In winter

Up, and leaving the women in bed together (a pretty black and white) I to London to the office, and there forgot, through business, to bespeake any dinner for my wife and Mrs. Pierce. However, by noon they come, and a dinner we had, and Kate Joyce comes to see us, with whom very merry. After dinner she and I up to my chamber, who told me her business was chiefly for my advice about her husband’s leaving off his trade, which though I wish enough, yet I did advise against, for he is a man will not know how to live idle, and employment he is fit for none. Thence anon carried her and Mrs. Pierce home, and so to the Duke of Albemarle, and mighty kind he to me still. So home late at my letters, and so to bed, being mightily troubled at the newes of the plague’s being encreased, and was much the saddest news that the plague hath brought me from the beginning of it; because of the lateness of the year, and the fear, we may with reason have, of its continuing with us the next summer. The total being now 375, and the plague 158.

in black and white
I forgot how to see
and how to live
I bled at the saddest news
that we may have continuing summer

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 16 January 1666.


We pry the lips of mussels open
to drink the steamed, buttered broth 
and spear 
            a bit of flesh with the prongs
of a tiny fork. Our server brings a bowl
to hold discarded blue-
                       black shells, more
bread with which to sop up the juices. Eat
slow, she says; and so we should,  
                                  now there's   
no way to delay the marshes' emptying, the seas'
leaching of their sustaining salt. The moon
is that much nearer 
                     and that century swings 
low already, dips down looking for the last spaces 
in our bodies untouched 
                        by the tang of rust. 


If it's true that what you need
      or need to learn most shows up 
         at the exact point in life 
that you need it, what 
     does it mean when the test
results come back with atypical
         cells, when an out of control
     delivery truck barrels down the road
        and crashes into a car parked
at the end of the drive? No one
    asks for any of it, and yet
            the syrupy light pours over 
a beach littered with the milky blue
    plastic-sac bodies of jellyfish; 
and only one of you, tiptoeing carefully
          around the edges, is fatally stung.

Dressing up for a dressing-down

Busy all the morning in my chamber in my old cloth suit, while my usuall one is to my taylor’s to mend, which I had at noon again, and an answer to a letter I had sent this morning to Mrs. Pierce to go along with my wife and I down to Greenwich to-night upon an invitation to Mr. Boreman’s to be merry to dance and sing with Mrs. Knipp. Being dressed, and having dined, I took coach and to Mrs. Pierce, to her new house in Covent-Garden, a very fine place and fine house. Took her thence home to my house, and so by water to Boreman’s by night, where the greatest disappointment that ever I saw in my life, much company, a good supper provided, and all come with expectation of excesse of mirthe, but all blank through the waywardnesse of Mrs. Knipp, who, though she had appointed the night, could not be got to come. Not so much as her husband could get her to come; but, which was a pleasant thing in all my anger, I asking him, while we were in expectation what answer one of our many messengers would bring, what he thought, whether she would come or no, he answered that, for his part, he could not so much as thinke. By and by we all to supper, which the silly master of the feast commended, but, what with my being out of humour, and the badnesse of the meate dressed, I did never eat a worse supper in my life. At last, very late, and supper done, she came undressed, but it brought me no mirthe at all; only, after all being done, without singing, or very little, and no dancing, Pierce and I to bed together, and he and I very merry to find how little and thin clothes they give us to cover us, so that we were fain to lie in our stockings and drawers, and lay all our coates and clothes upon the bed. So to sleep.

in my old cloth suit
my usual answer
is to dance

dressed in a new disappointment
I go blank as
any messenger

dressed or undressed
after a little dancing
how little clothes cover us

so we lie
in our stockings and drawers
and all our clothes sleep

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 15 January 1666.

They say Gone ahead:

They say Gone ahead

          as if the beloved had merely walked
faster than the rest of the group, gone
          into the dappled park with its near-spring
greenery and enticing little waterways,
          leaving the others still gawking at every 
shop crammed with tchotchkes along the way.
          They say Passed: as if she had spent
the whole morning in a cold,
          high-ceilinged classroom, carefully  
filling in ovals on a test form using
          a No. 2 pencil, and less than an hour later
gotten her score. As if a cloud floated
          its blue shadow over the town, or
the last of a parade turned the corner,
          its spirited music growing fainter.


(Lord’s day). Long in bed, till raised by my new taylor, Mr. Penny, who comes and brings me my new velvet coat, very handsome, but plain, and a day hence will bring me my camelott cloak. He gone I close to my papers and to set all in order and to perform my vow to finish my journall and other things before I kiss any woman more or drink any wine, which I must be forced to do to-morrow if I go to Greenwich as I am invited by Mr. Boreman to hear Mrs. Knipp sing, and I would be glad to go, so as we may be merry. At noon eat the second of the two cygnets Mr. Shepley sent us for a new-year’s gift, and presently to my chamber again and so to work hard all day about my Tangier accounts, which I am going again to make up, as also upon writing a letter to my father about Pall, whom it is time now I find to think of disposing of while God Almighty hath given me something to give with her, and in my letter to my father I do offer to give her 450l. to make her own 50l. given her by my uncle up 500l.. I do also therein propose Mr. Harman the upholster for a husband for her, to whom I have a great love and did heretofore love his former wife, and a civil man he is and careful in his way, beside, I like his trade and place he lives in, being Cornhill. Thus late at work, and so to supper and to bed. This afternoon, after sermon, comes my dear fair beauty of the Exchange, Mrs. Batelier, brought by her sister, an acquaintance of Mercer’s, to see my wife. I saluted her with as much pleasure as I had done any a great while. We sat and talked together an houre, with infinite pleasure to me, and so the fair creature went away, and proves one of the modestest women, and pretty, that ever I saw in my life, and my [wife] judges her so too.

who am I
before I kiss

I am a cygnet
and I am going to sing

God give me
something to give up

like a pleasure
infinite as air

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 14 January 1666.

No exit

At the office all the morning, where my Lord Bruncker moved to have something wrote in my matter as I desired him last night, and it was ordered and will be done next sitting. Home with his Lordship to Mrs. Williams’s, in Covent-Garden, to dinner (the first time I ever was there), and there met Captain Cocke; and pretty merry, though not perfectly so, because of the fear that there is of a great encrease again of the plague this week. And again my Lord Bruncker do tell us, that he hath it from Sir John Baber; who is related to my Lord Craven, that my Lord Craven do look after Sir G. Carteret’s place, and do reckon himself sure of it. After dinner Cocke and I together by coach to the Exchange, in our way talking of our matters, and do conclude that every thing must breake in pieces, while no better counsels govern matters than there seem to do, and that it will become him and I and all men to get their reckonings even, as soon as they can, and expect all to breake. Besides, if the plague continues among us another yeare, the Lord knows what will become of us. I set him down at the ‘Change, and I home to my office, where late writing letters and doing business, and thence home to supper and to bed. My head full of cares, but pleased with my wife’s minding her worke so well, and busying herself about her house, and I trust in God if I can but clear myself of my Lord Sandwich’s bond, wherein I am bound with him for 1000l. to T. Pepys, I shall do pretty well, come what will come.

the night is a garden
in her perfect fear of us

who rave that everything must break
while government continues

what will become of doing business
with so busy a rust

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 13 January 1666.

Happy Hour at Luna Maya

On high stools at the island in the bar, 
     you and your co-workers, discussing 
the indentation on one end of the polished

     wood counter which makes it look
like the spot you might lay your face 
     at the massage parlor or chiropractor's.

On the far wall above the head of the rhetorician
     who is talking about his tyrannical and
attention-starved cat, a mural of what looks to be

     the Santo Niño, child Jesus in pink brocade  
and gilt-edged crown; and all the candles
     flickering at every table, La Virgen 

de Guadalupe presiding over endless guac and
     tortilla chips, no one remarking on the cheap  
sticker and its campy rendition of the image with frilled

     mandorla. Imagine her saying ¿No estoy yo aquí
que soy tu madre? then, just like that, in the middle of
     winter, dropping twelve roses from within

the folds of her cloak. If only a miracle would
     manifest in these dark days. Every morning
you turn on the car radio to hear someone trying  

     to keep from breaking down in tears, on the brink
of losing everything they'd saved and worked for
     over a lifetime from the forced furloughs,

the government shutdown now nearly a month long.
     Nothing for the mortgage, the car payment,
tuition for the child in school, money for medication.

     Two restaurants in your neighborhood are closing 
in the coming week, and you can't figure out why a boy
     in your morning class can never keep his eyes

open from some recurring exhaustion. It doesn't seem
     to matter that there are times you can't remember
the meaning of heuristic, or that you wake with achy

     tingling in your knees. Yes, joy is still important.
How is your husband, his health, asks your colleague
     who has volunteered to help you set up a WebEx meeting.

You think of the number of amber-colored vials on the dining
     room shelf, multiple modalities for the alleviation
of pain; and the science that drove beams of gamma radiation

     at a precise target: the trigeminal nerve at the base
of his brain, pressing too much on a vein. You barely
     have time in the day anymore since he went

on the night shift; proverbial passing ships, 
     bobbing against each other for a while at harbor
before slipping off again into the wale of work. 
     Your other colleague with the beautiful cheekbones
says she also thinks a lot about time these days;
     and faulty memory. How she regrets not keeping

a diary or journal, and now the evenings speed by
     as if we watch them from inside an onrushing
train. And a moment will still, sometimes; and feel

     as if the commingling of all moments, requited and un-.
Instead of lapsing into a bad nostalgia, you ask the ponytailed
     server for a takeout order of tamales with sour cream and when

it comes, you say goodnight; you hold the styrofoam box smelling
    faintly of humid corn to your chest and walk back out into
the evening; cold, clear, already hardening with frost.

House Call

"...a fur of experience
rose over us like amber."  ~ D. Bonta

How did you know what to do, which number to fumble for in sequence on the rotary phone, your small hand cradling the receiver and your small voice asking for the doctor, you only knew him by his first name, this doctor Fernando, in those days when house calls were still made and you, feverish on the couch, with wet cloths and hot delirious dreams that came out through your chattering teeth and then you felt somewhere the burn of a needle entering the flesh of your arm and the heavy quiet under your lids after– But this time it  wasn’t you, it was your mother passed out on the kitchen’s cold granite tile after she and the cruel grandmother had another of their terrible rows and you didn’t know if she was alive, if she was still breathing, after she screamed and  heaved the stalk of green bananas leaning against the shelf across the room… You don’t know why that comes back to you, or the smell of antiseptic and lime, the sight of her body on the floor, pale limbs, bony elbows, and the kindness of the doctor when he comes through the door, how he pats your hand, how the curtains look with the sun sieving yellow through their fringes, and the sound of water dripping from a faucet–        



In response to Via Negativa: Maquiladoras.


By coach to the Duke of Albemarle, where Sir W. Batten and I only met. Troubled at my heart to see how things are ordered there without consideration or understanding. Thence back by coach and called at Wotton’s, my shoemaker, lately come to towne, and bespoke shoes, as also got him to find me a taylor to make me some clothes, my owne being not yet in towne, nor Pym, my Lord Sandwich’s taylor. So he helped me to a pretty man, one Mr. Penny, against St. Dunstan’s Church. Thence to the ‘Change and there met Mr. Moore, newly come to towne, and took him home to dinner with me and after dinner to talke, and he and I do conclude my Lord’s case to be very bad and may be worse, if he do not get a pardon for his doings about the prizes and his business at Bergen, and other things done by him at sea, before he goes for Spayne. I do use all the art I can to get him to get my Lord to pay my cozen Pepys, for it is a great burden to my mind my being bound for my Lord in 1000l. to him. Having done discourse with him and directed him to go with my advice to my Lord expresse to-morrow to get his pardon perfected before his going, because of what I read the other night in Sir W. Coventry’s letter, I to the office, and there had an extraordinary meeting of Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Batten, and Sir W. Pen, and my Lord Bruncker and I to hear my paper read about pursers, which they did all of them with great good will and great approbation of my method and pains in all, only Sir W. Pen, who must except against every thing and remedy nothing, did except against my proposal for some reasons, which I could not understand, I confess, nor my Lord Bruncker neither, but he did detect indeed a failure or two of mine in my report about the ill condition of the present pursers, which I did magnify in one or two little things, to which, I think, he did with reason except, but at last with all respect did declare the best thing he ever heard of this kind, but when Sir W. Batten did say, “Let us that do know the practical part of the Victualling meet Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Pen and I and see what we can do to mend all, he was so far from offering or furthering it, that he declined it and said, he must be out of towne. So as I ever knew him never did in his life ever attempt to mend any thing, but suffer all things to go on in the way they are, though never so bad, rather than improve his experience to the King’s advantage. So we broke up, however, they promising to meet to offer some thing in it of their opinions, and so we rose, and I and my Lord Bruncker by coach a little way for discourse sake, till our coach broke, and tumbled me over him quite down the side of the coach, falling on the ground about the Stockes, but up again, and thinking it fit to have for my honour some thing reported in writing to the Duke in favour of my pains in this, lest it should be thought to be rejected as frivolous, I did move it to my Lord, and he will see it done to-morrow. So we parted, and I to the office and thence home to my poor wife, who works all day at home like a horse, at the making of her hangings for our chamber and the bed. So to supper and to bed.

bled to make shoes
to make clothes

which they did with good will
and great pain

who could not say Let us see
what we can do to mend all

as a fur of experience
rose over us like amber

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 12 January 1666.