(Sunday). Mr. Mills made as excellent a sermon in the morning against drunkenness as ever I heard in my life. I dined at home; another good one of his in the afternoon. My Valentine had her fine gloves on at church to-day that I did give her.
After sermon my wife and I unto Sir Wm. Batten and sat awhile. Then home, I to read, then to supper and to bed.

Drunk, I home in
on her fine gloves:
a church I give
a sermon to
while I sup.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 24 February 1660/61.

Excerpted Index of First Lines

Morning like a trail of prints leading to the garden
Morning outlined with snow
Morning that does not return to close the gate
Noontime of uncertain temperament and direction
Noontime when the weathervane cannot tell north from south
Northerly direction which underwrites a hidden star
Novena for migrations into the unknown
Odor of impermanence, delicious behind each earlobe
Oiled patina on a loosened slab of wood
Orpheus, doomed to a lifetime of returning glances (not her)
Otherworldly as return address
Ovation of vines supported on the trellis
Persistance, poetry, privation, protest


In response to thus: small stone (268).


This my birthday, 28 years.
This morning Sir W. Batten, Pen, and I did some business, and then I by water to Whitehall, having met Mr. Hartlibb by the way at Alderman Backwell’s. So he did give me a glass of Rhenish wine at the Steeleyard, and so to Whitehall by water. He continues of the same bold impertinent humour that he was always of and will ever be. He told me how my Lord Chancellor had lately got the Duke of York and Duchess, and her woman, my Lord Ossory’s and a Doctor, to make oath before most of the judges of the kingdom, concerning all the circumstances of their marriage. And in fine, it is confessed that they were not fully married till about a month or two before she was brought to bed; but that they were contracted long before, and time enough for the child to be legitimate. But I do not hear that it was put to the judges to determine whether it was so or no.
To my Lord and there spoke to him about his opinion of the Light, the sea-mark that Captain Murford is about, and do offer me an eighth part to concern myself with it, and my Lord do give me some encouragement in it, and I shall go on. I dined herewith Mr. Shepley and Howe. After dinner to Whitehall Chappell with Mr. Child, and there did hear Captain Cooke and his boy make a trial of an Anthem against tomorrow, which was brave musique.
Then by water to Whitefriars to the Play-house, and there saw “The Changeling,” the first time it hath been acted these twenty years, and it takes exceedingly. Besides, I see the gallants do begin to be tyred with the vanity and pride of the theatre actors who are indeed grown very proud and rich.
Then by link home, and there to my book awhile and to bed.
I met to-day with Mr. Townsend, who tells me that the old man is yet alive in whose place in the Wardrobe he hopes to get my father, which I do resolve to put for.
I also met with the Comptroller, who told me how it was easy for us all, the principal officers, and proper for us, to labour to get into the next Parliament; and would have me to ask the Duke’s letter, but I shall not endeavour it because it will spend much money, though I am sure I could well obtain it. This is now 28 years that I am born. And blessed be God, in a state of full content, and great hopes to be a happy man in all respects, both to myself and friends.

My birthday is water in wine,
an impertinent chance.
I do not concern myself with it.
Give me rage
and I shall go on:
I was a changeling.
The man in whose place I troll
was born happy.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 23 February 1660/61.


This entry is part 31 of 91 in the series Toward Noon: 3verses


Clouds pull their shadows
across the snow-filled valley
as if dragging for a drowned swimmer.

I watch from the ridge,
mesmerized by the alternation
of gloom and glare.

The No Hunting sign rattles
on the electric pole
above the deep claw-marks of bears.

Why birthdays suck

Victorian-era card showing a kitten in apron carrying a birthday cake
The Victorians pioneered two things I hate: mass-produced birthday cards and LOLcats.

Birthdays are like assholes: everyone has one, and they connect us to unpleasant realities we’d rather not think about. But that’s not why I dislike them. I dislike birthdays because, in our culture, they are a time for those who are already privileged to feel as if they own a goddamn day on the calendar.

In centuries past, only saints had special days; individuals could participate in that specialness with a celebration on the day of the saint who shared their name. So you still got an annual celebration, but it wasn’t all about you — and its significance extended far beyond your own birth and death. And in a largely agricultural society in which the annual cycle of the seasons was of much greater relevance to people’s everyday lives, imagine how simultaneously humbling and exalting it must’ve felt to have been so integrated into the cosmic wheel.

But what do we have? An individualized pseudo-holiday, hyped by the greeting-card industry, whose effect is to simultaneously flatter and insult: it’s your special day in which you are special, but don’t forget that, if you just turned 30 or above, you are now well on your way to becoming old, unattractive and irrelevant. Oh, and here’s another shit-load of stuff you don’t really need.

That said, the blowing-out-the-candles thing is pretty cool. And the chance to make all your friends wear stupid little party hats. But it’s too bad we don’t bake symbolic objects such as coins and thimbles into the cake anymore. It must’ve been a real blast waiting to see which semi-inebriated celebrant would be the first to break a tooth.

(I’m 48. Why do you ask?)

Double take

All the morning at the office. At noon with my wife and Pall to my father’s to dinner, where Dr. Thos. Pepys and my coz Snow and Joyce Norton. After dinner came The. Turner, and so I home with her to her mother, good woman, whom I had not seen through my great neglect this half year, but she would not be angry with me. Here I staid all the afternoon talking of the King’s being married, which is now the town talk, but I believe false.
In the evening Mrs. The. and Joyce took us all into the coach home, calling in Bishopsgate Street, thinking to have seen a new Harpsicon that she had a making there, but it was not done, and so we did not see it. Then to my home, where I made very much of her, and then she went home. Then my wife to Sir W. Batten’s, and there sat a while; he having yesterday sent my wife half-a-dozen pairs of gloves, and a pair of silk stockings and garters, for her Valentine’s gift.
Then home and to bed.

O my fat snow,
turn my great neglect to joy.
I have seen that I did not see
the home I made and the home I sat in,
a pair of gloves and a pair of stockings,
an art, her gift…

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 22 February 1660/61.


This entry is part 22 of 23 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2013-14


Seed these words
in your everyday speech—

Acanthus or helichrysum;
indica, milagrosa, javanica;

perforate, constellation, for no reason
but that they introduce

a break in the aftermath of repetition.
Drone of some large, unseen motor

outside our windows every night
after midnight, bearing neither trace

of gold nor verdigris: you do not lead
to a trapdoor through which we might lower

our bodies into a waiting boat, damp seats
skimming prosaic language off our clothes

so they thin to the embroidery of chance,
texture of a different possibility.

The landscape opens like a tapestry:
under the moon, farmers roll

their cotton pantaloons and sink
toes deeper into the mud.

You would think young shoots
give off a uniform sound every time

there is a planting: o of surprise,
ah of falling and letting go,

allowing the dark to swallow
each body wanting to burst

toward the harvest,
arcing toward the stalk.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Public works

To Westminster by coach with Sir W. Pen, and in our way saw the city begin to build scaffolds against the Coronacion. To my Lord, and there found him out of doors. So to the Hall and called for some caps that I have a making there, and here met with Mr. Hawley, and with him to Will’s and drank, and then by coach with Mr. Langley our old friend into the city. I set him down by the way, and I home and there staid all day within, having found Mr. Moore, who staid with me till late at night talking and reading some good books. Then he went away, and I to bed.

We saw the city
build scaffolds
for all who read books.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 21 February 1660/61.