Glutton for punishment

(Midsummer-day). We kept this a holiday, and so went not to the office at all. All the morning at home. At noon my father came to see my house now it is done, which is now very neat. He and I and Dr. Williams (who is come to see my wife, whose soare belly is now grown dangerous as she thinks) to the ordinary over against the Exchange, where we dined and had great wrangling with the master of the house when the reckoning was brought to us, he setting down exceeding high every thing. I home again and to Sir W. Batten’s, and there sat a good while. So home.

This ice I eat
will see my belly grow
dangerous as
a great master,
exceeding every me.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 24 June 1661.


(Lord’s day). In the morning to church, and my wife not being well, I went with Sir W. Batten home to dinner, my Lady being out of town, where there was Sir W. Pen, Captain Allen and his daughter Rebecca, and Mr. Hempson and his wife. After dinner to church all of us and had a very good sermon of a stranger, and so I and the young company to walk first to Graye’s Inn Walks, where great store of gallants, but above all the ladies that I there saw, or ever did see, Mrs. Frances Butler (Monsieur L’Impertinent’s sister) is the greatest beauty. Then we went to Islington, where at the great house I entertained them as well as I could, and so home with them, and so to my own home and to bed. Pall, who went this day to a child’s christening of Kate Joyce’s, staid out all night at my father’s, she not being well.

At church, a strange company,
a great store of gall,
an impertinent sling,
a child in a well.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 23 June 1661.

Honey Moon

We wanted so much to see your light, your milk that would not spill again like this in such copiousness for at least a hundred years. But the sky was overcast, was lit by flares and thunder; and only your wraith roiled in clutches of cloud. We wanted to eat your golden comb and smear our mouths and faces with your largesse. But such are the appetites of the starving, the unseemly desires of those who live on scaffolds of precariousness. Rich wafer, cheeks bitten to glow beneath stations of dimmed street lights— we’ll count the days, the hours, until our hearts can fill like purses again.

London on five pounds a day

Millennium Dome etc. from a station of the DLR

The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) was indeed well-lit, and offered stunning views of the Millennium Dome and the towering steel and glass centers of global finance.

Thames barrier at low tide

It was low tide on the longest day of the year. At the Thames Barrier, we saw a cormorant and a curlew. House martins fed their young in an artificial cliff above the river — a concrete apartment building. Continue reading “London on five pounds a day”


Abroad all the morning about several businesses. At noon went and dined with my Lord Crew, where very much made of by him and his lady. Then to the Theatre, “The Alchymist,” which is a most incomparable play. And that being done I met with little Luellin and Blirton, who took me to a friend’s of theirs in Lincoln’s Inn fields, one Mr. Hodges, where we drank great store of Rhenish wine and were very merry. So I went home, where I found my house now very clean, which was great content to me.

All morning
in a mad heat—
mist on the fields.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 22 June 1661.

Codex alimentarius

To have risen early in the morning
when the dark was still the color

of unpeeled eggplant, before the sky’s
lining of fleece thinned to rice paper,

allowing shoals of tiny fish to make
their way into nets fine as gauze

slung over the boats of fisherfolk—
My mother knew the time of year,

calculating by the moon’s appearance,
by the chill or portent of wind, when we

should bring the broad banana leaves
indoors to clean and oil for wrapping

and preserving what we could not merely
hold in our hands of summer’s gifts.

Salt and fat, ferment of acids
conjured in baskets and jars—

Dutiful daughter, I indexed
their bite and taste, kept

their methods fluid for the library
of my tongue. In famine or in plenty,

my punishment’s knowing their names
and disguises, even in the dark.


In response to Via Negativa: Aphorism.

Green house

This morning going to my father’s I met him, and so he and I went and drank our morning draft at the Samson in Paul’s Churchyard, and eat some gammon of bacon, &c., and then parted, having bought some green Say for curtains in my parler. Home, and so to the Exchequer, where I met with my uncle Wight, and home with him to dinner, where among others (my aunt being out of town), Mr. Norbury and I did discourse of his wife’s house and land at Brampton, which I find too much for me to buy.
Home, and in the afternoon to the office, and much pleased at night to see my house begin to be clean after all the dirt.

A rank yard
and part green in my parlor
where I am out
of land and pleased
to house the dirt.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 21 June 1661.


Every night the details change,
but essentially it is the same dream:

I’m in a house with many rooms,
searching for the exit from this dream.

Hallways are hung with portraits of men I don’t know.
Their wives and daughters are elsewhere, in another dream.

A parrot swings from a perch in the library.
He says your name over and over in his own dream.

Through the long, unruly grass, fireflies send their tiny
morse code. Boughs are heavy with scent in this dream.

As the rooster sends up its bright orange carol,
I hold you briefly, your yes and no, in this dream.


In response to Via Negativa: What news.


In the night, plaintive bassoon
of calling frogs; and just before

first light, an owl’s insistent
questions— And I know

all threads will lead, as they must,
to the place where they first started:

to the one our steps retrace
a labyrinth of paths to find.