I said yes

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

but my heart said no; my mouth
refused but my hands began
to unbutton, unzip, undo

And I said maybe

but my dreams, emphatic in
their repetition, said we
know more than you

And I said no

but the garden withered, my cup
of soil overfilled with rain; and I,
I dipped my bread in salt

New neighbor

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

This morning Sir Williams both, and my wife and I and Mrs. Margarett Pen (this first time that I have seen her since she came from Ireland) went by coach to Walthamstow, a-gossiping to Mrs. Browne, where I did give her six silver spoons for her boy. Here we had a venison pasty, brought hot from London, and were very merry. Only I hear how nurse’s husband has spoken strangely of my Lady Batten how she was such a man’s whore, who indeed is known to leave her her estate, which we would fain have reconciled to-day, but could not and indeed I do believe that the story is true.
Back again at night home.

Both my wife and I
have seen her gossiping
to her six silver spoons,
her past brought hot
and strange as a whore—
the story is true.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 1 August 1661.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Singing-master came to me this morning; then to the office all the morning. In the afternoon I went to the Theatre, and there I saw “The Tamer Tamed” well done. And then home, and prepared to go to Walthamstow to-morrow.
This night I was forced to borrow 40l. of Sir W. Batten.

Gin this morning,
ice in the afternoon heat.
And there I saw a well
and prepared to row.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 31 July 1661.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

In our language, there is only
a borrowed word for constellation.

Instead of the Bear or the Big
or Little Dipper, there are layers

of terraced clouds from which,
on clear nights, you might see

the great cloud rat leap
in his ascent up the limbs

of the sacred tree, winding from earth
to the gates of heaven. There is

no hunter with a sword and silver belt,
but there are warriors wrapped

in loincloth, their hand-tooled
blades ringing still with the audible

breath of their enemies. Don’t ask me
for the catalog of their other names:

when it rains blood, there is famine;
and when it rains clear and milky,

the merciful goddess has squeezed
drops from her breast to feed us.


In response to Via Negativa: Ursa Major.