My friend bags oranges and bananas,
adds a couple of bottles of water

whenever she heads out the door to work.
Sometimes a muffin, sometimes half

a loaf of bread— She’ll give this
to the man who stands with a sign

often at the intersection, begging
for work, for anything to tide

him over. The tide is high, and it
keeps rising. How many of us

will it take to keep it from coming
and obliterating us all? Meanwhile

the dumpsters fill with residue
of wrapping paper, boxes, gift

tags, ribbons. It is the day of grace
or the day after. On the sidewalk,

a tree lies on its side, dry, brown,
needling the air for lost ornaments.

A dog sniffs at the branches. A street away,
two fire trucks pull up to a yellow house.

We go through the days, their
cracked bowls and coffee cups,
parades of them from table to sink
to cupboard and back again. We eat
the bread before it grows stale,
we peel and slice the precious fruit
before it blackens, rots, or turns
to mush. Forgive our little economies,
our hard to break habits from living
so long without. We want to see
that day bereft of suffering,
a night spangled with the bearable
light of stars, no longer made
long by sacrifice or sorrow.

Up betimes; and though it was a most foggy morning, and cold, yet with a gally down to Eriffe, several times being at a loss whither we went. There I mustered two ships of the King’s, lent by him to the Guiny Company, which are manned better than ours at far less wages. Thence on board two of the King’s, one of them the “Leopard,” Captain Beech, who I find an able and serious man. He received me civilly, and his wife was there, a very well bred and knowing woman, born at Antwerp, but speaks as good English as myself, and an ingenious woman. Here was also Sir G. Carteret’s son, who I find a pretty, but very talking man, but good humour.
Thence back again, entertaining myself upon my sliding rule with great content, and called at Woolwich, where Mr. Chr. Pett having an opportunity of being alone did tell me his mind about several things he thought I was offended with him in, and told me of my kindness to his assistant. I did give him such an answer as I thought was fit and left him well satisfied, he offering to do me all the service, either by draughts or modells that I should desire. Thence straight home, being very cold, but yet well, I thank God, and at home found my wife making mince pies, and by and by comes in Captain Ferrers to see us, and, among other talke, tells us of the goodness of the new play of “Henry VIII.,” which makes me think [it] long till my time is out; but I hope before I go I shall set myself such a stint as I may not forget myself as I have hitherto done till I was forced for these months last past wholly to forbid myself the seeing of one.
He gone I to my office and there late writing and reading, and so home to bed.

foggy morning
I find myself alone
with a cold pie


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 24 December 1663.

It wants to pound out demands
for answers, to drive a point
into the wood’s knotted core.

Facets of stone may be blistered,
a force delivered in one blow or
in several. A sheet of metal

may be peened. But who wants
to be at the receiving end
of only one motion, to catch

the downstroke after the swing?
There are those who’ve learned
the art of mortising joints together

without metal, those who’ve mastered
a hundred ways to fold paper, to ink
with a brush the equivalent of a blow.

Up betimes and my wife; and being in as mourning a dress as we could, at present, without cost, put ourselves into, we by Sir W. Pen’s coach to Mrs. Turner’s, at Salisbury Court, where I find my Lord’s coach and six horses. We staid till almost eleven o’clock, and much company came, and anon, the corps being put into the hearse, and the scutcheons set upon it, we all took coach, and I and my wife and Auditor Beale in my Lord Sandwich’s coach, and went next to Mrs. Turner’s mourning coach, and so through all the City and Shoreditch, I believe about twenty coaches, and four or five with six and four horses.
Being come thither, I made up to the mourners, and bidding them a good journey, I took leave and back again, and setting my wife into a hackney out of Bishopsgate Street, I sent her home, and I to the ‘Change and Auditor Beale about his business.
Did much business at theChange, and so home to dinner, and then to my office, and there late doing business also to my great content to see God bless me in my place and opening honest ways, I hope to get a little money to lay up and yet to live handsomely. So to supper and to bed. My wife having strange fits of the toothache, some times on this, and by and by on that side of her tooth, which is not common.

in as mourning a dress
as a clock or an auditor

we mourn the city
and we mourn the street

the change of a great place
into money

some strange fit
of tooth on tooth


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 23 December 1663.

Up and there comes my she cozen Angier, of Cambridge, to me to speak about her son. But though I love them, and have reason so to do, yet, Lord! to consider how cold I am to speak to her, for fear of giving her too much hopes of expecting either money or anything else from me besides my care of her son. I let her go without drinking, though that was against my will, being forced to hasten to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon I to Sir R. Ford’s, where Sir R. Browne (a dull but it seems upon action a hot man), and he and I met upon setting a price upon the freight of a barge sent to France to the Duchess of Orleans. And here by discourse I find them greatly crying out against the choice of Sir J. Cutler to be Treasurer for Paul’s upon condition that he give 1500l. towards it, and it seems he did give it upon condition that he might be Treasurer for the work, which they say will be worth three times as much money, and talk as if his being chosen to the office will make people backward to give, but I think him as likely a man as either of them, or better.
The business being done we parted, Sir R. Ford never inviting me to dine with him at all, and I was not sorry for it.
Home and dined. I had a letter from W. Howe that my Lord hath ordered his coach and six horses for me to-morrow, which pleases me mightily to think that my Lord should do so much, hoping thereby that his anger is a little over.
After dinner abroad with my wife by coach to Westminster, and set her at Mrs. Hunt’s while I about my business, having in our way met with Captain Ferrers luckily to speak to him about my coach, who was going in all haste thither, and I perceive the King and Duke and all the Court was going to the Duke’s playhouse to see “Henry VIII.” acted, which is said to be an admirable play. But, Lord! to see how near I was to have broken my oathe, or run the hazard of 20s. losse, so much my nature was hot to have gone thither; but I did not go, but having spoke with W. Howe and known how my Lord did do this kindly as I would have it, I did go to Westminster Hall, and there met Hawley, and walked a great while with him. Among other discourse encouraging him to pursue his love to Mrs. Lane, while God knows I had a roguish meaning in it.
Thence calling my wife home by coach, calling at several places, and to my office, where late, and so home to supper and to bed.
This day I hear for certain that my Lady Castlemaine is turned Papist, which the Queene for all do not much like, thinking that she do it not for conscience sake.
I heard to-day of a great fray lately between Sir H. Finch’s coachman, who struck with his whip a coachman of the King’s to the losse of one of his eyes; at which the people of the Exchange seeming to laugh and make sport with some words of contempt to him, my Lord Chamberlin did come from the King to shut up the ‘Change, and by the help of a justice, did it; but upon petition to the King it was opened again.

too much dull freight
will make people think like horses

I play to play
but how near I was to have broken

like the loss of words
to a shut pen


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 22 December 1663.

The men with their leaf-blowers
come to clear the lawns: dry
needles of pine, all the fallen
leaves that flourished in summer.

Now the moon appears, ornament
of beaten silver, gleaming
thumbprint on a darkening sheet.
And the arms of trees reach

in their own stripped silence
toward what you yearn for: to be
gathered in again, your fragments
cradled by what sees you.

Up betimes, my wife having a mind to have gone abroad with me, but I had not because of troubling me, and so left her, though against my will, to go and see her father and mother by herself, and I straight to my Lord Sandwich’s, and there I had a pretty kind salute from my Lord, and went on to the Duke’s, where my fellow officers by and by came, and so in with him to his closet, and did our business, and so broke up, and I with Sir W. Batten by coach to Salisbury Court, and there spoke with Clerk our Solicitor about Field’s business, and so parted, and I to Mrs. Turner’s, and there saw the achievement pretty well set up, and it is well done. Thence I on foot to Charing Crosse to the ordinary, and there, dined, meeting Mr. Gauden and Creed. Here variety of talk but to no great purpose. After dinner won a wager of a payre of gloves of a crowne of Mr. Gauden upon some words in his contract for victualling.
There parted in the street with them, and I to my Lord’s, but he not being within, took coach, and, being directed by sight of bills upon the walls, I did go to Shoe Lane to see a cocke-fighting at a new pit there, a sport I was never at in my life; but, Lord! to see the strange variety of people, from Parliament-man (by name Wildes, that was Deputy Governor of the Tower when Robinson was Lord Mayor) to the poorest ‘prentices, bakers, brewers, butchers, draymen, and what not; and all these fellows one with another in swearing, cursing, and betting. I soon had enough of it, and yet I would not but have seen it once, it being strange to observe the nature of these poor creatures, how they will fight till they drop down dead upon the table, and strike after they are ready to give up the ghost, not offering to run away when they are weary or wounded past doing further, whereas where a dunghill brood comes he will, after a sharp stroke that pricks him, run off the stage, and then they wring off his neck without more ado, whereas the other they preserve, though their eyes be both out, for breed only of a true cock of the game.
Sometimes a cock that has had ten to one against him will by chance give an unlucky blow, will strike the other starke dead in a moment, that he never stirs more; but the common rule is, that though a cock neither runs nor dies, yet if any man will bet 10l. to a crowne, and nobody take the bet, the game is given over, and not sooner. One thing more it is strange to see how people of this poor rank, that look as if they had not bread to put in their mouths, shall bet three or four pounds at one bet, and lose it, and yet bet as much the next battle (so they call every match of two cocks), so that one of them will lose 10l. or 20l. at a meeting.
Thence, having enough of it, by coach to my Lord Sandwich’s, where I find him within with Captain Cooke and his boys, Dr. Childe, Mr. Madge, and Mallard, playing and singing over my Lord’s anthem which he hath made to sing in the King’s Chappell: my Lord saluted me kindly and took me into the withdrawing-room, to hear it at a distance, and indeed it sounds very finely, and is a good thing, I believe, to be made by him, and they all commend it. And after that was done Captain Cooke and his two boys did sing some Italian songs, which I must in a word say I think was fully the best musique that I ever yet heard in all my life, and it was to me a very great pleasure to hear them.
After all musique ended, my Lord going to White Hall, I went along with him, and made a desire for to have his coach to go along with my cozen Edward Pepys’s hearse through the City on Wednesday next, which he granted me presently, though he cannot yet come to speak to me in the familiar stile that he did use to do, nor can I expect it. But I was the willinger of this occasion to see whether he would deny me or no, which he would I believe had he been at open defyance against me.
Being not a little pleased with all this, though I yet see my Lord is not right yet, I thanked his Lordship and parted with him in White Hall. I back to my Lord’s, and there took up W. Howe in a coach, and carried him as far as the Half Moone, and there set him down. By the way, talking of my Lord, who is come another and a better man than he was lately, and God be praised for it, and he says that I shall find my Lord as he used to be to me, of which I have good hopes, but I shall beware of him, I mean W. Howe, how I trust him, for I perceive he is not so discreet as I took him for, for he has told Captain Ferrers (as Mr. Moore tells me) of my letter to my Lord, which troubles me, for fear my Lord should think that I might have told him.
So called with my coach at my wife’s brother’s lodging, but she was gone newly in a coach homewards, and so I drove hard and overtook her at Temple Bar, and there paid off mine, and went home with her in her coach. She tells me how there is a sad house among her friends. Her brother’s wife proves very unquiet, and so her mother is, gone back to be with her husband and leave the young couple to themselves, and great trouble, and I fear great want, will be among them, I pray keep me from being troubled with them.
At home to put on my gowne and to my office, and there set down this day’s Journall, and by and by comes Mrs. Owen, Captain Allen’s daughter, and causes me to stay while the papers relating to her husband’s place, bought of his father, be copied out because of her going by this morning’s tide home to Chatham. Which vexes me, but there is no help for it. I home to supper while a young [man] that she brought with her did copy out the things, and then I to the office again and dispatched her, and so home to bed.

a pretty pair of gloves
on the Parliament-man
that was cursing the poor

how they fight till they drop
though their eyes be unlucky
as if they had no bread

the white hearse of a moon
set over a sad house
down into the morning tide


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 21 December 1663.

~ “Adam and Eve in the Garden,” Lucas Cranach the Elder (1533)

Seven apples suspend in the tree
around whose forked limb the serpent

twines like a grey rubber prop, its head
extending like the head of an adjustable

lamp over the couple beneath. So this
is what it means to have lost Eden—

the man with his arm draped casually
over the woman, their shoulders

slumped in lassitude as if they’ve bought
tickets to a matinee screening of a movie

they’re not particularly excited to see.
He’s looking at her, but her expression

is like whatever. The blue at the edge
of the sky is the tint from a vintage

postcard, and the beasts that flank them
are awkward as children not quite out

of their teens: the deer with its knock-
kneed joints, the lion with its underbite

and limp, flat locks. Only her body has
a kind of bleached sheen, but even that

is flat as everything: dark vegetation
more brown than green, not even a hint

of some flame of forbidden desire
to redden the fruit they share.

(Lord’s day). Up and alone to church, where a common sermon of Mr. Mills, and so home to dinner in our parler, my wife being clean, and the first time we have dined here a great while together, and in the afternoon went to church with me also, and there begun to take her place above Mrs. Pen, which heretofore out of a humour she was wont to give her as an affront to my Lady Batten. After a dull sermon of the Scotchman, home, and there I found my brother Tom and my two cozens Scotts, he and she, the first time they were ever here. And by and by in comes my uncle Wight and Mr. Norbury, and they sat with us a while drinking, of wine, of which I did give them plenty. But the two would not stay supper, but the other two did. And we were as merry as I could be with people that I do wish well to, but know not what discourse either to give them or find from them. We showed them our house from top to bottom, and had a good Turkey roasted for our supper, and store of wine, and after supper sent them home on foot, and so we to prayers and to bed.

alone together
the afternoon and I

my Zen comes with wine
but is sent home on foot


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 20 December 1663.