What is tonight’s achievable dream?
The newspaper folded in half on the night stand.

What is the moon’s most visible trajectory?
Spears of gladioli flung down by a storm.

At what angle does your signature’s slant?
The stairs have balusters that match the landings.

What is the weight of a silver pendant?
A narrow channel in the ground where liquid flows.

What is a tempest?
The sound that honey makes in the bee.

What is the most impenetrable silence?
The crack made in a facet of marble.

What water is the most difficult to drink?
The one and only song of a karmic repetition.

News junkie

This morning came my box of papers from Brampton of all my uncle’s papers, which will now set me at work enough. At noon I went to the Exchange, where I met my uncle Wight, and found him so discontented about my father (whether that he takes it ill that he has not been acquainted with things, or whether he takes it ill that he has nothing left him, I cannot tell), for which I am much troubled, and so staid not long to talk with him.
Thence to my mother’s, where I found my wife and my aunt Bell and Mrs. Ramsey, and great store of tattle there was between the old women and my mother, who thinks that there is, God knows what fallen to her, which makes me mad, but it was not a proper time to speak to her of it, and so I went away with Mr. Moore, and he and I to the Theatre, and saw “The Jovial Crew,” the first time I saw it, and indeed it is as merry and the most innocent play that ever I saw, and well performed. From thence home, and wrote to my father and so to bed. Full of thoughts to think of the trouble that we shall go through before we come to see what will remain to us of all our expectations.

Morning papers exchange discontent
for a great store of tattle
and God knows what—
a mad theater.
Think of the trouble we go through
to see what will remain
of all our expectations.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 25 July 1661.


This morning my wife in bed tells me of our being robbed of our silver tankard, which vexed me all day for the negligence of my people to leave the door open.
My wife and I by water to Whitehall, where I left her to her business and I to my cozen Thomas Pepys, and discoursed with him at large about our business of my uncle’s will. He can give us no light at all into his estate, but upon the whole tells me that he do believe that he has left but little money, though something more than we have found, which is about 500l.
Here came Sir G. Lane by chance, seeing a bill upon the door to hire the house, with whom my coz and I walked all up and down, and indeed it is a very pretty place, and he do intend to leave the agreement for the House, which is 400l. fine, and 46l. rent a year to me between them. Then to the Wardrobe, but come too late, and so dined with the servants. And then to my Lady, who do shew my wife and me the greatest favour in the world, in which I take great content.
Home by water and to the office all the afternoon, which is a great pleasure to me again, to talk with persons of quality and to be in command, and I give it out among them that the estate left me is 200l. a year in land, besides moneys, because I would put an esteem upon myself.
At night home and to bed after I had set down my journals ever since my going from London this journey to this house.
This afternoon I hear that my man Will hath lost his cloak with my tankard, at which I am very glad.

Robbed of our light by the war,
too late to take
pleasure in talk,
I put on my night cloak.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 24 July 1661.

I want to say

She asks: Will we look back on this someday and laugh at the ratio of ramen to hard cider and beer? What things will make us smile in that faraway future?

The past is such a storehouse packed with clutter; and still we try to make more room.

Where is that thing I put away in there that I need now? If I knew for certain what it was, I could tell you.

And the present?

The present is an envelope out of which unexpected things fall: tears, planes exploding, people falling from the sky; and almost always, unrelenting rain afterwards, as parents gather the bodies of their children from the beach.

I want to say there could be more than this.

I want to say there could be a white handkerchief scented with lemon oil.

There could be honeycomb shards from the blasted beehives to drop into a glass of hot and bitter tea.

I want to say.


In response to Via Negativa: Arms Race.

The pain of others

Put on my mourning. Made visits to Sir W. Pen and Batten. Then to Westminster, and at the Hall staid talking with Mrs. Michell a good while, and in the afternoon, finding myself unfit for business, I went to the Theatre, and saw “Brenoralt,” I never saw before. It seemed a good play, but ill acted; only I sat before Mrs. Palmer, the King’s mistress, and filled my eyes with her, which much pleased me. Then to my father’s, where by my desire I met my uncle Thomas, and discoursed of my uncle’s will to him, and did satisfy [him] as well as I could. So to my uncle Wight’s, but found him out of doors, but my aunt I saw and staid a while, and so home and to bed. Troubled to hear how proud and idle Pall is grown, that I am resolved not to keep her.

Mourning filled my eyes
with leased doors.
I saw how all I own
I am not to keep.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 23 July 1661.


Up by three, and going by four on my way to London; but the day proves very cold, so that having put on no stockings but thread ones under my boots, I was fain at Bigglesworth to buy a pair of coarse woollen ones, and put them on. So by degrees till I come to Hatfield before twelve o’clock, where I had a very good dinner with my hostess, at my Lord of Salisbury’s Inn, and after dinner though weary I walked all alone to the Vineyard, which is now a very beautiful place again; and coming back I met with Mr. Looker, my Lord’s gardener (a friend of Mr. Eglin’s), who showed me the house, the chappell with brave pictures, and, above all, the gardens, such as I never saw in all my life; nor so good flowers, nor so great gooseberrys, as big as nutmegs.
Back to the inn, and drank with him, and so to horse again, and with much ado got to London, and set him up at Smithfield; so called at my uncle Fenner’s, my mother’s, my Lady’s, and so home, in all which I found all things as well as I could expect. So weary and to bed.

In my cold boots
I come to a field
and a vineyard
and a garden:
no flowers.
Back to the fen
in which I found
all things.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 22 July 1661.

Gunpowder Haibun

Pops, and a series of loud bangs. The gas cap of a grey van is dark with soot and flapped open; where it’s parked, a little flame flickers at the base of an elm. The alley is veiled in smoke. A fire truck pulls up. Someone must have called. But whoever set off bottle rockets is gone. My mother-in-law says she saw three teenagers sprinting for the avenue. The fire is quickly doused. Hours after, the air has the unmistakable undertone of gunpowder. This is not something you necessarily smell in gunpowder tea, which is a form of green tea produced in certain provinces of China. Tea-pickers roll each leaf into small round pellets resembling ammunition. The harder and shinier they are when dried, the better flavor they impart when steeped briefly in hot, not boiling, water: not a lacerating bitterness, but a smoky mellow drift from leaves gathered just before sunrise, when the fog has not yet lifted from the ground.

In dreams, conflagrations
make me seek the cooler side
of cotton pillows.


In response to Via Negativa: Dreamtime.

After arguing

(Lord’s day). At home all the morning, putting my papers in order against my going to-morrow and doing many things else to that end. Had a good dinner, and Stankes and his wife with us. To my business again in the afternoon, and in the evening came the two Trices, Mr. Greene, and Mr. Philips, and so we began to argue. At last it came to some agreement that for our giving of my aunt 10l. she is to quit the house, and for other matters they are to be left to the law, which do please us all, and so we broke up, pretty well satisfyed.
Then came Mr. Barnwell and J. Bowles and supped with us, and after supper away, and so I having taken leave of them and put things in the best order I could against to-morrow I went to bed.
Old William Luffe having been here this afternoon and paid up his bond of 20l., and I did give him into his hand my uncle’s surrender of Sturtlow to me before Mr. Philips, R. Barnwell, and Mr. Pigott, which he did acknowledge to them my uncle did in his lifetime deliver to him.

In the evening we came to agreement
as a barn owl to a barn.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 21 July 1661.

Call and response, with missing fried chicken

The phone rings. The caller, a woman, says in a frantic voice: “I cain’t find the fried chicken. I cain’t find the fried chicken.” In the background are car horns, indistinguishable voices. “Wrong number,” I say. She doesn’t hear above the noise. I have to repeat: “Wrong number.” A while later the phone rings again. I forget to check the number, but I’m thinking it’s still the chicken lady, desperate for her dinner. I wonder if I should ask her why the chicken crossed the road. Or where. Or why not baked or rotisserie chicken. But it’s not the chicken lady; it’s my contractor with the bad attitude, responding to my query from a week ago about roof repair. Scratch that: more like, hectoring. I can hardly get a word in edgewise— “You oughta’ be grateful it’s only a leak. You know I’ve got xyz jobs in far worse shape than what you got, that need my immediate attention. I’m running all over the place. I really don’t have the time. I coulda’ told you when you bought that house that the roof was bad.” Yeah? Well I don’t need to be lectured, mister. Pulverize is a word that applies to a number of materials. Pressure pulls the wire to decrease the stitch. Goodbye, wrong number. I don’t think I’ll be doing business with you again.