Everything’s collage, pastiche, pictures gummed atop each other; puppets strung on wire or made to bob on long sticks behind the shower curtain. Show a leg, honey; it doesn’t matter if you haven’t shaved. Whistle some kind of sarabande and curtsy. The image of the king is drawn with curlicues of paperclip wire for a beard; he’s consort to a queen dressed in petticoats of coffee filters, stiletto heels clad in leather and copper. How handsome they look, in that hipster kind of way. I strain to hear them speak, but the noise levels on the patio are much too high: clatter of dishes and coffee cups, banter across the counters; buzz of tiny machines that fit in the palm of the hand. The leaves of potted plants need moisturizing. The only one I want to talk to is the bird in a cage in the back of the room, its eye a tiny bead, surveying.


In response to Via Negativa: Fishy.


Up and to Mr. –—, the goldsmith near the new Exchange, where I bought my wedding ring, and there, with much ado, got him to put a gold ring to the jewell, which the King of Sweden did give my Lord: out of which my Lord had now taken the King’s picture, and intends to make a George of it.
This morning at my Lord’s I had an opportunity to speak with Sir George Downing, who has promised me to give me up my bond, and to pay me for my last quarter while I was at sea, that so I may pay Mr. Moore and Hawly.
About noon my Lord, having taken leave of the King in the Shield Gallery (where I saw with what kindness the King did hug my Lord at his parting), I went over with him and saw him in his coach at Lambeth, and there took leave of him, he going to the Downs, which put me in mind of his first voyage that ever he made, which he did begin like this from Lambeth. In the afternoon with Mr. Moore to my house to cast up our Privy Seal accounts, where I found that my Lord’s comes to 400 and odd pounds, and mine to 132l., out of which I do give him as good as 25l. for his pains, with which I doubt he is not satisfied, but my heart is full glad. Thence with him to Mr. Crew’s, and did fetch as much money as did make even our accounts between him and me.
Home, and there found Mr. Cooke come back from my Lord for me to get him some things bought for him to be brought after them, a toilet cap and comb case of silk, to make use of in Holland, for he goes to the Hague, which I can do to-morrow morning.
This day my father and my uncle Fenner, and both his sons, have been at my house to see it, and my wife did treat them nobly with wine and anchovies.
By reason of my Lord’s going to-day I could not get the office to meet to-day.

I take the king’s picture
and make it speak:
Pay me in kindness.
A lamb is not glad
to fetch money.
Even our accounts
with wine and anchovies.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 3 September 1660.


“I will not go to bed with you because/ I want to very much.” – Marilyn Hacker

Who does not want that kind of stubborn love, weaving down a road full of uncertain certainty, a glass of some fortifying spirit in hand, a clutch of what passes for worldly provision in the other? Everyone’s such a cynic— all sentiment is suspect these days, all language mannered. There are at least a thousand synonyms for careful, though not all the money in the world could buy enough insurance. Long-sleeved oxfords now have little pockets sewn on the sleeves: for the heart, of course. They’re not to be worn out anymore. So then, I won’t be redundant. There go the runners in the race, true to form, bodies glistening from the earnestness of effort. Sometimes it’s a baton they pass, sometimes a torch. It’s the tiny lights bobbing off into the distance when you lean out the window into the dark. It’s the lick of flame circling the pond just before the koi swim away as one body from view.


In response to Via Negativa: My Dream About Being Robbed.

My dream about being robbed

I’ve lost my bus ticket home along with my billfold, which I suspect a pickpocket of having lifted. Nevertheless, I try to retrace my steps — a daunting task. How long have I been here? There’s hardly a house or shop that doesn’t seem familiar inside. I remember even the houses that are no longer there, their contents removed for resale in a junk shop that occupies several floors of a crumbling old hotel. We wander from room to room. Chairs hang high on the wall; a group of antique gramophones are gathered in a corner like musicians practicing their silence.

Back out on the street, I find an old roommate leaning against a car. I had heard he over-dosed in his bathtub after three tours of duty in Iraq. Can I get a ride, I ask. Of course, he says. We’re leaving in half an hour. I notice my wallet on the roof of his car, where I suddenly recall having set it down that morning. It’s been flipped open by the wind or some other thief. All my money and the ticket are still there. But it has other pockets I’ve never known about, like a book with pages omitted from an initial printing. It opens and opens. The thief has been thorough, but what exactly he took, I cannot say. I have a lucid moment and think: this dream is not about me. Mine is only a supporting role. Soon the stars will arrive, flashing their immaculate teeth.


To Westminster, my Lord being gone before my coming to chapel. I and Mr. Sheply told out my money, and made even for my Privy Seal fees and gratuity money, &c., to this day between my Lord and me.
After that to chappell, where Dr. Fern, a good honest sermon upon “The Lord is my shield.” After sermon a dull anthem, and so to my Lord’s (he dining abroad) and dined with Mr. Sheply. So, to St. Margarett’s, and heard a good sermon upon the text “Teach us the old way,” or something like it, wherein he ran over all the new tenets in policy and religion, which have brought us into all our late divisions.
From church to Mrs. Crisp’s (having sent Will Hewer home to tell my wife that I could not come home to-night because of my Lord’s going out early to-morrow morning), where I sat late, and did give them a great deal of wine, it being a farewell cup to Laud Crisp. I drank till the daughter began to be very loving to me and kind, and I fear is not so good as she should be.
To my Lord’s, and to bed with Mr. Sheply.

Sunday I go to chapel,
I and my money, my money and me.
Teach us a new religion:
to not come home, to go out,
to give a great deal of wine,
to be loving,
to fear.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 2 September 1660.


This morning I took care to get a vessel to carry my Lord’s things to the Downs on Monday next, and so to White Hall to my Lord, where he and I did look over the Commission drawn for him by the Duke’s Council, which I do not find my Lord displeased with, though short of what Dr. Walker did formerly draw for him.
Thence to the Privy Seal to see how things went there, and I find that Mr. Baron had by a severe warrant from the King got possession of the office from his brother Bickerstaffe, which is very strange, and much to our admiration, it being against all open justice.
Mr. Moore and I and several others being invited to-day by Mr. Goodman, a friend of his, we dined at the Bullhead upon the best venison pasty that ever I eat of in my life, and with one dish more, it was the best dinner I ever was at. Here rose in discourse at table a dispute between Mr. Moore and Dr. Clerke, the former affirming that it was essential to a tragedy to have the argument of it true, which the Doctor denied, and left it to me to be judge, and the cause to be determined next Tuesday morning at the same place, upon the eating of the remains of the pasty, and the loser to spend 10s.
All this afternoon sending express to the fleet, to order things against my Lord’s coming and taking direction of my Lord about some rich furniture to take along with him for the Princess.
And talking of this, I hear by Mr. Townsend, that there is the greatest preparation against the Prince de Ligne’s a coming over from the King of Spain, that ever was in England for any Embassador.
Late home, and what with business and my boy’s roguery my mind being unquiet, I went to bed.

Things I miss, I do not find.
Things I find, I eat—
an essential tragedy—
and in eating, lose.
Things I take, I talk to, late
in my unquiet bed.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 1 September 1660.

Parenthetical Question

Strange marks have begun to appear on my arms. Like birthmarks, they’re bare of hair, raised like welts into an embossed design. It has been suggested that I might be a victim of alien abduction. I chew on this idea until it is nothing but gristle. Does it happen while I sleep? Might it be happening right now?

The design spreads slower than a vine and faster than fire: slower than a vine because it doesn’t grow at all when watched, not even by the breadth of an eyelash; faster than fire because it doesn’t depend on oxygen but feeds upon inattention, which is limitless. Each mark is a nearly perfect section of an arc, so the overall design resembles — if I may put it crudely — a clusterfuck of parentheses.

And among all the other questions one might raise about this, I find myself wondering most of all: Why my arms? I hug myself and rock, forward and back.

Reluctant Prophet

Early to wait upon my Lord at White Hall, and with him to the Duke’s chamber. So to my office in Seething Lane. Dined at home, and after dinner to my Lord again, who told me that he is ordered to go suddenly to sea, and did give me some orders to be drawing up against his going. This afternoon I agreed to let my house quite out of my hands to Mr. Dalton (one of the wine sellers to the King, with whom I had drunk in the old wine cellar two or three times) for 41l. At night made even at Privy Seal for this month against tomorrow to give up possession, but we know not to whom, though we most favour Mr. Bickerstaffe, with whom and Mr. Matthews we drank late after office was done at the Sun, discoursing what to do about it tomorrow against Baron, and so home and to bed. Blessed be God all things continue well with and for me. I pray God fit me for a change of my fortune.

I see a sea of hands,
a wine seller in the wine cellar,
a night made even with the sun.
What to do? I pray for
a change of tune.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 31 August 1660.