“Who wants to reach
inside the marvelous?”
~ Tung-hui Hu

I begin with what I have
and go on toward all I’ve ever

wanted. How beautiful the film
of moisture on the grass, not yet

taken by the heat. Once, a man
in a great coat stood on that

street corner, raised both
his arms, and solemnly twirled

without stopping. Here at the end
of the fence, the metal newel has two

indentations that give it the familiarity
of a face. How still the river is at midday—

as if all the wet, bright spirits
have decided to lie down for a nap.

Oh traveler. Sometimes the sea
is calm, sometimes the swells

are overwhelming. When
were you duped into thinking

the rudder was only a slotted
spoon, a coffee stirrer, a plastic

toy? Whatever you read by the blue
glare of handheld light is not

the real story of any future
that might actually come to pass.

You left that uninhabitable country,
taking what you could. Yes, it is

a common tendency to want more
than need. So many knick-knacks

tied up with twine. So many pots
and plates with crackled glaze.

Lowered into the water, they’ll float
awhile then sink into foamy oblivion.

But touch the wood of this craft
and remember how skillfully built

it was from the start. No guarantees,
but overhead, the constant skies and stars.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Visionary.

(Lord’s day). Up and by water, towards noon, to Somersett House, and walked to my Lord Sandwich’s, and there dined with my Lady and the children. And after some ordinary discourse with my Lady, after dinner took our leaves and my wife hers, in order to her going to the country to-morrow. But my Lord took not occasion to speak one word of my father or mother about the children at all, which I wonder at, and begin I will not.
Here my Lady showed us my Lady Castlemayne’s picture, finely done; given my Lord; and a most beautiful picture it is.
Thence with my Lady Jemimah and Mr. Sidney to St. Gyles’s Church, and there heard a long, poore sermon. Thence set them down and in their coach to Kate Joyce’s christening, where much company, good service of sweetmeates; and after an houre’s stay, left them, and in my Lord’s coach — his noble, rich coach — home, and there my wife fell to putting things in order against her going to-morrow, and I to read, and so to bed, where I not well, and so had no pleasure at all with my poor wife.

at war with the ordinary
with leaves and order

I wonder how poor Christ left the rich
to put things in order and so
to be so poor


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 10 July 1664.

of the day we bury my father-in-law’s ashes,
rain falls at last after a week of dulling

heat, then clears up just before the drive
to the cemetery in Niles. We pass the Polish
bakeries, and St. Joseph the Betrothed

Ukrainian Catholic Church with its thirteen
slightly faded gold domes symbolizing the twelve
apostles and Jesus— and I think this is possibly

the first time I’ve seen any reference to Joseph as
“The Betrothed.” This seems a fitting discovery,
an accidental motif: for my immigrant father-

in-law could be said to have worked at several
trades, and also was a canny do-it-yourselfer:
for his wife he built a wooden step-stool

and refinished the floors of the duplex
where he and his family have lived for almost four
decades. This is the house with yellow siding,

a gargoyle on the front stoop, a small area in back
that doubles as a spare room, enough for some storage
boxes and one cot. My third older daughter and I

fit into it many years ago, when she was about 7;
perhaps the letters faintly spelling out her name
in pencil are still there, somewhere on the wall

where she wrote them. Don’t we all harbor a wish
to leave part of ourselves behind, to find a ledge
on the rock the tribe calls home? At the cemetery

office, everyone has gathered. It’s a short distance
to the section where numbered family plots have been
purchased, and the priest is ready with a baton

of holy water for the prayers and blessing.
We stand in a semicircle facing the hole in the ground
where the wooden urn, encased in a protective box,

is lowered; then take turns dropping flowers
into the grave. It is such a long way from
his hometown across the sea— One could plot

the miles, but never the loops that bind life
after life after life to another. Now, dirt fills in all
the gaps; eventually, grass will border the marker.

Up, and at the office all the morning. In the afternoon by coach with Sir J. Minnes to White Hall, and there to a Committee for Fishing; but the first thing was swearing to be true to the Company, and we were all sworne; but a great dispute we had, which, methought, is very ominous to the Company; some, that we should swear to be true to the best of our power, and others to the best of our understanding; and carried in the last, though in that we are the least able to serve the Company, because we would not be obliged to attend the business when we can, but when we list. This consideration did displease me, but it was voted and so went.
We did nothing else, but broke up till a Committee of Guinny was set and ended, and then met again for Tangier, and there I did my business about my Lord Peterborough’s order and my own for my expenses for the garrison lately. So home, by the way calling for my Chaucer and other books, and that is well done to my mind, which pleased me well. So to my office till late writing letters, and so home to my wife to supper and bed, where we have not lain together because of the heat of the weather a good while, but now against her going into the country.

swearing to be true to the best of our power
we voted and did nothing else
we have not lain together
because of the heat
of her country


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 9 July 1664.

Everything is the country
of childhood— a dented thimble,

your secret name embroidered
into the tufted loops of a terry-

cloth towel, the undersides of mantels
studded with pearls of drooping,

hardened paint. Let’s compare patterns
in enamelware and gold and white

Corelle; the blue speckled cups
you say remind you of chamberpots,

the flowered wreaths around each
plate. Months when the sky

was a nimbus of fog and rain,
drumming on roofs the map

of the known world to the farthest
edge: where it shuddered and fell.

Up and called out by my Lord Peterborough’s gentleman to Mr. Povy’s to discourse about getting of his money, wherein I am concerned in hopes of the 50l. my Lord hath promised me, but I dare not reckon myself sure of it till I have it in my mind, for these Lords are hard to be trusted. Though I well deserve it. I staid at Povy’s for his coming in, and there looked over his stables and every thing, but notwithstanding all the times I have been there I do yet find many fine things to look on.
Thence to White Hall a little, to hear how the King do, he not having been well these three days. I find that he is pretty well again. So to Paul’s Churchyarde about my books, and to the binder’s and directed the doing of my Chaucer, though they were not full neate enough for me, but pretty well it is; and thence to the clasp-maker’s to have it clasped and bossed. So to the ‘Change and home to dinner, and so to my office till 5 o’clock, and then came Mr. Hill and Andrews, and we sung an houre or two. Then broke up and Mr. Alsop and his company came and consulted about our Tangier victualling and brought it to a good head. So they parted, and I to supper and to bed.

I dare not reckon myself sure
till I have it in my mind

the rusted table not pretty
my books not neat

the clasp of an hour or two
is brought to a head


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 8 July 1664.

The owner of the Japanese restaurant
we’ve gone to for the last two decades asks:
When your father-in-law died, did someone

give birth around the same time? I tell her,
as a matter of fact, my sister-in-law had
her fourth child a few weeks after that.

Machiko claps her hands and exclaims:
You see, that is what happens. That is what
we believe!
Just after her grandmother

died years ago in Okinawa, she
gave birth to her daughter; now
she helps her manage this restaurant,

whose name means “Long life.”
When we leave it is late, and the moon
is a pale winnowing basket in the sky.

In the parking lot I kick over
the brassy shells cast off by cicadas
beneath the trees. I wonder, whose place

did I take when I entered this world?
And where will I go one day when it’s time
to take off my coat and re-enter the chain?

Up, and this day begun, the first day this year, to put off my linnen waistcoat, but it happening to be a cool day I was afraid of taking cold, which troubles me, and is the greatest pain I have in the world to think of my bad temper of my health.
At the office all the morning. Dined at home, to my office to prepare some things against a Committee of Tangier this afternoon. So to White Hall, and there found the Duke and twenty more reading their commission (of which I am, and was also sent to, to come) for the Royall Fishery, which is very large, and a very serious charter it is; but the company generally so ill fitted for so serious a worke that I do much fear it will come to little.
That being done, and not being able to do any thing for lacke of an oathe for the Governor and Assistants to take, we rose.
Then our Committee for the Tangier victualling met and did a little, and so up, and I and Mr. Coventry walked in the garden half an hour, talking of the business of our masts, and thence away and with Creed walked half an hour or more in the Park, and thence to the New Exchange to drink some creame, but missed it and so parted, and I home, calling by the way for my new bookes, viz., Sir H. Spillman’s “Whole Glossary,” “Scapula’s Lexicon,” and Shakespeare’s plays, which I have got money out of my stationer’s bills to pay for. So home and to my office a while, and then home and to bed, finding myself pretty well for all my waistecoate being put off to-day.
The king is pretty well to-day, though let blood the night before yesterday.

this gun is afraid
of trouble and pain
my bad temper
reading and art
the company of a rose

I talk with it in a whole lexicon of blood


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 7 July 1664.

That myth, that mouthful, those deep
red kernels lifted out of their white

hulls and dripping as if dyed in blood.
Oh my mother, did my teeth stamp a ring

around your aureoles; what else
besides pleasure did I draw

from your underground stream?
I am sorry for the termite hungers

that live in me, that seek the salt
and the sugar in every ashen clod.

Sometimes I am a hen house filled with dank
straw and mud, every throat cackling. Bear

down, bear down, they sing in that darkness
before the yolk drops out of the rim.