The heart is always shy; it startles

so it must be a relief not to crib
from notes, not to worry the eyes’

furtive trajectory between screen
and scribbled page, not to back

away from naked encounter of the gaze.
From one to another, the fatal precision

of a kiss or a letter that mentions
the word love more than once; thinly

veiled digression from protocol
or job description. But evening

is full of the business of rain,
which is to say it softens again

the desire to inquire more closely
into the history of the bruise

on the neck, the laceration across
the forehead, the ways in which they

show what they are despite the cover
patted carefully into place around them.

Light breaks to herald the theme of always
starting over. It’s easy to lose count

of the stitch slipped from front to back,
of how far the shuttle has to travel before

it can return. Sometimes the hands only
want to occupy themselves with movement

because it’s more frightening to consider
all the tenderness that resides in the body.

Inept

Up, well pleased in my mind about my Lord Sandwich, about whom I shall know more anon from Sir G. Carteret, who will be in towne, and also that the Hambrough [ships] after all difficulties are got out. God send them good speed! So, after being trimmed, I by water to London, to the Navy office, there to give order to my mayde to buy things to send down to Greenwich for supper to-night; and I also to buy other things, as oysters, and lemons, 6d. per piece, and oranges, 3d. That done I to the ‘Change, and among many other things, especially for getting of my Tangier money, I by appointment met Mr. Gawden, and he and I to the Pope’s Head Taverne, and there he did give me alone a very pretty dinner. Our business to talk of his matters and his supply of money, which was necessary for us to talk on before the Duke of Albemarle this afternoon and Sir G. Carteret. After that I offered now to pay him the 4000l. remaining of his 8000l. for Tangier, which he took with great kindnesse, and prayed me most frankly to give him a note for 3500l. and accept the other 500l. for myself, which in good earnest was against my judgement to do, for [I] expected about 100l. and no more, but however he would have me do it, and ownes very great obligations to me, and the man indeed I love, and he deserves it. This put me into great joy, though with a little stay to it till we have time to settle it, for for so great a sum I was fearfull any accident might by death or otherwise defeate me, having not now time to change papers. So we rose, and by water to White Hall, where we found Sir G. Carteret with the Duke, and also Sir G. Downing, whom I had not seen in many years before. He greeted me very kindly, and I him; though methinks I am touched, that it should be said that he was my master heretofore, as doubtless he will. So to talk of our Navy business, and particularly money business, of which there is little hopes of any present supply upon this new Act, the goldsmiths being here (and Alderman Backewell newly come from Flanders), and none offering any. So we rose without doing more than my stating the case of the Victualler, that whereas there is due to him on the last year’s declaration 80,000l., and the charge of this year’s amounts to 420,000l. and odd, he must be supplied between this and the end of January with 150,000l., and the remainder in 40 weeks by weekly payments, or else he cannot go through his business.
Thence after some discourse with Sir G. Carteret, who, though he tells me that he is glad of my Lord’s being made Embassador, and that it is the greatest courtesy his enemies could do him; yet I find he is not heartily merry upon it, and that it was no design of my Lord’s friends, but the prevalence of his enemies, and that the Duke of Albemarle and Prince Rupert are like to go to sea together the next year. I pray God, when my Lord is gone, they do not fall hard upon the Vice-Chamberlain, being alone, and in so envious a place, though by this late Act and the instructions now a brewing for our office as to method of payments will destroy the profit of his place of itself without more trouble.
Thence by water down to Greenwich, and there found all my company come; that is, Mrs. Knipp, and an ill, melancholy, jealous-looking fellow, her husband, that spoke not a word to us all the night, Pierce and his wife, and Rolt, Mrs. Worshipp and her daughter, Coleman and his wife, and Laneare, and, to make us perfectly happy, there comes by chance to towne Mr. Hill to see us. Most excellent musique we had in abundance, and a good supper, dancing, and a pleasant scene of Mrs. Knipp’s rising sicke from table, but whispered me it was for some hard word or other her husband gave her just now when she laughed and was more merry than ordinary. But we got her in humour again, and mighty merry; spending the night, till two in the morning, with most complete content as ever in my life, it being increased by my day’s work with Gawden. Then broke up, and we to bed, Mr. Hill and I, whom I love more and more, and he us.

oysters defeat me
and years  inks  little hopes
any rose without enemies

like instructions for melancholy
that make us perfectly happy
but whisper some hard word
just as we go


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 8 December 1665.

Mismatch

Up and to the office, where very busy all day. Sir G. Carteret’s letter tells me my Lord Sandwich is, as I was told, declared Embassador Extraordinary to Spayne, and to go with all speed away, and that his enemies have done him as much good as he could wish. At noon late to dinner, and after dinner spent till night with Mr. Gibson and Hater discoursing and making myself more fully [know] the trade of pursers, and what fittest to be done in their business, and so to the office till midnight writing letters, and so home, and after supper with my wife about one o’clock to bed.

her letter tells me
to go and I go on
making myself fit
into the midnight clock


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 7 December 1665.

How we remember the dead

It is years since my father’s
come back to eat from a dish
of sweets laid on the counter,
to drink water out of a blue
plastic shot glass and wipe
his mouth on a paper napkin.

He used to drowse in the arm-
chair with the faded brown
upholstery, the pages of Time
or Life magazine fallen from
his hand. I’d wake to see him
seated at the foot of my bed,

trying to trim with scissors
the fingernail he lost in the war.
This could be a poem about ghosts,
or about what we keep wanting
to remember. I couldn’t tell you
the color of his clothes but I

still fix on the way all his
bottom teeth overlapped, like steps
to a ruined shrine at the top
of a hill. Or the color of his eyes,
ice-grey and cool like the air at dusk,
tinged with the smell of pine.

Composer

Up betimes, it being fast-day; and by water to the Duke of Albemarle, who come to towne from Oxford last night. He is mighty brisk, and very kind to me, and asks my advice principally in every thing. He surprises me with the news that my Lord Sandwich goes Embassador to Spayne speedily; though I know not whence this arises, yet I am heartily glad of it. He did give me several directions what to do, and so I home by water again and to church a little, thinking to have met Mrs. Pierce in order to our meeting at night; but she not there, I home and dined, and comes presently by appointment my wife. I spent the afternoon upon a song of Solyman’s words to Roxalana that I have set, and so with my wife walked and Mercer to Mrs. Pierce’s, where Captain Rolt and Mrs. Knipp, Mr. Coleman and his wife, and Laneare, Mrs. Worshipp and her singing daughter, met; and by and by unexpectedly comes Mr. Pierce from Oxford. Here the best company for musique I ever was in, in my life, and wish I could live and die in it, both for musique and the face of Mrs. Pierce, and my wife and Knipp, who is pretty enough; but the most excellent, mad-humoured thing, and sings the noblest that ever I heard in my life, and Rolt, with her, some things together most excellently. I spent the night in extasy almost; and, having invited them to my house a day or two hence, we broke up, Pierce having told me that he is told how the King hath done my Lord Sandwich all the right imaginable, by shewing him his countenance before all the world on every occasion, to remove thoughts of discontent; and that he is to go Embassador, and that the Duke of Yorke is made generall of all forces by land and sea, and the Duke of Albemarle, lieutenant-generall. Whether the two latter alterations be so, true or no, he knows not, but he is told so; but my Lord is in full favour with the King. So all home and to bed.

water goes to water again
and I to song

to live for music is enough
the ear in ecstasy

and all the imaginable world
made of alterations


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 6 December 1665.

Life plus 419 years:

the sentence given to the white
supremacist who plowed his car

into a mass of bodies, killing
Heather Heyer in a narrow, over-
crowded street of the university

town where my daughter and son-in-law
and new baby used to live. We were
on our way to visit that day,

when crowds of counter protesters
held up hand-lettered signs that said
Love or Solidarity or No Hate to the far

right and neo-fascist groups carrying
Confederate flags and Nazi flags
and semiautomatic weapons. Slow

motion in a video of those moments
shown to the jury: shoes popping off feet,
kneecaps breaking, the contents

of a water bottle scattering an arc
as bodies fell, as the man used his car
to mow them down… From the Analects,

this question: If a man has no
humaneness, what can his propriety
be like?
From grief, try to hold

the word life in your mind the way
it should be held: like a mirror, a
singularity. A duty. The future.

No news

Up and to the office, where very busy about several businesses all the morning. At noon empty, yet without stomach to dinner, having spoiled myself with fasting yesterday, and so filled with wind. In the afternoon by water, calling Mr. Stevens (who is with great trouble paying of seamen of their tickets at Deptford) and to London, to look for Captain Kingdom whom we found at home about 5 o’clock. I tried him, and he promised to follow us presently to the East India House to sign papers to-night in order to the settling the business of my receiving money for Tangier. We went and stopt the officer there to shut up. He made us stay above an houre. I sent for him; he comes, but was not found at home, but abroad on other business, and brings a paper saying that he had been this houre looking for the Lord Ashley’s order. When he looks for it, that is not the paper. He would go again to look; kept us waiting till almost 8 at night. Then was I to go home by water this weather and darke, and to write letters by the post, besides keeping the East India officers there so late. I sent for him again; at last he comes, and says he cannot find the paper (which is a pretty thing to lay orders for 100,000l. no better). I was angry; he told me I ought to give people ease at night, and all business was to be done by day. I answered him sharply, that I did [not] make, nor any honest man, any difference between night and day in the King’s business, and this was such, and my Lord Ashley should know. He answered me short. I told him I knew the time (meaning the Rump’s time) when he did other men’s business with more diligence. He cried, “Nay, say not so,” and stopped his mouth, not one word after. We then did our business without the order in less than eight minutes, which he made me to no purpose stay above two hours for the doing. This made him mad, and so we exchanged notes, and I had notes for 14,000l. of the Treasurer of the Company, and so away and by water to Greenwich and wrote my letters, and so home late to bed.

a morning empty
as the paper

a paper that is
not paper

I look at the weather
and letters last

the paper is a thin
sharp nest

any difference between us
is now a new word


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 5 December 1665.

Recovery

Several people to me about business, among others Captain Taylor, intended Storekeeper for Harwich, whom I did give some assistance in his dispatch by lending him money. So out and by water to London and to the ‘Change, and up and down about several businesses, and after the observing (God forgive me!) one or two of my neighbour hermosa mohers come to towne, which did please me very well, home to my house at the office, where my wife had got a dinner for me: and it was a joyfull thing for us to meet here, for which God be praised! Here was her brother come to see her, and speake with me about business. It seems my recommending of him hath not only obtained his presently being admitted into the Duke of Albemarle’s guards, and present pay, but also by the Duke’s and Sir Philip Howard’s direction, to be put as a right-hand man, and other marks of special respect, at which I am very glad, partly for him, and partly to see that I am reckoned something in my recommendations, but wish he may carry himself that I may receive no disgrace by him. So to the ‘Change. Up and down again in the evening about business and to meet Captain Cocke, who waited for Mrs. Pierce (with whom he is mightily stricken), to receive and hide for her her rich goods she saved the other day from seizure. Upon the ‘Change to-day Colvill tells me, from Oxford, that the King in person hath justified my Lord Sandwich to the highest degree; and is right in his favour to the uttermost. So late by water home, taking a barrel of oysters with me, and at Greenwich went and sat with Madam Penington con laquelle je faisais almost whatever je voudrais­ con mi mano, sino tocar la chose meme; and I was very near it, and made her undress her head and sit dishevilled all night sporting till two in the morning, and so away to my lodging, almost cloyed with this dalliance, and so to bed. Over-fasting all the morning hath filled me mightily with wind, and nothing else hath done it, that I fear a fit of the cholique.

mending from seizure
her head
disheveled in the wind


Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 4 December 1665.

Acute

It being Lord’s day, up and dressed and to church, thinking to have sat with Sir James Bunce to hear his daughter and her husband sing, that are so much commended, but was prevented by being invited into Coll. Cleggatt’s pew. However, there I sat, near Mr. Laneare, with whom I spoke, and in sight, by chance, and very near my fat brown beauty of our Parish, the rich merchant’s lady, a very noble woman, and Madame Pierce. A good sermon of Mr. Plume’s, and so to Captain Cocke’s, and there dined with him, and Colonell Wyndham, a worthy gentleman, whose wife was nurse to the present King, and one that while she lived governed him and every thing else, as Cocke says, as a minister of state; the old King putting mighty weight and trust upon her. They talked much of matters of State and persons, and particularly how my Lord Barkeley hath all along been a fortunate, though a passionate and but weak man as to policy; but as a kinsman brought in and promoted by my Lord of St. Alban’s, and one that is the greatest vapourer in the world, this Colonell Wyndham says; and one to whom only, with Jacke Asheburnel and Colonel Legg, the King’s removal to the Isle of Wight from Hampton Court was communicated; and (though betrayed by their knavery, or at best by their ignorance, insomuch that they have all solemnly charged one another with their failures therein, and have been at daggers-drawing publickly about it), yet now none greater friends in the world.
We dined, and in comes Mrs. Owen, a kinswoman of my Lord Bruncker’s, about getting a man discharged, which I did for her, and by and by Mrs. Pierce to speake with me (and Mary my wife’s late maid, now gone to her) about her husband’s business of money, and she tells us how she prevented Captain Fisher the other day in his purchase of all her husband’s fine goods, as pearls and silks, that he had seized in an Apothecary’s house, a friend of theirs, but she got in and broke them open and removed all before Captain Fisher came the next day to fetch them away, at which he is starke mad.
She went home, and I to my lodgings. At night by agreement I fetched her again with Cocke’s coach, and he come and we sat and talked together, thinking to have had Mrs. Coleman and my songsters, her husband and Laneare, but they failed me. So we to supper, and as merry as was sufficient, and my pretty little Miss with me; and so after supper walked Pierce home, and so back and to bed. But, Lord! I stand admiring of the wittinesse of her little boy, which is one of the wittiest boys, but most confident that ever I did see of a child of 9 years old or under in all my life, or indeed one twice his age almost, but all for roguish wit.
So to bed.

I hear so much by chance
a fat plum of a bark
a passionate vapor

and one who with ash and dagger
has moved in under my bed


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 3 December 1665.

Portrait, with paradise receding in the background

~ after “Narcisa and the Two Mirrors,” Armando Valero

Sometimes when you speak or sing,
it is sunlight flashing semaphore-like

from the surface of mirrors. It is thirteen
hummingbirds hovering for the promise of nectar—

They make a jeweled necklace more brilliant
than the brocade of peonies on a woman’s dress.

Sometimes when you think you’re alone, another
face floats on the surface of the one you bring

to the mirror; perhaps, the ghost of who you’ve been.
Or the lover you hope to meet, who is also looking

into a mirror, trying to divine how a whole
world curls around the bodies of fish

rounding each blue bend in the river; how
like music or the sight of tears, there are

things that have moved you without leaving
their trace on skin. And yet the hummingbird

says it’s enough that you can bear parts
of the world smaller than a dewdrop or pearl.

You can consider the moon’s invisible satchel
and its upraised handle, its offer to fill

or pry open; to empty, arrive, travel again,
to carry in its folds only what you can.