Up and to my brother’s, where all the morning doing business against to-morrow, and so to my cozen Stradwicke’s about the same business, and to the ‘Change, and thence home to dinner, where my wife in bed sick still, but not so bad as yesterday. I dined by her, and so to the office, where we sat this afternoon, having changed this day our sittings from morning to afternoons, because of the Parliament which returned yesterday; but was adjourned till Monday next; upon pretence that many of the members were said to be upon the road; and also the King had other affairs, and so desired them to adjourn till then. But the truth is, the King is offended at my Lord of Bristol, as they say, whom he hath found to have been all this while (pretending a desire of leave to go into France, and to have all the difference between him and the Chancellor made up,) endeavouring to make factions in both Houses to the Chancellor. So the King did this to keep the Houses from meeting; and in the meanwhile sent a guard and a herald last night to have taken him at Wimbleton, where he was in the morning, but could not find him: at which the King was and is still mightily concerned, and runs up and down to and from the Chancellor’s like a boy: and it seems would make Digby’s articles against the Chancellor to be treasonable reflections against his Majesty. So that the King is very high, as they say; and God knows what will follow upon it!
After office I to my brother’s again, and thence to Madam Turner’s, in both places preparing things against to-morrow; and this night I have altered my resolution of burying him in the church yarde among my young brothers and sisters, and bury him in the church, in the middle isle, as near as I can to my mother’s pew. This costs me 20s. more. This being all, home by coach, bringing my brother’s silver tankard for safety along with me, and so to supper, after writing to my father, and so to bed.

we change
from morning to afternoon

adjourn to the road
our chance meeting

in the meanwhile
which is like treason against the now

burying in the churchyard
the church


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 17 March 1663/64.

These days we ache for a music whose bones
we can see, the lump in the throat a small

moon of grief rising over the billows
before they break. But the dial on the radio

is jumpy, is broken, begins to fill
with grey noise, attempts at erasure.

Hello, hello, can you hear the sounds we make
in our hamlets by the river? The temperature

is always edging toward zero. The earnest buds
that managed to line the trees last week show

wounded, translucent faces. On the sidewalks
where they’ve fallen, collapsed tracery of veins.

And yet they are so beautiful. We want to smear
their names on our bodies. We will never look away.

 

In response to Via Negativa: All heart.

A suitcase of sounds unzippered in the street. Beneath a balcony window, the yowling karaoke of cats. Cacophony of human voices mingled with rooster crow. Don’t go, implores the neighbor’s mistress. Eggplant sheen, taut skins, the buzzing of mosquitoes. Fried food skewered on sticks dripping with sauce and grease. Gold tooth smiling from a hag’s otherwise toothless mouth. Hibiscus heads float down dark sewer streams. Index fingers dyed blue at the fingernail base, after voting. Jalousie an old fashioned word for blinds; imagine the jealous wife behind them, spying. Keep your scandals to yourselves. Loiter in the alleyway when no one’s looking. Make poultices from mashes of oil and fruit. Nobody’s business is everyone’s business. Only a fool sweeps out his stoop at sundown. Pleasure is a mouthful of pop rocks; that’s why new restaurants have sprung up around call centers. Quail eggs in broth, wood-ear mushroom; foamed essences; dumplings the size of your head. Ride a motorbike around the periphery of peeling billboards— Short course in uneven development. Text me when you’re back. U have my number, my Snapchat, my Signal, my Viber, my Vibe. Venmo me my allotment. When my shift’s over let’s head for the sea. XXX. Yours for now, Z.

And then I rose and up, leaving my wife in bed, and to my brother’s, where I set them on cleaning the house, and my wife coming anon to look after things, I up and down to my cozen Stradwicke’s and uncle Fenner’s about discoursing for the funeral, which I am resolved to put off till Friday next. Thence home and trimmed myself, and then to the ‘Change, and told my uncle Wight of my brother’s death, and so by coach to my cozen Turner’s and there dined very well, but my wife, having those upon her today and in great pain we were forced to rise in some disorder, and in Mrs. Turner’s coach carried her home and put her to bed. Then back again with my cozen Norton to Mrs. Turner’s, and there staid a while talking with Dr. Pepys, the puppy, whom I had no patience to hear. So I left them and to my brother’s to look after things, and saw the coffin brought; and by and by Mrs. Holden came and saw him nailed up. Then came W. Joyce to me half drunk, and much ado I had to tell him the story of my brother’s being found clear of what was said, but he would interrupt me by some idle discourse or other, of his crying what a good man, and a good speaker my brother was, and God knows what. At last weary of him I got him away, and I to Mrs. Turner’s, and there, though my heart is still heavy to think of my poor brother, yet I could give way to my fancy to hear Mrs. The. play upon the Harpsicon, though the musique did not please me neither. Thence to my brother’s and found them with my mayd Elizabeth taking an inventory of the goods of the house, which I was well pleased at, and am much beholden to Mr. Honeywood’s man in doing of it. His name is Herbert, one that says he knew me when he lived with Sir Samuel Morland, but I have forgot him. So I left them at it, and by coach home and to my office, there to do a little business, but God knows my heart and head is so full of my brother’s death, and the consequences of it, that I can do very little or understand it.
So home to supper, and after looking over some business in my chamber I to bed to my wife, who continues in bed in some pain still. This day I have a great barrel of oysters given me by Mr. Barrow, as big as 16 of others, and I took it in the coach with me to Mrs. Turner’s, and give them to her.
This day the Parliament met again, after a long prorogation, but what they have done I have not been in the way to hear.

a rose to look after
and a puppy to look after
brought joy to me
half drunk

God knows my heart is a fancy music
God knows my heart is full of death


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 16 March 1663/64.

with the picture of the girl made to face
a charging bull—

She’s meant to alter the landscape, subdue
and neutralize

what snorts and paws at the ground, what gathers
its girth for the charge

provoked by the sting of debts the faceless gods
accuse us of having accrued.

And yet we do what we’ve always done: send
a child to wrangle the animal,

to stare it down, to stand there in the open
as she’s done before,

vulnerable in her flesh before the flanks
of the beast descend from behind.

Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon comes Madam Turner and her daughter The., her chief errand to tell me that she had got Dr. Wiverly, her Doctor, to search my brother’s mouth, where Mr. Powell says there is an ulcer, from thence he concludes that he hath had the pox. But the Doctor swears that there is not, nor ever was any, and my brother being very sensible, which I was glad to hear, he did talk with him about it, and he did wholly disclaim that ever he had the disease, or that ever he said to Powell that he had it. All which did put me into great comfort as to the reproach which was spread against him. So I sent for a barrel of oysters, and they dined, and we were very merry, I being willing to be so upon this news. After dinner we took coach and to my brother’s, where contrary to my expectation he continues as bad or worse, talking idle, and now not at all knowing any of us as before. Here we staid a great while, I going up and down the house looking after things. In the evening Dr. Wiverley came again, and I sent for Mr. Powell (the Doctor and I having first by ourselves searched my brother again at his privities, where he was as clear as ever he was born, and in the Doctor’s opinion had been ever so), and we three alone discoursed the business, where the coxcomb did give us his simple reasons for what he had said, which the Doctor fully confuted, and left the fellow only saying that he should cease to report any such thing, and that what he had said was the best of his judgment from my brother’s words and a ulcer, as he supposed, in his mouth. I threatened him that I would have satisfaction if I heard any more such discourse, and so good night to them two, giving the Doctor a piece for his fee, but the other nothing.
I to my brother again, where Madam Turner and her company, and Mrs. Croxton, my wife, and Mrs. Holding. About 8 o’clock my brother began to fetch his spittle with more pain, and to speak as much but not so distinctly, till at last the phlegm getting the mastery of him, and he beginning as we thought to rattle, I had no mind to see him die, as we thought he presently would, and so withdrew and led Mrs. Turner home, but before I came back, which was in half a quarter of an hour, my brother was dead. I went up and found the nurse holding his eyes shut, and he poor wretch lying with his chops fallen, a most sad sight, and that which put me into a present very great transport of grief and cries, and indeed it was a most sad sight to see the poor wretch lie now still and dead, and pale like a stone. I staid till he was almost cold, while Mrs. Croxton, Holden, and the rest did strip and lay him out, they observing his corpse, as they told me afterwards, to be as clear as any they ever saw, and so this was the end of my poor brother, continuing talking idle and his lips working even to his last that his phlegm hindered his breathing, and at last his breath broke out bringing a flood of phlegm and stuff out with it, and so he died.
This evening he talked among other talk a great deal of French very plain and good, as, among others: ‘quand un homme boit quand il n’a poynt d’inclination a boire il ne luy fait jamais de bien.’ I once begun to tell him something of his condition, and asked him whither he thought he should go. He in distracted manner answered me — “Why, whither should I go? there are but two ways: If I go, to the bad way I must give God thanks for it, and if I go the other way I must give God the more thanks for it; and I hope I have not been so undutifull and unthankfull in my life but I hope I shall go that way.” This was all the sense, good or bad, that I could get of him this day.
I left my wife to see him laid out, and I by coach home carrying my brother’s papers, all I could find, with me, and having wrote a letter to my father telling him what hath been said I returned by coach, it being very late, and dark, to my brother’s, but all being gone, the corpse laid out, and my wife at Mrs. Turner’s, I thither, and there after an hour’s talk, we up to bed, my wife and I in the little blue chamber, and I lay close to my wife, being full of disorder and grief for my brother that I could not sleep nor wake with satisfaction, at last I slept till 5 or 6 o’clock.

I search my ears for clear words
no spittle or rattle

eyes shut like a stone
lips working on why
I must give thanks
the more unthankful my life

in the little blue chamber of grief
I could not sleep nor wake


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 15 March 1663/64.

7

To the north, an outlook tower with a bruised gong
above the cypress line. Bald shear of stone, openings
in the base of hills where survivors could have burrowed.
On clear days you can see the coast, green-again chain
of mountains where roads once snaked, continuous
relay like your best intentions. Often it is absurd
to recall how much we worried about imperfections. Now
it is exquisite to be able to remember even the smallest
kinds of texture: slubbed crinkle of a dress, specific
weight of a spoon; pooled honey in a wooden floorboard,
splinter breaking through skin’s calloused barrier.

Up, and walked to my brother’s, where I find he hath continued talking idly all night, and now knows me not; which troubles me mightily. So I walked down and discoursed a great while alone with the mayde, who tells me many passages of her master’s practices, and how she concludes that he has run behind hand a great while and owes money, and has been dunned by several people, among others by one Cave, both husband and wife, but whether it was for money or something worse she knows not, but there is one Cranburne, I think she called him, in Fleete Lane with whom he hath many times been mighty private, but what their dealings have been she knows not, but believes these were naught, and then his sitting up two Saturday nights one after another when all were abed doing something to himself, which she now suspects what it was, but did not before, but tells me that he hath been a very bad husband as to spending his time, and hath often told him of it, so that upon the whole I do find he is, whether he lives or dies, a ruined man, and what trouble will befall me by it I know not.
Thence to White Hall; and in the Duke’s chamber, while he was dressing, two persons of quality that were there did tell his Royal Highness how the other night, in Holborne, about midnight, being at cards, a link-boy come by and run into the house, and told the people the house was a-falling. Upon this the whole family was frighted, concluding that the boy had said that the house was a-fire: so they left their cards above, and one would have got out of the balcone, but it was not open; the other went up to fetch down his children, that were in bed; so all got clear out of the house. And no sooner so, but the house fell down indeed, from top to bottom. It seems my Lord Southampton’s canaille did come too near their foundation, and so weakened the house, and down it came; which, in every respect, is a most extraordinary passage.
By and by into his closet and did our business with him. But I did not speed as I expected in a business about the manner of buying hemp for this year, which troubled me, but it proceeds only from my pride, that I must needs expect every thing to be ordered just as I apprehend, though it was not I think from my errour, but their not being willing to hear and consider all that I had to propose.
Being broke up I followed my Lord Sandwich and thanked him for his putting me into the Fishery, which I perceive he expected, and cried “Oh!” says he, “in the Fishery you mean. I told you I would remember you in it,” but offered no other discourse. But demanding whether he had any commands for me, methought he cried “No!” as if he had no more mind to discourse with me, which still troubles me and hath done all the day, though I think I am a fool for it, in not pursuing my resolution of going handsome in clothes and looking high, for that must do it when all is done with my Lord. Thence by coach with Sir W. Batten to the city, and his son Castle, who talks mighty highly against Captain Tayler, calling him knave, and I find that the old doating father is led and talks just as the son do, or the son as the father would have him.
‘Light and to Mr. Moxon’s, and there saw our office globes in doing, which will be very handsome but cost money. So to the Coffee-house, and there very fine discourse with Mr. Hill the merchant, a pretty, gentile, young, and sober man.
So to the ‘Change, and thence home, where my wife and I fell out about my not being willing to have her have her gowne laced, but would lay out the same money and more on a plain new one. At this she flounced away in a manner I never saw her, nor which I could ever endure. So I away to the office, though she had dressed herself to go see my Lady Sandwich. She by and by in a rage follows me, and coming to me tells me in spitefull manner like a vixen and with a look full of rancour that she would go buy a new one and lace it and make me pay for it, and then let me burn it if I would after she had done it, and so went away in a fury. This vexed me cruelly, but being very busy I had, not hand to give myself up to consult what to do in it, but anon, I suppose after she saw that I did not follow her, she came again to the office, where I made her stay, being busy with another, half an houre, and her stomach coming down we were presently friends, and so after my business being over at the office we out and by coach to my Lady Sandwich’s, with whom I left my wife, and I to White Hall, where I met Mr. Delsety, and after an hour’s discourse with him met with nobody to do other business with, but back again to my Lady, and after half an hour’s discourse with her to my brother’s, who I find in the same or worse condition. The doctors give him over and so do all that see him. He talks no sense two words together now; and I confess it made me weepe to see that he should not be able, when I asked him, to say who I was.
I went to Mrs. Turner’s, and by her discourse with my brother’s Doctor, Mr. Powell, I find that she is full now of the disease which my brother is troubled with, and talks of it mightily, which I am sorry for, there being other company, but methinks it should be for her honour to forbear talking of it, the shame of this very thing I confess troubles me as much as anything.
Back to my brother’s and took my wife, and carried her to my uncle Fenner’s and there had much private discourse with him. He tells me of the Doctor’s thoughts of my brother’s little hopes of recovery, and from that to tell me his thoughts long of my brother’s bad husbandry, and from that to say that he believes he owes a great deal of money, as to my cozen Scott I know not how much, and Dr. Thos. Pepys 30l., but that the Doctor confesses that he is paid 20l. of it, and what with that and what he owes my father and me I doubt he is in a very sad condition, that if he lives he will not be able to show his head, which will be a very great shame to me.
After this I went in to my aunt and my wife and Anthony Joyce and his wife, who were by chance there, and drank and so home, my mind and head troubled, but I hope it will over in a little time one way or other.
After doing a little at my office of business I home to supper and to bed.
From notice that my uncle Fenner did give my father the last week of my brother’s condition, my mother is coming up to towne, which also do trouble me.
The business between my Lords Chancellor and Bristoll, they say, is hushed up; and the latter gone or going, by the King’s licence, to France.

one hand owes money
to the other

night falling
on the cards of their house

their fish going
like nonsense words together
to and fro


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 14 March 1663/64.

6

There was a school here once, a flagpole
before which you might imagine lines
of schoolchildren, hands hovering above
their breasts. Stories from the last
world war inform us of favorite venues
for barracks: schools, hospitals, churches.
Footfalls echo down long hallways: of course
there are many dead buried in this soil.
Observe roots of trees burnished with age,
dressed in moss. The moon’s metallic disc
a bruised gong, rung too many times.

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed talking with my wife, and then up in great doubt whether I should not go see Mr. Coventry or no, who hath not been well these two or three days, but it being foul weather I staid within, and so to my office, and there all the morning reading some Common Law, to which I will allot a little time now and then, for I much want it. At noon home to dinner, and then after some discourse with my wife, to the office again, and by and by Sir W. Pen came to me after sermon and walked with me in the garden and then one comes to tell me that Anthony and Will Joyce were come to see me, so I in to them and made mighty much of them, and very pleasant we were, and most of their business I find to be to advise about getting some woman to attend my brother Tom, whom they say is very ill and seems much to want one. To which I agreed, and desired them to get their wives to enquire out one. By and by they bid me good night, but immediately as they were gone out of doors comes Mrs. Turner’s boy with a note to me to tell me that my brother Tom was so ill as they feared he would not long live, and that it would be fit I should come and see him. So I sent for them back, and they came, and Will Joyce desiring to speak with me alone I took him up, and there he did plainly tell me to my great astonishment that my brother is deadly ill, and that their chief business of coming was to tell me so, and what is worst that his disease is the pox, which he hath heretofore got, and hath not been cured, but is come to this, and that this is certain, though a secret told his father Fenner by the Doctor which he helped my brother to.
This troubled me mightily, but however I thought fit to go see him for speech of people’s sake, and so walked along with them, and in our way called on my uncle Fenner (where I have not been these 12 months and more) and advised with him, and then to my brother, who lies in bed talking idle. He could only say that he knew me, and then fell to other discourse, and his face like a dying man, which Mrs. Turner, who was here, and others conclude he is.
The company being gone, I took the mayde, which seems a very grave and serious woman, and in W. Joyce’s company’ did inquire how things are with her master. She told me many things very discreetly, and said she had all his papers and books, and key of his cutting house, and showed me a bag which I and Wm. Joyce told, coming to 5l. 14s. 0d., which we left with her again.
After giving her good counsel, and the boys, and seeing a nurse there of Mrs. Holden’s choosing, I left them, and so walked home greatly troubled to think of my brother’s condition, and the trouble that would arise to me by his death or continuing sick.
So at home, my mind troubled, to bed.

on days as immediate as doors
fear would not fit
into our bed

her face like a dying aster
how to hold it


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 13 March 1663/64.