(after Bennie Flores Ansell’s “Sprocket Swarm Migration”)

So many squares
cut away from darkness,
untethered from light,
lighter than any wish
that cast us adrift—
Massed where we are,
we form new continents:
room upon room upon room
in tenements that wobble
under the pinned weight
of our labor. From on high,
little squares of laundry
strung on clotheslines
on the balcony. We are
so slight: an army of ants,
echo of some fusillade
still falling over the Pacific.
Flight pattern of starlings:
a million eyelash marks
in the desert, trembling
before or after sleep.

we fall from hell
into a committee meeting
Fall” by Dave Bonta

Before he goes to the department meeting, he watches
old nuclear war movies on the Internet. He fast
forwards to the moment of destruction:
mushroom clouds bloom in the background
as he prepares his notes.

During the meeting, she
finds comfort in the words
of John the Baptist. “I am not
the Messiah.” She repeats
this mantra as she tries
to think through the ramifications
of bad budget numbers.

I realize too late that I should not have listened
to punk music on my way to work.
I emerge from the meeting yearning
to be sedated. Instead, I make another binder
of documents that will yellow
into insignificance. I think of paperless
offices and other promises of a future
yet to arrive.

Up, and with Sir W. Pen by coach to St. James’s and there up to the Duke, and after he was ready to his closet, where most of our talke about a Dutch warr, and discoursing of things indeed now for it. The Duke, which gives me great good hopes, do talk of setting up a good discipline in the fleete.
In the Duke’s chamber there is a bird, given him by Mr. Pierce, the surgeon, comes from the East Indys, black the greatest part, with the finest collar of white about the neck; but talks many things and neyes like the horse, and other things, the best almost that ever I heard bird in my life.
Thence down with Mr. Coventry and Sir W. Rider, who was there (going along with us from the East Indya house to-day) to discourse of my Lord Peterborough’s accounts, and then walked over the Parke, and in Mr. Cutler’s coach with him and Rider as far as the Strand, and thence I walked to my Lord Sandwich’s, where by agreement I met my wife, and there dined with the young ladies; my Lady, being not well, kept her chamber. Much simple discourse at table among the young ladies. After dinner walked in the garden, talking, with Mr. Moore about my Lord’s business. He told me my Lord runs in debt every day more and more, and takes little care how to come out of it. He counted to me how my Lord pays use now for above 9000l., which is a sad thing, especially considering the probability of his going to sea, in great danger of his life, and his children, many of them, to provide for.
Thence, the young ladies going out to visit, I took my wife by coach out through the city, discoursing how to spend the afternoon; and conquered, with much ado, a desire of going to a play; but took her out at White Chapel, and to Bednal Green; so to Hackney, where I have not been many a year, since a little child I boarded there. Thence to Kingsland, by my nurse’s house, Goody Lawrence, where my brother Tom and I was kept when young. Then to Newington Green, and saw the outside of Mrs. Herbert’s house, where she lived, and my Aunt Ellen with her; but, Lord! how in every point I find myself to over-value things when a child. Thence to Islington, and so to St. John’s to the Red Bull, and there: saw the latter part of a rude prize fight, but with good pleasure enough; and thence back to Islington, and at the King’s Head, where Pitts lived, we ‘light and eat and drunk for remembrance of the old house sake, and so through Kingsland again, and so to Bishopsgate, and so home with great pleasure. The country mighty pleasant, and we with great content home, and after supper to bed, only a little troubled at the young ladies leaving my wife so to-day, and from some passages fearing my Lady might be offended. But I hope the best.

war comes from the east
black like the bird who takes sad children

the city conquered play
I have not lived but to fight


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 25 April 1664.

Little woody star, your resinous perfume
wells up as if from the depths of ancient

wardrobes. In your breath I smell the hot
winds of summer, dry husks of grain

yellowing to chaff in the sun. I love
your foliate points opening outward,

the seed in each narrow chamber
a polished eye observing the daily

encounter. Pressing your outline
into the middle of my brow, I wish

for the kind of sight to carry me over
from the blackened hulls of the past, to drop

into the bottom of a teacup where no leaves
clump into calligraphies of dark foreboding.

(Lord’s day). Up, and all the morning in my chamber setting some of my private papers in order, for I perceive that now publique business takes up so much of my time that I must get time a-Sundays or a-nights to look after my owne matters.
Dined and spent all the afternoon talking with my wife, at night a little to the office, and so home to supper and to bed.

morning amber
some private order for
a public sun


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 24 April 1664.

(Coronation day). Up, and after doing something at my office, and, it being a holiday, no sitting likely to be, I down by water to Sir W. Warren’s, who hath been ill, and there talked long with him good discourse, especially about Sir W. Batten’s knavery and his son Castle’s ill language of me behind my back, saying that I favour my fellow traytours, but I shall be even with him. So home and to the ‘Change, where I met with Mr. Coventry, who himself is now full of talke of a Dutch warr; for it seems the Lords have concurred in the Commons’ vote about it; and so the next week it will be presented to the King, insomuch that he do desire we would look about to see what stores we lack, and buy what we can. Home to dinner, where I and my wife much troubled about my money that is in my Lord Sandwich’s hand, for fear of his going to sea and be killed; but I will get what of it out I can.
All the afternoon, not being well, at my office, and there doing much business, my thoughts still running upon a warr and my money.
At night home to supper and to bed.

holiday
like water in the hand
going to sea

my thoughts still running
on my money


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 23 April 1664.

The occurrence of three or more sounds
with no intervening vowels within a word

is what linguists call consonant clusters:
as in diphthong, glimpse, and angst. One

of my favorites, perhaps, is ironclad
that steam-propelled warship encased

in plates of metal, which in the 1800s
toted some of the heaviest artillery

ever brought out to sea, often equipped
with an elongated underwater beak for the then-

hot craze of ramming into enemy ships in ocean
warfare. In this navy town where we now live,

there are no hulls of old ironclads; but in the downtown
harbor, the Battleship Wisconsin is permanently berthed.

Just blocks away from the MacArthur museum, it houses
paraphernalia from WWII, including pictures of operations

east of Luzon in the Philippine Sea and along
the coast of Mindoro. I read that this battleship

weathered many violent storms and skirmishes,
but proved to be most seaworthy— There it stands

grey and gleaming in shallower waters, next
to pools of cultivated koi and sculptures of flat-

chested mermaids. As for the ironclads, those three
consonants tightly breastplating the middle of the word

remind me of stories of how the Portuguese explorer
Ferdinand Magellan met his end— in Philippine

waters, at the hands of a native chieftain, who
was supposed to have rammed the end of his spear

through the hinges of Magellan’s armor and up
his thigh. Poor Magellan, he never did manage

to circumnavigate the globe. His surviving crew
left him in Mactan to die, while they sailed

back eventually homeward, bearing cassia bark,
ginger, cardamom, turmeric, pepper, and cloves.

Having directed it last night, I was called up this morning before four o’clock. It was full light enough to dress myself, and so by water against tide, it being a little coole, to Greenwich; and thence, only that it was somewhat foggy till the sun got to some height, walked with great pleasure to Woolwich, in my way staying several times to listen to the nightingales. I did much business both at the Ropeyarde and the other, and on floate I discovered a plain cheat which in time I shall publish of Mr. Ackworth’s. Thence, having visited Mr. Falconer also, who lies still sick, but hopes to be better, I walked to Greenwich, Mr. Deane with me. Much good discourse, and I think him a very just man, only a little conceited, but yet very able in his way, and so he by water also with me also to towne. I home, and immediately dressing myself, by coach with my wife to my Lord Sandwich’s, but they having dined we would not ‘light but went to Mrs. Turner’s, and there got something to eat, and thence after reading part of a good play, Mrs. The., my wife and I, in their coach to Hide Parke where great plenty of gallants, and pleasant it was, only for the dust. Here I saw Mrs. Bendy, my Lady Spillman’s faire daughter that was, who continues yet very handsome. Many others I saw with great content, and so back again to Mrs. Turner’s, and then took a coach and home. I did also carry them into St. James’s Park and shewed them the garden.
To my office awhile while supper was making ready, and so home to supper and to bed.

I dress myself against the sun
go to listen to the gale

I publish lies but hope to be
just a little conceited

I dress myself for the dust
that great garden of a bed


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 22 April 1664.

Up pretty betimes and to my office, and thither came by and by Mr. Vernaty and staid two hours with me, but Mr. Gauden did not come, and so he went away to meet again anon. Then comes Mr. Creed, and, after some discourse, he and I and my wife by coach to Westminster (leaving her at Unthanke’s, her tailor’s) Hall, and there at the Lords’ House heard that it is ordered, that, upon submission upon the knee both to the House and my Lady Peters, W. Joyce shall be released. I forthwith made him submit, and aske pardon upon his knees; which he did before several Lords. But my Lady would not hear it; but swore she would post the Lords, that the world might know what pitifull Lords the King hath; and that revenge was sweeter to her than milk; and that she would never be satisfied unless he stood in a pillory, and demand pardon there. But I perceive the Lords are ashamed of her, and so I away calling with my wife at a place or two to inquire after a couple of mayds recommended to us, but we found both of them bad. So set my wife at my uncle Wight’s and I home, and presently to the ‘Change, where I did some business, and thence to my uncle’s and there dined very well, and so to the office, we sat all the afternoon, but no sooner sat but news comes my Lady Sandwich was come to see us, so I went out, and running up (her friend however before me) I perceive by my dear Lady blushing that in my dining-room she was doing something upon the pott, which I also was ashamed of, and so fell to some discourse, but without pleasure through very pity to my Lady. She tells me, and I find true since, that the House this day have voted that the King be desired to demand right for the wrong done us by the Dutch, and that they will stand by him with their lives fortunes: which is a very high vote, and more than I expected. What the issue will be, God knows! My Lady, my wife not being at home, did not stay, but, poor, good woman, went away, I being mightily taken with her dear visitt, and so to the office, where all the afternoon till late, and so to my office, and then to supper and to bed, thinking to rise betimes tomorrow.

I thank her on my knees
the world sweeter than milk
with her sin and sand
her lush dining and discourse with time


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 21 April 1664.