Don’t be fooled: these are no
bluebloods. They’re the ones
who’ll never be happy no matter
what they get, those who complain
about every little thing—

They turn up in the middle of the night,
always in the middle of the night
(did it ever occur to you to ask why
always in the middle of the night?):
a knock on the door— and did I forget

to mention a thunderstorm? Yes,
rain pouring; mud thick as cake
batter, the road to town in-
distinguishable from gully
or ditch. So you take

the poor drenched thing in, offer
a bath, warm clothes, soup by the fire,
a place to sleep. Not just any bed,
the one with mattresses stacked
higher than a Jenga

tower; down-filled and fluffy,
pancake after pancake spongy
and sweet, plump with shams
and duvets. And the next day?
Nothing but distress,

moaning about bruises
and pains: the tossing
and turning, the hard
dried pea or tooth
of gravel,

the stone eternally stuck
in the craw— Don’t fall
for it! Don’t think for one
moment some lives are more
tender than others.

Even in the oldest epics
there are insects making a din

in the trees, rubbing their tymbals
so the air vibrates; animals

sending up rank cries,
unsettling the otherwise pastoral.

Their name for sex is older, more
forthright. The trees, though:

they raise their banners newly
dotted with milk and cochineal.

They like a pageantry, the way
sometimes in the movies

the eye is drawn to focus
on the crack in the pitcher,

signifying that the parched
ground has been watered.

This life & no other. ~ Larry Levis

Yes, what happens next?
I want to think about it, deeply—

but the radio interrupts with its reminder
to set the clocks forward this weekend.

I drive across the river every morning
and the water is like beaten glass.

There is a marble-size spot in the small
of my back and when you rub it,

sometimes I imagine a ribbon of bright
color twirling absently in that clear

space. All the things that manifest
as if without hesitation— how marvelous

they are for saying what they need
to say, for being what they are.

We should be ashamed by all
our calculations, our great addiction

to insurance. But it is so easy to forget
what we promised to always remember.

Up betimes, to my office, where all the morning. About noon Sir J. Robinson, Lord Mayor, desiring way through the garden from the Tower, called in at the office and there invited me (and Sir W. Pen, who happened to be in the way) to dinner, which we did; and there had a great Lent dinner of fish, little flesh. And thence he and I in his coach, against my will (for I am resolved to shun too great fellowship with him) to White Hall, but came too late, the Duke having been with our fellow officers before we came, for which I was sorry. Thence he and I to walk one turn in the Park, and so home by coach, and I to my office, where late, and so home to supper and bed.
There dined with us to-day Mr. Slingsby, of the Mint, who showed us all the new pieces both gold and silver (examples of them all), that are made for the King, by Blondeau’s way; and compared them with those made for Oliver. The pictures of the latter made by Symons, and of the King by one Rotyr, a German, I think, that dined with us also. He extolls those of Rotyr’s above the others; and, indeed, I think they are the better, because the sweeter of the two; but, upon my word, those of the Protector are more like in my mind, than the King’s, but both very well worth seeing. The crowns of Cromwell are now sold, it seems, for 25s. and 30s. apiece.

O my fish little flesh
one turn and to bed

how ample her word
in my mind


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 9 March 1662/63.

This is where we learn to be
completely alone, even among others.

Frost but never snow, late in December
or at the beginning of the year.

Beautiful crust of ice rimming every head
of cabbage, so the farmers wring their hands.

Think of the cold and its scalloped edge,
the frozen pellets dropped by goats.

Eidetic memory: black cutouts of trees
against a brilliant sky.

How wine made from fermented rice
is sweet for a moment in the mouth

before a cloud of fire descends
into the empty gut.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Beachcomber.

(Lord’s day). Being sent to by Sir J. Minnes to know whether I would go with him to White Hall to-day, I rose but could not get ready before he was gone, but however I walked thither and heard Dr. King, Bishop of Chichester, make a good and eloquent sermon upon these words, “They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy.”
Thence (the chappell in Lent being hung with black, and no anthem sung after sermon, as at other times), to my Lord Sandwich at Sir W. Wheeler’s. I found him out of order, thinking himself to be in a fit of an ague, but in the afternoon he was very cheery. I dined with Sir William, where a good but short dinner, not better than one of mine commonly of a Sunday.
After dinner up to my Lord, there being Mr. Rumball. My Lord, among other discourse, did tell us of his great difficultys passed in the business of the Sound, and of his receiving letters from the King there, but his sending them by Whetstone was a great folly; and the story how my Lord being at dinner with Sydney, one of his fellow plenipotentiarys and his mortal enemy, did see Whetstone, and put off his hat three times to him, but the fellow would not be known, which my Lord imputed to his coxcombly humour (of which he was full), and bid Sydney take notice of him too, when at the very time he had letters in his pocket from the King, as it proved afterwards. And Sydney afterwards did find it out at Copenhagen, the Dutch Commissioners telling him how my Lord Sandwich had hired one of their ships to carry back Whetstone to Lubeck, he being come from Flanders from the King. But I cannot but remember my Lord’s aequanimity in all these affairs with admiration.
Thence walked home, in my way meeting Mr. Moore, with whom I took a turn or two in the street among the drapers in Paul’s Churchyard, talking of business, and so home to bed.

they that sow in tears
shall reap in joy

the chapel hung with black
and no anthem but the sound
of a great whetstone
from the churchyard


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 8 March 1662/63.

Up betimes, and to the office, where some of us sat all the morning. At noon Sir W. Pen began to talk with me like a counterfeit rogue very kindly about his house and getting bills signed for all our works, but he is a cheating fellow, and so I let him talk and answered nothing. So we parted.
I to dinner, and there met The. Turner, who is come on foot in a frolique to beg me to get a place at sea for John, their man, which is a rogue; but, however, it may be, the sea may do him good in reclaiming him, and therefore I will see what I can do. She dined with me; and after dinner I took coach, and carried her home; in our way, in Cheapside, lighting and giving her a dozen pair of white gloves as my Valentine. Thence to my Lord Sandwich, who is gone to Sir W. Wheeler’s for his more quiet being, where he slept well last night, and I took him very merry, playing at cards, and much company with him. So I left him, and Creed and I to Westminster Hall, and there walked a good while. He told me how for some words of my Lady Gerard’s against my Lady Castlemaine to the Queen, the King did the other day affront her in going out to dance with her at a ball, when she desired it as the ladies do, and is since forbid attending the Queen by the King; which is much talked of, my Lord her husband being a great favourite.
Thence by water home and to my office, wrote by the post and so home to bed.

morning like a counterfeit bill
but the sea is the sea

a dozen white gloves go quiet
playing at cards

I walk a while
attending the talk of water


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 7 March 1662/63.

Up betimes, and about eight o’clock by coach with four horses, with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten, to Woolwich, a pleasant day. There at the yard we consulted and ordered several matters, and thence to the rope yard and did the like, and so into Mr. Falconer’s, where we had some fish, which we brought with us, dressed; and there dined with us his new wife, which had been his mayde, but seems to be a genteel woman, well enough bred and discreet.
Thence after dinner back to Deptford, where we did as before, and so home, good discourse in our way, Sir J. Minnes being good company, though a simple man enough as to the business of his office, but we did discourse at large again about Sir W. Pen’s patent to be his assistant, and I perceive he is resolved never to let it pass.
To my office, and thence to Sir W. Batten’s, where Major Holmes was lately come from the Streights, but do tell me strange stories of the faults of Cooper his master, put in by me, which I do not believe, but am sorry to hear and must take some course to have him removed, though I believe that the Captain is proud, and the fellow is not supple enough to him. So to my office again to set down my Journall, and so home and to bed. This evening my boy Waynman’s brother was with me, and I did tell him again that I must part with the boy, for I will not keep him. He desires my keeping him a little longer till he can provide for him, which I am willing for a while to do.
This day it seems the House of Commons have been very high against the Papists, being incensed by the stir which they make for their having an Indulgence; which, without doubt, is a great folly in them to be so hot upon at this time, when they see how averse already the House have showed themselves from it.
This evening Mr. Povy was with me at my office, and tells me that my Lord Sandwich is this day so ill that he is much afeard of him, which puts me to great pain, not more for my own sake than for his poor family’s.

a falcon where we fish
simple as a master

I do not believe but must believe
in the supple art of folly

to see with an ear
to eat my own


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 6 March 1662/63.

What does it mean, luck? Books of perforated lottery tickets sold by street waifs in the dusty plaza, outside church doors to catch the pious streaming out from mass. And then there’s Jueteng, from the Chinese Jue, flower; and teng, bet. A dog is 12, a cat is 26, a snake is 14. Whatever you dream, the cobrador can assign its mystical made-up number. Obliquely across the street from us, a bungalow ringed by concrete fence and concertina wire, where the numbers king of the north had set up a nice hideaway for his mistress, the mother of his child (#__). We saw her being pushed in her pram by uniformed nannies— Yellow layette and booties. Rattle that made a rattling sound before they disappeared again inside the gate. Select two numbers between 1 and 37 based on anything from the license plates of your political rival to the date of his planned assassination. When he ran for governor one election year, rampant rumors: snipers in the hedges, dark tinted cars closing in on our street. Father made arrangements for us to sleep overnight at a friend’s house on the other side of town: wormhole through which to slip away from gunfire. When we got there the drapes were drawn, but our host’s wife let me play a little on the piano, very softly. Or count the keys, she said. How many black? how many white? The hammers thudded with their little boots of felt.