which Abomination are you?
The quiz bait: Are you an ass lobster,
or a guy who’s just trying to jerk off
but there’s a bird lizard yelling at him?

Do you prefer ham or olives in aspic,
vodka or cranberry tonic? Are you
the one twerking barefoot in the middle
of the room, or the one taking Polaroids
throughout the party, like Warhol did
to mask his social anxiety? One could
go on. Every square inch of the triptych
is a thick soup depicting every type
of folly and the weird. But I’m looking
intently at those circles in hell, where
every dark congress should be sentenced
that’s stripped the people of their rights.
The bird in the poop-colored high chair
should take them one by one into his mouth.
Then they’ll shit pearls of ill-gotten wealth
while armadillos savage their breasts
for extra. Here are the armies of murderous
police, still wearing helmets; they’ll be skewered
by avenging angels with the mangled faces
of salvaged children or dogs. It’s a sad
and terrible country where the ears
of innocents are pinned together then
cleaved by a knife. Migrants and minstrels
and poets are also there, though they’ve been
chained to machines. They make a kind of music,
though the notes are tortured out of their mouths
and their bodies are strung like harps from the trees.

~ after Hieronymous Bosch


In response to Via Negativa: Propagandist.

Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and I much troubled to think what the end of our great sluggishness will be, for we do nothing in this office like people able to carry on a warr. We must be put out, or other people put in.
Dined at home, and then my wife and I and Mercer to the Duke’s house, and there saw “The Rivalls,” which is no excellent play, but good acting in it; especially Gosnell comes and sings and dances finely, but, for all that, fell out of the key, so that the musique could not play to her afterwards, and so did Harris also go out of the tune to agree with her.
Thence home and late writing letters, and this night I received, by Will, 105l., the first-fruits of my endeavours in the late contract for victualling of Tangier, for which God be praised! for I can with a safe conscience say that I have therein saved the King 5000l. per annum, and yet got myself a hope of 300l. per annum without the least wrong to the King.
So to supper and to bed.

I bled ink for this war
people saw me sing and dance

out of key out of night
the fruit of my endeavors

for all for God for the least
wrong king

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 10 September 1664.

Forgive us for our excesses. Tea, seven kinds, including gifts: Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Oolong, Sencha, Matcha, Citrus Blend, Winter Spice. Coffee: in individual pods, and grounds in bags. Noodles: rice, wheat, potato. Dry beans, canned beans. Flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder. Grains: rice, lentil, dry couscous. Eggs and bread. Bay leaves, peppercorns, pink and white salt. Garlic cloves the size of two thumbs. In the freezer: chicken breasts and thighs, ground pork; dried fish from two years ago. Grated lemon rind in a plastic bag. Frozen blocks of butter. Soy beans, frozen stew. Zucchini and bitter melon, tomatoes; knobs of ginger next to the half full box of miso. By the front door, denim jackets on the coat rack; canvas bags and rain shedders. Shoes and shoes and shoes and shoes and shoes and shoes. On the second floor, four low walls of books. Underwear, socks, clothes. Paper towels, toilet paper. Woven runners and counted stitch fabric brought from overseas: birds I might not ever see again; and mountains and chevron bars. Bottles of water ready to load in the car. A plastic box not yet packed with important documents. Document, from the Old French; meaning lesson, written evidence; from Latin documentum meaning example, proof, lesson; in Medieval Latin, official written instrument; meaning something written that provides proof or evidence. Of who we are or were in case we get erased.

Up, and to put things in order against dinner. I out and bought several things, among others, a dozen of silver salts; home, and to the office, where some of us met a little, and then home, and at noon comes my company, namely, Anthony and Will Joyce and their wives, my aunt James newly come out of Wales, and my cozen Sarah Gyles. Her husband did not come, and by her I did understand afterwards, that it was because he was not yet able to pay me the 40s. she had borrowed a year ago of me. I was as merry as I could, giving them a good dinner; but W. Joyce did so talk, that he made every body else dumb, but only laugh at him. I forgot there was Mr. Harman and his wife, my aunt, a very good harmlesse woman. All their talke is of her and my two she-cozen Joyces and Will’s little boy Will (who was also here to-day), down to Brampton to my father’s next week, which will be trouble and charge to them, but however my father and mother desire to see them, and so let them. They eyed mightily my great cupboard of plate, I this day putting my two flaggons upon my table; and indeed it is a fine sight, and better than ever I did hope to see of my owne. Mercer dined with us at table, this being her first dinner in my house.
After dinner left them and to White Hall, where a small Tangier Committee, and so back again home, and there my wife and Mercer and Tom and I sat till eleven at night, singing and fiddling, and a great joy it is to see me master of so much pleasure in my house, that it is and will be still, I hope, a constant pleasure to me to be at home. The girle plays pretty well upon the harpsicon, but only ordinary tunes, but hath a good hand; sings a little, but hath a good voyce and eare. My boy, a brave boy, sings finely, and is the most pleasant boy at present, while his ignorant boy’s tricks last, that ever I saw. So to supper, and with great pleasure to bed.

in the salt of noon comes a dinner
made only of fat

the eye is a fine sight
to see at table

white and still
as an ignorant bed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 9 September 1664.

Outside, it kept raining— eternal,
infernal rain, tenting us in.

The Australian tourists were going to miss
their bus, since they ordered a taxi late.

Someone was calling the front desk at the station,
trying to ask them to wait. The lobby smelled

like liquefied rubber and raincoats, runny
newsprint, coffee, boiled peanuts. Downstairs

in the bookstore, lamplight held the color
of melted tallow. I made my way to the third

floor, where two rooms had been designated
as a spa. Only one other client was signed in

at the counter. A woman gave me a pair of plastic
slippers, a cotton bathrobe, a thin folded towel.

The shower was thinner than the rain, but hot.
In one of the rooms, the light was more than dim;

I lay on a cot partitioned by curtains. Hands
moved over my back, my nape, my limbs, spreading

oils speckled with sugar or salt, the faint
trace of ginger flowers. I sank into the sheets,

heavy as a stone and damp. The woman who pressed
into my muscles with her fingers was deft though she

was blind. She knew how to work the levers of my spine until
something caught and released, until something fell away.

“Are you the one solid enough? Come, break through,
so that all of your touch might happen to me,
and all of my tears might happen to you.”
~ Rilke

Has everything that could break through
broken through, has the one solid enough
come through the misery and darkness
to touch us in our smallness, to open
some new door in our need?

There are times the only language possible
is dread or premonition: the radio brings us
reports hour upon hour; satellites send us
images of great wheels foaming above cities
where whole grids of light are about to go out.

How or what to negotiate for time
before surrendering to the teeth

of the machine these arched lattices
in the grove, these last rare acres

of golden tithe? Each stalk looks
so brilliant in the faded light

of afternoon, against the skeletal
remains of cities— Once, their names

meant more than panicked seizures
graphed on paper, more than dust

and rubble sifted through in the aftermath.
In the distance, the sea looks like the sea,

blue-green and bounded by farmlands
as in old paintings, swallowing that boy

after his bid for flight, and then that fatal
plunge through sheets of air. Somewhere, a man

dug a hole and buried what little fortune
he had left between the roots of a tree

before they were herded into trains. Somewhere,
a mother gathered her young to shush them

as they made a forest crossing by night.
There was a time you could pull drawers out

of a bee box to see how each connected cell
thick with amber still buzzed faintly with life.


In response to Via Negativa: Vagabond.

Up and to the office, where busy all the morning. At noon dined at home, and I by water down to Woolwich by a galley, and back again in the evening. All haste made in setting out this Guinny fleete, but yet not such as will ever do the King’s business if we come to a warr. My wife this afternoon being very well dressed by her new woman, Mary Mercer, a decayed merchant’s daughter that our Will helps us to, did go to the christening of Mrs. Mills, the parson’s wife’s child, where she never was before. After I was come home Mr. Povey came to me and took me out to supper to Mr. Bland’s, who is making now all haste to be gone for Tangier. Here pretty merry, and good discourse, fain to admire the knowledge and experience of Mrs. Bland, who I think as good a merchant as her husband. I went home and there find Mercer, whose person I like well, and I think will do well, at least I hope so. So to my office a while and then to bed.

fleet as decay
the arson’s child

where I am in all
knowledge and experience
like a well

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 8 September 1664.

Lay long to-day, pleasantly discoursing with my wife about the dinner we are to have for the Joyces, a day or two hence. Then up and with Mr. Margetts to Limehouse to see his ground and ropeyarde there, which is very fine, and I believe we shall employ it for the Navy, for the King’s grounds are not sufficient to supply our defence if a warr comes. Thence back to the ‘Change, where great talke of the forwardnesse of the Dutch, which puts us all to a stand, and particularly myself for my Lord Sandwich, to think him to lie where he is for a sacrifice, if they should begin with us.
So home and Creed with me, and to dinner, and after dinner I out to my office, taking in Bagwell’s wife, who I knew waited for me, but company came to me so soon that I could have no discourse with her, as I intended, of pleasure. So anon abroad with Creed walked to Bartholomew Fayre, this being the last day, and there saw the best dancing on the ropes that I think I ever saw in my life, and so all say, and so by coach home, where I find my wife hath had her head dressed by her woman, Mercer, which is to come to her to-morrow, but my wife being to go to a christening tomorrow, she came to do her head up to-night.
So a while to my office, and then to supper and to bed.

lay on the ground all grounds
for sacrifice

if they begin with me I could be
the best-dressed Christ

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 7 September 1664.

Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning. At noon home to dinner, then to my office and there waited, thinking to have had Bagwell’s wife come to me about business, that I might have talked with her, but she came not. So I to White Hall by coach with Mr. Andrews, and there I got his contract for the victualling of Tangier signed and sealed by us there, so that all the business is well over, and I hope to have made a good business of it and to receive 100l. by it the next weeke, for which God be praised! Thence to W. Joyce’s and Anthony’s, to invite them to dinner to meet my aunt James at my house, and the rather because they are all to go down to my father the next weeke, and so I would be a little kind to them before they go.
So home, having called upon Doll, our pretty ‘Change woman, for a pair of gloves trimmed with yellow ribbon, to [match the] petticoate my wife bought yesterday, which cost me 20s.; but she is so pretty, that, God forgive me! I could not think it too much — which is a strange slavery that I stand in to beauty, that I value nothing near it.
So going home, and my coach stopping in Newgate Market over against a poulterer’s shop, I took occasion to buy a rabbit, but it proved a deadly old one when I came to eat it, as I did do after an hour being at my office, and after supper again there till past 11 at night. So home, and to bed.
This day Mr. Coventry did tell us how the Duke did receive the Dutch Embassador the other day; by telling him that, whereas they think us in jest, he believes that the Prince (Rupert) which goes in this fleete to Guinny will soon tell them that we are in earnest, and that he himself will do the like here, in the head of the fleete here at home, and that for the meschants, which he told the Duke there were in England, which did hope to do themselves good by the King’s being at warr, says he, the English have ever united all this private difference to attend foraigne, and that Cromwell, notwithstanding the meschants in his time, which were the Cavaliers, did never find them interrupt him in his foraigne businesses, and that he did not doubt but to live to see the Dutch as fearfull of provoking the English, under the government of a King, as he remembers them to have been under that of a Coquin. I writ all this story to my Lord Sandwich tonight into the Downes, it being very good and true, word for word from Mr. Coventry to-day.

hope is a little doll
trimmed with ribbon
a pretty slave

buy a rabbit but like
the head of a king
never find him in a hat

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 6 September 1664.