~ after Hugo Simberg, “Dance on the Quay (Tanssi Sillalla),” 1899

On Saturday nights, in some little town,
someone with a guitar and pick or an accordion

player is there, tapping his foot at the edge
of the quay— And in summertime, when the light

in late afternoon is the color of new butter,
when the weight of the week has not yet dissolved:

who wouldn’t be tempted to step into the arms
of a partner who can twirl and lift you into the air

though his cheeks are hollow and his frame gaunt
as bone? It’s a new feeling to give yourself

so trustingly to a music you’ve never heard this close
or this clearly before. Others too are quietly waiting

their turn to step across the threshold, give
their hand to the one waiting to lead them across.


In response to Via Negativa: Ship burial.

The office now not sitting, but only hereafter on Thursdays at the office, I within all the morning about my papers and setting things still in order, and also much time in settling matters with Dr. Twisden. At noon am sent for by Sir G. Carteret, to meet him and my Lord Hinchingbroke at Deptford, but my Lord did not come thither, he having crossed the river at Gravesend to Dagenhams, whither I dare not follow him, they being afeard of me; but Sir G. Carteret says, he is a most sweet youth in every circumstance. Sir G. Carteret being in haste of going to the Duke of Albemarle and the Archbishop, he was pettish, and so I could not fasten any discourse, but take another time. So he gone, I down to Greenwich and sent away the Bezan, thinking to go with my wife to-night to come back again to-morrow night to the Soveraigne at the buoy off the Nore. Coming back to Deptford, old Bagwell walked a little way with me, and would have me in to his daughter’s, and there he being gone ‘dehors, ego had my volunte de su hiza’. Eat and drank and away home, and after a little at the office to my chamber to put more things still in order, and late to bed.
The people die so, that now it seems they are fain to carry the dead to be buried by day-light, the nights not sufficing to do it in. And my Lord Mayor commands people to be within at nine at night all, as they say, that the sick may have liberty to go abroad for ayre. There is one also dead out of one of our ships at Deptford, which troubles us mightily; the Providence fire-ship, which was just fitted to go to sea. But they tell me to-day no more sick on board. And this day W. Bodham tells me that one is dead at Woolwich, not far from the Rope-yard. I am told, too, that a wife of one of the groomes at Court is dead at Salsbury; so that the King and Queene are speedily to be all gone to Milton. God preserve us!

within the river
is a sweet green night
and a rank day

and people say
there is also a ship
which was fitted to go to the dead

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 12 August 1665.

There are certain flowers and leaves
that turn slippery as soap when bruised—

swished into a plastic flask of water
with a few granules of detergent,

they made the largest, most glorious
bubbles which we blew with makeshift

spools of bent clothes hangers—
The same type of wire that girls

who’d been foolish would use to try
and empty themselves, scour that room

before a cell, another body, could grow
into a larger shape to take up residence

in their own. This is how I took one
of my cousin’s friends to the ER:

doubled over in pain, until the orderlies
drew the privacy curtains then whisked

her off to the operating room. That
was the last time I saw her, until

she popped up recently on Facebook:
with a lover, a grown daughter; smiling,

slipped away from who knows what cowl
might have dropped around her shoulders.

Up, and all day long finishing and writing over my will twice, for my father and my wife, only in the morning a pleasant rencontre happened in having a young married woman brought me by her father, old Delkes, that carries pins always in his mouth, to get her husband off that he should not go to sea, ‘une contre pouvait avoir done any cose cum else, but I did nothing, si ni baisser her’. After they were gone my mind run upon having them called back again, and I sent a messenger to Blackwall, but he failed. So I lost my expectation. I to the Exchequer, about striking new tallys, and I find the Exchequer, by proclamation, removing to Nonesuch.
Back again and at my papers, and putting up my books into chests, and settling my house and all things in the best and speediest order I can, lest it should please God to take me away, or force me to leave my house.
Late up at it, and weary and full of wind, finding perfectly that so long as I keepe myself in company at meals and do there eat lustily (which I cannot do alone, having no love to eating, but my mind runs upon my business), I am as well as can be, but when I come to be alone, I do not eat in time, nor enough, nor with any good heart, and I immediately begin to be full of wind, which brings my pain, till I come to fill my belly a-days again, then am presently well.

a man that carries pins in his mouth
should not go to sea

my chest full of wind
I cannot fill my belly

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 11 August 1665.

How many words can you speak
into a phone? A pair of goats,

bleating from thin cords
that tether them to the base

of a guava tree. Where they traced
circles in the dust, they shat small

hard pellets. Who owns this land?
Is there a deed, a title, a lien

holder? The plumbing is old and rusty.
Water from the tank leaks in rivulets

before it can climb into the house.
So many questions and too many holes

in the walls. Who stole the light
bulbs out of their sockets, dis-

connected the refrigerator?
The mailman bangs on the gate

with a rock. No one hears
or no one answers.

Up betimes, and called upon early by my she-cozen Porter, the turner’s wife, to tell me that her husband was carried to the Tower, for buying of some of the King’s powder, and would have my helpe, but I could give her none, not daring any more to appear in the business, having too much trouble lately therein. By and by to the office, where we sat all the morning; in great trouble to see the Bill this week rise so high, to above 4,000 in all, and of them above 3,000 of the plague. And an odd story of Alderman Bence’s stumbling at night over a dead corps in the streete, and going home and telling his wife, she at the fright, being with child, fell sicke and died of the plague. We sat late, and then by invitation my Lord Brunker, Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Batten and I to Sir G. Smith’s to dinner, where very good company and good cheer. Captain Cocke was there and Jacke Fenn, but to our great wonder Alderman Bence, and tells us that not a word of all this is true, and others said so too, but by his owne story his wife hath been ill, and he fain to leave his house and comes not to her, which continuing a trouble to me all the time I was there.
Thence to the office and, after writing letters, home, to draw over anew my will, which I had bound myself by oath to dispatch by to-morrow night; the town growing so unhealthy, that a man cannot depend upon living two days to an end. So having done something of it, I to bed.

over a corpse in the street

and at the fright
over my oath
a wing

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 10 August 1665.

In the corners, under and through
the floorboards. In the kitchen
cupboards. Under the sink, wherever
traces of human debris have piled up
with empty bottles, plastic food
wrappers, dirty silverware. One
drowned in the bathroom, grey
and slowly spinning under yellow
light. Where is the Piper
to lead them to wider water:
over the falls, away from the town,
away from the widows curled under
thin sheets in the cold? Lead them
into the homes of the merciless.
There, let them feast unrestrained.

Up betimes to my office, where Tom Hater to the writing of letters with me, which have for a good while been in arreare, and we close at it all day till night, only made a little step out for half an houre in the morning to the Exchequer about striking of tallys, but no good done therein, people being most out of towne.
At noon T. Hater dined with me, and so at it all the afternoon. At night home and supped, and after reading a little in Cowley’s poems, my head being disturbed with overmuch business to-day, I to bed.

ice letters
close all day
night striking out at noon
in the owl’s poems

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 9 August 1665.

Up and to the office, where all the morning we sat. At noon I home to dinner alone, and after dinner Bagwell’s wife waited at the door, and went with me to my office, en lequel jo haze todo which I had a corazón a hazer con ella. So parted, and I to Sir W. Batten’s, and there sat the most of the afternoon talking and drinking too much with my Lord Bruncker, Sir G. Smith, G. Cocke and others very merry. I drunk a little mixed, but yet more than I should do. So to my office a little, and then to the Duke of Albemarle’s about some business. The streets mighty empty all the way, now even in London, which is a sad sight. And to Westminster Hall, where talking, hearing very sad stories from Mrs. Mumford; among others, of Mrs. Michell’s son’s family. And poor Will, that used to sell us ale at the Hall-door, his wife and three children died, all, I think, in a day. So home through the City again, wishing I may have taken no ill in going; but I will go, I think, no more thither.
Late at the office, and then home to supper, having taken a pullet home with me, and then to bed.
The news of De Ruyter’s coming home is certain; and told to the great disadvantage of our fleete, and the praise of De Ruyter; but it cannot be helped, nor do I know what to say to it.

in the haze of the afternoon
drinking too much
my empty wishing

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 8 August 1665.

“Traté de ahogar mis penas… pero las condenadas aprendieron a nadar.”
[“I tried to drown my sorrows… but those I’d condemned learned to swim.”] ~ Frida Kahlo

At night do you hear a fiddle sleep,
a wheelchair creak? The body works

until it doesn’t. The body limps
to the end of the road until it can’t

wait for the bus anymore. And closure
is hard to come by, even when it might

signify an end: perhaps to suffering,
to pain, uncertainty, ordinary tedium.

And what happens to pleasure, to ease,
the consonance of one limb working

as well as the other; the wondrous
machine giving off such poignant sounds

only when surfaces are scratched
by a needle? What now, in the pause

between one impasse and another, except
the admission of what can’t be known?


In response to Via Negativa: Nearer my god.