Sam Pepys and me

Up early, and, with Sir R. Slingsby (and Major Waters the deaf gentleman, his friend, for company’s sake) to the Victualling-office (the first time that I ever knew where it was), and there staid while he read a commission for enquiry into some of the King’s lands and houses thereabouts, that are given his brother. And then we took boat to Woolwich, where we staid and gave order for the fitting out of some more ships presently. And then to Deptford, where we staid and did the same; and so took barge again, and were overtaken by the King in his barge, he having been down the river with his yacht this day for pleasure to try it; and, as I hear, Commissioner Pett’s do prove better than the Dutch one, and that that his brother built.
While we were upon the water, one of the greatest showers of rain fell that ever I saw.
The Comptroller and I landed with our barge at the Temple, and from thence I went to my father’s, and there did give order about some clothes to be made, and did buy a new hat, cost between 20 and 30 shillings, at Mr. Holden’s. So home.

with water for company’s sake
I miss the boat

and taken in a yacht
I miss the water

a shower of rain fell
from my new hat

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 21 May 1661.


river in November light between bare woods and mountain
Before the lamb leaped 
into the arms of the woman

with seven diadems and orange
groves flowered beneath

the mountains' hems, our hearts
were forged in the fire

that could never be
extinguished. But then

our hearts folded into boats
as the waters rose, and all the fish

in the world recalled the bones
they'd once given up to fill out

our forms. We've made our own
way since then—trying to keep

the flicker of heat alive,
trying not to surrender to the call

of the owl or the mourning
dove. When we stand

in a shower of rain
or falling leaves, when

we're struck with the gold
of certain days, our hearts

burst from within; our faces,
tongued by the kiss of time.

Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 20

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. You can also browse the blog digest archive at Via Negativa or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack (where the posts might be truncated by some email providers).

This week: grief’s alphabet, moon menders, insect-poets, a paradise of sentences, and more. I challenged myself to quote just one paragraph from each blog post, and mostly kept to that. I’ll probably return to my usual pattern next week, but it was fun to court brevity for a change!

Continue reading “Poetry Blog Digest 2024, Week 20”


river in November light between bare woods and mountain

Even the most insignificant detail is a petal
detached from the more florid arrangements

of history. For instance, it’s not a coincidence
that the puffy-faced, butterfly-sleeved widow

of a deceased dictator says, There are two most
important men in my life and both of them are

. There’s a whole line of women
installed to power by their sons who were

emperors. Mothers, certainly, but also ambitious;
knowledgeable in the poisonous properties of mush-

rooms, the power of relics to inspire processions,
where loyalty and ardor are on lavish display.

In our town, mothers fought for their daughters’
places in the Santacruzan’s entourage of queens—

The most important: Reyna Elena who found
the true cross, mother of Constantine the Great.

The rest of us were First or Second Princesses,
stumbling in long sequinned dresses; or stand-ins

for made up or biblical characters. Reyna Justicia,
Reyna de la Paz, Reyna Esperanza; Reyna Mora, Reyna

Cleopatra. Reyna Judit—red-stained sword aloft in one
hand, the other dangling a doll’s decapitated head by its hair.


Sam Pepys and me

At home all the morning; paid 50l. to one Mr. Grant for Mr. Barlow, for the last half year, and was visited by Mr. Anderson, my former chamber fellow at Cambridge, with whom I parted at the Hague, but I did not go forth with him, only gave him a morning draft at home.
At noon Mr. Creed came to me, and he and I to the Exchange, and so to an ordinary to dinner, and after dinner to the Mitre, and there sat drinking while it rained very much. Then to the office, where I found Sir Williams both, choosing of masters for the new fleet of ships that is ordered to be set forth, and Pen seeming to be in an ugly humour, not willing to gratify one that I mentioned to be put in, did vex me.
We sat late, and so home. Mr. Moore came to me when I was going to bed, and sat with me a good while talking about my Lord’s business and our own and so good night.

low as my low bridge
I sat drinking
while it rained

choosing to be
in an ugly humor
in my own good night

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 20 May 1661.

An ill wind

Sam Pepys and me

(Lord’s day) I walked in the morning towards Westminster, and seeing many people at York House, I went down and found them at mass, it being the Spanish ambassodors; and so I go into one of the gallerys, and there heard two masses done, I think, not in so much state as I have seen them heretofore. After that into the garden, and walked a turn or two, but found it not so fine a place as I always took it for by the outside. Thence to my Lord’s and there spake with him about business, and then he went to Whitehall to dinner, and Capt. Ferrers and Mr. Howe and myself to Mr. Wilkinson’s at the Crown, and though he had no meat of his own, yet we happened to find our cook Mr. Robinson there, who had a dinner for himself and some friends, and so he did give us a very fine dinner.
Then to my Lord’s, where we went and sat talking and laughing in the drawing-room a great while. All our talk about their going to sea this voyage, which Capt. Ferrers is in some doubt whether he shall go or no, but swears that he would go, if he were sure never to come back again; and I, giving him some hopes, he grew so mad with joy that he fell a-dancing and leaping like a madman.
Now it fell out so that the balcone windows were open, and he went to the rayle and made an offer to leap over, and asked what if he should leap over there. I told him I would give him 40l. if he did not go to sea. With that thought I shut the doors, and W. Howe hindered him all we could; yet he opened them again, and, with a vault, leaps down into the garden:— the greatest and most desperate frolic that ever I saw in my life. I run to see what was become of him, and we found him crawled upon his knees, but could not rise; so we went down into the garden and dragged him to the bench, where he looked like a dead man, but could not stir; and, though he had broke nothing, yet his pain in his back was such as he could not endure. With this, my Lord (who was in the little new room) come to us in amaze, and bid us carry him up, which, by our strength, we did, and so laid him in East’s bed, by the door; where he lay in great pain. We sent for a doctor and chyrurgeon, but none to be found, till by-and-by by chance comes in Dr. Clerke, who is afeard of him. So we sent to get a lodging for him, and I went up to my Lord, where Captain Cooke, Mr. Gibbons, and others of the King’s musicians were come to present my Lord with some songs and symphonys, which were performed very finely. Which being done I took leave and supped at my father’s, where was my cozen Beck come lately out of the country.
I am troubled to see my father so much decay of a suddain, as he do both in his seeing and hearing, and as much to hear of him how my brother Tom do grow disrespectful to him and my mother.
I took leave and went home, where to prayers (which I have not had in my house a good while), and so to bed.

down in the garden by myself
talking with the wind

what if I could crawl
but could not rise

pain is a new room
great pain is a lodging

the king’s musicians present
a symphony of decay

I hear rot grow
where prayers have not

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 19 May 1661.

Amianan, Abagatan*

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
In summer, when I crack 
the windows open, sometimes
I imagine the night jasmine
pulling threads of scent
from far away.

It's been years
since my mother put the Virgin
in my hand and closed her fingers
around mine, wishing me good
journeys: my dark, palm-sized
plaster Madonna, in a skirt
belled and blue.

Fade of gold
crowning her head, one of
dozens on the sidewalk
at the entrance to the church
in Antipolo, sold with prayer beads
and vials of blessed oil.

Humid winds blew
across the water, stirring
the breadfruit trees. Like
the galleon El Almirante, they
could billow a sail across the sea.

* North and South, in Ilocano

From the outside

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
I am only snacking. 

Every day, I am trying to learn

not to miss you so much, like one

salted kernel at a time. It's like

an addiction, though—I dip

my hand into the crumpled

tinfoil bag until my fingertips

graze what's left. My mouth

knows this taste, and the thirst

that follows after it's empty.


Sam Pepys and me

Towards Westminster, from the Towre, by water, and was fain to stand upon one of the piers about the bridge, before the men could drag their boat through the lock, and which they could not do till another was called to help them.
Being through bridge I found the Thames full of boats and gallys, and upon inquiry found that there was a wager to be run this morning. So spying of Payne in a gully, I went into him, and there staid, thinking to have gone to Chelsy with them. But upon, the start, the wager boats fell foul one of another, till at last one of them gives over, pretending foul play, and so the other row away alone, and all our sport lost. So, I went ashore, at Westminster; and to the Hall I went, where it was very pleasant to see the Hall in the condition it is now with the judges on the benches at the further end of it, which I had not seen all this term till now.
Thence with Mr. Spicer, Creed and some others to drink. And so away homewards by water with Mr. Creed, whom I left in London going about business and I home, where I staid all the afternoon in the garden reading “Faber Fortunae” with great pleasure. So home to bed.

water full of boats
we row away alone

lost in the fur
of drink

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 18 May 1661.