Kicking each other’s legs in line, surreptitiously. Morning flag
ceremony. Announcements via megaphone or speaking trumpet.

No running water in the latrines, and yet the teachers said
to use a sheet of writing paper as toilet paper. Slapping

two erasers against each other to shake the chalk dust loose.
Watching the white trail sift over the third floor railing.

Intonation practice: Good mor-ning miss! Grammar trees
and sentence parsing. Daily multiplication drills. Mission

Sunday and First Friday mass. Friday afternoons in the social hall,
watching old Steamboat Willie cartoons and a full length movie:

Zorro. Sister Carmen writing out the rules for softball
on the board in perfect cursive. Reading and memorizing, then

taking a quiz. Nail inspections. Nape inspections. Underwear
inspections. Kneeling on dry beans in the corner as punishment.

Walking through basement hallways for lessons in the music
room. Rumors of headless ghosts guarding the bell-pull.

On X-ray day, public health vans parked in the field. Rumor:
drinking a whole glass of milk made for a clear scan. How

heat smells, emanating from six hundred bodies spilling
into the yard. Joy of the loud four-thirty bell.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Portrait of the writer as a young man.

Up, and after a while at the office, I abroad in several places, among others to my bookseller’s, and there spoke for several books against New Year’s day, I resolving to lay out about 7l. or 8l., God having given me some profit extraordinary of late; and bespoke also some plate, spoons, and forks. I pray God keep me from too great expenses, though these will still be pretty good money. Then to the ‘Change, and I home to dinner, where Creed and Mr. Caesar, my boy’s lute master, who plays indeed mighty finely, and after dinner I abroad, parting from Creed, and away to and fro, laying out or preparing for laying out more money, but I hope and resolve not to exceed therein, and to-night spoke for some fruit for the country for my father against Christmas, and where should I do it, but at the pretty woman’s, that used to stand at the doore in Fanchurch Streete, I having a mind to know her.
So home, and late at my office, evening reckonings with Shergoll, hoping to get money by the business, and so away home to supper and to bed, not being very well through my taking cold of late, and so troubled with some wind.

the place for a book against plate
spoons and forks
God and Caesar
who lays out fruit
for Father Christmas
and where but at the door to evening
reckoning with cold and wind


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 14 December 1664.

Lay long in bed, then up, and many people to speak with me. Then to my office, and dined at noon at home, then to the office again, where we sat all the afternoon, and then home at night to a little supper, and so after my office again at 12 at night home to bed.

on any peak
the din of ice
no little up and off again


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 13 December 1664.

On the radio they’re talking about the milkshake duck
which, along with path of totality, has earned the distinction
of being one of 2017’s words of the year. A close third,

in my opinion, should be virality, which is what enables
the widespread popularity of both milkshake duck and path
of totality; and which the English Oxford dictionary defines

as the tendency of an image, video, or piece of information
to be circulated rapidly and widely from one Internet user
to another.
Remember that hot Monday afternoon in August,

sitting on the university’s grassy lawn, sweat sticking
to the backs of our shirts and shorts? We’re far from being in
the swath of totality; nonetheless there’s something momentous

about being among the hundreds there, eyes properly outfitted
with NASA-issued solar filter viewing glasses, tilting our heads
back, waiting for the moment when the moon completely

obliterates the sun’s big brassy face as a band plays jaunty
music in the shade. It doesn’t last long, and neither does summer—
its salty tang, the crowds of tourists splayed out on the beach,

drinking from sand-crusted water bottles or pushing boogie boards
into the waves. After becomes the inconceivable season of one
milkshake duck after another: as Twitter handle Recognize

the Vox Union Now put it, we are now milkshake ducking
at speeds heretofore unseen by man.
Every public figure
revered in one glowing moment quickly unmasked, undone

in the next— Another age gave us gods with clay feet:
that picture, at least, conveys some sense of gravitas.
This on the other hand is shifty, has something opaque

and odious about it— made uglier by prejudice flying off
the tongue; webbed feet sticking out from under trouser hems,
or worse, an ass or penis flapping its pathetic flag in the air.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Demagogue.

“I wanted nothing but your happiness.” ~ Brenda Shaughnessy,”Magi”

But it is true I wanted to find
some joy for myself too. Why

regard these things as if they
were such a terrible contradiction?

There are those who want diamonds, houses,
sex, men, money, the beauty of the world

with which to garland their bodies. Or travel;
time to read books, widen the berth on which

one might perch through calamitously tilting
years. Space in which to turn into a self

separate from the ones attached to the glittering
need and hunger of others. Once, I was told: reach

and you can reach for others. Become and you can be
their more. I’ve pressed myself as hard as I can

into the mouth of that machine. Can you believe me then
when I say I wanted nothing but your happiness? Still do.

Up, and with Sir W. Batten by coach to White Hall, where all of us with the Duke; Mr. Coventry privately did tell me the reason of his advice against our pretences to the Prize Office (in his letter from Portsmouth), because he knew that the King and the Duke had resolved to put in some Parliament men that have deserved well, and that would needs be obliged, by putting them in.
Thence homeward, called at my bookseller’s and bespoke some books against the year’s out, and then to the ‘Change, and so home to dinner, and then to the office, where my Lord Brunkard comes and reads over part of our Instructions in the Navy — and I expounded it to him, so he is become my disciple. He gone, comes Cutler to tell us that the King of France hath forbid any canvass to be carried out of his kingdom, and I to examine went with him to the East India house to see a letter, but came too late. So home again, and there late till 12 at night at my office, and then home to supper and to bed.
This day (to see how things are ordered in the world), I had a command from the Earle of Sandwich, at Portsmouth, not to be forward with Mr. Cholmly and Sir J. Lawson about the Mole at Tangier, because that what I do therein will (because of his friendship to me known) redound against him, as if I had done it upon his score. So I wrote to my Lord my mistake, and am contented to promise never to pursue it more, which goes against my mind with all my heart.

I become a disciple
to the night to see
how things are in the world
of the mole
never mind my heart


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 12 December 1664. The title is a quote from John Donne’s “A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day” (which is Dec. 13).

The darkness thinks itself
immutable, so the sky says
we should be afraid—

But the light and all
it touches belongs
to us— Be careful!

Maybe you can try
to keep us from where
we once bathed in pools

of starlight. Maybe you
can try to wipe away cities
of fog as we chart them—

Someone saw where we hid
our wings. Until then
I didn’t know how

it felt to leave the body.
I’m always listening for
the rustle of our bones.

(Lord’s day). Up and to church alone in the morning. Dined at home, mighty pleasantly. In the afternoon I to the French church, where much pleased with the three sisters of the parson, very handsome, especially in their noses, and sing prettily. I heard a good sermon of the old man, touching duty to parents. Here was Sir Samuel Morland and his lady very fine, with two footmen in new liverys (the church taking much notice of them), and going into their coach after sermon with great gazeing. So I home, and my cozen, Mary Pepys’s husband, comes after me, and told me that out of the money he received some months since he did receive 18d. too much, and did now come and give it me, which was very pretty. So home, and there found Mr. Andrews and his lady, a well-bred and a tolerable pretty woman, and by and by Mr. Hill and to singing, and then to supper, then to sing again, and so good night. To prayers and tonight [bed].
It is a little strange how these Psalms of Ravenscroft after 2 or 3 times singing prove but the same again, though good. No diversity appearing at all almost.

three sisters of arson
taking to their hill

I pray to the ravens three times
singing the same thou


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 11 December 1664. Inspired by a photo by Colleen Gara.

Lay long, at which I am ashamed, because of so many people observing it that know not how late I sit up, and for fear of Sir W. Batten’s speaking of it to others, he having staid for me a good while. At the office all the morning, where comes my Lord Brunkard with his patent in his hand, and delivered it to Sir J. Minnes and myself, we alone being there all the day, and at noon I in his coach with him to the ‘Change, where he set me down; a modest civil person he seems to be, but wholly ignorant in the business of the Navy as possible, but I hope to make a friend of him, being a worthy man.
Thence after hearing the great newes of so many Dutchmen being brought in to Portsmouth and elsewhere, which it is expected will either put them upon present revenge or despair, I with Sir W. Rider and Cutler to dinner all alone to the Great James, where good discourse, and, I hope, occasion of getting something hereafter.
After dinner to White Hall to the Fishery, where the Duke was with us.
So home, and late at my office, writing many letters, then home to supper and to bed. Yesterday come home, and this night I visited Sir W. Pen, who dissembles great respect and love to me, but I understand him very well.
Major Holmes is come from Guinny, and is now at Plymouth with great wealth, they say.

shamed because of how I fear others
I seem wholly ignorant to make
the news men despair

where white fish at supper
respect and love me
understand a mouth with great wealth


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 10 December 1664.

At thirty, I wonder
for the first time where

my childhood went; why I didn’t
for the longest time have words
to describe things done

surreptitiously to me: yet I
am good at summaries and speed

reading; also I know how to gut
and butterfly a fish. I look
sometimes in the mirror above

the bathroom sink to run the tip
of my index finger under my lip,

feeling for the ridge on the gum
where the shard from an old tooth
once sat, rootless, gathering

stench. Of this, I am not afraid:
at night before bed, fingers dig

to loosen the sliver from
its sheath, until one day it
gives up and the mouth floods

with a vinegar taste. That seems
so long ago. Now, past fifty, I want

only to walk lightly on all the powdered
snow while yellow lights come on: first
one side of the street, then the other.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Balancing act.