(Lord’s day). With Sir W. Pen to the parish church, where we are placed in the highest pew of all, where a stranger preached a dry and tedious long sermon. Dined at home, and with my wife to church again in the afternoon. Home again and walked in the garden and on the leads till night; and so to supper and to bed.

Here we are: a strange
dry din

again in
the afternoon

again in
the night.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 26 August 1660.


This morning Mr. Turner and I by coach from our office to Whitehall (in our way I calling on Dr. Walker for the papers I did give him the other day, which he had perused and found that the Duke’s counsel had abated something of the former draught which Dr. Walker drew for my Lord) to Sir G. Carteret, where we there made up an estimate of the debts of the Navy for the Council.
At noon I took Mr. Turner and Mr. Moore to the Leg in King Street, and did give them a dinner, and afterward to the Sun Tavern, and did give Mr. Turner a glass of wine, there coming to us Mr. Fowler the apothecary (the judge’s son) with a book of lute lessons which his father had left there for me, such as he formerly did use to play when a young man, and had the use of his hand.
To the Privy Seal, and found some business now again to do there.
To Westminster Hall for a new half-shirt of Mrs. Lane, and so home by water. Wrote letters by the post to my Lord and to sea. This night W. Hewer brought me home from Mr. Pim’s my velvet coat and cap, the first that ever I made. So to bed.

Give the day my made-up noon;
give dinner to the sun.
Give the apothecary
the use of the sea
and the sea, my velvet coat.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 25 August 1660.

Dearest one, I am Prince Ashily Quatama

This entry is part 6 of 18 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2013


and I am in desperate need of your assistance.
Please email me back.
Dear “Prince A,” you can kiss

my ass. You have got to be kidding me— why would I
wire you large sums of money from my bank account

for promise of a larger reward, to extricate you from
your obviously manufactured distress, especially when

your message is from an unverified IP address?
Even the leaves of a green money tree

would not turn over in shock or awe, pity or fear,
which Aristotle reminds us are the absolute essentials

of tragedy, that mode of imitation whose power
lies in narrowing the gap and moving us to human

sympathy for another. And in the perfect tragedy,
we all know the hero: he or she was always

one among us, the golden boy or girl who grew up
on the block, everybody’s sweetheart, most likely

to succeed; the one we envied for getting the most
valentines, the one whose yearbook overflowed

with XOXOXs and signatures. Nice gal,
all around sort of chap. Upright,

well-meaning yet he fails from some blind spot,
some flaw of character or judgment and so

stumbles doggedly toward what he thinks
is love or truth or justice, though ultimately

it leads to his downfall or demise. False prince,
this sort of difficulty therefore is hard to fake:

it’s existential. And there are just
too many holes in your narrative.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


Let’s more than be
good company for ourselves—

I like a quiet cup
chipped near the rim

to set on the sill
where paint has flaked

off the trim— Here
is onset of rain

and evening, dim gold of tea
bleached out of a loose

handful of leaves. Moths
batten against the screen,

lighter than paper,
flimsy as hello, goodbye—

space fills and fills
with what accrues:

nothing’s lost
or sold. Everything’s

still here; every mote
is inventory.


In response to Via Negativa: Drinking Alone.

Drinking Alone

Office, and thence with Sir William Batten and Sir William Pen to the parish church to find out a place where to build a seat or a gallery to sit in, and did find one which is to be done speedily. Hence with them to dinner at a tavern in Thames Street, where they were invited to a roasted haunch of venison and other very good victuals and company
Hence to Whitehall to the Privy Seal, but nothing to do. At night by land to my father’s, where I found my mother not very well. I did give her a pint of sack. My father came in, and Dr. T. Pepys, who talked with me in French about looking out for a place for him. But I found him a weak man, and speaks the worst French that ever I heard of one that had been so long beyond sea. Hence into Paul’s Churchyard and bought Barkley’s Argenis in Latin, and so home and to bed. I found at home that Captain Bun had sent me 4 dozen bottles of wine today. The King came back to Whitehall to-night.

Where to find good company?
My father’s a pint of sack
and I a weak sea.
I bark in Latin
at a dozen bottles of wine.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 24 August 1660.

Ship of State

By water to Doctors’ Commons to Dr. Walker, to give him my Lord’s papers to view over concerning his being empowered to be Vice-Admiral under the Duke of York. There meeting with Mr. Pinkney, he and I to a morning draft, and thence by water to White Hall, to the Parliament House, where I spoke with Colonel Birch, and so to the Admiralty chamber, where we and Mr. Coventry had a meeting about several businesses. Amongst others, it was moved that Phineas Pett (kinsman to the Commissioner) of Chatham, should be suspended his employment till he had answered some articles put in against him, as that he should formerly say that the King was a bastard and his mother a whore.
Hence to Westminster Hall, where I met with my father Bowyer, and Mr. Spicer, and them I took to the Leg in King Street, and did give them a dish or two of meat, and so away to the Privy Seal, where, the King being out of town, we have had nothing to do these two days. To Westminster Hall, where I met with W. Symons, T. Doling, and Mr. Booth, and with them to the Dogg, where we eat a musk melon (the first that I have eat this year), and were very merry with W. Symons, calling him Mr. Dean, because of the Dean’s lands that his uncle had left him, which are like to be lost all.
Hence home by water, and very late at night writing letters to my Lord to Hinchinbroke, and also to the Vice-Admiral in the Downs, and so to bed.

The water moved me—
the king, the king, the king—
like a broke-down bed.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 23 August 1660.

Orality: Little Treatise

This entry is part 5 of 18 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2013


Yesterday a friend inquired: Is it literature,
is it considered text when it is oral?

By which was meant the stories passed around like little bites
at a potluck: Who made these? they’re delicious! Like that, oral.

In graduate school I read texts dense with words: polysemic, intertextual, carnivalesque
— they made me think of markets in my childhood, alive with colors, textures, the oral.

How does the rumor of something sweet travel through the air? Beneath the limp leaves
and their shimmer, the hummingbirds make for the half-hidden feeder: nectar and the oral.

Teach a child the world through the mouth: first taste of flesh, round globe of milk
speckled with salt and sweat. Someone croons a strain of lullaby, and aural is oral.

The snake sends its tongue through narrow runnels; the point of the divining rod
presses, thirsty mouth at the source of water— Score another for the oral.

The mouth connects to the throat, the throat to the gut, that mainframe linked
to the body’s workstations and peripherals: don’t take it for granted, the oral.

There have been so many who dared disturb the order of the universe— You read of them
in history books, or in tales with many variants that come down to us via the oral.

Some were punished: like William Wallace in 1305, hung till nearly (but not yet) dead;
then disemboweled, then made to witness the burning of his own entrails. Visceral and oral.

In old colonial texts, the Cordillera hill tribes are described as heathens, as headhunters.
Let’s not debate; I only want to say, you eat what makes you strong; that too is oral.

The sages warn: be mindful what crosses the threshold of the lips— in that space, a whisper
might be housed; endearment, echo, secret, scream. Both power and tenderness, in the oral.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Which Garden

Office, which done, Sir W. Pen took me into the garden, and there told me how Mr. Turner do intend to petition the Duke for an allowance extra as one of the Clerks of the Navy, which he desired me to join with him in the furthering of, which I promised to do so that it did not reflect upon me or to my damage to have any other added, as if I was not able to perform my place; which he did wholly disown to be any of his intention, but far from it.
I took Mr. Hater home with me to dinner, with whom I did advise, who did give me the same counsel.
After dinner he and I to the office about doing something more as to the debts of the Navy than I had done yesterday, and so to Whitehall to the Privy Seal, and having done there, with my father (who came to see me) to Westminster Hall and the Parliament House to look for Col. Birch, but found him not. In the House, after the Committee was up, I met with Mr. G. Montagu, and joyed him in his entrance (this being his 3d day) for Dover. Here he made me sit all alone in the House, none but he and I, half an hour, discoursing how things stand, and in short he told me how there was like to be many factions at Court between Marquis Ormond, General Monk, and the Lord Roberts, about the business of Ireland; as there is already between the two Houses about the Act of Indemnity; and in the House of Commons, between the Episcopalian and Presbyterian men.
Hence to my father’s (walking with Mr. Herring, the minister of St. Bride’s), and took them to the Sun Tavern, where I found George, my old drawer, come again. From thence by water, landed them at Blackfriars, and so home and to bed.

Which garden do I have
as my place, which disown?
I took hate
home with me
but found no joy in it—
the many factions, the ire.

Between two houses,
the common sun.
I found my old lack: me.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 22 August 1660.

Left to us

I was upset.

I was hoping not to spend money.

Why did you pick him up off the street?

What should I have done, leave him?

But you could see I had no other recourse.

When she comes next week you must tell her.

If you don’t, I will.

Do you ever feel fragile sometimes?

The bark peels off in layers from some trees.

One scroll comes off, and then another.

The lines on their surfaces look almost like writing.


In response to Via Negativa: Grayscale.