How the war ended

To Westminster to Mr. Edward Montagu about business of my Lord’s, and so to the Wardrobe, and there dined with my Lady, who is in some mourning for her brother, Mr. Saml. Crew, who died yesterday of the spotted fever. So home through Duck Lane to inquire for some Spanish books, but found none that pleased me. So to the office, and that being done to Sir W. Batten’s with the Comptroller, where we sat late talking and disputing with Mr. Mills the parson of our parish. This day my Lady Batten and my wife were at the burial of a daughter of Sir John Lawson’s, and had rings for themselves and their husbands. Home and to bed.

The war I mourn
died yesterday of spotted fever.
We sat late disputing
at the burial.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 3 July 1661.

Empty Orchestra

Sometimes when I run my fingers
along the table’s edge, when I
slowly crease a napkin fold
or trace circles on the surface
with a fingernail or the tip
of a coffee spoon— I remember
my mother’s thin soprano practicing
an old kundiman: “Huling Awit,”
Last Song, the pleading supplicant
at the window of unmoved, oblivious
love. And always I wondered why he
never showed his face, never reciprocated
the one-sided serenade in moonlight,
why the woman in the narrative sang
her heart out in such an empty room
that all the sadness in the world
came and gathered like orphans,
like fledglings, at her feet.


In response to Via Negativa Conch Shell.

Conch shell

To Westminster Hall and there walked up and down, it being Term time. Spoke with several, among others my cozen Roger Pepys, who was going up to the Parliament House, and inquired whether I had heard from my father since he went to Brampton, which I had done yesterday, who writes that my uncle is by fits stupid, and like a man that is drunk, and sometimes speechless.
Home, and after my singing master had done, took coach and went to Sir William Davenant’s Opera; this being the fourth day that it hath begun, and the first that I have seen it. To-day was acted the second part of “The Siege of Rhodes.” We staid a very great while for the King and the Queen of Bohemia. And by the breaking of a board over our heads, we had a great deal of dust fell into the ladies’ necks and the men’s hair, which made good sport. The King being come, the scene opened; which indeed is very fine and magnificent, and well acted, all but the Eunuch, who was so much out that he was hissed off the stage.
Home and wrote letters to my Lord at sea, and so to bed.

Like a speechless opera
or dust in ladies’ hair,
the hiss of the sea.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 2 July 1661.


This morning I went up and down into the city, to buy several things, as I have lately done, for my house. Among other things, a fair chest of drawers for my own chamber, and an Indian gown for myself. The first cost me 33s., the other 34s. Home and dined there, and Theodore Goodgroome, my singing master, with me, and then to our singing. After that to the office, and then home.

Is the city a thing—
one house, a chest
of drawers—
or a singing master,
singing to the office
and the home?

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 1 July 1661.


“Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.” ~ T.S. Eliot

One by one, the lost or forgotten return:
bulbs erupt from their winter envelopes;
seeds sprout in the yard, following
the scything arc of the careless

hand that must have scattered them.
And the ache in my heart I thought
I’d buried deep in the teeming soil
of everyday ferment skims

lightly again to the surface, asking
to be taken in my palms, asking to be
examined. And I don’t know now
just as I didn’t know before,

what to believe if suddenly it lifts
two dusty brown wings hinged to its soft
moth body, though its breathing is the only
prayer I can remember in the room.


My gold tooth in my hand, the space it left behind
an indentation chalked with paste and sand—

My garment made of skin, held out at arm’s
length for the anatomist to see within—

My paper window shade, accordion drawn against
this faltering light: its outline parsed by fire.


In response to Via Negativa: Walking Dead.

Instructions for Waldorf Salad

Astoria: middle class and commercial neighborhood in the northwestern corner of New York City. Borough: Queens. Astoria is bounded by the East River. Nearest are three other Queens neighborhoods: Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside. Astoria is patrolled by the New York City Police Department’s 114th Precinct. Astoria was first settled by the Dutch and Germans. Then the Irish came in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Now there are other ethnic settlers: Italians, Jews, Cypriots, Arabs. There is a street there called “Little Egypt.” When I go into Arab shops I think of dates, figs, pistachios; I do not think of walnuts. Oscar at the Waldorf did not put them into his original salad recipe. Someone else did, years and years later, in California. Then grapes followed. Own it, goes a slogan heard often on the lips of the young. He was Swiss. As for epicure: the word appears in all the stubs on his biography. The word comes from the late 14th century, meaning “follower of Epicurus,” after the Athenian philosopher who taught that pleasure is the highest good and virtue is the greatest pleasure. The first lesson, therefore, is apples. Apples and honey, celery slices thinned to the shape of commas. The juice and zest of a lemon. Zest licks the fingers on which the sweet dressing has spilled, as the tray is borne from kitchen to dining plaza in that famous hotel.

Walking dead

(Lord’s day). To church, where we observe the trade of briefs is come now up to so constant a course every Sunday, that we resolve to give no more to them. A good sermon, and then home to dinner, my wife and I all alone.
After dinner Sir Williams both and I by water to Whitehall, where having walked up and down, at last we met with the Duke of York, according to an order sent us yesterday from him, to give him an account where the fault lay in the not sending out of the ships, which we find to be only the wind hath been against them, and so they could not get out of the river. Hence I to Graye’s Inn Walk, all alone, and with great pleasure seeing the fine ladies walk there. Myself humming to myself (which now-a-days is my constant practice since I begun to learn to sing) the trillo, and found by use that it do come upon me. Home very weary and to bed, finding my wife not sick, but yet out of order, that I fear she will come to be sick. This day the Portuguese Embassador came to White Hall to take leave of the King; he being now going to end all with the Queen, and to send her over.
The weather now very fair and pleasant, but very hot. My father gone to Brampton to see my uncle Robert, not knowing whether to find him dead or alive. Myself lately under a great expense of money upon myself in clothes and other things, but I hope to make it up this summer by my having to do in getting things ready to send with the next fleet to the Queen.
Myself in good health, but mighty apt to take cold, so that this hot weather I am fain to wear a cloth before my belly.

I walk alone
seeing the fine ladies there
humming to myself

I fear I am dead
under my clothes

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 30 June 1661.