The Future

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On the great subject, that is,
time— Out of which others

carve monuments, hammer
long planks of wood into men-

of-war, each with three masts
and voluminous sails; launch

complicated quests that with good
winds and fortune might return,

after years of scurvy and tossing
on the seas. But we have only

ordinary tools—whittling a little of it
at a time, we pretend at saving; defer

fulfillment, wait for the rain to unglue
the lips of envelopes, break rust-

weakened hinges. Whatever its love
language is, it isn’t supplication.

Empires roll themselves into scrolls.
The dead, wrapped in scarves high up

in the hills, count the breath of stars
exhaling millions of years before us.


Running on emptiness

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(Lord’s day). Up, and with my wife to church, and thither comes Roger Pepys to our pew, and thence home to dinner, whither comes by invitation Mr. Turner, the minister, and my cozen Roger brought with him Jeffrys, the apothecary at Westminster, who is our kinsman, and we had much discourse of Cottenhamshire, and other things with great pleasure. My cozen Roger did tell me of a bargain which I may now have in Norfolke, that my she-cozen, Nan Pepys, is going to sell, the title whereof is very good, and the pennyworth is also good enough; but it is out of the way so of my life, that I shall never enjoy it, nor, it may be, see it, and so I shall have nothing to do with it. After dinner to talk, and I find by discourse Mr. Turner to be a man mighty well read in the Roman history, which is very pleasant. By and by Roger went, and Mr. Turner spent an hour talking over my Lord Sandwich’s condition as to this Parliament, which we fear may be bad, and the condition of his family, which can be no better, and then having little to comfort ourselves but that this humour will not last always in the Parliament, and that [it] may well have a great many more as great men as he enquired into, and so we parted, and I to my chamber, and there busy all the evening, and then my wife and I to supper, and so to bed, with much discourse and pleasure one with another.

my Zen is a thin Zen

a bargain Zen

I have nothing to do with it

I turn over my sandwich

it will not last to supper

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 3 November 1667.

Sharps

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The skin 
of fruit, glowing 
under its neural membrane: 
how one's mouth closes 
around the webbed strings, 
the casing, the pulp— 
It isn't the knife
that is the enemy.

I had been saying
for some time
that we cannot choose
what to feel. None of it,
all of it: one burns
just as fiercely
as the other. All
of it is ours.

What goes through you
as a great hurt—
is it indistinguishable
from other stylets
that found their way
beneath your skin?
Sharps, they're called.
Needles. A catheter. 
A probe. Something 
that knows exactly where
you are most tender. 
 

Making room

Up, and to the office, where busy all the morning; at noon home, and after dinner my wife and Willett and I to the King’s playhouse, and there saw “Henry the Fourth:” and contrary to expectation, was pleased in nothing more than in Cartwright’s speaking of Falstaffe’s speech about “What is Honour?” The house full of Parliament-men, it being holyday with them: and it was observable how a gentleman of good habit, sitting just before us, eating of some fruit in the midst of the play, did drop down as dead, being choked; but with much ado Orange Moll did thrust her finger down his throat, and brought him to life again. After the play, we home, and I busy at the office late, and then home to supper and to bed.

holiday eating
in the midst of the dead

a finger down his throat
brought him to life again

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 2 November 1667.

Oblivion

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Up betimes, and down to the waterside (calling and drinking a dram of the bottle at Michell’s, but saw not Betty), and thence to White Hall and to Sir W. Coventry’s lodging, where he and I alone a good while, where he gives me the full of the Duke of Albemarle’s and Prince’s narratives, given yesterday by the House, wherein they fall foul of him and Sir G. Carteret in something about the dividing of the fleete, and the Prince particularly charging the Commissioners of the Navy with negligence, he says the Commissioners of the Navy whereof Sir W. Coventry is one. He tells me that he is prepared to answer any particular most thoroughly, but the quality of the persons do make it difficult for him, and so I do see is in great pain, poor man, though he deserves better than twenty such as either of them, for his abilities and true service to the King and kingdom. He says there is incoherences, he believes, to be found between their two reports, which will be pretty work to consider. The Duke of Albemarle charges W. Coventry that he should tell him, when he come down to the fleete with Sir G. Carteret, to consult about dividing the fleete, that the Dutch would not be out in six weeks, which W. Coventry says is as false as is possible, and he can prove the contrary by the Duke of Albemarle’s own letters. The Duke of Albemarle says that he did upon sight of the Dutch call a council of officers, and they did conclude they could not avoid fighting the Dutch; and yet we did go to the enemy, and found them at anchor, which is a pretty contradiction. And he tells me that Spragg did the other day say in the House, that the Prince, at his going from the Duke of Albemarle with his fleete, did tell him that if the Dutch should come on, the Duke was to follow him, the Prince, with his fleete, and not fight the Dutch. Out of all this a great deal of good might well be picked. But it is a sad consideration that all this picking of holes in one another’s coats — nay, and the thanks of the House to the Prince and the Duke of Albemarle, and all this envy and design to ruin Sir W. Coventry — did arise from Sir W. Coventry’s unfortunate mistake the other day, in producing of a letter from the Duke of Albemarle, touching the good condition of all things at Chatham just before the Dutch come up, and did us that fatal mischiefe; for upon this they are resolved to undo him, and I pray God they do not. He tells me upon my demanding it that he thinks the King do not like this their bringing these narratives, and that they give out that they would have said more but that the King hath hindered them, that I suppose is about my Lord Sandwich. He is getting a copy of the Narratives, which I shall then have, and so I parted from him and away to White Hall, where I met Mr. Creed and Yeabsly, and discoursed a little about Mr. Yeabsly’s business and accounts, and so I to chapel and there staid, it being All-Hallows day, and heard a fine anthem, made by Pelham (who is come over) in France, of which there was great expectation, and indeed is a very good piece of musique, but still I cannot call the Anthem anything but instrumentall musique with the voice, for nothing is made of the words at all.
I this morning before chapel visited Sir G. Carteret, who is vexed to see how things are likely to go, but cannot help it, and yet seems to think himself mighty safe. I also visited my Lord Hinchingbroke, at his chamber at White Hall, where I found Mr. Turner, Moore, and Creed, talking of my Lord Sandwich, whose case I doubt is but bad, and, I fear, will not escape being worse, though some of the company did say otherwise. But I am mightily pleased with my Lord Hinchingbroke’s sobriety and few words.
After chapel I with Creed to the Exchange, and after much talk he and I there about securing of some money either by land or goods to be always at our command, which we think a thing advisable in this critical time, we parted, and I to the Sun Taverne with Sir W. Warren (with whom I have not drank many a day, having for some time been strange to him), and there did put it to him to advise me how to dispose of my prize, which he will think of and do to my best advantage. We talked of several other things relating to his service, wherein I promise assistance, but coldly, thinking it policy to do so, and so, after eating a short dinner, I away home, and there took out my wife, and she and I alone to the King’s playhouse, and there saw a silly play and an old one, “The Taming of a Shrew,” and so home and I to my office a little, and then home to supper and to bed.

bottle full of yesterday
and incoherence

found between two holes
in a coat

let it undo me
like an anthem with no words

I will exchange the sun
for time alone

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 1 November 1667.

Immanence

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How the foundation is not separate 
    from the world, but is held  
          and present inside it. How,

like you, I've wondered where
     the time we thought we were building
          or collecting has gone.

Every bird  
     a bright stripe: flocks
         of them, arrows releasing 
     what we read as purpose 
into the air.

I've learned to anticipate
      the specific murmur that means
          the hour bends to rouse our bodies
      so we can offer them to whatever
emptiness needs to be filled.

Perhaps I haven't thanked 
      the earth enough; nor you; 
          nor the water that still holds

some love for us despite its moods
      and temperament—from it, I learned  
         the gesture for cupping a face in my hands.



Bibliophile

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Up, and all the morning at the office, and at noon Mr. Creed and Yeabsly dined with me (my wife gone to dine with Mrs. Pierce and see a play with her), and after dinner in comes Mr. Turner, of Eynsbury, lately come to town, and also after him Captain Hill of the “Coventry,” who lost her at Barbadoes, and is come out of France, where he hath been long prisoner. After a great deal of mixed discourse, and then Mr. Turner and I alone a little in my closet, talking about my Lord Sandwich (who I hear is now ordered by the King to come home again), we all parted, and I by water, calling at Michell’s, and saw and once kissed su wife, but I do think that he is jealous of her, and so she dares not stand out of his sight; so could not do more, but away by water to the Temple, and there, after spending a little time in my bookseller’s shop, I to Westminster; and there at the lobby do hear by Commissioner Pett, to my great amazement, that he is in worse condition than before, by the coming in of the Duke of Albemarle’s and Prince Rupert’s Narratives’ this day; wherein the former do most severely lay matters upon him, so as the House this day have, I think, ordered him to the Tower again, or something like it; so that the poor man is likely to be overthrown, I doubt, right or wrong, so infinite fond they are of any thing the Duke of Albemarle says or writes to them! I did then go down, and there met with Colonel Reames and cozen Roger Pepys; and there they do tell me how the Duke of Albemarle and the Prince have laid blame on a great many, and particularly on our Office in general; and particularly for want of provision, wherein I shall come to be questioned again in that business myself; which do trouble me. But my cozen Pepys and I had much discourse alone: and he do bewail the constitution of this House, and says there is a direct caball and faction, as much as is possible between those for and those against the Chancellor, and so in other factions, that there is nothing almost done honestly and with integrity; only some few, he says, there are, that do keep out of all plots and combinations, and when their time comes will speak and see right done, if possible; and that he himself is looked upon to be a man that will be of no faction, and so they do shun to make him; and I am glad of it. He tells me that he thanks God he never knew what it was to be tempted to be a knave in his life; till he did come into the House of Commons, where there is nothing done but by passion, and faction, and private interest. Reames did tell me of a fellow last night (one Kelsy, a commander of a fire-ship, who complained for want of his money paid him) did say that he did see one of the Commissioners of the Navy bring in three waggon-loads of prize-goods into Greenwich one night; but that the House did take no notice of it, nor enquire; but this is me, and I must expect to be called to account, and answer what I did as well as I can. So thence away home, and in Holborne, going round, it being dark, I espied Sir D. Gawden’s coach, and so went out of mine into his; and there had opportunity to talk of the business of victuals, which the Duke of Albemarle and Prince did complain that they were in want of the last year: but we do conclude we shall be able to show quite the contrary of that; only it troubles me that we must come to contend with these great persons, which will overrun us. So with some disquiet in my mind on this account I home, and there comes Mr. Yeabsly, and he and I to even some accounts, wherein I shall be a gainer about 200l., which is a seasonable profit, for I have got nothing a great while; and he being gone, I to bed.

lost in my books
the maze of narratives

like a vision of another
impossible life

where there is nothing done
but by passion

one fire
one green night

and I must expect to go dark
or be overrun

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 31 October 1667.

Metamorphic

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One or the other child
was always picking up pebbles,
     chalk, bits of shell.

In a stone, 
     the dream of a hollow.

A dream of hard darkness 
giving way to something not
     rooted in loss, 
no longer grieving.

I think of them touching
     asterisks of sea-glass;

in the folds of a pocket,
     an accidental constellation.

 

Variations on the Theme of Temporary Brilliance

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How do we come to know
anything about a body,
or how it must leave itself 
behind in order to travel 
somewhere it can't imagine 
either? With great reluctance,

after the last hard rain 
that fell a week, the water 
that pooled in the yard finally 
ribbons into the ground. We're told
there will be nights at year's end

when four planets will follow 
each other across the sky's dome. 
From here they will look so close,
like pins someone reached up 

to tack in a thoughtful line
onto a board. In the morning, all 
along our fence which is also the other 

side of the neighbor's fence, a stripe 
like a gray horizon, still damp; 

measure of how much, how high.      
 

Subjects

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All the morning till past noon preparing over again our report this afternoon to the Committee of Parliament about tickets, and then home to eat a bit, and then with Sir W. Pen to White Hall, where we did a very little business with the Duke of York at our usual meeting, only I perceive that he do leave all of us, as the King do those about him, to stand and fall by ourselves, and I think is not without some cares himself what the Parliament may do in matters wherein his honour is concerned. Thence to the Parliament-house; where, after the Committee was sat, I was called in; and the first thing was upon the complaint of a dirty slut that was there, about a ticket which she had lost, and had applied herself to me for another. I did give them a short and satisfactory answer to that; and so they sent her away, and were ashamed of their foolery, in giving occasion to 500 seamen and seamen’s wives to come before them, as there was this afternoon. But then they fell to the business of tickets, and I did give them the best answer I could, but had not scope to do it in the methodical manner which I had prepared myself for, but they did ask a great many broken rude questions about it, and were mightily hot whether my Lord Bruncker had any order to discharge whole ships by ticket, and because my answer was with distinction, and not direct, I did perceive they were not so fully satisfied therewith as I could wish they were. So my Lord Bruncker was called in, and they could fasten nothing on him that I could see, nor indeed was there any proper matter for blame, but I do see, and it was said publicly in the House by Sir T. Clerges that Sir W. Batten had designed the business of discharging men by ticket and an order after the thing was done to justify my Lord Bruncker for having done it. But this I did not owne at all, nor was it just so, though he did indeed do something like it, yet had contributed as much to it as any man of the board by sending down of tickets to do it. But, Lord! to see that we should be brought to justify ourselves in a thing of necessity and profit to the King, and of no profit or convenience to us, but the contrary.
We being withdrawn, we heard no more of it, but there staid late and do hear no more, only my cozen Pepys do tell me that he did hear one or two whisper as if they thought that I do bogle at the business of my Lord Bruncker, which is a thing I neither did or have reason to do in his favour, but I do not think it fit to make him suffer for a thing that deserves well. But this do trouble me a little that anything should stick to my prejudice in any of them, and did trouble me so much that all the way home with Sir W. Pen I was not at good ease, nor all night, though when I come home I did find my wife, and Betty Turner, the two Mercers, and Mrs. Parker, an ugly lass, but yet dances well, and speaks the best of them, and W. Batelier, and Pembleton dancing; and here I danced with them, and had a good supper, and as merry as I could be, and so they being gone we to bed.

we fall by ourselves into the dirt

we are as broken as a fast

a rope is a necessity of no profit to us

we hear it whisper dance well

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 30 October 1667.