erasure of a page from Samuel Pepys' diary

I was cut of the stone
while I live: a festival.
I am where I am.

I bless the ships with men and guns
cut for the stone,
cut in kindness.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 26 March 1660.

Working Draft

So you could fall asleep, I whispered stories in your ear. I made them up, each one a new letter flying in the window from another world. I don’t remember any endings, only how they began: slight figures moving (I hoped, bravely) against a landscape. Even then, the first rule of narrative: something has to happen, then something has to give. The bowl that was empty filled and filled. I gave what I could, for what good was it, locked away in a safe? But the street overflowed with briars. The sea came up the walk. Wings beat the air, taking away the one thing that was loved most. That is how it goes, that is how it goes. And then when I am gone one day you might open a drawer and find a pearl in the shape of a tear.


In response to Via Negativa: Correspondent and thus: Compline, Christ Church, Palm Sunday .


erasure of a page from Samuel Pepys' diary

Letters came by ox and dove, good as oysters.
After dinner I wrote a great many letters.
After that, I slept, God forgive me!
After that, I walked, talking.
After that I sat.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 25 March 1660.


In summer, I was redolent; in winter
I ate carefully from stores of water
and fat down in the cool cellar. Each

round of yarn that passed through
the hook, each heart-root planted
in the dark, reminded me of the more

difficult work to come: what to do
or say that will roll back the stone
from the mouth of the cave; how to offer

the ache in the side to the salt of the day.


In response to small stone (225).


erasure of a page from Samuel Pepys' diary

A hard creed.
My lord could not get
a bed at a grave.

Day came. A can
of beer upon my ear
spoiled my work.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 24 March 1659/60.

Song and Dance

O I have been shriven, bound
and seated on the rump of a donkey
then made to dance in the square
amid a sea of waving palms—
I did my best, because the order
was to do so in the manner of all
acts of ransom, though the glare
dimmed all the faces in the crowd.


In response to Via Negativa: Fetish.


erasure of a page from Samuel Pepys' diary

Carried in a black box,
my sugar woman
brought me perspective,
and I saw
people as guns—
and I was the best
that any had.
I got out of my chest
the orders to stop
all dangerous persons
going or coming.
How I slept
and was not sick
I know not.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 23 March 1659/60.


This entry is part 2 of 31 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2013


“… One must glitter.
One must swim through the day.” – George Szirtes

They’re stretching the surfaces, dead cells sloughing off; they’re breaking apart the wrappers of rubbery grey that held us indoors, marooned us in the questionable comfort of sad beds. See those first creamy islands of pink and white pushing like familiar hurt against brick, hear the bird calling more insistently every day above the repetitious wheezing of the laundry machine. It might be cold, it might swing straight from not even spring to summer. Lint in the pockets of each coat, dust under the armchairs. Heart like a listening ear, uncurling like the lines scribed on a nautilus; little bareheaded snail emerging tentatively from the only door of its cramped house.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Twelve Simple Songs: free digital poetry chapbook

View on Issuu

UPDATE (4/16/13): Now available in print form. (Including the shipping cost, the price should be $15.78 for U.S. residents ordering the full-color, medium paperback option.)

UPDATE (4/3/13): Now available as a videopoem from Nic S. and Swoon! Also, the collection now has its own page on my author site.


Books are fun to make, and Issuu makes them reasonably fun to read online, too. I’ve uploaded a recording of me reading the poems if you want to listen while you read — if not, hit the pause button. If you only want the reading, download the MP3 here. And if you just want the PDF without going through Issuu, here’s an alternate download link for that.

You might remember my blogging the poems back in January and February. I had the goal of a small chapbook in mind as I wrote, though I was never quite sure whether to speak of these “simple songs” in the plural or singular — most of them wouldn’t really work on their own. For Rachel’s birthday, I matched the poems with some of my photos for a one-off, full-color, glossy paperback from Snapfish, which does very nice printing but A) is kind of pricey and B) isn’t really set up for text. (It’s a good thing none of the poems have italics in them, for example, because Snapfish can’t handle that.) So this second, PDF edition is slightly different, with better fonts, a fuller copyleft page at the end and other minor changes.

I guess the best one-line description for the chapbook would be: linked verses in dialogue with photographs about an intercontinental love affair. Some of the photos have personal associations for Rachel and me, but I don’t think that should prevent anyone else from appreciating the collection at some level, at least.

As for a second paperback edition, that’s coming, I hope. Issuu has partnered with a new and (to me) exciting new print-on-demand service called Peecho. I’ve gone ahead and ordered a test copy to see if the quality’s up to snuff — and if it isn’t, I’ll tweak it until it is. If you’re in a hurry to get a paper copy, you can go ahead and order one now through Issuu, but otherwise I’d recommend waiting until I give the go-ahead. Leave a comment if you’d like to be notified about this. If there’s enough interest, I could set up as an independent publisher with Peecho rather than going through Issuu, and possibly lower the price a little. (I would sell at cost.)


erasure of a page from Samuel Pepys' diary

I ate the key to keep
the morning private,

took the Pope’s head and his silver hatband
to do him a courtesy.

I pray God to receive my ham.
I lay all night with my marrow bone.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 22 March 1659/60.