So small in the photograph:
one foot lifted, tip of a shoe
touching the back of a hot
and itchy calf, chin pointed
toward the window where the bees
hum their wayward psalms
and sparrows heed the instinct
to turn and wheel, beneath the sign
language of larger wings.
In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.
All the morning at Portsmouth, at the Pay, and then to dinner, and again to the Pay; and at night got the Doctor to go lie with me, and much pleased with his company; but I was much troubled in my eyes, by reason of the healths I have this day been forced to drink.
The morning a mouth
and night the doctor
to lie with me,
ease my eyes,
heal this day.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 25 April 1662.
Up and to Sir G. Carteret’s lodgings at Mrs. Stephens’s, where we keep our table all the time we are here. Thence all of us to the Pay-house; but the books not being ready, we went to church to the lecture, where there was my Lord Ormond and Manchester, and much London company, though not so much as I expected. Here we had a very good sermon upon this text: “In love serving one another;” which pleased me very well. No news of the Queen at all. So to dinner; and then to the Pay all the afternoon. Then W. Pen and I walked to the King’s Yard, and there lay at Mr. Tippets’s, where exceeding well treated.
Where we keep time,
we are not ready.
Where we love, we exceed,
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 24 April 1662.
It was a muggy night at the height of summer.
It was hard to believe that only yesterday my mother and two older daughters saw me off at the airport.
It was decided by all that it was too early, dawn the color of ink but noisy with building traffic.
It would be a mercy to leave the youngest daughter asleep in the air conditioned room.
Being so young, she might cry too heart-rendingly.
Being so young, she might not understand the reasons for all the leave-taking.
Among our kind, leaving is long drawn out and very complicated; rituals like a dance of hesitation punctuated by tears.
But I digress.
It was a muggy night and the Washington monument shone; obelisk, moonlit needle, both familiar and unfamiliar in its translation from books to a page on a hot summer night.
The cab driver glanced at me in the rearview mirror and said, Traveling alone, Madam?
I gave him the address of the university written on a card. Yes, I said, stating the obvious.
I rolled the window down in case I needed to scream.
You are brave, he continued. You must be here for a reason.
I did not know what to say, though I thought it was too early an invitation to probe at the filaments of my misgivings.
A breeze riffed through the trees and the surfaces of water answered.
I was brought to my destination, and I alit and paid my fare.
I had a pouch full of coins with which to make my first long distance call once I located a pay phone.
But it was after midnight and the university was silent.
I dragged my suitcases along the cobblestones and stared at the letter of instructions in my hand.
The site for Residence Hall B had a construction billboard and idle machines instead of the door to a lobby where a receptionist might be waiting.
Three college students rounded the corner and I showed them the letter.
They did not know what arrangements might have been made for the transfer of Hall B residents to some other place, but they took me to another residence hall where there was a light in the lobby and a receptionist at the desk.
She made phone calls. She offered a drink of water. I waited and watched the clock.
It was near three in the morning and someone came to get me.
I was taken to another block of flats within the university.
The door was opened for me. I was told another resident had checked in earlier and they had put her in my bunk. I think she was from Italy.
I suppose some other arrangements could have been made, so she did not have to be awakened and moved somewhere else.
But what could I do?
I set my luggage in the hallway and found the bathroom.
I washed my face.
I was so tired I did not know if I changed out of my clothes before climbing into the top bunk as instructed.
A scholar from Zimbabwe was asleep in the lower bunk.
I don’t remember how long I slept that first night.
In the night, we lay together; and in the morning
moved the furniture then rinsed the plates from which
we’d eaten. Solitude was the word we spread open:
like a fish butterflied on the cutting board, its spine
a bridge or an illustration of a bridge; like a temporary
tattoo lightly pressed against a fleshy backdrop.
In response to Via Negativa: Assignation.
Up early, and to Petersfield, and there dined well; and thence got a countryman to guide us by Havant, to avoid going through the Forest; but he carried us much out of the way, and upon our coming we sent away an express to Sir W. Batten to stop his coming, which I did project to make good my oath, that my wife should come if any of our wives came, which my Lady Batten did intend to do with her husband. The Doctor and I lay together at Wiard’s, the chyrurgeon’s, in Portsmouth, his wife a very pretty woman. We lay very well and merrily; in the morning, concluding him to be of the eldest blood and house of the Clerkes, because that all the fleas came to him and not to me.
In the forest, out
of the way we lay
together, his wife
a pretty woman. And
in the morning, blood
and fleas, me
and not me.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 23 April 1662.
After taking leave of my wife, which we could hardly do kindly, because of her mind to go along with me, Sir W. Pen and I took coach and so over the bridge to Lambeth, W. Bodham and Tom Hewet going as clerks to Sir W. Pen, and my Will for me. Here we got a dish of buttered eggs, and there staid till Sir G. Carteret came to us from White Hall, who brought Dr. Clerke with him, at which I was very glad, and so we set out, and I was very much pleased with his company, and were very merry all the way. He, among good Storys, telling us a story of the monkey that got hold of the young lady’s cunt as she went to stool to shit, and run from under her coats and got upon the table, which was ready laid for supper and dancing was done. Another about a Hectors crying “God damn you, rascal!” We came to Gilford and there passed our time in the garden, cutting of sparagus for supper, the best that ever I eat in my life but in the house last year. Supped well, and the Doctor and I to bed together, calling cozens from his name and my office.
the table laid
for supper in the garden—
calling his name
Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 22 April 1662.
When the fruit is green you hold it to your ear,
listen for the rattle of seeds not yet leathered,
not yet gone to seed—
When the tip of the knife circles the hull,
two boat-shaped halves fall open
to a coral score—
And you sigh just as you did before
that there could be nothing sweeter than this
flesh, how its perfume must be the last cocoon—
In response to Via Negativa: Holy water.
A spit of rain, a shine
of metal in the middle of the desert—
Oasis of an idea the mind will trudge
all night to, for its promise: cleft
that opens in the rock at the touch
of the lips, with each finger’s
In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.
This morning I attempted to persuade my wife in bed to go to Brampton this week, but she would not, which troubles me, and seeing that I could keep it no longer from her, I told her that I was resolved to go to Portsmouth to-morrow. Sir W. Batten goes to Chatham to-day, and will be back again to come for Portsmouth after us on Thursday next.
I went to Westminster and several places about business. Then at noon dined with my Lord Crew; and after dinner went up to Sir Thos. Crew’s chamber, who is still ill. He tells me how my Lady Duchess of Richmond and Castlemaine had a falling out the other day; and she calls the latter Jane Shore, and did hope to see her come to the same end that she did.
Coming down again to my Lord, he told me that news was come that the Queen is landed; at which I took leave, and by coach hurried to White Hall, the bells ringing in several places; but I found there no such matter, nor anything like it. So I went by appointment to Anthony Joyce’s, where I sat with his wife and Mall Joyce an hour or two, and so her husband not being at home, away I went and in Cheapside spied him and took him into the coach. Home, and there I found my Lady Jemimah, and Anne, and Madamoiselle come to see my wife, whom I left, and to talk with Joyce about a project I have of his and my joyning, to get some money for my brother Tom and his kinswoman to help forward with her portion if they should marry. I mean in buying of tallow of him at a low rate for the King, and Tom should have the profit; but he tells me the profit will be considerable, at which I was troubled, but I have agreed with him to serve some in my absence.
He went away, and then came Mr. Moore and sat late with me talking about business, and so went away and I to bed.
I long to go to several places
and be still.
How rich, on another shore,
to come to the same white ringing—
like a cheap joy
or tallow for the king of absence.
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 21 April 1662.