Let these fall where they will: pages from our archive
of days, the loneliness inflicted by each star
flowering open on the cheek of impassive night—
In cities we have learned the places
where we can gather to share bread and broth,
where we can trade letters and tales
smuggled in the lining of suitcases.
Beneath the bridge, oil-speckled waters
swirl with unearthly light. The far-off whistle
from a barge comes back often in dreams.
Doors in train stations open and close
through the night— the sounds they make,
barely a vapor in the yellow of fluorescent lamps.


In response to Via Negativa: Light entertainment.


Lay pretty long in bed, and then up and among my workmen, the carpenters being this day laying of my floor of my dining room, with whom I staid a good while, and so to my office, and did a little business, and so home to dinner, and after dinner all the afternoon with my carpenters, making them lay all my boards but one in my dining room this day, which I am confident they would have made two good days work of if I had not been there, and it will be very pleasant. At night to my office, and there late doing of my office business, and so home to supper and bed.
Thus ends this month, I and my family in good health, but weary heartily of dirt, but now in hopes within two or three weeks to be out of it. My head troubled with much business, but especially my fear of Sir J. Minnes claiming my bed-chamber of me, but I hope now that it is almost over, for I perceive he is fitting his house to go into it the next week. Then my law businesses for Brampton makes me mad almost, for that I want time to follow them, but I must by no means neglect them. I thank God I do save money, though it be but a little, but I hope to find out some job or other that I may get a sum by to set me up.
I am now also busy in a discovery for my Lord Sandwich and Sir H. Bennett by Mr. Wade’s means of some of Baxter’s money hid in one of his cellars in the Tower. If we get it it may be I may be 10 or 20l. the better for it.
I thank God I have no crosses, but only much business to trouble my mind with. In all other things as happy a man as any in the world, for the whole world seems to smile upon me, and if my house were done that I could diligently follow my business, I would not doubt to do God, and the King, and myself good service. And all I do impute almost wholly to my late temperance, since my making of my vowes against wine and plays, which keeps me most happily and contentfully to my business; which God continue!
Public matters are full of discontent, what with the sale of Dunkirk, and my Lady Castlemaine, and her faction at Court; though I know not what they would have more than to debauch the king, whom God preserve from it! And then great plots are talked to be discovered, and all the prisons in town full of ordinary people, taken from their meeting-places last Sunday. But for certain some plots there hath been, though not brought to a head.

the carpenter is in my room
making boards
one   two

at night in my heart of dirt
fear is fitting my money
to the cross

but I smile
and vow to God
I know it not

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 31 October 1662.

Light entertainment

Could sleep but little to-night for thoughts of my business. So up by candlelight and by water to Whitehall, and so to my Lord Sandwich, who was up in his chamber and all alone, did acquaint me with his business; which was, that our old acquaintance Mr. Wade (in Axe Yard) hath discovered to him 7,000l. hid in the Tower, of which he was to have two for discovery; my Lord himself two, and the King the other three, when it was found; and that the King’s warrant runs for me on my Lord’s part, and one Mr. Lee for Sir Harry Bennet, to demand leave of the Lieutenant of the Tower for to make search. After he had told me the whole business, I took leave and hastened to my office, expecting to be called by a letter from my Lord to set upon the business, and so there I sat with the officers all the morning. At noon when we were up comes Mr. Wade with my Lord’s letter, and tells me the whole business. So we consulted for me to go first to Sir H. Bennet, who is now with many of the Privy Counsellors at the Tower, examining of their late prisoners, to advise with him when to begin.
So I went; and the guard at the Tower Gate, making me leave my sword at the gate, I was forced to stay so long in the ale-house hard by, till my boy run home for my cloak, that my Lord Mayor that now is, Sir John Robinson, Lieutenant of the Tower, with all his company, was gone with their coaches to his house in Minchen Lane. So my cloak being come, I walked thither; and there, by Sir G. Carteret’s means, did presently speak with Sir H. Bennet, who did show and give me the King’s warrant to me and Mr. Leigh, and another to himself, for the paying of 2,000l. to my Lord, and other two to the discoverers. After a little discourse, dinner come in; and I dined with them. There was my Lord Mayor, my Lord Lauderdale, Mr. Secretary Morris, to whom Sir H. Bennet would give the upper hand; Sir Wm. Compton, Sir G. Carteret, and myself, and some other company, and a brave dinner. After dinner, Sir H. Bennet did call aside the Lord Mayor and me, and did break the business to him, who did not, nor durst appear the least averse to it, but did promise all assistance forthwith to set upon it. So Mr. Lee and I to our office, and there walked till Mr. Wade and one Evett his guide did come, and W. Griffin, and a porter with his picke-axes, &c.; and so they walked along with us to the Tower, and Sir H. Bennet and my Lord Mayor did give us full power to fall to work. So our guide demands, a candle, and down into the cellars he goes, inquiring whether they were the same that Baxter always had. We went into several little cellars, and then went out a-doors to view, and to the Cole Harbour; but none did answer so well to the marks which was given him to find it by, as one arched vault. Where, after a great deal of council whether to set upon it now, or delay for better and more full advice, we set to it, to digging we went to almost eight o’clock at night, but could find nothing. But, however, our guides did not at all seem discouraged; for that they being confident that the money is there they look for, but having never been in the cellars, they could not be positive to the place, and therefore will inform themselves more fully now they have been there, of the party that do advise them. So locking the door after us, we left work to-night, and up to the Deputy Governor (my Lord Mayor, and Sir H. Bennet, with the rest of the company being gone an hour before); and he do undertake to keep the key of the cellars, that none shall go down without his privity. But, Lord! to see what a young simple fantastique coxcombe is made Deputy Governor, would make one mad; and how he called out for his night-gown of silk, only to make a show to us; and yet for half an hour I did not think he was the Deputy Governor, and so spoke not to him about the business, but waited for another man; at last I broke our business to him; and he promising his care, we parted. And Mr. Leigh and I by coach to White Hall, where I did give my Lord Sandwich an account of our proceedings, and some encouragement to hope for something hereafter, and so bade him good-night, and so by coach home again, where to my trouble I found that the painter had not been here to-day to do any thing, which vexes me mightily. So to my office to put down my journal, and so home and to bed.
This morning, walking with Mr. Coventry in the garden, he did tell me how Sir G. Carteret had carried the business of the Victuallers’ money to be paid by himself, contrary to old practice; at which he is angry I perceive, but I believe means no hurt, but that things maybe done as they ought. He expects Sir George should not bespatter him privately, in revenge, but openly. Against which he prepares to bedaub him, and swears he will do it from the beginning, from Jersey to this day. And as to his own taking of too large fees or rewards for places that he had sold, he will prove that he was directed to it by Sir George himself among others. And yet he did not deny Sir G. Carteret his due, in saying that he is a man that do take the most pains, and gives himself the most to do business of any man about the Court, without any desire of pleasure or divertisements; which is very true. But which pleased me mightily, he said in these words, that he was resolved, whatever it cost him, to make an experiment, and see whether it was possible for a man to keep himself up in Court by dealing plainly and walking uprightly, with any private game a playing: in the doing whereof, if his ground do slip from under him, he will be contented; but he is resolved to try, and never to baulke taking notice of any thing that is to the King’s prejudice, let it fall where it will; which is a most brave resolucion. He was very free with me; and by my troth, I do see more reall worth in him than in most men that I do know.
I would not forget two passages of Sir J. Minnes’s at yesterday’s dinner. The one, that to the question how it comes to pass that there are no boars seen in London, but many sows and pigs; it was answered, that the constable gets them a-nights. The other, Thos. Killigrew’s way of getting to see plays when he was a boy. He would go to the Red Bull, and when the man cried to the boys, “Who will go and be a devil, and he shall see the play for nothing?” then would he go in, and be a devil upon the stage, and so get to see plays.

light is an old acquaintance
come with a pick-axe into the cellar
a mad night-gown of silk

I wear it as an experiment
in walking upright
a private game

let it fall where it will
more real than any answer
that nothing on the stage

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 30 October 1662.

First Dance Alone

experimental poem in Hausa and English

Malama Gulley, ta koya ne
before a window in a small
room with her own two sons.
Da ina tunanin wannan lokaci,
memories fade and blur, amma
wannan I remember: Malama
ta koya mani the possibility
da zan iya yi rubutu da karatu
kuma, even when kafofi na suna
compressed by takalma. She was,
dai dai, preparing me to go
to board at school in Jos,
where expectation of malami

would be for me to present
myself daily like some fine
horse prepared for durbar
to amsa the emir when yana
kiran sa, adorned in all
manner of contraptions
with takalma upon my feet.
Malama, how do I admit, after
all the lessons you gave me,
that this girl who you taught
school-behavior, how to raise
hannun dama high to question,
how to zauna, zama at my desk

until given leave to go for
recess, break—and that
having rushed outside to play,
how I would also be expected
by the malami to dawo and take
up my place again with willing
interest? Malama, how do I
confess that the one moment
of the next year, hudu, year
for which you so well prepared
me, the moment that remains
most haske in my memory was
in art class, the discovery

of a large biro with felt tip,
a marker that (if not truly
permanent) would at least dade
several weeks upon a young
girl’s skin. I hid it like
some sin behind my back, asked
permission to relieve myself,
snuck it out to the girls’
toilet. There, I removed my
takalma (at that time, sandals
only) with thin straps, baki,
hooked between the toes like
flip-flops, and a thin sole.

Akan kafofi na, I then drew
in those cords of bondage,
filled the paler skin not
quite as browned on the top
of each foot. Kuma na duba
the underside of each with
care, found eight barefoot
years had left them not so
different from the still-new
tan bottoms of my sandals.
Yauwa. I put the shoes back
on my feet, returned to class,
returned the borrowed ink.

Until then, I had not (in my
own assessment) sinned, only
made a loan of an implement,
promptly returned it, and had
also made an exploration, an
experiment, a drawing. Amma,
amma, sannu da rana, I strayed
from the straight path, wrapped
each of my takalmi into an
extra dankwali and hid them
both beneath my bed, gathered
my litafi, set out with intention
to deceive. And for almost two

weeks, my kafofi were free, had
escaped for an extended recess,
stayed on break. When I was
caught — of course, because
the marks began to fade—I
was caned (but briefly) by the
Malam teaching Maths, who
struggled, when he caught me,
not to laugh, who could not
keep himself from showing
juyayi to one small girl
from the jeji who preferred
to wear her own familiar feet.

In response to “What’s Poetry Got to Do with It? Musings by José Angel Araguz, Episode 1: Shoes” at
The Cincinnati Review.

Inscrutable Sonnets


Precocious but impatient, that one, they said; and sought
to tame the impetuous streak glimpsed in my nature
with well-chosen books, orders to stay indoors despite
the clamor of play that children my age raised
in the neighborhood. It didn’t help that frequently
I fell to a host of incomprehensible afflictions:
daily nosebleeds, wheezing, welts and hives from eating
the simplest things no one else gave a second thought to.
From glazed windows I watched as children dragged
an empty packing box to the top of our street,
took turns getting in and pushing off so it scraped
and hurtled down, sped toward its imminent falling apart.
Sometimes this image is what comes back when I’m asked—
Whatever were you thinking, getting married at 18?


(Lord Mayor’s day). Intended to have made me fine, and by invitation to have dined with the Lord Mayor to-day, but going to see Sir W. Batten this morning, I found Sir G. Carteret and Sir J. Minnes going with Sir W. Batten and myself to examine Sir G. Carteret’s accounts for the last year, whereupon I settled to it with them all the day long, only dinner time (which Sir G. Carteret gave us), and by night did as good as finish them, and so parted, and thence to my office, and there set papers in order and business against to-morrow. I received a letter this day from my father, speaking more trouble about my uncle Thomas his business, and of proceeding to lay claim to Brampton and all my uncle left, because it is given conditional that we should pay legacys, which to him we have not yet done, but I hope that will do us no hurt; God help us if it should, but it disquiets my mind. I have also a letter from my Lord Sandwich desiring me upon matters of concernment to be with him early tomorrow morning, which I wonder what it should be. So my mind full of thoughts, and some trouble at night, home and to bed.
Sir G. Carteret, who had been at the examining most of the late people that are clapped up, do say that he do not think that there hath been any great plotting among them, though they have a good will to it; but their condition is so poor, and silly, and low, that they do not fear them at all.

where day and night parted
I receive my legacy of oughts

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 29 October 1662.

Inscrutable Sonnets


So what if it all comes to ruin? Soft brown tunnel
that soon collapses in on itself, starred end

of fruit which a fly has found and lit on in the basket;
plastic vent that crumbles in our hands, dull grey

wafer we pry loose from the wall with a Stanley
screwdriver. On loamy soil, a post that’s loosened

its grip on a rusted joint. Despite the early dark,
the rapid slide toward winter— in the air, sketched

tapestries of musk heaviest over a compost pit. All the notes
we wanted and gathered: how we change them with heat,

how ravenously we eat, sometimes standing at the counter,
fingers pulling flesh away from bone as soon as their char

leaves the skillet’s hot metal. Ripe bodies, sweet morsels; salt
keeps certain things longer. Headlong’s for everything else.

Missed connection

At the office sitting all the morning, and then home to dinner with my wife, and after dinner she and I passing an hour or two in ridiculous talk, and then to my office, doing business there till 9 at night, and so home and to supper and to bed.
My house is now in its last dirt, I hope, the plasterer and painter now being upon winding up all my trouble, which I expect will now in a fortnight’s time, or a little more, be quite over.

she and I passing in the night
now dirt
now wind

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 28 October 1662.

Bandaged Orb

His gnarled hand gently lifts each egg,
holds it a fixed distance from the candle
which turns each one into a glowing orb
of marble, veined with possibility. Light

also reveals a fault-line of weakness, an
unevenness in the layers of spun calcium,
a place between the ochre freckles prone
to fail, likely to crack during the coming

days of incubation. An early break would
mean the end for some half-formed thing
as yet unable to survive without its oval
exoskeleton. What is there to lose in the face

of a disaster so foretold? The old man with
the candle grants permission to his grandson
for an experiment, indulges the young one’s
request, then watches from a distance as

the boy selects a roll of hope from the First
Aid case, gently wraps and smooths the tape
across the weak place in the shell, shapes
a non-invasive suture. Long after the child

goes to bed, the grandfather stays awake.
Eventually, he rises, walks softly to the door,
pauses to contemplate the bandaged orb
nestled in the incubator’s corner, then slips

outside to breathe in the good night, to hold
that breath and listen for the familiar eerie
trill of the Eastern screech owl. For the first
time in near forever, he finds himself in prayer.

After Luisa A Igloria’s “Instructions for calling the soul back to the body” and Dave Bonta’s “Idealist.”

Inscrutable Sonnets


How far back can you remember? you ask. Two: carried
in arms, tank top and diapers, being taken to a shop for my first
pair of shoes. Oaky smell of tanned leather, shopgirls’ cooing sounds.
Thin strap of Mary Janes stuck to the tops of my feet. A year or so
later, vague memory of you laying a blanket across two clotheslines,
makeshift tent near chayote vines on one side of the yard. There we sat
for who knows how many mornings after the ambulance took your friend’s
body away, after detectives were done with their questions, after my father
calmed your hysterics. While he was at work, you shelled beans or cut
vegetables on a chopping board, the kitchen sink steps from the open
back door. I drowsed in the shade, chewed on the ear of a cloth toy,
watched crayons roll over their margin of paper and into the dirt.
A curtain edge lifting seemed small, and also momentous. Wood frames
around window glass, where clouds traced themselves in passing.