There are those who say I have no culture or I have no [history] by which they mean [they believe] a lineage [begins] in the aftermath of war and not before It takes centuries for smoke [to clear] enough of an opening Ghosts return as night folds again The fragrance of laurel leaf interposes between one page and another You can barely discern which hand [wrote, erased, revised—] But everyone comes from somewhere Is coughed up from the damp belly of a ship onto shore Count the notches carved into wood One for each [departure or arrival] Lay your palms where children and adults shuffed down a gangplank holding in their hands pictures of their lungs The spore of a potato from the old country hidden in a trouser cuff Salt-smell clinging to each collar Every mouth holding on to syllables that once made the only sense Each one [from]
Up betimes, and to my Office, where we had a meeting extraordinary to consider of several things, among others the sum of money fit to be demanded ready money, to enable us to set out 27 ships, every body being now in pain for a fleete, and everybody endeavouring to excuse themselves for the not setting out of one, and our true excuse is lack of money. At it all the morning, and so at noon home to dinner with my clerks, my wife and Deb. being busy at work above in her chamber getting things ready and fine for her going into the country a week or two hence. I away by coach to White Hall, where we met to wait on the Duke of York, and, soon as prayers were done, it being Good Friday, he come to us, and we did a little business and presented him with our demand of money, and so broke up, and I thence by coach to Kate Joyce’s, being desirous and in pain to speak with her about the business that I received a letter yesterday, but had no opportunity of speaking with her about it, company being with her, so I only invited her to come and dine with me on Sunday next, and so away home, and for saving my eyes at my chamber all the evening pricking down some things, and trying some conclusions upon my viall, in order to the inventing a better theory of musique than hath yet been abroad; and I think verily I shall do it. So to supper with my wife, who is in very good humour with her working, and so am I, and so to bed. This day at Court I do hear that Sir W. Pen do command this summer’s fleete; and Mr. Progers of the Bedchamber, as a secret, told me that the Prince Rupert is troubled at it, and several friends of his have been with him to know the reason of it; so that he do pity Sir W. Pen, whom he hath great kindness for, that he should not at any desire of his be put to this service, and thereby make the Prince his enemy, and contract more envy from other people. But I am not a whit sorry if it should be so, first for the King’s sake, that his work will be better done by Sir W. Pen than the Prince, and next that Pen, who is a false rogue, may be bit a little by it.
a body in pain
is ready for prayer
so I invited her
to come dine with me
and invent a better
theory of music
with our bed
fleet as a secret
told to my pen
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 20 March 1668
Driving home along the river, I have to turn on the windshield wipers every mile or two because of all the mayflies, the off-white inkblots of their anonymous deaths. Imagine living one’s life in a state of arrested development, and only on your last day undergoing not one, but two radical transformations, one after the other: growing wings, breathing air, and mating just once, having gained reproductive parts in exchange for the loss of a mouth.
scheduling my first
Placing two things in close proximity: that’s a poem. The shadbush and hepatica footage here came from a single walk down the hollow and back. But if only I’d had a dash cam on that drive home…
Will this be the final post in the Pandemic Year series? Probably not, but it feels as if it could be.
Pedants may think that COVID should still be written in all caps but that doesn’t seem to be how common usage has gone. In time, even the initial capital letter will come to seem too much, and it’ll end up like scuba or ok, just another word.
A woman walks to church the Monday after Easter. She's wearing a light sweater because at last it feels like it could truly be spring. But who even goes to church anymore on a weekday morning in New York? The immigrant healthcare workers will tell you. The nannies and short- order cooks, the 1 AM custodial workers; grandmothers who spent years polishing other people's floors on their knees as if before a god who only cares that every surface reflects his many countenances. See the figure that approaches her from left of camera, spitting words we know by now have the power to wrench visible what's usually invisible. Say scourge and it becomes scourge, say peril; say it must go or doesn't belong. See her fall beneath the weight of a boot. Imagine the crack of her pelvis on the pavement, a sound muffled by traffic in its banal passage. Tell me how a woman slight of build could save every last penny in a clean pickle jar to put children through college, then copper her with bruises as sudden flowers erupt on her face. A few feet away, three doormen shut double glass doors that might have pulled her into quick safety. Across the street, someone is screaming. I don't know what words those might have been. I wasn't there. I'm there though I wasn't there.
Up, and betimes to the Old Swan, and by water to White Hall, and thence to W. Coventry’s, where stayed but a little to talk with him, and thence by water back again, it being a mighty fine, clear spring morning. Back to the Old Swan, and drank at Michell’s, whose house goes up apace, but I could not see Betty, and thence walked all along Thames Street, which I have not done since it was burned, as far as Billingsgate; and there do see a brave street likely to be, many brave houses being built, and of them a great many by Mr. Jaggard; but the raising of the street will make it mighty fine. So to the office, where busy all the morning. At noon home to dinner, and thence to the office, very busy till five o’clock, and then to ease my eyes I took my wife out and Deb. to the ’Change, and there bought them some things, and so home again and to the office, ended my letters, and so home to read a little more in last night’s book, with much sport, it being a foolish book, and so to supper and to bed.
This afternoon I was surprized with a letter without a name to it, very well writ, in a good stile, giving me notice of my cozen Kate Joyce’s being likely to ruin herself by marriage, and by ill reports already abroad of her, and I do fear that this keeping of an inne may spoil her, being a young and pretty comely woman, and thought to be left well. I did answer the letter with thanks and good liking, and am resolved to take the advice he gives me, and go see her, and find out what I can: but if she will ruin herself, I cannot help it, though I should be troubled for it.
water in a clear spring
like five o’clock eyes
let me read a little more
in night’s book
surprised by what
she will ruin herself for
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 19 March 1668
Dark enough to see in each black space between the stars a haze of light, soft as the fur of a cat.
dark of the moon
if anything is going
to go bump
Vividly imagining every kind of death has become my mental background noise. It’s not as if I’m even slightly suicidal. So why do I do it? Self-loathing? A deep need to keep my ego in check? This is the kind of everyday, ordinary darkness that fascinates me.
Is it even correct to call negative feelings dark? I almost feel they stem from darkness deprivation.
under my house
on the roof
my greed for poems
What if there were an ancient, possibly immortal, protector of the hollow? Or more than one? It certainly wouldn’t hurt to pour out an offering now and then, just to let them know we acknowledge their sovereignty. But otherwise don’t speak or even really think of them. Because that’s doubtless how they would prefer it, should they actually exist. They have their work and you have yours. They are of the dark. They loathe worship.
trees of fog
a train horn’s
Every time you walk through an older forest, remember: you are surrounded by beings that could crush you at any moment, but for some reason have not done so yet.
a porcupine puts
one foot in
As the crescent moon ripples and breaks apart, the mountaintop pool suddenly seems cavernous, its tree reflections trailing into the abyss. I stand to leave and the illusion passes. A bat nearly the same shade of darkness as the forest careens in and out of vision. The short path to the woods’ edge seems to have doubled in length, but this of course is another illusion. As is the bobcat quality of that snarl I just heard from the spruce grove.
The night makes everything grow: half-seen, fuzzy outlines dissolve, and the darkness itself becomes the only upward limit on size. Names and identities we wear by day become as loose-fitting as nightgowns or pajamas.
beyond the jet
The odd kinds of noises that various random songbirds make in the middle of the night, possibly without waking up: what a rare privilege to hear them, and imagine that you’ve just gotten an inkling of a wild creature’s unconscious mind.
raccoon lifting a rock
lowers the pitch
Haven't we seen their eyes follow our mouths forming around words; then wait to hear how or when we might trip or break? This is the way we learn that to speak is always revelation of our sacred silences; the tongue making its way through mine- fields and graves, its care mistaken for deficiency or meaningless delay.
Up betimes to Westminster, where met with cozen Roger and Creed and walked with them, and Roger do still continue of the mind that there is no other way of saving this nation but by dissolving this Parliament and calling another; but there are so many about the King that will not be able to stand, if a new Parliament come, that they will not persuade the King to it. I spent most of the morning walking with one or other, and anon met Doll Lane at the Dog tavern, and there yo did hazer what I did desire with her and did it backward, not having convenience to do it the other way. And I did give her as being my valentine, 20s. to buy what elle would. Thence away by coach to my bookseller’s, and to several places to pay my debts, and to Ducke Lane, and there bought Montaigne’s Essays, in English, and so away home to dinner, and after dinner with W. Pen to White Hall, where we and my Lord Brouncker attended the Council, to discourse about the fitness of entering of men presently for the manning of the fleete, before one ship is in condition to receive them. W. Coventry did argue against it: I was wholly silent, because I saw the King, upon the earnestness of the Prince, was willing to it, crying very sillily, “If ever you intend to man the fleete, without being cheated by the captains and pursers, you may go to bed, and resolve never to have it manned;” and so it was, like other things, over-ruled that all volunteers should be presently entered. Then there was another great business about our signing of certificates to the Exchequer for [prize] goods, upon the 1,250,000l. Act, which the Commissioners of the Treasury did all oppose, and to the laying fault upon us. But I did then speak to the justifying what we had done, even to the angering of Duncomb and Clifford, which I was vexed at: but, for all that, I did set the Office and myself right, and went away with the victory, my Lord Keeper saying that he would not advise the Council to order us to sign no more certificates. But, before I began to say anything in this matter, the King and the Duke of York talking at the Council-table, before all the Lords, of the Committee of Miscarriages, how this entering of men before the ships could be ready would be reckoned a miscarriage; “Why,” says the King, “it is then but Mr. Pepys making of another speech to them;” which made all the Lords, and there were by also the Atturny and Sollicitor-Generall, look upon me. Thence Sir W. Coventry, W. Pen and I, by hackney-coach to take a little ayre in Hyde Parke, the first time I have been there this year; and we did meet many coaches going and coming, it being mighty pleasant weather; and so, coming back again, I ’light in the Pell Mell; and there went to see Sir H. Cholmly, who continues very ill of his cold. And there come in Sir H. Yelverton, whom Sir H. Cholmly commended me to his acquaintance, which the other received, but without remembering to me, or I him, of our being school-fellows together; and I said nothing of it. But he took notice of my speech the other day at the bar of the House; and indeed I perceive he is a wise man by his manner of discourse, and here he do say that the town is full of it, that now the Parliament hath resolved upon 300,000l., the King, instead of fifty, will set out but twenty-five ships, and the Dutch as many; and that Smith is to command them, who is allowed to have the better of Holmes in the late dispute, and is in good esteem in the Parliament, above the other. Thence home, and there, in favour to my eyes, stayed at home, reading the ridiculous History of my Lord Newcastle, wrote by his wife, which shews her to be a mad, conceited, ridiculous woman, and he an asse to suffer her to write what she writes to him, and of him. Betty Turner sent my wife the book to read, and it being a fair print, to ease my eyes, which would be reading, I read that. Anon comes Mrs. Turner and sat and talked with us, and most about the business of Ackworth, which comes before us to-morrow, that I would favour it, but I do not think, notwithstanding all the friendship I can shew him, that he can escape, and therefore it had been better that he had followed the advice I sent him the other day by Mrs. Turner, to make up the business. So parted, and I to bed, my eyes being very bad; and I know not how in the world to abstain from reading.
walking a dog backward
crying like a commissioner of miscarriages
up in his ridiculous castle
a mad conceited ridiculous man
writes a book
that he can escape into
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 18 March 1668
Though there's no known antivenom for its bite, of course the African bush viper won't hesitate to sink its fangs into your flesh. Trouble the waters, and reap what its boiling flings upon the sand. Near-naked bodies of hermit crabs scurry to find the shell of some abandoned bunker, cell, or cathedral. It's how we are under the straitjacket— all soft, exposed flesh; the need for prime real estate and mid-century modern. The deals we'll make in the night with ourselves; the way one side opens a wary eye while the other sleeps.
Up betimes and to the office, where all the morning busy, and then at noon home to dinner, and so again to the office awhile, and then abroad to the Excize-Office, where I met Mr. Ball, and did receive the paper I went for; and there fell in talk with him, who, being an old cavalier, do swear and curse at the present state of things, that we should be brought to this, that we must be undone and cannot be saved; that the Parliament is sitting now, and will till midnight, to find how to raise this 300,000l., and he doubts they will not do it so as to be seasonable for the King: but do cry out against our great men at Court; how it is a fine thing for a Secretary of State to dance a jigg, and that it was not so heretofore; and, above all, do curse my Lord of Bristoll, saying the worst news that ever he heard in his life, or that the Devil could ever bring us, was this Lord’s coming to prayers the other day in the House of Lords, by which he is coming about again from being a Papist, which will undo this nation; and he says he ever did say, at the King’s first coming in, that this nation could not be safe while that man was alive. Having done there, I away towards Westminster, but seeing by the coaches the House to be up, I stopped at the ’Change (where, I met Mrs. Turner, and did give her a pair of gloves), and there bought several things for my wife, and so to my bookseller’s, and there looked for Montaigne’s Essays, which I heard by my Lord Arlington and Lord Blaney so much commended, and intend to buy it, but did not now, but home, where at the office did some business, as much as my eyes would give leave, and so home to supper, Mercer with us talking and singing, and so to bed. The House, I hear, have this day concluded upon raising 100,000l. of the 300,000l. by wine, and the rest by a poll-[tax], and have resolved to excuse the Church, in expectation that they will do the more of themselves at this juncture; and I do hear that Sir W. Coventry did make a speech in behalf of the Clergy.
who is sitting now
in this season of dance
was a curse the worst
the devil could ever bring us
was prayer to see by
and give love a look
I buy as much as my eyes do
themselves half clergy
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 17 March 1668