In the crosshatched branches she sees a cardinal’s tufted red flag: and what it suggests is not spring, but how nothing in the neighborhood resembles the watery grid of rice fields, especially when the tips of new shoots emerge like stitches feathered in neat rows. At the corner, school girls gather in the cold, snapping their hair bands, twisting and untwisting their hair into ponytails. From their mouths, little spirals of frost; their quick fingers, their gestures that say they’re not considering things that will get harder with age. Not right now. The clouds are nubbed as a pilled flannel blanket. The bus comes into view: a yellow apostrophe, starting and stopping down the long avenue. Soon it takes them away, and they are not necessarily thinking of mistrust. A stray bird’s cadenza reminds her it is time to review the questions she has asked every day for most of her life.
In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.
(Fast day). The first time that this day hath been yet observed: and Mr. Mills made a most excellent sermon, upon “Lord forgive us our former iniquities;” speaking excellently of the justice of God in punishing men for the sins of their ancestors.
Home, and John Goods comes, and after dinner I did pay him 30l. for my Lady, and after that Sir W. Pen and I into Moorfields and had a rare walk, it being a most pleasant day, and besides much discourse did please ourselves to see young Davis and Whitton, two of our clerks, going by us in the field, who we observe to take much pleasure together, and I did most often see them at plays together.
Back to the Old James in Bishopsgate Street, where Sir W. Batten and Sir Wm. Rider met him about business of the Trinity House. So I went home, and there understand that my mother is come home well from Brampton, and had a letter from my brother John, a very ingenious one, and he therein begs to have leave to come to town at the Coronacion.
Then to my Lady Batten’s; where my wife and she are lately come back again from being abroad, and seeing of Cromwell, Ireton, and Bradshaw hanged and buried at Tyburn. Then I home.
Forgive me the sins of ancestors
good for a rare walk, in pleasant discourse
going by us in the field,
who we often see together
in street and in house
or lately come back again
from being hanged and buried.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 30 January 1660/61.
All this time,
six well-used deer beds
just out of sight from the porch!
The old outhouse
half-fallen into its hole—
how long has the roof been gone?
Even the snowy hillside,
the way it bends the trees’
Mr. Moore making up accounts with me all this morning till Lieut. Lambert came, and so with them over the water to Southwark, and so over the fields to Lambeth, and there drank, it being a most glorious and warm day, even to amazement, for this time of the year. Thence to my Lord’s, where we found my Lady gone with some company to see Hampton Court, so we three went to Blackfryers (the first time I ever was there since plays begun), and there after great patience and little expectation, from so poor beginning, I saw three acts of “The Mayd in ye Mill” acted to my great content. But it being late, I left the play and them, and by water through bridge home, and so to Mr. Turner’s house, where the Comptroller, Sir William Batten, and Mr. Davis and their ladies; and here we had a most neat little but costly and genteel supper, and after that a great deal of impertinent mirth by Mr. Davis, and some catches, and so broke up, and going away, Mr. Davis’s eldest son took up my old Lady Slingsby in his arms, and carried her to the coach, and is said to be able to carry three of the biggest men that were in the company, which I wonder at. So home and to bed.
the fields—a rank maze.
We found after great patience
in the water, a costly catch:
ling and wonder.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 29 January 1660/61.
Bring a carrot or an apple
to the animal of the new year
that has come out of the gate,
that paws impatient at the pebbled
topsoil— Because it is ready
to canter into the field, offer it
a handful of blinding snow,
white as a portent for no sorrow,
cold as the slate which waits
to be turned into a track
where we’ll walk forward
and back, into infinity.
In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.
On a low mound in the woods,
two coyotes have left
like graffiti tags
made of mouse hair
and small bones.
I follow their tracks.
They diverge in an old clearcut
choked with tree-of-heaven.
At the office all the morning; dined at home, and after dinner to Fleet Street, with my sword to Mr. Brigden (lately made Captain of the Auxiliaries) to be refreshed, and with him to an ale-house, where I met Mr. Davenport; and after some talk of Cromwell, Ireton and Bradshaw’s bodies being taken out of their graves to-day, I went to Mr. Crew’s and thence to the Theatre, where I saw again “The Lost Lady,” which do now please me better than before; and here I sitting behind in a dark place, a lady spit backward upon me by a mistake, not seeing me, but after seeing her to be a very pretty lady, I was not troubled at it at all. Thence to Mr. Crew’s, and there met Mr. Moore, who came lately to town, and went with me to my father’s, and with him to Standing’s, whither came to us Dr. Fairbrother, who I took and my father to the Bear and gave a pint of sack and a pint of claret.
He do still continue his expressions of respect and love to me, and tells me my brother John will make a good scholar. Thence to see the Doctor at his lodging at Mr. Holden’s, where I bought a hat, cost me 35s. So home by moonshine, and by the way was overtaken by the Comptroller’s coach, and so home to his house with him. So home and to bed. This noon I had my press set up in my chamber for papers to be put in.
Fleet with my word, I talk
bodies out of their graves,
which please me better
than sitting in a dark place, not seeing.
We stand and make the moon take to bed.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 28 January 1660/61.
Five below zero.
The stream bank is garlanded
with flowers of frost.
The dogmatic drone
of a single-prop plane,
its cross-shaped silhouette.
The sky is blue as a bruise.
My lungs ache
just from trying to breathe.
Almost at the end of the line, or the beginning: that place past
the middle. Then soon, there’s no one between you and the inevitable.
So I took a trip to the post office to fill out a passport form, and when
I was ready, the clerk said Look at the camera as if at the inevitable.
Those tracks in the snow: what animal made them? Moonlight falls
between the slats on the deck. The cold is the answer, inevitable.
I want to say I’ve learned some things about tenderness: how tight knots
in the chest open one by one, skeptical that habit might take over. Inevitable.
But not all is lost, not all is by any means a return to square one.
We weep and dream, we laugh even as we travel toward the inevitable.
Look out the window where flurries scatter upward like ashes: the wind gusts,
and it’s almost as if their descent is forestalled from the inevitable.
In response to Via Negativa: Walking the line.
(Lord’s day). Before I rose, letters come to me from Portsmouth, telling me that the Princess is now well, and my Lord Sandwich set sail with the Queen and her yesterday from thence for France. To church, leaving my wife sick of her menses at home, a poor dull sermon of a stranger. Home, and at dinner was very angry at my people’s eating a fine pudding (made me by Slater, the cook, last Thursday) without my wife’s leave. To church again, a good sermon of Mr. Mills, and after sermon Sir W. Pen and I an hour in the garden talking, and he did answer me to many things, I asked Mr. Coventry’s opinion of me, and Sir W. Batten’s of my Lord Sandwich, which do both please me. Then to Sir W. Batten’s, where very merry, and here I met the Comptroller and his lady and daughter (the first time I ever saw them) and Mrs. Turner, who and her husband supped with us here (I having fetched my wife thither), and after supper we fell to oysters, and then Mr. Turner went and fetched some strong waters, and so being very merry we parted, and home to bed.
This day the parson read a proclamation at church, for the keeping of Wednesday next, the 30th of January, a fast for the murther of the late King.
we set sail on a fine pudding,
made by a cook and an oven
which both please me, the first
time I ever saw my wife—
to oyster bed.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 27 January 1660/61.