Once I read a poem in which
everyone living is allotted only

a little over a hundred words every day;
and a man saves most of his words so he

can whisper I love you over and over
to his lover, quiet on the phone each night.

He never asks (how could he) what she spent
all her precious language on: he never

upbraids her for using the last dozen or so
on an order for food or coffee, or to answer

the doctor’s query on where it hurts
and how. It sounds incredulous until I

consider how many times I’ve been given
the last serving of fruit or slice of cheese,

the only seat in a waiting room; how
he’ll drive the miles and miles that still

need to be covered, through which I’m never
chided when sometimes I fall asleep.

(an erasure poem, based on a film review by Lucy Scholes in Lit Hub)

Everyday existence
in a study strewn with papers,
quotidian myth of exceptional
lives: the infamously reclusive
in daily repetition, habit,
routine— A man who drives
a bus, in bed early one morning—
still half asleep walks to work
shortly thereafter. The drapes,
the shower curtain, even
the crockery. Routine
as monotonous detail, day-in,
day-out. Love poem inspired
by a box of matches. In the early
morning sunlight, composition
begins. You have a life, I
have a routine whether
from memory or as spontaneous
composition, what’s first
and foremost a depiction of life.
The years are not kind;
how little they reveal,
supporting and frustrating
in equal measure. The balance
that must be struck in that
interdependency, all-consuming.

Though late, past 12, before we went to bed, yet I heard my poor father up, and so I rang up my people, and I rose and got something to eat and drink for him, and so abroad, it being a mighty foul day, by coach, setting my father down in Fleet Streete and I to St. James’s, where I found Mr. Coventry (the Duke being now come thither for the summer) with a goldsmith, sorting out his old plate to change for new; but, Lord! what a deale he hath! I staid and had two or three hours discourse with him, talking about the disorders of our office, and I largely to tell him how things are carried by Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes to my great grief. He seems much concerned also, and for all the King’s matters that are done after the same rate every where else, and even the Duke’s household matters too, generally with corruption, but most indeed with neglect and indifferency. I spoke very loud and clear to him my thoughts of Sir J. Minnes and the other, and trust him with the using of them.
Then to talk of our business with the Dutch; he tells me fully that he believes it will not come to a warr; for first, he showed me a letter from Sir George Downing, his own hand, where he assures him that the Dutch themselves do not desire, but above all things fear it, and that they neither have given letters of marke against our shipps in Guinny, nor do De Ruyter stay at home with his fleet with an eye to any such thing, but for want of a wind, and is now come out and is going to the Streights.
He tells me also that the most he expects is that upon the merchants’ complaints, the Parliament will represent them to the King, desiring his securing of his subjects against them, and though perhaps they may not directly see fit, yet even this will be enough to let the Dutch know that the Parliament do not oppose the King, and by that means take away their hopes, which was that the King of England could not get money or do anything towards a warr with them, and so thought themselves free from making any restitution, which by this they will be deceived in.
He tells me also that the Dutch states are in no good condition themselves, differing one with another, and that for certain none but the states of Holland and Zealand will contribute towards a warr, the others reckoning themselves, being inland, not concerned in the profits of warr or peace.
But it is pretty to see what he says, that those here that are forward for a warr at Court, they are reported in the world to be only designers of getting money into the King’s hands, they that elsewhere are for it have a design to trouble the kingdom and to give the Fanatiques an opportunity of doing hurt, and lastly those that are against it (as he himself for one is very cold therein) are said to be bribed by the Dutch.
After all this discourse he carried me in his coach, it raining still, to, Charing Cross, and there put me into another, and I calling my father and brother carried them to my house to dinner, my wife keeping bed all day, she having those upon her.
All the afternoon at the office with W. Boddam looking over his particulars about the Chest of Chatham, which shows enough what a knave Commissioner Pett hath been all along, and how Sir W. Batten hath gone on in getting good allowance to himself and others out of the poors’ money. Time will show all.
So in the evening to see Sir W. Pen, and then home to my father to keep him company, he being to go out of town, and up late with him and my brother John till past 12 at night to make up papers of Tom’s accounts fit to leave with my cozen Scott. At last we did make an end of them, and so after supper all to bed.

a hat I had for every matter
a hat for show
a hat for wind
a hat for peace
a hat for war
a hat for doing hurt
and a hat for this rain
keeping me company till night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 13 April 1664.

Up, and after my wife had dressed herself very fine in her new laced gown, and very handsome indeed, W. Howe also coming to see us, I carried her by coach to my uncle Wight’s and set her down there, and W. Howe and I to the Coffee-house, where we sat talking about getting of him some place under my Lord of advantage if he should go to sea, and I would be glad to get him secretary and to out Creed if I can, for he is a crafty and false rogue.
Thence a little to the ‘Change, and thence took him to my uncle Wight’s, where dined my father, poor melancholy man, that used to be as full of life as anybody, and also my aunt’s brother, Mr. Sutton, a merchant in Flanders, a very sober, fine man, and Mr. Cole and his lady; but, Lord! how I used to adore that man’s talke, and now methinks he is but an ordinary man, his son a pretty boy indeed, but his nose unhappily awry. Other good company and an indifferent, and but indifferent dinner for so much company, and after dinner got a coach, very dear, it being Easter time and very foul weather, to my Lord’s, and there visited my Lady, and leaving my wife there I and W. Howe to Mr. Pagett’s, and there heard some musique not very good, but only one Dr. Walgrave, an Englishman bred at Rome, who plays the best upon the lute that I ever heard man. Here I also met Mr. Hill the little merchant, and after all was done we sung. I did well enough a Psalm or two of Lawes; he I perceive has good skill and sings well, and a friend of his sings a good base.
Thence late walked with them two as far as my Lord’s, thinking to take up my wife and carry them home, but there being no coach to be got away they went, and I staid a great while, it being very late, about 10 o’clock, before a coach could be got. I found my Lord and ladies and my wife at supper. My Lord seems very kind. But I am apt to think still the worst, and that it is only in show, my wife and Lady being there.
So home, and find my father come to lie at our house; and so supped, and saw him, poor man, to bed, my heart never being fuller of love to him, nor admiration of his prudence and pains heretofore in the world than now, to see how Tom hath carried himself in his trade; and how the poor man hath his thoughts going to provide for his younger children and my mother. But I hope they shall never want. So myself and wife to bed.

my own hands talk about me
as full of life as a grave

kill with them
and they go still
love is the trade they never want


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 12 April 1664.

“…call for what left
to come back,

and for the found,
to never leave.”

~ Mai Der Vang

Evenings on the deck, what should be
the simple pleasure of air

cooling as the sun goes down; silky
plumes of white pods dangling

at the ends of trees, the compact
emerald buds of fruit already there

as if they never left, under leafy
umbrellas of fig… Everything else

seems to expand, but in the milky light,
I touch a finger to my eyes— It isn’t

the smoke from a neighbor’s unseen grill
or musk from a cigar. Under a tree,

insistent trill of a bird I can’t name:
but I know how desperately we want

to be called. When I go indoors,
I’ll try to carry my spirit with me.

Lay long talking with my wife, then up and to my chamber preparing papers against my father comes to lie here for discourse about country business. Dined well with my wife at home, being myself not yet thorough well, making water with some pain, but better than I was, and all my fear of an ague gone away.
In the afternoon my father came to see us, and he gone I up to my morning’s work again, and so in the evening a little to the office and to see Sir W. Batten, who is ill again, and so home to supper and to bed.

I am preparing a fat lie
about myself

making me better
than all my fear of fat

I gain and so
a little off

who is ill


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 11 April 1664.

“But don’t we live on in what we’ve left behind?
…Don’t these become
a kind of museum of the afterlife?” ~ Linda Pastan

Tightly packed bales of clothing ship
off to mostly third world countries,
overseas— our castoffs, excesses,

last season’s outfits no longer hip;
or items now too small for rapidly
growing children— they’ll sell

for less but others will rejoice
at how much life there still is
in a well-soled boot, the good

waxed canvas of a coat with which
to spurn the everlasting rain;
and every now and then the flash

of a label someone recognizes has some
glittery value from these our worlds,
which shed before they’ve even cooled

their overlay of perishing desires.

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed, and then up and my wife dressed herself, it being Easter day, but I not being so well as to go out, she, though much against her will, staid at home with me; for she had put on her new best gowns, which indeed is very fine now with the lace; and this morning her taylor brought home her other new laced silks gowns with a smaller lace, and new petticoats, I bought the other day both very pretty.
We spent the day in pleasant talks and company one with another, reading in Dr. Fuller’s book what he says of the family of the Cliffords and Kingsmills, and at night being myself better than I was by taking a glyster, which did carry away a great deal of wind, I after supper at night went to bed and slept well.

Easter morning
her silk gown talks
with the wind


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 10 April 1664.

The last night, whether it was from cold I got to-day upon the water I know not, or whether it was from my mind being over concerned with Stanes’s business of the platery of the navy, for my minds was mighty troubled with the business all night long, I did wake about one o’clock in the morning, a thing I most rarely do, and pissed a little with great pain, continued sleepy, but in a high fever all night, fiery hot, and in some pain. Towards morning I slept a little and waking found myself better, but pissed with some pain, and rose I confess with my clothes sweating, and it was somewhat cold too, which I believe might do me more hurt, for I continued cold and apt to shake all the morning, but that some trouble with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten kept me warm. At noon home to dinner upon tripes, and so though not well abroad with my wife by coach to her Tailor’s and the New Exchange, and thence to my father’s and spoke one word with him, and thence home, where I found myself sick in my stomach and vomited, which I do not use to do. Then I drank a glass or two of Hypocras, and to the office to dispatch some business, necessary, and so home and to bed, and by the help of Mithrydate slept very well.

all night long
the fiery rose sweating
in a glass


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 9 April 1664.