It doesn’t matter
what kind of day

I’ve had— I always
have a hard time falling

asleep. In the trees,
in the dark, I hear

the elongated molecules of owl
calls, the signature elegies

of frogs at the river’s edge.
I try to still the hovering shapes

of thoughts that want to graze
on the meadow after I’ve pulled close

the paddock gate. I was taught
to believe that even the longest

devotions find their reason,
if not their reward. The clock

with no face flashes amber
numbers on the ceiling— mirror

surface to my own, lying here,
listening to my own inner pulsing.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Happy Hour.

Up by five o’clock and to my office, where hard at work till towards noon, and home and eat a bit, and so going out met with Mr. Mount my old acquaintance, and took him in and drank a glass or two of wine to him and so parted, having not time to talk together, and I with Sir W. Batten to the Stillyard, and there eat a lobster together, and Wyse the King’s fishmonger coming in we were very merry half an hour, and so by water to Whitehall, and by and by being all met we went in to the Duke and there did our business and so away, and anon to the Tangier Committee, where we had very fine discourse from Dr. Walker and Wiseman, civilians, against our erecting a court-merchant at Tangier, and well answered in many things by my Lord Sandwich (whose speaking I never till now observed so much to be very good) and Sir R. Ford.
By and by the discourse being ended, we fell to my Lord Rutherford’s dispatch, which do not please him, he being a Scott, and one resolved to scrape every penny that he can get by any way, which the Committee will not agree to. He took offence at something and rose away, without taking leave of the board, which all took ill, though nothing said but only by the Duke of Albemarle, who said that we ought to settle things as they ought to be, and if he will not go upon these terms another man will, no doubt. Here late, quite finishing things against his going, and so rose, and I walked home, being accompanied by Creed to Temple Bar, talking of this afternoon’s passage, and so I called at the Wardrobe in my way home, and there spoke at the Horn tavern with Mr. Moore a word or two, but my business was with Mr. Townsend, who is gone this day to his country house, about sparing Charles Pepys some money of his bills due to him when he can, but missing him lost my labour.
So walked home, finding my wife abroad, at my aunt, Wight’s, who coming home by and by, I home to supper and to bed.

my old acquaintance wine
is a wise answer to every offense

it ought to settle things
as they ought to be

and not another word
about sparing my wife


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 13 April 1663.

How easily I sink,
overtaken by the hours.

Were I to pause
I fear I might fall asleep

in the middle of the room.
It is such an effort

sometimes to just be
the fixed point of a compass

—not at all easy
even to give oneself

no other reward
but rest.

(Lord’s day). Lay till 8 o’clock, which I have not done a great while, then up and to church, where I found our pew altered by taking some of the hind pew to make ours bigger, because of the number of women, more by Sir J. Minnes company than we used to have.
Home to dinner, and after dinner, intending to go to Chelsey to my Lord Sandwich, my wife would needs go with me, though she walked on foot to Whitehall. Which she did and staid at my Lord’s lodgings while Creed and I took a turn at Whitehall, but no coach to be had, and so I returned to them and sat talking till evening, and then got a coach and to Gray’s Inn walks, where some handsome faces, and so home and there to supper, and a little after 8 o’clock to bed, a thing I have not done God knows when.
Coming home to-night, a drunken boy was carrying by our constable to our new pair of stocks to handsel them, being a new pair and very handsome.

a clock with no face
after 8 o’clock I have no when

a drunken pair tocks
hand in hand


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 12 April 1663.

At the army hospital, whose nipple
did they put in my mouth after I
slid out and through her? That first
night and the rest that came after,

whose arms received the wrapped
bundle of me (in those days before
Pampers or vinyl diaper covers),
that soon I must have soaked

with my own effluvia? I know
they never were farther apart
or closer than that day; later,
through the winding years, one

always in the next room,
or at most a floor below
in the split-level bungalow
we shared. To this day,

what they knew suspends
like a gauzy drape above my head,
around my shoulders as I sift
in my own rooms, trying to write

again toward their secrets: older
and younger, sisters yoked by that
most domestic space of the womb
and what issues from it.

In what way and what did it signify
how each in turn or at the same time
was loved by my father? —for he
is the other shadow in this

unfinished tale. Two being dead,
only one of them perhaps could put
my questions to rest—but she sits
in the house of her diminishing

faculties, unconscious
of the echolalia that’s crept
into her speech… In a moment
I’ll put these threads aside,

as the hour grows late. But never
do they leave me completely alone—
at table, at the stove, attending
to my work or my own

housekeeping, I’ll feel the fierce
press of their shadows in the old
ways: triumvirate to all I do,
dreaming, sleeping, waking.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

At home, she adjusted the ends of a pink
hairband so they came over her ears, punched

holes in the lid of a cardboard shoebox
then fixed colored yarn to the ends

of bobby pins, having seen the phone
operator’s switchboard on the first floor

of the City Hall— Her father used to take her
there after school; while he finished up work

in his office, she wandered the halls,
the men and women in suits never minding,

going about their business. The heels
of her black Mary Janes tapped lonely

on linoleum until she stood before the wide
glass windows and she watched as the women

spoke into the mouthpiece, patched
a call from someone on the other side

to any of the offices in the building.
Some waved and smiled in her direction,

never once missing a cue, never once
uncertain: the cords in one hand connecting

to their proper jacks, the hum of barely
audible voices looped into waiting circuits.

Up betimes and to my office, where we sat also all the morning till noon, and then home to dinner, my father being there but not very well. After dinner in comes Captain Lambert of the Norwich, this day come from Tangier, whom I am glad to see. There came also with him Captain Wager, and afterwards in came Captain Allen to see me, of the Resolution. All staid a pretty while, and so away, and I a while to my office, then abroad into the street with my father, and left him to go to see my aunt Wight and uncle, intending to lie at Tom’s to-night, or my cozen Scott’s, where it seems he has hitherto lain and is most kindly used there. So I home and to my office very late making up my Lord’s navy accounts, wherein I find him to stand debtor 1200l.. So home to supper and to bed.

we sat till noon
but not very well

no apt wager came
the solution stayed way off

in my Zen
here is where I stand


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 11 April 1663.

The clear sky has turned white.
When did the roots of your hair begin

to reflect the distance of the road
from moonlight? Supposing we did

what we said we would not do?
Perhaps I would not be secretly

looking for the pale blush
of squash flowers in each new

greengrocer I visit. I taste
your lips each time I drink

the salty broth. When a dragonfly lit
on the porch, I counted birthday

after birthday on the grid of its belly
pressed to the screen. Still with me,

the idea of you is close enough to touch
like the nubs that rise at the ends

of the strut between my shoulder blade
and sternum. The textbook says:

The clavicle is the only long bone
in the body that lies horizontally.

It says nothing of how things lie down
before they say goodbye or go to sleep.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Up very betimes and to my office, where most hard at business alone all the morning. At noon to the Exchange, where I hear that after great expectation from Ireland, and long stop of letters, there is good news come, that all is quiett after our great noise of troubles there, though some stir hath been as was reported.
Off the Exchange with Sir J. Cutler and Mr. Grant to the Royall Oak Tavern, in Lumbard Street, where Alexander Broome the poet was, a merry and witty man, I believe, if he be not a little conceited, and here drank a sort of French wine, called Ho Bryan, that hath a good and most particular taste that I never met with.
Home to dinner, and then by water abroad to Whitehall, my wife to see Mrs. Ferrers, I to Whitehall and the Park, doing no business. Then to my Lord’s lodgings, met my wife, and walked to the New Exchange. There laid out 10s. upon pendents and painted leather gloves, very pretty and all the mode. So by coach home and to my office till late, and so to supper and to bed.

all change is news
a quiet stir to the oak

and the poet
if not conceited

and particular as water
in her loves


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 10 April 1663.

Up betimes and to my office, and anon we met upon finishing the Treasurer’s accounts. At noon dined at home and am vexed to hear my wife tell me how our maid Mary do endeavour to corrupt our cook maid, which did please me very well, but I am resolved to rid the house of her as soon as I can.
To the office and sat all the afternoon till 9 at night, and an hour after home to supper and bed. My father lying at Tom’s to-night, he dining with my uncle Fenner and his sons and a great many more of the gang at his own cost to-day.
To bed vexed also to think of Sir J. Minnes finding fault with Mr. Hater for what he had done the other day, though there be no hurt in the thing at all but only the old fool’s jealousy, made worse by Sir W. Batten.

we met in the cook house
night after lying night

at the cost of finding hate
for what hurt

all old jealousy
made worse


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 9 April 1663.