Up and spent most of the morning upon my measuring Ruler and with great pleasure I have found out some things myself of great dispatch, more than my book teaches me, which pleases me mightily. Sent my wife’s things and the wine to-day by the carrier to my father’s, but staid my boy from a letter of my father’s, wherein he desires that he may not come to trouble his family as he did the last year.
Dined at home and then to the office, where we sat all the afternoon, and at night home and spent the evening with my wife, and she and I did jangle mightily about her cushions that she wrought with worsteds the last year, which are too little for any use, but were good friends by and by again. But one thing I must confess I do observe, which I did not before, which is, that I cannot blame my wife to be now in a worse humour than she used to be, for I am taken up in my talk with Ashwell, who is a very witty girl, that I am not so fond of her as I used and ought to be, which now I do perceive I will remedy, but I would to the Lord I had never taken any, though I cannot have a better than her. To supper and to bed. The consideration that this is the longest day in the year is very unpleasant to me. This afternoon my wife had a visit from my Lady Jeminah and Mr. Ferrers.

measuring pleasure I have found
thin things and fat

let desires not trouble me
which are too little for any use

but I must not blame now for never
the longest unpleasant afternoon

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 11 June 1663.

The evening we went
shopping for perennials, the doors
to the garden section of Home Depot
were closed, and we had to take
the long way inside through the main
double doors, making a left
past the stacked patio chairs, the tiki
torches, the cushions, the chimes
and rubber hoses. And yet, minute
by minute the sky deepened like a sheet
of indigo metal overhead, because of course
that section had no ceiling, no roof.
I thought it strange— the measures taken
toward creating enclosure here,
where each bud and leaf in its pod
of potting medium, each succulent in sand
and straw was no longer a thing
in the wild yet never quite completely
domesticated. On a shelf next to real
and synthetic paving stones, grass seeds
slept in yellow plastic jugs resembling
large pour containers of pancake mix.
We moved from island to island,
choosing among tubs of green: salvia,
lavender, hosta; and finally six
fragrant groups of rosemary. We bore
them home; opened the gate, which
movement turned on the motion sensor
lights. We set them on the deck
within the backyard’s interior, where
under a new moon they waited until they
could be given back to the earth.

Up and all the morning helping my wife to put up her things towards her going into the country and drawing the wine out of my vessel to send.
This morning came my cozen Thomas Pepys to desire me to furnish him with some money, which I could not do till his father has wrote to Piggott his consent to the sale of his lands, so by and by we parted and I to the Exchange a while and so home and to dinner, and thence to the Royal Theatre by water, and landing, met with Captain Ferrers his friend, the little man that used to be with him, and he with us, and sat by us while we saw “Love in a Maze.” The play is pretty good, but the life of the play is Lacy’s part, the clown, which is most admirable; but for the rest, which are counted such old and excellent actors, in my life I never heard both men and women so ill pronounce their parts, even to my making myself sick therewith.
Thence, Creed happening to be with us, we four to the Half-Moon Tavern, I buying some sugar and carrying it with me, which we drank with wine and thence to the whay-house, and drank a great deal of whay, and so by water home, and thence to see Sir W. Pen, who is not in much pain, but his legs swell and so immoveable that he cannot stir them, but as they are lifted by other people and I doubt will have another fit of his late pain. Played a little at cards with him and his daughter, who is grown every day a finer and finer lady, and so home to supper and to bed.
When my wife and I came first home we took Ashwell and all the rest below in the cellar with the vintner drawing out my wine, which I blamed Ashwell much for and told her my mind that I would not endure it, nor was it fit for her to make herself equal with the ordinary servants of the house.

going into the country
we land in a maze

the good life is admirable
but for the old and ill

even the half-moon
cannot fit in

grown every day
below in the cellar

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 10 June 1663.

Up and after ordering some things towards my wife’s going into the country, to the office, where I spent the morning upon my measuring rules very pleasantly till noon, and then comes Creed and he and I talked about mathematiques, and he tells me of a way found out by Mr. Jonas Moore which he calls duodecimal arithmetique, which is properly applied to measuring, where all is ordered by inches, which are 12 in a foot, which I have a mind to learn.
So he with me home to dinner and after dinner walk in the garden, and then we met at the office, where Coventry, Sir J. Minnes, and I, and so in the evening, business done, I went home and spent my time till night with my wife.
Presently after my coming home comes Pembleton, whether by appointment or no I know not, or whether by a former promise that he would come once before my wife’s going into the country, but I took no notice of, let them go up and Ashwell with them to dance, which they did, and I staid below in my chamber, but, Lord! how I listened and laid my ear to the door, and how I was troubled when I heard them stand still and not dance. Anon they made an end and had done, and so I suffered him to go away, and spoke not to him, though troubled in my mind, but showed no discontent to my wife, believing that this is the last time I shall be troubled with him.
So my wife and I to walk in the garden, home and to supper and to bed.

after measuring
all inches in a foot
I learn to walk

after my appointment with the door
I stand still and suffer
no discontent

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 9 June 1663.

So I’m looking for the perfect epigram for an almost-complete book of poetry, because yay epigrams! I’ve been reading lots of favorite poets and coming up mostly dry — only a couple of quotes that might work, by which I mean it would be impossible to justify their use. Because with epigrams, it’s either a perfect fit or you don’t use it.

After a couple of days of searching, I remembered Emily Dickinson. I said to myself, I will open the complete poems at random and find the perfect quote. It was 11:30 at night, so I couldn’t go retrieve my copy of the R. W. Franklin edition from my parents’ house, but this morning I got Mom to give it back, and without any special ritual, prayer or preparation, I opened the book at random. Now, keep in mind that this is a hardcover book with a sewn binding, so it does pretty much open at random despite how many times it’s been read. And would you believe it? The very first poem my eyes lit upon was indeed the perfect epigram for my book. If and when I get it published, you’ll see what I mean.

Now I’m sure those of you with a more skeptical cast of mind are probably suspicious right now, but I swear to Darwin this is true. One possible explanation that occurred to me afterwards is that maybe it’s not so unlikely statistically speaking: maybe there are a number of Dickinson’s poems might work as epigrams for this collection, given a certain overlap of subject-mater and her unique skill with pithy, gnomic lines. So I spent the next ten minutes flipping through Franklin and seeing if there were any other quotes that might work. Didn’t find a one.

It is the case, however, that I’m a credulous sort — and a poet besides — so you can take all this with a grain of salt if you like. For example, I’m too superstitious to say much more about the manuscript, or even supply the Dickinson poem I found for an epigram, at this stage. (Later on, don’t worry: you will hear PLENTY about it, I promise.) But for once, here is what I am NOT guilty of this time:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant –
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind –

Wind salted with rain,
days a humid banner
unrolling across the coast.
So many riddles, tilting
like clouds to mar the very
very blue. How do you gather
the years? Each one
is a bobby pin loosened
from your pinned-up hair.
You can close your eyes
and imagine a brush
dipped in water,
all those questions
with no answers dragged
along the darkening sand.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Up and to my office a while, and thence by coach with Sir J. Minnes to St. James’s to the Duke, where Mr. Coventry and us two did discourse with the Duke a little about our office business, which saved our coming in the afternoon, and so to rights home again and to dinner. After dinner my wife and I had a little jangling, in which she did give me the lie, which vexed me, so that finding my talking did but make her worse, and that her spirit is lately come to be other than it used to be, and now depends upon her having Ashwell by her, before whom she thinks I shall not say nor do anything of force to her, which vexes me and makes me wish that I had better considered all that I have of late done concerning my bringing my wife to this condition of heat, I went up vexed to my chamber and there fell examining my new concordance, that I have bought, with Newman’s, the best that ever was out before, and I find mine altogether as copious as that and something larger, though the order in some respects not so good, that a man may think a place is missing, when it is only put in another place.
Up by and by my wife comes and good friends again, and to walk in the garden and so anon to supper and to bed. My cozen John Angier the son, of Cambridge coming to me late to see me, and I find his business is that he would be sent to sea, but I dissuaded him from it, for I will not have to do with it without his friends’ consent.

out in the afternoon I find it
other than it used to be

one may think a place is missing
when it is only another place

I come to walk in the garden
and see a sea

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 8 June 1663.

In graveyards we pass,
carved angels dripping with rain—

their color the color of stone
rubbed with lichen, blue shadows of long

abandonment. Their robes mimic
the softness of forms we know,

an idea of shelter. The thought
that somewhere in a house

at the end of a road,
there might be a clean

change of clothes, a box
by the door where sopping shoes

might be shed. How does one learn
to exchange one form for another,

to make room for some recourse
not even visible yet?

Some angels have the round
faces of children; cascading curls,

the unselfconsciousness of a body
that has not yet shed its easy

fat. Others are blueprint or
abstraction, holding a lyre,

a scroll; a book with graven
letters, one of them perhaps

the cipher to that world
beyond this rain-drenched one.


In response to Via Negativa: Holy relic.

(Lord’s day). Whit Sunday. Lay long talking with my wife, sometimes angry and ended pleased and hope to bring our matters to a better posture in a little time, which God send. So up and to church, where Mr. Mills preached, but, I know not how, I slept most of the sermon. Thence home, and dined with my wife and Ashwell and after dinner discoursed very pleasantly, and so I to church again in the afternoon, and, the Scot preaching, again slept all the afternoon, and so home, and by and by to Sir W. Batten’s, to talk about business, where my Lady Batten inveighed mightily against the German Princess, and I as high in the defence of her wit and spirit, and glad that she is cleared at the sessions.
Thence to Sir W. Pen, who I found ill again of the gout, he tells me that now Mr. Castle and Mrs. Martha Batten do own themselves to be married, and have been this fortnight. Much good may it do him, for I do not envy him his wife. So home, and there my wife and I had an angry word or two upon discourse of our boy, compared with Sir W. Pen’s boy that he has now, whom I say is much prettier than ours and she the contrary. It troubles me to see that every small thing is enough now-a-days to bring a difference between us.
So to my office and there did a little business, and then home to supper and to bed. Mrs. Turner, who is often at Court, do tell me to-day that for certain the Queen hath much changed her humour, and is become very pleasant and sociable as any; and they say is with child, or believed to be so.

sun on a sometimes
angry dinner

reaching by and by
the high fence

is pared to a small ring
certain as a child

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 7 June 1663.

It was the late sixties: summer weekends of hot
pants and mini skirts, The Beatles’ White

Album, the year of the vibrating
belt exercise machine— a row of them

lined up against one wall of the beauty salon
that mother’s new friend Mila ran at the American

base. Women in capri pants slid the elastic band
around their waists or hips, turned the dial

then faced away, trying to keep a serious face
through twenty minutes of electric rippling.

Afterwards, they’d let me sit with them
to have a clear manicure of my own while they

had their full sets done. Outside, the air
still smelled of pine. They’d put on their cropped

cardigans and cat-eye sunglasses and we’d stroll
to the 19th Tee where the men were nursing

coffee or a nip of something stronger,
tapping impatient fingers on formica

or on their wristwatches. When I snagged
and broke the strap of my only pair of sandals

on a shrub, one of Mila’s many daughters said
she’d take me to the store for a replacement.

They were all so tall, so willowy;
it was easy to feel in awe. Father said

some of them had gone away to school in Europe,
knew two or three languages and more: accomplished

was the word he used. We looked through box
after box on shelves until I found a strappy

orange pair my size. Everyone always wore a slightly
amused expression— as if the merest thing

were a wonderment or could turn into a private
joke: a way to lightly wear the world in worldly.