A Shadow

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 30 of 31 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2013


A haunting, C. tells me, is the return of the same shadow.

Under the heavy veil of mosquito netting, I’m not sure I want to hear the rest of the story I know will follow, though she’s told it a few other times before.

Each time is disconcerting. I don’t completely understand yet this need to circle the unknown again and again, even if it is frightening.

There was a woman, she begins. She must have been in love with your mother. Her name was J.

I have seen a few photographs– she has very short dark hair, eyebrows that look penciled in. Dark mouth, bony shoulders.

She came every Friday after work to visit, even after my father had married my mother. As the hour got later, they must have asked her to stay for supper.

How long did this go on? I cannot remember what I’ve been told; except, one afternoon, almost as soon as she arrived, she poured a packet of rat poison into the coffee she was served.

C. tells me: In the kitchen, there at the old round wooden table. She had written a letter, and it was found by the police in one of her pockets. I want to know what was in the letter but no one seems to know.

I don’t want to listen to what comes next— how in the months that followed a cab would pull up at our gate, the driver insisting that a woman had telephoned to be picked up; how a hand would materialize from under a mosquito net such as the one that made us a little cocoon in the dark.

Who is that plucking at a sleeve, trying to touch the sleepers who are still very much awake?


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Waked in the morning at four o’clock to give some money to Mr. Hetly, who was to go to London with the letters that I wrote yesterday night. After he was gone I went and lay down in my gown upon my bed again an hour or two. At last waked by a messenger come for a Post Warrant for Mr. Hetly and Mr. Creed, who stood to give so little for their horses that the men would not let them have any without a warrant, which I sent them.
All the morning getting Captain Holland’s commission done, which I did, and he at noon went away. I took my leave of him upon the quarter-deck with a bottle of sack, my Lord being just set down to dinner.
Then he being gone I went to dinner and after dinner to my cabin to write.
This afternoon I showed my Lord my accounts, which he passed, and so I think myself to be worth near 100l. now. In the evening I made an order for Captain Sparling of the Assistance to go to Middleburgh, to fetch over some of the King’s goods. I took the opportunity to send all my Dutch money, 70 ducatoons and 29 gold ducats to be changed, if he can, for English money, which is the first venture that ever I made, and so I have been since a little afeard of it. After supper some music and so to bed.
This morning the King’s Proclamation against drinking, swearing, and debauchery, was read to our ships’ companies in the fleet, and indeed it gives great satisfaction to all.

In the morning, at 4:00,
I lay down in my gown
upon a war horse
without warrant.
In Holland at noon,
I took a sack
to fetch some Dutch
ducatoons for
a feared debauch.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 4 June 1660.

Fire Trees

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 28 of 31 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2013


See the fuzz of cinnabar moth caterpillars
on the trees, thick as human hair? Be careful
when you gather leaves at their base

for burning— One fell near my nape
and rested there all day, quiet
as a regular burr. At night my skin

burned hotter than a drum of coal,
grew blistered from the itch that spread
like fire. I cannot remember where I stood:

next to the guava? the avocado tree?
the perishing lime? They said Button
your shirt all the way to the collar,

girl. I did, dutiful as a curl of smoke.
But past the gate, out on my own,
my fingers loosened the stays.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Waked in the morning by one who when I asked who it was, he told me one from Bridewell, which proved Captain Holland. I rose presently to him. He is come to get an order for the setting out of his ship, and to renew his commission.
He tells me how every man goes to the Lord Mayor to set down their names, as such as do accept of his Majesty’s pardon, and showed me a certificate under the Lord Mayor’s hand that he had done so. At sermon in the morning; after dinner into my cabin, to cast my accounts up, and find myself to be worth near 100l., for which I bless Almighty God, it being more than I hoped for so soon, being I believe not clearly worth 25l. when I came to sea besides my house and goods.
Then to set my papers in order, they being increased much upon my hands through want of time to put them in order. The ship’s company all this while at sermon. After sermon my Lord did give me instruction to write to London about business, which done, after supper to bed.

When a land is new
every man goes
as if at dinner.
Cast up
I believe no sea
besides the ship’s.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 3 June 1660.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Being with my Lord in the morning about business in his cabin, I took occasion to give him thanks for his love to me in the share that he had given me of his Majesty’s money, and the Duke’s. He told the he hoped to do me a more lasting kindness, if all things stand as they are now between him and the King, but, says he, “We must have a little patience and we will rise together; in the mean time I will do you all the good jobs I can.” Which was great content for me to hear from my Lord.
All the morning with the Captain, computing how much the thirty ships that come with the King from Scheveling their pay comes to for a month (because the King promised to give them all a month’s pay), and it comes to 6,538l., and the Charles particularly 777l. I wish we had the money. All the afternoon with two or three captains in the Captain’s cabin, drinking of white wine and sugar, and eating pickled oysters, where Captain Sparling told us the best story that ever I heard, about a gentleman that persuaded a country fool to let him gut his oysters or else they would stink.
At night writing letters to London and Weymouth, for my Lord being now to sit in the House of Peers he endeavours to get Mr. Edward Montagu for Weymouth and Mr. George for Dover.
Mr. Cooke late with me in my cabin while I wrote to my wife, and drank a bottle of wine and so took leave of me on his journey and I to bed.

I give thanks for love
and lasting kindness
and how much we drink and stink
mouth to mouth,
my wife, a bottle and I.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 2 June 1660.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Don’t banish it or throw it away—
Patch it with string or floss or twine,

lean it on a trellis made from cast-off
wire hangers or a weathered fence;

feed it the anyway red of new tomatoes
that have straggled up on the vine, the snap

of peas, the sugar hardened into burnt
caramel on the sides of a pan—

And after all it has been through,
poor and tired, crushed by all the beauty,

all that’s terrible, unslakeable love,
you’ll want to take it in your arms

anyway— Lie with it, give yourself
to it, let it sob against your ear

until the hours of grief
and sleeplessness have passed

and morning’s loud clapper
sounds the call, again, to rise—


In response to thus: consubstantiation.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

And after the yield of honey,
who’ll build up the hive that’s rent?

Each of its chambers has borne
the imprint of our loving.

Pale yellow, soft amber, darker gold—
Sweet that is each mouthful’s brief coloring.


In response to Via Negativa: The Kiss.

Pepysian haiku

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

This morning Mr. Sheply disposed of the money that the Duke of York did give my Lord’s servants, 22 ducatoons came to my share, whereof he told me to give Jaspar something because my Lord left him out. I did give Mr. Sheply the fine pair of buckskin gloves that I bought myself about five years ago.
My Lord took physic to-day, and so come not out all day. The Captain on shore all day.
After dinner Captain Jefferys and W. Howe, and the Lieutenant and I to ninepins, where I lost about two shillings and so fooled away all the afternoon.
At night Mr. Cooke comes from London with letters, leaving all things there very gallant and joyful. And brought us word that the Parliament had ordered the 29th of May, the King’s birthday, to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny, and the King’s return to his Government, he entering London that day.
My wife was in London when he came thither, and had been there a week with Mr. Bowyer and his wife.
My poor wife has not been well a week before, but thanks be to God is well again. She would fain see me and be at her house again, but we must be content. She writes word how the Joyces grow very rich and very proud, but it is no matter, and that there was a talk that I should be knighted by the King, which they (the Joyces) laugh at; but I think myself happier in my wife and estate than they are in theirs.
To bed. The Captain come on board, when I was going to bed, quite fuddled; and himself the next morning told me so too, that the Vice-Admiral, Rear- Admiral, and he had been drinking all day.

A fine pair of ears
my poor wife has!
Drinking all day.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 1 June 1660.