’s

hammer rails, no sound rues the rooms in which
a body could cocoon itself forever in felt.

Up, not without some pain by cold, which makes me mighty melancholy, to think of the ill state of my health. To the office, where busy till my brains ready to drop with variety of business, and vexed for all that to see the service like to suffer by other people’s neglect. Vexed also at a letter from my father with two troublesome ones enclosed from Cave and Noble, so that I know not what to do therein.
At home to dinner at noon. But to comfort my heart, Captain Taylor this day brought me 20l. he promised me for my assistance to him about his masts.
After dinner to the office again, and thence with Mr. Wayth to St. Catherine’s to see some variety of canvas’s, which indeed was worth my seeing, but only I was in some pain, and so took not the delight I should otherwise have done. So home to the office, and there busy till late at night, and so home to supper and to bed.
This morning my taylor brought me a very tall mayde to be my cook-mayde; she asked 5l., but my wife offered her but 3l. 10s. — whether she will take it or no I know not till to-morrow, but I am afeard she will be over high for us, she having last been a chamber mayde, and holds up her head, as my little girle Su observed.

melancholy rain
like a letter from a cave

what is the cat seeing at night
she holds up her head


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 27 May 1664.

A child in your province
in the throes of war,
soldiers rounding up men
from the neighborhood
and shooting them against
the school fence; or sticking
their bayonets into babies
and pigs. This is the stuff
of old black-and-white
movies, of telenovelas—
except it’s all true. How
did you cross that endless
grid of paddies, those
years of steamed rice
and snails fished out
with the ends of safety
pins? Where did you learn
to hold your back so straight,
to cut and sew a perfect
princess seam? I have just
a handful of pictures where
your neck is the most elegant
thing against the landscape,
where drape after drape
of cloth clings to you
or bravely flies as a flag
does in its own country.
Tell me, what was it
that laid you so low,
that spun the wheel
again all the way
to the other side?

In college, teaching a lesson on coherence
and consistency, my literature professor held up

a copy of Richard Adams’ Watership Down and asked:
Is it better to have an impossible probability

or a probable impossibility? I suppose she meant
if these rabbits who have names and have formed

societies in this book suddenly begin acting
as merely rabbits instead of planning expeditions

into the unknown because something in the wind
tells them to fear for their safety— would it not

violate expectations the author has already given us
from the outset? Similarly, does it seem impossible

to keep placing our hopes in things that feel
like they could never happen in this life,

such as everything estranged and at war coming
together in peace and mutual cooperation— factions,

faiths, political parties, countries, obstinate
relatives? But someone has to make those leaps, do

whatever it takes for as long as it takes even if
the outcome is failure or looks like nothing at all.