In Seething Lane

Up very early in the morning and landing my wife at White Friars stairs, I went to the Bridge and so to the Treasurer’s of the Navy, with whom I spake about the business of my office, who put me into very good hopes of my business. At his house comes Commissioner Pett, and he and I went to view the houses in Seething Lane, belonging to the Navy, where I find the worst very good, and had great fears in my mind that they will shuffle me out of them, which troubles me.
From thence to the Excise Office in Broad Street, where I received 500l. for my Lord, by appointment of the Treasurer, and went afterwards down with Mr. Luddyard and drank my morning draft with him and other officers. Thence to Mr. Backewell’s, the goldsmith, where I took my Lord’s 100l. in plate for Mr. Secretary Nicholas, and my own piece of plate, being a state dish and cup in chased work for Mr. Coventry, cost me above 19l. Carried these and the money by coach to my Lord’s at White Hall, and from thence carried Nicholas’s plate to his house and left it there, intending to speak with him anon. So to Westminster Hall, where meeting with M. L’Impertinent and W. Bowyer, I took them to the Sun Tavern, and gave them a lobster and some wine, and sat talking like a fool till 4 o’clock. So to my Lord’s, and walking all the afternoon in White Hall Court, in expectation of what shall be done in the Council as to our business. It was strange to see how all the people flocked together bare, to see the King looking out of the Council window.
At night my Lord told me how my orders that I drew last night about giving us power to act, are granted by the Council. At which he and I were very glad. Home and to bed, my boy lying in my house this night the first time.

In Seething Lane
I find the worst fears.
I shuffle out to the yard
with my dish and cup
and speak to the sun
like a clock
or a bare window.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 4 July 1660.


You think you know but you don’t know
shit about what we’ve been through—

You think we got here only yesterday, but we jumped ship
long before that voyage and landed in the bayou.

You think our backs would break from counting beans,
harvesting fruit before our fingers grazed first dew.

You think below the deck, on KP duty, meant to shine
the captain’s shoes: but never rising in rank, in the crew.

You think fling, short time, good time, Johnny come
quick and gone. Cheap roll in the hay? Screw you— I don’t do.

You think old school, passé, uncool. I beg your pardon:
above your designer waistband, your butt crack shows in review.

You think the fireworks spread their veils of weeping willow
just for you? World upon world of the wounded: their histories accrue.


In response to Via Negativa: Sailor's Psalm.


Around the table, they spoke
of their great accomplishments
and honors— A woman fished
a string of beads out of her jeans
pocket and pointed to each in turn,
naming the taverns and bars
where she’d stumbled onto the stage,
microphone or no, to read her verse.
One whispered there were at least half
a dozen moist narratives growing in his crotch
and armpits; he was merely their vessel,
obedient slave. Another combed and plaited
her muscular hair with a clutch of long dashes.
All night they ate platters of words
served out of season; all night they drank
of what was freely appropriated, wines
forced from fruit not certain of their vintage.
When they copulated and gave birth to offspring,
they were so moved by the originality of this
achievement that new industries were built
around their need to find footwear
or skins of leather equal to or greater in value
than their own flesh and blood. But there were others
who walked among them filling glasses, folding linen,
answering the summons of a buzzer laid in the floor
beneath the dining table, dusting the long-untuned
grand piano, the books unread in the library.
There were others who relished the dusk
and the solitude it delivered, the quiet
like a seed one is tempted take in the mouth
in order to stay elsewhere, underground.


In response to Via Negativa: Headless.

Sailor’s Psalm

All the morning the Officers and Commissioners of the Navy, we met at Sir G. Carteret’s chamber, and agreed upon orders for the Council to supersede the old ones, and empower us to act.
Dined with Mr. Stephens, the Treasurer’s man of the Navy, and Mr. Turner, to whom I offered 50l. out of my own purse for one year, and the benefit of a Clerk’s allowance beside, which he thanked me for; but I find he hath some design yet in his head, which I could not think of.
In the afternoon my heart was quite pulled down, by being told that Mr. Barlow was to enquire to-day for Mr. Coventry; but at night I met with my Lord, who told me that I need not fear, for he would get me the place against the world.
And when I came to W. Howe, he told me that Dr. Petty had been with my Lord, and did tell him that Barlow was a sickly man, and did not intend to execute the place himself, which put me in great comfort again.
Till 2 in the morning writing letters and things for my Lord to send to sea. So home to my wife to bed.

I miss me.
Out of my head
with fear, against
the world, I am sick.
Tend to me: a thing
to send to sea.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 3 July 1660.

Loveliest, Lord,

is such abundance:
dust I gather without cease
from every corner, dust I sweep

into the yard. So many we’ve loved
have gone to sod, their hair
frozen into salt,

their fingernails chipped to points
of light. They’ve chiseled
their bones for furniture:

each line bleached
like balsa, minimal as art.
You said The light

after rain, how lovely
in the trees
: how the world
is loveliest made strange.


In response to Via Negativa: Uncommon Prayer.


Infinite of business that my heart and head and all were full.
Met with purser Washington, with whom and a lady, a friend of his, I dined at the Bell Tavern in King Street, but the rogue had no more manners than to invite me and to let me pay my club. All the afternoon with my Lord, going up and down the town; at seven at night he went home, and there the principal Officers of the Navy, among the rest myself was reckoned one. We had order to meet to-morrow, to draw up such an order of the Council as would put us into action before our patents were passed. At which my heart was glad.
At night supped with my Lord, he and I together, in the great dining-room alone by ourselves, the first time I ever did it in London. Home to bed, my maid pretty well again.

My head and I dined, but
the rogue had no manners
and went home, at which
my heart was glad—
he and I together, alone
by ourselves, the first time ever.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 2 July 1660.

Uncommon Prayer

This morning came home my fine Camlett cloak, with gold buttons, and a silk suit, which cost me much money, and I pray God to make me able to pay for it. I went to the cook’s and got a good joint of meat, and my wife and I dined at home alone.
In the afternoon to the Abbey, where a good sermon by a stranger, but no Common Prayer yet.
After sermon called in at Mrs. Crisp’s, where I saw Mynheer Roder, that is to marry Sam Hartlib’s sister, a great fortune for her to light on, she being worth nothing in the world. Here I also saw Mrs. Greenlife, who is come again to live in Axe Yard with her new husband Mr. Adams. Then to my Lord’s, where I staid a while. So to see for Mr. Creed to speak about getting a copy of Barlow’s patent. To my Lord’s, where late at night comes Mr. Morland, whom I left prating with my Lord, and so home.

I pray God for a good joint of meat and a stranger life.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 1 July 1660.