The Comptroller came this morning to get me to go see a house or two near our office, which he would take for himself or Mr. Turner, and then he would have me have Mr. Turner’s lodgings and himself mine and Mr. Davis’s. But the houses did not like us, and so that design at present is stopped.
Then he and I by water to the bridge, and then walked over the Bank-side till we came to the Temple, and so I went over and to my father’s, where I met with my cozen J. Holcroft, and took him and my father and my brother Tom to the Bear tavern and gave them wine, my cozen being to go into the country again to-morrow.
From thence to my Lord Crew’s to dinner with him, and had very good discourse about having of young noblemen and gentlemen to think of going to sea, as being as honourable service as the land war. And among other things he told us how, in Queen Elizabeth’s time, one young nobleman would wait with a trencher at the back of another till he came to age himself. And witnessed in my young Lord of Kent, that then was, who waited upon my Lord Bedford at table, when a letter came to my Lord Bedford that the Earldom of Kent was fallen to his servant, the young Lord; and so he rose from table, and made him sit down in his place, and took a lower for himself, for so he was by place to sit. From thence to the Theatre and saw “Harry the 4th,” a good play. That done I went over the water and walked over the fields to Southwark, and so home and to my lute. At night to bed.

This morning, I would turn
like a bear into the country
and go over the water and over
the fields to home.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 4 June 1661.


To the Wardrobe, where discoursing with my Lord, he did instruct me as to the business of the Wardrobe, in case, in his absence, Mr. Townsend should die, and told me that he do intend to joyne me and Mr. Moore with him as to the business, now he is going to sea, and spoke to me many other things, as to one that he do put the greatest confidence in, of which I am proud. Here I had a good occasion to tell him (what I have had long in my mind) that, since it has pleased God to bless me with something, I am desirous to lay out something for my father, and so have pitched upon Mr. Young’s place in the Wardrobe, which I desired he would give order in his absence, if the place should fall that I might have the refusal. Which my Lord did freely promise me, at which I was very glad, he saying that he would do that at the least. So I saw my Lord into the barge going to Whitehall, and I and Mr. Creed home to my house, whither my father and my cozen Scott came to dine with me, and so we dined together very well, and before we had done in comes my father Bowyer and my mother and four daughters, and a young gentleman and his sister, their friends, and there staid all the afternoon, which cost me great store of wine, and were very merry.
By and by I am called to the office, and there staid a little. So home again, and took Mr. Creed and left them, and so he and I to the Towre, to speak for some ammunition for ships for my Lord; and so he and I, with much pleasure, walked quite round the Towre, which I never did before. So home, and after a walk with my wife upon the leads, I and she went to bed.
This morning I and Dr. Peirce went over to the Beare at the Bridge foot, thinking to have met my Lord Hinchinbroke and his brother setting forth for France; but they being not come we went over to the Wardrobe, and there found that my Lord Abbot Montagu being not at Paris, my Lord hath a mind to have them stay a little longer before they go.

The business of the town
is going to sea, which
it pleased God to lay out
in the absence of wine
or ships, a lead foot
setting forth for France
and a mind to stay longer
before they go.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 3 June 1661.


At the cafe, the waiter takes my order
before I even open my mouth. At a nearby

table, two women are talking, their heads
close together; one of them is weeping

quietly. Are you all right,
her friend says. The other nods.

For a long time I could not tell what
was real and what was a lie: variations.

Once I was afraid of the world and its
long hands, its love of bones. There is

no cure for the oldest of afflictions: burning
in the cold with the desire to be consumed.


In response to Via Negativa: Against certainty.

Some Facts About the Vikings

gleaned from a quick perusal of the Vikings exhibition at the British Museum

The Vikings were here, pillaging and minting coins.

The Vikings expanded in all directions when nobody was looking.

The Vikings were fond of bright colors and the whisper of silk against their hairy skins.

The Vikings steered their longships with special oars shaped like butter churns.

The Vikings filed their teeth for maximum impact when they gnawed on their shields like crazed Norway rats.

The Vikings invented tribal tattoos, gang signs, campfire sing-alongs and theoretical physics.

The Vikings’ chief deity had one eye and walked with a limp.

The Vikings were misunderstood loners who acted out violent fantasies of power.

The Vikings gave names to their swords and their shields, their boots and their favorite underwear.

The Vikings had female shamans whose magic staffs symbolically unwound the threads of fate.

The Vikings drank beer from wooden buckets and water—when they had to—from their pointy little helmets.

The Vikings dated yo’ mama before she got fat.

The Vikings selflessly contributed their DNA to the British gene pool.

The Vikings taught us how to say bleak and anger, glitter, ransack and egg.

The Vikings didn’t call themselves Vikings, but activist shareholders.

The Vikings were vertically integrated, and operated in all areas of the pillaging and slaving industry.

The Vikings exploited penalty charges on credit accounts held by most major northern European rulers.

The Vikings were directly involved in several major environmental and safety incidents, as well as numerous violations of human rights and good taste.

The Vikings were exceedingly fond of bling.

The Vikings employed poets to burnish their images and shape public expectations.

The Vikings disappeared in the 11th century at the height of their power, as the result of a leveraged buyout from Christendom Incorporated.

I wrote this today especially for an open-mike reading at the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. It seemed to go over pretty well. It occurred to me later that presenting a freshly minted poem to a roomful of strangers is pretty much what I do here every day (except that some of you aren’t strangers, of course). It was an extremely well-moderated reading, with time limits strictly but humorously enforced and a great diversity of readers — an interesting counterpoint to a much more staid reading by professional, establishment poets I’d attended several days before.

Against certainty

(Whitsunday). The barber having done with me, I went to church, and there heard a good sermon of Mr. Mills, fit for the day. Then home to dinner, and then to church again, and going home I found Greatorex (whom I expected today at dinner) come to see me, and so he and I in my chamber drinking of wine and eating of anchovies an hour or two, discoursing of many things in mathematics, and among others he showed me how it comes to pass the strength that levers have, and he showed me that what is got as to matter of strength is lost by them as to matter of time.
It rained very hard, as it hath done of late so much that we begin to doubt a famine, and so he was forced to stay longer than I desired.
At night after prayers to bed.

An ill fit for the church
of mathematics am I.
Show me what is lost by doubt
or a long-desired night.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 2 June 1661.

The River Thames

Having taken our leaves of Sir W. Batten and my Lady, who are gone this morning to keep their Whitsuntide, Sir W. Pen and I and Mr. Gauden by water to Woolwich, and there went from ship to ship to give order for and take notice of their forwardness to go forth, and then to Deptford and did the like, having dined at Woolwich with Captain Poole at the tavern there.
From Deptford we walked to Redriffe, calling at the half-way house, and there come into a room where there was infinite of new cakes placed that are made against Whitsuntide, and there we were very merry.
By water home, and there did businesses of the office. Among others got my Lord’s imprest of 1000l. and Mr. Creeds of 10,000l. against this voyage their bills signed. Having wrote letters into the country and read some things I went to bed.

The tide went from ship to ship
like a captain at the tavern
calling at a room
where there was infinite cake—
water in the reeds,
a voyage into some bed.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 1 June 1661.


In the mailbox, under its film of sticky
green and yellow pollen, a letter arrives
bearing a postmark: Stettener Str. 7,
Oberstotzingen, Germany. It is a letter
that has found its way after almost decades
of silence and not-knowing, from the Buddha’s
former student 30 years ago— Here is the card
with the same angled handwriting she remembers
from exams he wrote on Kafka and Kant, Chekov,
Rilke; and here is a photo of him now, surgeon,
married, four kids. What joy to hear from you,
he writes— How I have thought of who I am and what
I try to be, of where I am at home; and how that’s made
of friends and colleagues, acquaintances, relations
—circles from which I draw my hope and strength.

And yes, the Buddha agrees: more’s the wonder
one can go years without knowing what has happened
to someone, then close the gap. Once she knew him
as a young man: adrift in a country not his own,
learning a tongue made of sounds he did not fully grasp.
One moment ago there was only a suitcase of years
filled with change after change. Now, there is
a return address, a phone number; stories
of lives lived with and among others.


I went to my father’s thinking to have met with my cozen John Holcroft, but he came not, but to my great grief I found my father and mother in a great deal of discontent one with another, and indeed my mother is grown now so pettish that I know not how my father is able to bear with it. I did talk to her so as did not indeed become me, but I could not help it, she being so unsufferably foolish and simple, so that my father, poor man, is become a very unhappy man.
There I dined, and so home and to the office all the afternoon till 9 at night, and then home and to supper and to bed.
Great talk now how the Parliament intend to make a collection of free gifts to the King through the Kingdom; but I think it will not come to much.

My great grief
is an insufferably simple supper,
a rough kingdom.
It will not come
to much.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 31 May 1661.