Slept well all night and lay long, then rose and wrote my letter to my father about Pall, as we had resolved last night. So to dinner and then to the office, finding myself better than I was, and making a little water, but not yet breaking any great store of wind, which I wonder at, for I cannot be well till I do do it. After office home and to supper and with good ease to bed, and endeavoured to tie my hands that I might not lay them out of bed, by which I believe I have got cold, but I could not endure it.

night rose let me go
to bed and tie
my hands

I might be old
but I could endure


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 17 May 1664.

Think of the doorway
leading to the house—

the brass knocker,
the two ornamentals

by the steps. Think
of the bay windows

that looked out over
the drive; upstairs

the room without
curtains, with only

a bed, a chair, a desk.
What was the name

of the tree in whose
branches night herons

came to roost; the name
of the river, and the boat

the neighbors tethered
at the pier? Who fell

from the mast one New
Year Eve stringing

lights? There’s a haze
some days over the water

and the scene dissolves.
Today it’s Tuesday

and almost summer.
Yesterday you tried

to remember a dream.
Tomorrow you’ll wake

and hope to recognize
whose hand you hold,

where you parked the car
before you got here.

Forced to rise because of going to the Duke to St. James’s, where we did our usual business, and thence by invitation to Mr. Pierces the chyrurgeon, where I saw his wife, whom I had not seen in many months before. She holds her complexion still, but in everything else, even in this her new house and the best rooms in it, and her closet which her husband with some vainglory took me to show me, she continues the veriest slattern that ever I knew in my life. By and by we to see an experiment of killing a dogg by letting opium into his hind leg. He and Dr. Clerke did fail mightily in hitting the vein, and in effect did not do the business after many trials; but with the little they got in, the dogg did presently fall asleep, and so lay till we cut him up, and a little dogg also, which they put it down his throate; he also staggered first, and then fell asleep, and so continued. Whether he recovered or no, after I was gone, I know not, but it is a strange and sudden effect.
Thence walked to Westminster Hall, where the King was expected to come to prorogue the House, but it seems, afterwards I hear, he did not come.
I promised to go again to Mr. Pierce’s, but my pain grew so great, besides a bruise I got to-day in my right testicle, which now vexes me as much as the other, that I was mighty melancholy, and so by coach home and there took another glyster, but find little good by it, but by sitting still my pain of my bruise went away, and so after supper to bed, my wife and I having talked and concluded upon sending my father an offer of having Pall come to us to be with us for her preferment, if by any means I can get her a husband here, which, though it be some trouble to us, yet it will be better than to have her stay there till nobody will have her and then be flung upon my hands.

the usual urge for some glory in my life
hitting the vein

I fall asleep
a dog put down

afterwards the melancholy bruise
of having nobody


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 16 May 1664.

“As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods,
They kill us for their sport.”
~ Shakespeare (“King Lear,” Act 4, scene 1)

What to make of a dream in which
fields are littered with decapitated
remains, the sightless heads of the fallen
in even rows tilted up at the sky, their hair
matted with dried blood yet somehow
artfully arranged like fringes of grotesque
sunflowers? What to make of the pair of us,
winding hand in hand through grounds
made slick with the issue from these bodies,
the air rank and thick with flies? You were
frailer than I ever remembered, slight
in a thin cotton wrapper, undone by
the terrible waste surrounding us. I led
as if now the parent and you the child,
feeling as if somehow I’d been there before,
winding through maze-like paths flanked
by hedges made of reeds whose ends
were quilled blades. Ahead, an armored
shape emerged from out of its cave; I stayed
our progress, trembling in the crosshatches.
What might we do if we had plumes or wings?
And yet on every side, the puce from doves’
breasts dripped warnings on the rocks. Bent low
to the ground, at last we found our way to where
a dying sentinel stood guard at the edge of this
world: he dipped his finger in his blood and marked
our heads; then pointed out the exit in the distance.

(Lord’s day). Rose, and as I had intended without reference to this pain, took physique, and it wrought well with me, my wife lying from me to-night, the first time she did in the same house ever since we were married, I think (unless while my father was in town, that he lay with me). She took physique also to-day, and both of our physiques wrought well, so we passed our time to-day, our physique having done working, with some pleasure talking, but I was not well, for I could make no water yet, but a drop or two with great pain, nor break any wind.
In the evening came Mr. Vernatty to see me and discourse about my Lord Peterborough’s business, and also my uncle Wight and Norbury, but I took no notice nor showed any different countenance to my uncle Wight, or he to me, for all that he carried himself so basely to my wife the last week, but will take time to make my use of it. So, being exceeding hot, to bed, and slept well.

is night the same
ever since we were in town

that wrought our time
in one drop

into a different
make of bed


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 15 May 1664.

In the front yard, wet
with a weekend’s worth of rain,
two drakes have come to tussle
for the favor of a hen
who’s plunked herself beneath
the hydrangea. They circle round
each other, they stab and bite, aiming
for the nape where it’s most darkly
open, that curve shaped like the back-
side of a question, like the handle
of something one might take hold of
and hook as a trophy on the wall.
The hen seems indifferent
even when the feathers fly,
even after the one green-headed
drake runs the other off the yard
and onto where the sidewalk drops
to the edge of the road, then
comes back as if to tender
officially his credentials.
But she doesn’t sit in one place
either— moving through the grass
as if she’s not all that into such
rituals, as if the musk of sex
hasn’t stained every pennant
they’ve brushed against by now.
Nothing, at least as we can see,
gets consummated, though the very
air ripples with signals given off
by every lure: tipped spears
of lavender, white veils
of scent from overhead as tight
skirts of magnolias loosen.

Up, full of pain, I believe by cold got yesterday. So to the office, where we sat, and after office home to dinner, being in extraordinary pain. After dinner my pain increasing I was forced to go to bed, and by and by my pain rose to be as great for an hour or two as ever I remember it was in any fit of the stone, both in the lower part of my belly and in my back also. No wind could I break. I took a glyster, but it brought away but a little, and my height of pain followed it. At last after two hours lying thus in most extraordinary anguish, crying and roaring, I know not what, whether it was my great sweating that may do it, but upon getting by chance, among my other tumblings, upon my knees, in bed, my pain began to grow less and less, till in an hour after I was in very little pain, but could break no wind, nor make any water, and so continued, and slept well all night.

I believe in pain
a rose of stone in the lower back

I break an oar
in I know not what
great water


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 14 May 1664.

I must have been six when my mother took me
with her one Saturday to market, when I first
witnessed how blood could run down her legs
like water from a spigot then thicken like paint,
congealing as it dried. It wasn’t till later
in life I understood where it began or why
she suffered so from unabated periods.
That day, lips pale and knuckles tightening
their hold on me, frantic, she flagged down
a passing jeepney and begged the driver
to take us home. A day later she was in
the hospital for a hysterectomy, a word
I heard my father say but did not understand
yet either. All I pieced together from talk
overheard was that her insides had been
scraped and parts tied up— with what?
I couldn’t imagine: twine? ribbon? yarn?
sewing thread? and that the doctor
had thoughtfully thrown in an appendectomy
for free. When we visited her they showed me
a sealed transparent vial of brown glass,
where the appendix floated like some dead
grey fingerling in a bit of liquid.
Her legs were clean below the plain
starched blue of the hospital gown:
they bore no trace of viscous crimson
branching toward the sidewalk, pooling
in her shoes. And I’ve never liked
the smell or color of red since then.

Up before three o’clock, and a little after upon the water, it being very light as at noon, and a bright sunrising; but by and by a rainbow appeared, the first that ever in a morning I saw, and then it fell a-raining a little, but held up again, and I to Woolwich, where before all the men came to work I with Mr. Deane spent two hours upon the new ship, informing myself in the names and natures of many parts of her to my great content, and so back again, without doing any thing else, and after shifting myself away to Westminster, looking after Mr. Maes’s business and others. In the Painted Chamber I heard a fine conference between some of the two Houses upon the Bill for Conventicles. The Lords would be freed from having their houses searched by any but the Lord Lieutenant of the County; and upon being found guilty, to be tried only by their peers; and thirdly, would have it added, that whereas the Bill says, “That that, among other things, shall be a conventicle wherein any such meeting is found doing any thing contrary to the Liturgy of the Church of England,” they would have it added, “or practice.” The Commons to the Lords said, that they knew not what might hereafter be found out which might be called the practice of the Church of England; for there are many things may be said to be the practice of the Church, which were never established by any law, either common, statute, or canon; as singing of psalms, binding up prayers at the end of the Bible, and praying extempore before and after sermon: and though these are things indifferent, yet things for aught they at present know may be started, which may be said to be the practice of the Church which would not be fit to allow.
For the Lords’ priviledges, Mr. Walter told them how tender their predecessors had been of the priviledges of the Lords; but, however, where the peace of the kingdom stands in competition with them, they apprehend those priviledges must give place. He told them that he thought, if they should owne all to be the priviledges of the Lords which might be demanded, they should be led like the man (who granted leave to his neighbour to pull off his horse’s tail, meaning that he could not do it at once) that hair by hair had his horse’s tail pulled off indeed: so the Commons, by granting one thing after another, might be so served by the Lords. Mr. Vaughan, whom I could not to my grief perfectly hear, did say, if that they should be obliged in this manner to, exempt the Lords from every thing, it would in time come to pass that whatever (be [it] never so great) should be voted by the Commons as a thing penall for a commoner, the contrary should be thought a priviledge to the Lords.
That also in this business, the work of a conventicle being but the work of an hour, the cause of a search would be over before a Lord Lieutenant, who may be many miles off, can be sent for.
And that all this dispute is but about 100l.; for it is said in the Act, that it shall be banishment or payment of 100l..
I thereupon heard the Duke of Lenox say, that there might be Lords who could not always be ready to lose 100l., or some such thing.
They broke up without coming to any end in it.
There was also in the Commons’ House a great quarrel about Mr. Prin, and it was believed that he should have been sent to the Towre, for adding something to a Bill (after it was ordered to be engrossed) of his own head — a Bill for measures for wine and other things of that sort, and a Bill of his owne bringing in; but it appeared he could not mean any hurt in it. But, however, the King was fain to write in his behalf, and all was passed over. But it is worth my remembrance, that I saw old Ryly the Herald, and his son; and spoke to his son, who told me in very bad words concerning Mr. Prin, that the King had given him an office of keeping the Records; but that he never comes thither, nor had been there these six months: so that I perceive they expect to get his imployment from him. Thus every body is liable to be envied and supplanted.
At noon over to the Leg, where Sir G. Ascue, Sir Robt. Parkhurst and Sir W. Pen dined. A good dinner and merry. Thence to White Hall walking up and down a great while, but the Council not meeting soon enough I went homeward, calling upon my cozen Roger Pepys, with whom I talked and heard so much from him of his desire that I would see my brother’s debts paid, and things still of that nature tending to my parting with what I get with pain to serve others’ expenses that I was cruelly vexed. Thence to Sir R. Bernard, and there heard something of Pigott’s delay of paying our money, that that also vexed me mightily. So home and there met with a letter from my cozen Scott, which tells me that he is resolved to meddle no more with our business, of administering for my father, which altogether makes me almost distracted to think of the trouble that I am like to meet with by other folks’ business more than ever I hope to have by my owne. So with great trouble of mind to bed.

I inform myself in the names
and natures of many parts of her
my fine and binding Bible

like the man who hair by hair
pulled the grief out
of his own head

but I could not hurt the bad
words that keep a body
planted in desire


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 13 May 1664.

What was it like again, what were my thoughts
as I sat nearly two decades ago in the kitchen

of my dead father’s house, handwritten notes
on index cards spread out on the table, landline

phone in the middle, waiting to be interviewed
for a job halfway around the world? I mean

I knew it was a job interview, but what
were the risks as I felt them then, sitting

an hour before midnight with an afghan
around my shoulders, a storm raging outside,

praying that the power wouldn’t go out?
It was noon where my unseen interrogators

gathered in a meeting room for the conference
call, with questions about my experience,

probing my visions for translating the ideals
of a multiethnic and literary education

into concrete teaching plans. The battery-
powered clock ticked on the wall; my nerves

skittered wild beneath my collarbone. The sense
of a future and how it might fold— such

high stakes, though I couldn’t yet imagine them,
nor see at all beyond the rain-streaked window-

panes. No one else heard this performance
in my childhood home— everyone was in bed:

my daughters, my mother nursing a hot
water bottle for warmth. Near the end

of an hour, I put the phone down. I’d made
my pitch, whatever that meant; filled in

as best as I could the parts they needed
to see more closely. How to sleep thereafter

for wondering how the river stays the same,
though the waters pouring into it are always

changing; how everything had already
begun to change though everything still

seemed the same. How around us, neighborhoods
breathed though quietened by unrelenting rain.