7

To the north, an outlook tower with a bruised gong
above the cypress line. Bald shear of stone, openings
in the base of hills where survivors could have burrowed.
On clear days you can see the coast, green-again chain
of mountains where roads once snaked, continuous
relay like your best intentions. Often it is absurd
to recall how much we worried about imperfections. Now
it is exquisite to be able to remember even the smallest
kinds of texture: slubbed crinkle of a dress, specific
weight of a spoon; pooled honey in a wooden floorboard,
splinter breaking through skin’s calloused barrier.

Up, and walked to my brother’s, where I find he hath continued talking idly all night, and now knows me not; which troubles me mightily. So I walked down and discoursed a great while alone with the mayde, who tells me many passages of her master’s practices, and how she concludes that he has run behind hand a great while and owes money, and has been dunned by several people, among others by one Cave, both husband and wife, but whether it was for money or something worse she knows not, but there is one Cranburne, I think she called him, in Fleete Lane with whom he hath many times been mighty private, but what their dealings have been she knows not, but believes these were naught, and then his sitting up two Saturday nights one after another when all were abed doing something to himself, which she now suspects what it was, but did not before, but tells me that he hath been a very bad husband as to spending his time, and hath often told him of it, so that upon the whole I do find he is, whether he lives or dies, a ruined man, and what trouble will befall me by it I know not.
Thence to White Hall; and in the Duke’s chamber, while he was dressing, two persons of quality that were there did tell his Royal Highness how the other night, in Holborne, about midnight, being at cards, a link-boy come by and run into the house, and told the people the house was a-falling. Upon this the whole family was frighted, concluding that the boy had said that the house was a-fire: so they left their cards above, and one would have got out of the balcone, but it was not open; the other went up to fetch down his children, that were in bed; so all got clear out of the house. And no sooner so, but the house fell down indeed, from top to bottom. It seems my Lord Southampton’s canaille did come too near their foundation, and so weakened the house, and down it came; which, in every respect, is a most extraordinary passage.
By and by into his closet and did our business with him. But I did not speed as I expected in a business about the manner of buying hemp for this year, which troubled me, but it proceeds only from my pride, that I must needs expect every thing to be ordered just as I apprehend, though it was not I think from my errour, but their not being willing to hear and consider all that I had to propose.
Being broke up I followed my Lord Sandwich and thanked him for his putting me into the Fishery, which I perceive he expected, and cried “Oh!” says he, “in the Fishery you mean. I told you I would remember you in it,” but offered no other discourse. But demanding whether he had any commands for me, methought he cried “No!” as if he had no more mind to discourse with me, which still troubles me and hath done all the day, though I think I am a fool for it, in not pursuing my resolution of going handsome in clothes and looking high, for that must do it when all is done with my Lord. Thence by coach with Sir W. Batten to the city, and his son Castle, who talks mighty highly against Captain Tayler, calling him knave, and I find that the old doating father is led and talks just as the son do, or the son as the father would have him.
‘Light and to Mr. Moxon’s, and there saw our office globes in doing, which will be very handsome but cost money. So to the Coffee-house, and there very fine discourse with Mr. Hill the merchant, a pretty, gentile, young, and sober man.
So to the ‘Change, and thence home, where my wife and I fell out about my not being willing to have her have her gowne laced, but would lay out the same money and more on a plain new one. At this she flounced away in a manner I never saw her, nor which I could ever endure. So I away to the office, though she had dressed herself to go see my Lady Sandwich. She by and by in a rage follows me, and coming to me tells me in spitefull manner like a vixen and with a look full of rancour that she would go buy a new one and lace it and make me pay for it, and then let me burn it if I would after she had done it, and so went away in a fury. This vexed me cruelly, but being very busy I had, not hand to give myself up to consult what to do in it, but anon, I suppose after she saw that I did not follow her, she came again to the office, where I made her stay, being busy with another, half an houre, and her stomach coming down we were presently friends, and so after my business being over at the office we out and by coach to my Lady Sandwich’s, with whom I left my wife, and I to White Hall, where I met Mr. Delsety, and after an hour’s discourse with him met with nobody to do other business with, but back again to my Lady, and after half an hour’s discourse with her to my brother’s, who I find in the same or worse condition. The doctors give him over and so do all that see him. He talks no sense two words together now; and I confess it made me weepe to see that he should not be able, when I asked him, to say who I was.
I went to Mrs. Turner’s, and by her discourse with my brother’s Doctor, Mr. Powell, I find that she is full now of the disease which my brother is troubled with, and talks of it mightily, which I am sorry for, there being other company, but methinks it should be for her honour to forbear talking of it, the shame of this very thing I confess troubles me as much as anything.
Back to my brother’s and took my wife, and carried her to my uncle Fenner’s and there had much private discourse with him. He tells me of the Doctor’s thoughts of my brother’s little hopes of recovery, and from that to tell me his thoughts long of my brother’s bad husbandry, and from that to say that he believes he owes a great deal of money, as to my cozen Scott I know not how much, and Dr. Thos. Pepys 30l., but that the Doctor confesses that he is paid 20l. of it, and what with that and what he owes my father and me I doubt he is in a very sad condition, that if he lives he will not be able to show his head, which will be a very great shame to me.
After this I went in to my aunt and my wife and Anthony Joyce and his wife, who were by chance there, and drank and so home, my mind and head troubled, but I hope it will over in a little time one way or other.
After doing a little at my office of business I home to supper and to bed.
From notice that my uncle Fenner did give my father the last week of my brother’s condition, my mother is coming up to towne, which also do trouble me.
The business between my Lords Chancellor and Bristoll, they say, is hushed up; and the latter gone or going, by the King’s licence, to France.

one hand owes money
to the other

night falling
on the cards of their house

their fish going
like nonsense words together
to and fro


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 14 March 1663/64.

6

There was a school here once, a flagpole
before which you might imagine lines
of schoolchildren, hands hovering above
their breasts. Stories from the last
world war inform us of favorite venues
for barracks: schools, hospitals, churches.
Footfalls echo down long hallways: of course
there are many dead buried in this soil.
Observe roots of trees burnished with age,
dressed in moss. The moon’s metallic disc
a bruised gong, rung too many times.

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed talking with my wife, and then up in great doubt whether I should not go see Mr. Coventry or no, who hath not been well these two or three days, but it being foul weather I staid within, and so to my office, and there all the morning reading some Common Law, to which I will allot a little time now and then, for I much want it. At noon home to dinner, and then after some discourse with my wife, to the office again, and by and by Sir W. Pen came to me after sermon and walked with me in the garden and then one comes to tell me that Anthony and Will Joyce were come to see me, so I in to them and made mighty much of them, and very pleasant we were, and most of their business I find to be to advise about getting some woman to attend my brother Tom, whom they say is very ill and seems much to want one. To which I agreed, and desired them to get their wives to enquire out one. By and by they bid me good night, but immediately as they were gone out of doors comes Mrs. Turner’s boy with a note to me to tell me that my brother Tom was so ill as they feared he would not long live, and that it would be fit I should come and see him. So I sent for them back, and they came, and Will Joyce desiring to speak with me alone I took him up, and there he did plainly tell me to my great astonishment that my brother is deadly ill, and that their chief business of coming was to tell me so, and what is worst that his disease is the pox, which he hath heretofore got, and hath not been cured, but is come to this, and that this is certain, though a secret told his father Fenner by the Doctor which he helped my brother to.
This troubled me mightily, but however I thought fit to go see him for speech of people’s sake, and so walked along with them, and in our way called on my uncle Fenner (where I have not been these 12 months and more) and advised with him, and then to my brother, who lies in bed talking idle. He could only say that he knew me, and then fell to other discourse, and his face like a dying man, which Mrs. Turner, who was here, and others conclude he is.
The company being gone, I took the mayde, which seems a very grave and serious woman, and in W. Joyce’s company’ did inquire how things are with her master. She told me many things very discreetly, and said she had all his papers and books, and key of his cutting house, and showed me a bag which I and Wm. Joyce told, coming to 5l. 14s. 0d., which we left with her again.
After giving her good counsel, and the boys, and seeing a nurse there of Mrs. Holden’s choosing, I left them, and so walked home greatly troubled to think of my brother’s condition, and the trouble that would arise to me by his death or continuing sick.
So at home, my mind troubled, to bed.

on days as immediate as doors
fear would not fit
into our bed

her face like a dying aster
how to hold it


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 13 March 1663/64.

Anna de Noailles, 1920

Black and white portrait of Noailles.

 

As a knife entering a fruit
slides into it, ravaging,
the soft sound of a melody
cleaves the heart in two
and tenderly destroys it
— and the iridescent languor
of chords and arpeggios
descends, cunning and cutting,
through the body’s weakness
and the divided soul…

 

Comme un couteau dans un fruit
Amène un glissant ravage,
La mélodie au doux bruit
Fend le coeur et le partage
Et tendrement le détruit.
— Et la langueur irisée
Des arpèges, des accords,
Descend, tranchante et rusée,
Dans la faiblesse du corps
Et dans l’âme divisée…

 

Portrait of the poet by Paul Thévenaz
More on Anna de Noailles in a previous post

5

Pagpakada: a leave-taking, a bidding farewell.
How does the slug in the grass drag its soft
permeable body through a cosmos of risk? Each
fallen bloom a spirit house, the litany of heat
rising steadily from dawn through noon. I want
to remember everything— all the roads erased
by rain, all the buildings that once stood there;
the quiet light of afternoons making doors shine
like wet bark gathered from the cassia tree;
bits of yellow rubber from a sandal perhaps the last
echo from schoolyards where children pledged allegiance.

Lay long pleasantly entertaining myself with my wife, and then up and to the office, where busy till noon, vexed to see how Sir J. Minnes deserves rather to be pitied for his dotage and folly than employed at a great salary to ruin the King’s business. At noon to the ‘Change, and thence home to dinner, and then down to Deptford, where busy a while, and then walking home it fell hard a raining. So at Halfway house put in, and there meeting Mr. Stacy with some company of pretty women, I took him aside to a room by ourselves, and there talked with him about the several sorts of tarrs, and so by and by parted, and I walked home and there late at the office, and so home to supper and to bed.

entertaining to see how age
and ruin change us

a hard rain
meeting with our selves
a sort of tar


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 12 March 1663/64.

4

Do you think it beastly that we’re
possibly the only creatures who aspire,
at death, to translation in another sphere?
Meanwhile, who knows where the dead beetle
has gone, its bright shellacked carapace lying
still on a rock edge, its red husk stippled
with marks but light as air? But I admit there is
a kind of comfort from taking part in the ritual
called pagpakada: gathering around the deceased
to watch as someone acting as his representative
stands up, takes leave, bids the living goodbye.

Up and by coach to my Lord Sandwich’s, who not being up I staid talking with Mr. Moore till my Lord was ready and come down, and went directly out without calling for me or seeing any body. I know not whether he knew I was there, but I am apt to think not, because if he would have given me that slighting yet he would not have done it to others that were there. So I went back again doing nothing but discoursing with Mr. Moore, who I find by discourse to be grown rich, and indeed not to use me at all with the respect he used to do, but as his equal. He made me known to their Chaplin, who is a worthy, able man. Thence home, and by and by to the Coffee-house, and thence to the ‘Change, and so home to dinner, and after a little chat with my wife to the office, where all the afternoon till very late at the office busy, and so home to supper and to bed, hoping in God that my diligence, as it is really very useful for the King, so it will end in profit to myself. In the meantime I have good content in mind to see myself improve every day in knowledge and being known.

who without a body
would give light to others

I do nothing but sing

who is equal to their house
in the use of an edge


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 11 March 1663/64.

Up and to the office, where all the morning doing business, and at noon to the ‘Change and there very busy, and so home to dinner with my wife, to a good hog’s harslet, a piece of meat I love, but have not eat of I think these seven years, and after dinner abroad by coach set her at Mrs. Hunt’s and I to White Hall, and at the Privy Seale I enquired, and found the Bill come for the Corporation of the Royall Fishery; whereof the Duke of Yorke is made present Governor, and several other very great persons, to the number of thirty-two, made his assistants for their lives: whereof, by my Lord Sandwich’s favour, I am one; and take it not only as a matter of honour, but that, that may come to be of profit to me, and so with great content went and called my wife, and so home and to the office, where busy late, and so home to supper and to bed.

my love of the road
a sea for all present lives of sand

may come to me
and call me at home


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 10 March 1663/64.