No Existing Record

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Where are you if we can't find proof of your 
existence as civil servant? Not even an index 
card in a filing cabinet, not one yellowing record 
with nearly unreadable letters stuck in a box, 
somewhere in the basement of the City Hall? 
The clerks say it's because it was the time before 
digitization, before computerized filing; when 
sheaves of paper were tied with twine or organized 
with rubber bands: A-E under a moldy pipe, F-J 
by the water heater. All the men who knew you 
or were your friends are dead now too—what 
is death if not the last repository, safety 
deposit box without a key, without a combination;
held inside some depthless vault we can't imagine? 

What writers do

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and all the morning at the Office, where the Duke of York’s long letter was read, to their great trouble, and their suspecting me to have been the writer of it. And at noon comes, by appointment, Harris to dine with me and after dinner he and I to Chyrurgeon’s-hall, where they are building it new, very fine; and there to see their theatre; which stood all the fire, and, which was our business, their great picture of Holben’s, thinking to have bought it, by the help of Mr. Pierce, for a little money: I did think to give 200l. for it, it being said to be worth 1000l.; but it is so spoiled that I have no mind to it, and is not a pleasant, though a good picture. Thence carried Harris to his playhouse, where, though four o’clock, so few people there at “The Impertinents,” as I went out; and do believe they did not act, though there was my Lord Arlington and his company there. So I out, and met my wife in a coach, and stopped her going thither to meet me; and took her, and Mercer, and Deb., to Bartholomew Fair, and there did see a ridiculous, obscene little stage-play, called “Marry Andrey;” a foolish thing, but seen by every body; and so to Jacob Hall’s dancing of the ropes; a thing worth seeing, and mightily followed, and so home and to the office, and then to bed. Writing to my father to-night not to unfurnish our house in the country for my sister, who is going to her own house, because I think I may have occasion myself to come thither; and so I do, by our being put out of the Office, which do not at all trouble me to think of.

to write is an urge
to heat fire

I think for money
but it is not pleasant

so out I go dancing
to unfurnish myself

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 29 August 1668


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
"...Beautiful, unanswerable questions."
                           ~ Carl Sandburg

Days hiccup, alternate: you wake  
           one day and maybe you think it's 
such an unexceptional day. Or maybe
           it feels indeterminate, like standing
in the musty lobby of a nondescript motel,
           no longer recalling how you got 
there. Maybe it's like the back corridor 
           of the Planned Parenthood clinic,
walls painted chalky gray, when 
           in your late forties, you held a test 
stick in your fingers and watched
           a second evap line turn dark 
pink  in the window. A group of pious 
           protesters stood in tight semicircle 
near the exit, singing hymns, amazing
           something; chanting and chanting
their holier-than-thou.  Did they 
           never feel their bodies 
could play tricks on them—pull out 
           from a hidden shelf a seed 
that thought it might flower like campion
           dug out of the permafrost?  But 
before you could make your return
            appointment, while in the shower  
a glistening knob of tissue unfastened,
            slid out. Loosened whorl, small 
bud you palmed from wet tile:
            how the body recognized
the feel of a suddenly empty room.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Busy at the office till toward 10 o’clock, and then by water to White Hall, where attending the Council’s call all the morning with Lord Brouncker, W. Pen, and the rest, about the business of supernumeraries in the fleete, but were not called in. But here the Duke of York did call me aside, and told me that he must speak with me in the afternoon, with Mr. Wren, for that now he hath got the paper from my Lord Keeper about the exceptions taken against the management of the Navy; and so we are to debate upon answering them. At noon I home with W. Coventry to his house; and there dined with him, and talked freely with him; and did acquaint him with what I have done, which he is well pleased with, and glad of: and do tell me that there are endeavours on foot to bring the Navy into new, but, he fears, worse hands. After much talk with great content with him, I walked to the Temple, and staid at Starky’s, my bookseller’s (looking over Dr. Heylin’s new book of the Life of Bishop Laud, a strange book of the Church History of his time), till Mr. Wren comes, and by appointment we to the Atturney General’s chamber, and there read and heard the witnesses in the business of Ackeworth, most troublesome and perplexed by the counter swearing of the witnesses one against the other, and so with Mr. Wren away thence to St. [James’s] for his papers, and so to White Hall, and after the Committee was done at the Council chamber about the business of Supernumeraries, wherein W. Pen was to do all and did, but like an ignorant illiterate coxcomb, the Duke of York fell to work with us, the Committee being gone, in the Council-chamber; and there, with his own hand, did give us his long letter, telling us that he had received several from us, and now did give us one from him, taking notice of our several duties and failures, and desired answer to it, as he therein desired; this pleased me well; and so fell to other business, and then parted. And the Duke of York, and Wren, and I, it being now candle-light, into the Duke of York’s closet in White Hall; and there read over this paper of my Lord Keeper’s, wherein are laid down the faults of the Navy, so silly, and the remedies so ridiculous, or else the same that are now already provided, that we thought it not to need any answer, the Duke of York being able himself to do it: that so it makes us admire the confidence of these men to offer things so silly, in a business of such moment. But it is a most perfect instance of the complexion of the times! and so the Duke of York said himself, who, I perceive, is mightily concerned in it, and do, again and again, recommend it to Mr. Wren and me together, to consider upon remedies fit to provide for him to propound to the King, before the rest of the world, and particularly the Commissioners of Accounts, who are men of understanding and order, to find our faults, and offer remedies of their own, which I am glad of, and will endeavour to do something in it. So parted, and with much difficulty, by candle-light, walked over the Matted Gallery, as it is now with the mats and boards all taken up, so that we walked over the rafters. But strange to see what hard matter the plaister of Paris is, that is there taken up, as hard as stone! And pity to see Holben’s work in the ceiling blotted on, and only whited over! Thence; with much ado, by several coaches home, to supper and to bed. My wife having been this day with Hales, to sit for her hand to be mended, in her picture.

out me on paper
from the Book of Life

point and swear
like a one-hand answer to candle light

it is not complex
remedies offer remedies of their own

we walk over rafters
to see the ceiling

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 28 August 1668

Full Moon

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Sometimes a pearly
brightness outlines each 
dusty blade of the blinds, 
deep in the night, as though 
from a floodlight. Of course
it's only the moon, which 
cycles again from its first
slivered form to this  
fullness—even if you
remain asleep, it sieves
through darkness 
the way a feeling 
like happiness 
might touch
everything in its way;
the way a fever runs
its course and 
finally breaks.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Knepp home with us, and I to bed, and rose about six, mightily pleased with last night’s mirth, and away by water to St. James’s, and there, with Mr. Wren, did correct his copy of my letter, which the Duke of York hath signed in my very words, without alteration of a syllable. And so pleased therewith, I to my Lord Brouncker, who I find within, but hath business, and so comes not to the Office to-day. And so I by water to the Office, where we sat all the morning; and, just as the Board rises, comes the Duke of York’s letter, which I knowing, and the Board not being full, and desiring rather to have the Duke of York deliver it himself to us, I suppressed it for this day, my heart beginning to falsify in this business, as being doubtful of the trouble it may give me by provoking them; but, however, I am resolved to go through it, and it is too late to help it now. At noon to dinner to Captain Cocke’s, where I met with Mr. Wren; my going being to tell him what I have done, which he likes, and to confer with Cocke about our Office; who tells me that he is confident the design of removing our Officers do hold, but that he is sure that I am safe enough. Which pleases me, though I do not much shew it to him, but as a thing indifferent. So away home, and there met at Sir Richard Ford’s with the Duke of York’s Commissioners about our Prizes, with whom we shall have some trouble before we make an end with them, and hence, staying a little with them, I with my wife, and W. Batelier, and Deb.; carried them to Bartholomew Fayre, where we saw the dancing of the ropes and nothing else, it being late, and so back home to supper and to bed, after having done at my office.

mirth and words alter
who I find within

my heart beginning to falsify
what I have done

like moving to a different home
and a hard bed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 27 August 1668


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Under an arch of trees, 
a mild wind passes  
and you recall an earlier time
when you looked up and there seemed
an opening in the hills, the smallest cleft
where the light came and went. 
Holding it in your gaze, 
you remember too 
when once you climbed 
to the summit—
an easy hike then, not many house
plots yet, or fences beyond which
laundry dripped in the sun. A lone
cow grazing, a flock of goats.
Wild patches of marapait;
tender vines of sayote and tartaraok. 
Mechanics tinkered with dented
vehicles, their heads wreathed
in cigarette smoke. And at the top:
ruined ramparts that only the ghosts 
of priests or prisoners walked 
at sundown. Isn't this how every past
love fades into a flower or a leaf? 
Wind or no wind, so many
blossoms at the base of the tree.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to the office, where all the morning almost, busy about business against the afternoon, and we met a little to sign two or three things at the Board of moment, and thence at noon home to dinner, and so away to White Hall by water. In my way to the Old Swan, finding a great many people gathered together in Cannon Street about a man that was working in the ruins, and the ground did sink under him, and he sunk in, and was forced to be dug out again, but without hurt. Thence to White Hall, and it is strange to say with what speed the people employed do pull down Paul’s steeple, and with what ease: it is said that it, and the choir are to be taken down this year, and another church begun in the room thereof, the next. At White Hall we met at the Treasury chamber, and there before the Lords did debate our draft of the victualling contract with the several bidders for it, which were Sir D. Gawden, Mr. Child and his fellows, and Mr. Dorrington and his, a poor variety in a business of this value. There till after candle-lighting, and so home by coach with Sir D. Gawden, who, by the way, tells me how the City do go on in several things towards the building of the public places, which I am glad to hear; and gives hope that in a few years it will be a glorious place; but we met with several stops and new troubles in the way in the streets, so as makes it bad to travel in the dark now through the City. So I to Mr. Batelier’s by appointment, where I find my wife, and Deb., and Mercer; Mrs. Pierce and her husband, son, and daughter; and Knepp and Harris, and W. Batelier, and his sister Mary, and cozen Gumbleton, a good-humoured, fat young gentleman, son to the jeweller, that dances well; and here danced all night long, with a noble supper; and about two in the morning the table spread again for a noble breakfast beyond all moderation, that put me out of countenance, so much and so good. Mrs. Pierce and her people went home betimes, she being big with child; but Knepp and the rest staid till almost three in the morning, and then broke up.

the little moment
I was dug out of

is a poor candle with which
to travel in the dark

through the city where we danced
beyond all moderation

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 26 August 1668