Death of a queen

In the morning to Alderman Backwell’s for the candlesticks for Mr. Coventry, but they being not done I went away, and so by coach to Mr. Crew’s, and there took some money of Mr. Moore’s for my Lord, and so to my Lord’s, where I found Sir Thomas Bond (whom I never saw before) with a message from the Queen about vessells for the carrying over of her goods, and so with him to Mr. Coventry, and thence to the office (being soundly washed going through the bridge) to Sir Wm. Batten and Pen (the last of whom took physic to-day), and so I went up to his chamber, and there having made an end of the business I returned to White Hall by water, and dined with my Lady Sandwich, who at table did tell me how much fault was laid upon Dr. Frazer and the rest of the Doctors, for the death of the Princess!
My Lord did dine this day with Sir Henry Wright, in order to his going to sea with the Queen.
Thence to my father Bowyer’s where I met my wife, and with her home by water.

A candlestick coven
over her oven,
an ash and ham sandwich at table.
How much fault was laid
upon the doctor Death!
Going to sea,
the queen met her water.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 26 December 1660.

False prophet

(Christmas day). In the morning very much pleased to see my house once more clear of workmen and to be clean, and indeed it is so, far better than it was that I do not repent of my trouble that I have been at.
In the morning to church, where Mr. Mills made a very good sermon. After that home to dinner, where my wife and I and my brother Tom (who this morning came to see my wife’s new mantle put on, which do please me very well), to a good shoulder of mutton and a chicken. After dinner to church again, my wife and I, where we had a dull sermon of a stranger, which made me sleep, and so home, and I, before and after supper, to my lute and Fuller’s History, at which I staid all alone in my chamber till 12 at night, and so to bed.

I see clear and far;
my trouble made
a good sermon.
I lease a shoulder to my wife
and a dull sleep to my lute.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 25 December 1660.

Still Life

This entry is part 4 of 23 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2013-14


The trees turn white, the way the flesh
of some fruit, cut open down the core, is pale
past the robust coloration of their skin;
the way the inside of a porcelain bowl
looks glazed with milk or lapped
with some translucence borrowed
from another world— And so I am
suspicious of the claims made on behalf
of stillness, as if there were no
momentum to be perceived in an angle
or a curve: nothing seems to move, and yet
two lines make a ledge midair; and a hollow
traces the curve of light’s eroded trail.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

In the bleak midwinter

In the morning to the office and Commissioner Pett (who seldom comes there) told me that he had lately presented a piece of plate (being a couple of flaggons) to Mr. Coventry, but he did not receive them, which also put me upon doing the same too; and so after dinner I went and chose a payre of candlesticks to be made ready for me at Alderman Backwell’s. To the office again in the afternoon till night, and so home, and with the painters till 10 at night, making an end of my house and the arch before my door, and so this night I was rid of them and all other work, and my house was made ready against to-morrow being Christmas day. This day the Princess Royal died at Whitehall.

Morning is a present
I did not receive.
I chose a pair
of candlesticks, made
a well in the night,
and so was rid
of another Christmas.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 24 December 1660.


This entry is part 3 of 23 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2013-14


“Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem
… I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you.”

~ from “To You,” Walt Whitman

And now we’ve eaten of the roasted animal, the goat, the lamb, the calf or suckling pig; we’ve put our hands into the gunny sack to draw out twine and spangles fallen from the stars. We kissed each other beneath the trees until our teeth echoed with the salt of our desires. We washed away the aftertaste of meat with milk and cinnamon, given each other sweet after sweet after sweet. The trees are tipped with amber and with smoke, and the birds left there are startled into calling— they call out after the day that flickers in its easy goodbye, its love long as arms and shadows. And I too stand on the threshold before I close the door: Come back, come back; I love what I am, emblazoned with your tenderness.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


(Lord’s day). In the morning to Church, where our pew all covered with rosemary and baize. A stranger made a dull sermon.
Home and found my wife and maid with much ado had made shift to spit a great turkey sent me this week from Charles Carter, my old colleague, now minister in Huntingdonshire, but not at all roasted, and so I was fain to stay till two o’clock, and after that to church with my wife, and a good sermon there was, and so home.
All the evening at my book, and so to supper and to bed.

To church, where
I made my home
in a book.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 23 December 1660.


Absolute joy, the violin teacher
instructs: like love, love in springtime
or whatever season in the garden, out
where everything unfiltered, unapologetic,
launches by nature into its own form
of exuberance— Even the rain
bashing the windows right now
at the very place the builders
did a terrible job, cutting corners,
skimping on material, forgetting to wrap
and seal and caulk— Even that, proof
of how neither tenderness nor any other
powerful feeling are selective: jubilee,
sadness, a moan in the next room that might mean
bereavement or ecstasy. Sounds that have no
other equivalent in language but themselves:
say them all, so no one is left out in the cold.

The starving artist throws a party

All the morning with my painters, who will make an end of all this day I hope. At noon I went to the Sun tavern; on Fish Street hill, to a dinner of Captn. Teddimans, where was my Lord Inchiquin (who seems to be a very fine person), Sir W. Pen, Captn. Cuttance, and one Mr. Lawrence (a fine gentleman now going to Algiers), and other good company, where we had a very fine dinner, good musique, and a great deal of wine. We staid here very late, at last Sir W. Pen and I home together, he so overcome with wine that he could hardly go; I was forced to lead him through the streets and he was in a very merry and kind mood. I home (found my house clear of the workmen and their work ended), my head troubled with wine, and I very merry went to bed, my head akeing all night.

With my paint I make a tavern,
fish, a dinner.
And fine company:
wine together with wine,
my head troubled with my head,
aching all night.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 22 December 1660.

History makes its noise we duck/ till it passes*—

or we stride forward taking its halter in our hands—
but it won’t always go to the water, it won’t
always go where we want. It bares its teeth
and asks for impossible breakfasts: croquembouche,
pâté, ox tails or tongue— It’s surly, has
unpredictable manners, then for no reason at all
lifts the roof in a shimmer of helium balloons.
And when it springs love, I am lost as a needle
wrung loose from its compass. The same with fear,
the shambles of a street fallen to pieces, towers
broken in a great earthquake, a tidal wave of ruin
tossed like party favors in its wake. The end
of the year approaches, dear one. Come, let’s make
peace with one another. Let’s step into each
other’s arms and try a slow dance for a change.

* from “Epic” by Ange Mlinko