Tonton Macoute

All the morning at the office. At noon played on my Theorbo, and much pleased therewith; it is now altered with a new neck. In the afternoon Captain Lambert called me out by appointment, and we walked together to Deptford, and there in his ship, the Norwich, I got him to shew me every hole and corner of the ship, much to my information, and the purpose of my going. So home again, and at Sir W. Batten’s heard how he had been already at Sir R. Slingsby’s, as we were all invited, and I intended this night to go, and there he finds all things out of order, and no such thing done to-night, but pretending that the corpse stinks, they will bury it to-night privately, and so will unbespeak all their guests, and there shall be no funerall, which I am sorry for, that there should be nothing done for the honour of Sir Robert, but I fear he hath left his family in great distraction. Here I staid till late at cards with my Lady and Mrs. Martha, and so home. I sent for a bottle or two of wine thither.
At my coming home I am sorry to find my wife displeased with her maid Doll, whose fault is that she cannot keep her peace, but will always be talking in an angry manner, though it be without any reason and to no purpose, which I am sorry for and do see the inconvenience that do attend the increase of a man’s fortune by being forced to keep more servants, which brings trouble.
Sir Henry Vane, Lambert, and others, are lately sent suddenly away from the Tower, prisoners to Scilly; but I do not think there is any plot as is said, but only a pretence; as there was once pretended often against the Cavaliers.

I am in every hole
and corner hip
to information—
a corpse they bury
a guest of fear,
a doll
who cannot talk, angry
at being a prisoner.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 30 October 1661.

Burnt offerings

This day I put on my half cloth black stockings and my new coat of the fashion, which pleases me well, and with my beaver I was (after office was done) ready to go to my Lord Mayor’s feast, as we are all invited; but the Sir Williams were both loth to go, because of the crowd, and so none of us went, and I staid and dined with them, and so home, and in evening, by consent, we met at the Dolphin, where other company came to us, and should have been merry, but their wine was so naught, and all other things out of order, that we were not so, but staid long at night, and so home and to bed. My mind not pleased with the spending of this day, because I had proposed a great deal of pleasure to myself this day at Guildhall.
This Lord Mayor, it seems, brings up again the Custom of Lord Mayors going the day of their installment to Paul’s, and walking round about the Cross, and offering something at the altar.

Kings of ash, we are
an evening company
and should have been merry

but the wine and all
other things stayed
on the altar.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 29 October 1661.

Chinese Box #2

In those early years, before there was a garden,
we rented rooms to 2 college girls from Thailand.

They had first names with only one syllable,
which they taught me to write in their script.

Back then, perhaps our city was a destination:
little strip of airport in the hills, the sudden drop

at the end of the tarmac. Breathtaking view of one
road snaking up from the coast. Fog near noon, rain

half the year; postcards framed with pine
and sunflowers. They ate meals with us, dated

local boys. I watched them work on their hair
with rollers, play vinyl records on the turntable,

do their own manicures. Modern in miniskirts,
yet they creased in perfect folds the pleats

of silk-threaded costumes, adjusted gold
headdresses and ten curved brass points

over their fingers. What made me think
of them today, as I pulled sweaters

out of the dryer, picking off the little
balls of lint with my thumb and forefinger?

Chinese Box #1

Inside an envelope of rain, a city sleeps
or stirs, making labyrinths, going about its
business. Has it known another fate than to be
a city teeming inside an envelope of rain?

An envelope of rain is still an enclosure,
whether it is mist that barely falls or a torrent.
Living inside, you cultivate belief in color:
saffron and juniper, even the drab of olive—

And even surrounded by dry dust, groves of olives flourish;
stands of cypress establish hardscrabble existence, root
footholds in landscapes of rock. You don’t see the enclosure:
where I’ve dug in my heels, cultivating this thing I love.


At the office all the morning, and dined at home, and so to Paul’s Churchyard to Hunt’s, and there found my Theorbo done, which pleases me very well, and costs me 26s. to the altering. But now he tells me it is as good a lute as any is in England, and is worth well 10l. Hither I sent for Captain Ferrers to me, who comes with a friend of his, and they and I to the Theatre, and there saw “Argalus and Parthenia,” where a woman acted Parthenia, and came afterwards on the stage in men’s clothes, and had the best legs that ever I saw, and I was very well pleased with it. Thence to the Ringo alehouse, and thither sent for a belt-maker, and bought of him a handsome belt for second mourning, which cost me 24s., and is very neat.

A theorbo
is as good as
a captain of
a theater,
a woman in
men’s clothes,
the best legs,
an alehouse,
a hit,
a hand-
some urn.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 28 October 1661.


(Lord’s day). At church in the morning; where in the pew both Sir Williams and I had much talk about the death of Sir Robert, which troubles me much; and them in appearance, though I do not believe it; because I know that he was a cheque to their engrossing the whole trade of the Navy office. Home to dinner, and in the afternoon to church again, my wife with me, whose mourning is now grown so old that I am ashamed to go to church with her. And after church to see my uncle and aunt Wight, and there stayed and talked and supped with them, and were merry as we could be in their company. Among other things going up into their chamber to see their two pictures, which I am forced to commend against my judgment, and also she showed us her cabinet, where she had very pretty medals and good jewels. So home and to prayers and to bed.

A morning where
I talk about death
though I do not believe
in mourning, grown
so old that I am ashamed
to be in the picture.
And she showed us
her cabinet where she had
very pretty prayers.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 27 October 1661.


This entry is part 8 of 27 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2014


The sorcerer’s voice calls out in darkness:
Hold your head steady, as if the apple were not
about to fall in clean halves to the ground, as if
its shine and crimson were not once again the target
for arrows and knives aimed from a distance— as if
their whistling, as they ribbon the air, were done
in good sport, not from deliberation. You don’t
always see who it is that raises an arm, the moment
the string draws back, taut to its full extension.
Behind you, the plank of painted wood is nicked
with a tally of misses, a history of lucky evasions.
A monkey on a leash claps brass cymbals and cycles
in its rhinestone tutu. For authentic spectacle,
the audience has paid. And from watching and waiting,
you know how to spring the blade loose
from its cage, how to send dark warnings
with only your eyes; how it takes one flick
of the wrist to release its lethal intention.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Talk therapy

This morning Sir W. Pen and I should have gone out of town with my Lady Batten, to have met Sir William coming back from Portsmouth; at Kingston, but could not, by reason that my Lord of Peterborough (who is to go Governor of Tangier) came this morning, with Sir G. Carteret, to advise with us about completing of the affairs and preparacions for that place. So at the office all the morning, and in the afternoon Sir W. Pen, my wife and I to the Theatre, and there saw “The Country Captain,” the first time it hath been acted this twenty-five years, a play of my Lord Newcastle’s, but so silly a play as in all my life I never saw, and the first that ever I was weary of in my life. So home again, and in the evening news was brought that Sir R. Slingsby, our Comptroller (who hath this day been sick a week), is dead; which put me into so great a trouble of mind, that all the night I could not sleep, he being a man that loved me, and had many qualitys that made me to love him above all the officers and commissioners in the Navy. Coming home we called at Dan Rawlinson’s; and there drank good sack, and so home.

My mouth is
a theater, the first
play I never saw,
the first I was
weary of—so dead
that I could
not sleep.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 26 October 1661.