Water men

erasure of a page from Samuel Pepys' diary

[All in town go by water
and talk with the water, desire
to be water: a dress of ten thousand hands.
The water received the water
and they made a great deal of joy to see one another.
I left off my great skirt
and went to sell a horse
for a dish of herrings.]

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 2 February 1659/60.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. I keep meaning to try this process. Must do after this trenchant piece. You should do an audio version, Dave!


    1. Thanks, Dick. Audio’s a great thought, but it would have to be a now-and-then thing; it would be too time-consuming otherwise. (Also, the computer on which I do audio recording is down for the count and may not get back up.)

      I’d love to see what you’d come up with. My technical process, for what it’s worth, is to copy and paste the text into a new Open Office document (after removing the formatting in Notepad), full-justify it, then take a screenshot and crop in Screenpresso (which is freeware). I save that as a jpeg, open it in Photoshop, and use the eraser tool (once I figure out what words I want to keep). You can also do erasures right in your word-processing program with strike-throughs or the highlighter set to black (my original method with this project). I notice Screenpresso has a fade-out tool, too…

      As for the drafting of the poems, it’s become quite like writing any other poem, except that I’m restricted to certain words in a set order. I draft right below the original text, usually starting with a list of the nouns and the phrases that most attract me and then seeing what verbs I can match them up with.


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