Mother crow

Up, and after giving order to the plasterer now to set upon the finishing of my house, then by water to wait upon the Duke, and walking in the matted Gallery, by and by comes Mr. Coventry and Sir John Minnes, and then to the Duke, and after he was ready, to his closet, where I did give him my usual account of matters, and afterwards, upon Sir J. Minnes’ desire to have one to assist him in his employment, Sir W. Pen is appointed to be his, and Mr. Pett to be the Surveyor’s assistant. Mr. Coventry did desire to be excused, and so I hope (at least it is my present opinion) to have none joined with me, but only Mr. Coventry do desire that I would find work for one of his clerks, which I did not deny, but however I will think of it, whether without prejudice to mine I can do it.
Thence to my Lord Sandwich, who now-a-days calls me into his chamber, and alone did discourse with me about the jealousy that the Court have of people’s rising; wherein he do much dislike my Lord Monk’s being so eager against a company of poor wretches, dragging them up and down the street; but would have him rather to take some of the greatest ringleaders of them, and punish them; whereas this do but tell the world the King’s fears and doubts. For Dunkirk; he wonders any wise people should be so troubled thereat, and scorns all their talk against it, for that he says it was not Dunkirk, but the other places, that did and would annoy us, though we had that, as much as if we had it not. He also took notice of the new Ministers of State, Sir H. Bennet and Sir Charles Barkeley, their bringing in, and the high game that my Lady Castlemaine plays at Court (which I took occasion to mention as that that the people do take great notice of), all which he confessed. Afterwards he told me of poor Mr. Spong, that being with other people examined before the King and Council (they being laid up as suspected persons; and it seems Spong is so far thought guilty as that they intend to pitch upon him to put to the wracke or some other torture), he do take knowledge of my Lord Sandwich, and said that he was well known to Mr. Pepys. But my Lord knows, and I told him, that it was only in matter of musique and pipes, but that I thought him to be a very innocent fellow; and indeed I am very sorry for him. After my Lord and I had done in private, we went out, and with Captain Cuttance and Bunn did look over their draught of a bridge for Tangier, which will be brought by my desire to our office by them to-morrow.
Thence to Westminster Hall, and there walked long with Mr. Creed, and then to the great half-a-crown ordinary, at the King’s Head, near Charing Cross, where we had a most excellent neat dinner and very high company, and in a noble manner.
After dinner he and I into another room over a pot of ale and talked. He showed me our commission, wherein the Duke of York, Prince Rupert, Duke of Albemarle, Lord Peterborough, Lord Sandwich, Sir G. Carteret, Sir William Compton, Mr. Coventry, Sir R. Ford, Sir William Rider, Mr. Cholmley, Mr. Povy, myself, and Captain Cuttance, in this order are joyned for the carrying on the service of Tangier, which I take for a great honour to me.
He told me what great faction there is at Court; and above all, what is whispered, that young Crofts is lawful son to the King, the King being married to his mother. How true this is, God knows; but I believe the Duke of York will not be fooled in this of three crowns.
Thence to White Hall, and walked long in the galleries till (as they are commanded to all strange persons), one come to tell us, we not being known, and being observed to walk there four or five hours (which was not true, unless they count my walking there in the morning), he was commanded to ask who we were; which being told, he excused his question, and was satisfied. These things speak great fear and jealousys. Here we staid some time, thinking to stay out the play before the King to-night, but it being “The Villaine,” and my wife not being there, I had no mind.
So walk to the Exchange, and there took many turns with him; among other things, observing one very pretty Exchange lass, with her face full of black patches, which was a strange sight. So bid him good-night and away by coach to Mr. Moore, with whom I staid an hour, and found him pretty well and intends to go abroad tomorrow, and so it raining hard by coach home, and having visited both Sir Williams, who are both sick, but like to be well again, I to my office, and there did some business, and so home and to bed.
At Sir W. Batten’s I met with Mr. Mills, who tells me that he could get nothing out of the maid hard by (that did poyson herself) before she died, but that she did it because she did not like herself, nor had not liked herself, nor anything she did a great while. It seems she was well-favoured enough, but crooked, and this was all she could be got to say, which is very strange.

without prejudice to mine
who would the great leaders punish
fear is a game

poor people examined
as suspected persons
that they pitch upon to torture

our mother crow
in a strange hour
commanded to ask who we were

her face full
of black rain
like poison for a rook

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 27 October 1662.

Inscrutable Sonnets


Everyone takes to the hills. And why not? The air is still
always cooler. Afternoons are shrouded with fog. Lowlanders take
their sweaters out of mothballs, pose for pictures at the pony trail.
Or they can don highland garb at the promontory overlooking what’s left
of silver and copper mines established in American colonial times. A work
force from many cultures carved access roads from sheer mountainsides—
Who wouldn’t stay, after such arduous toil? The future once nestled
like an oasis here. I remember Hindu shopkeepers, Chinese dim sum cooks,
the old Spaniard who put up an ice cream parlor and soda fountain; a Belgian
priest who left his order to marry the pharmacist. These days, the migrants
are mostly Korean, Japanese; they set up restaurants, send their children
to ESL classes. My ex- used to joke— for all we knew, there could be
a community of aging Nazis living out their days in some dusty highland
town: nothing and no one to answer to but councils of immoveable stone.

(Baguio City)


(Lord’s day). Up and put on my new Scallop, and is very fine. To church, and there saw the first time Mr. Mills in a surplice; but it seemed absurd for him to pull it over his ears in the reading-pew, after he had done, before all the church, to go up to the pulpitt, to preach without it.
Home and dined, and Mr. Sympson, my joyner that do my diningroom, and my brother Tom with me to a delicate fat pig. Tom takes his disappointment of his mistress to heart; but all will be well again in a little time. Then to church again, and heard a simple Scot preach most tediously. So home, and to see Sir W. Batten, who is pretty well again, and then to my uncle Wight’s to show my fine band and to see Mrs. Margaret Wight, but she was not there. All this day soldiers going up and down the town, there being an alarm and many Quakers and others clapped up; but I believe without any reason: only they say in Dorsetshire there hath been some rising discovered. So after supper home, and then to my study, and making up my monthly account to myself. I find myself, by my expense in bands and clothes this month, abated a little of my last, and that I am worth 679l. still; for which God be praised. So home and to bed with quiett mind, blessed be God, but afeard of my candle’s going out, which makes me write thus slubberingly.

a scallop is absurd for ears
and delicate of heart

it heard an alarm and clapped
only to go

so I bless God but fear
my candle going out

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 26 October 1662.

Inscrutable Sonnets


Wet leaves plaster the chairs and tables; the hearts,
too, of bougainvillea flatten themselves against the wall.
Who can count how many trees fell across the road? At what
hour did the winds snatch the tarpaulin roof off the mall?
In a season of exigency, it is prudent to act with haste
as well as keep something back. Salt on rice, the can-
opener close at hand. Pull the drip of tallow: its paste,
something to roll into beads. High tide makes beaches of lawns.
The earth speckles with silt and grit; snapped wire, sad debris
of plastic shopping bags, foamed innards of sewer lines.
We don’t bathe for days. We drink instant coffee, dress
in layers, boil the last of the eggs. Yes, this will pass:
another thing to file away in memory, eventually. Even so,
it’s palpable: that sadness for what hasn’t come yet but will.


In response to Via Negativa: We sat outside.

Absence makes the heart

Up and to the office, and there with Mr. Coventry sat all the morning, only we two, the rest being absent or sick. Dined at home with my wife upon a good dish of neats’ feet and mustard, of which I made a good meal. All the afternoon alone at my office and among my workmen, who (I mean the joyners) have even ended my dining room, and will be very handsome and to my full content.
In the evening at my office about one business or another, and so home and to bed, with my mind every day more and more quiet since I come to follow my business, and shall be very happy indeed when the trouble of my house is over.

absent with my wife all afternoon
a mean joy
my hands full of quiet

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 25 October 1662.

Inscrutable Sonnets


Not all dreams are equal. Some fall
under the catalog of portents: their cupboards
are filled with snails, their nets brim with teeth;
wasps’ nests bloom on the door jamb. Split a tamarind
pod and lay the shape of mystery on your tongue: sour
and fuzzy, one dark stone for a heart. One day
I walked and walked, certain that secrets kept
so long would show themselves eventually.
The moon turned yellow above fields of grain.
The farmhouses were docile as milk poured
into shallow bowls. If there were birds,
they drowsed under a drop cloth in the parlor.
I was given a plot, a mound of earth. At the end
of the lane, a taxi waited, its engine idling quietly.

Books in the road

After with great pleasure lying a great while talking and sporting in bed with my wife (for we have been for some years now, and at present more and more, a very happy couple, blessed be God), I got up and to my office, and having done there some business, I by water, and then walked to Deptford to discourse with Mr. Lowly and Davis about my late conceptions about keeping books of the distinct works done in the yards, against which I find no objection but their ignorance and unwillingness to do anything of pains and what is out of their ordinary dull road, but I like it well, and will proceed in it. So home and dined there with my wife upon a most excellent dish of tripes of my own directing, covered with mustard, as I have heretofore seen them done at my Lord Crew’s, of which I made a very great meal, and sent for a glass of wine for myself, and so to see Sir W. Pen, who continues bed-rid in great pain, and hence to the Treasury to Sir J. Minnes paying off of tickets, and at night home, and in my study (after seeing Sir W. Batten, who also continues ill) I fell to draw out my conceptions about books for the clerk that cheques in the yard to keep according to the distinct works there, which pleases me very well, and I am confident it will be of great use. At 9 at night home, and to supper, and to bed.
This noon came to see me and sat with me a little after dinner Mr. Pierce, the chyrurgeon, who tells me how ill things go at Court: that the King do show no countenance to any that belong to the Queen; nor, above all, to such English as she brought over with her, or hath here since, for fear they should tell her how he carries himself to Mrs. Palmer; insomuch that though he has a promise, and is sure of being made her chyrurgeon, he is at a loss what to do in it, whether to take it or no, since the King’s mind is so altered in favour to all her dependants, whom she is fain to let go back into Portugall (though she brought them from their friends against their wills with promise of preferment), without doing any thing for them. But he tells me that her own physician did tell him within these three days that the Queen do know how the King orders things, and how he carries himself to my Lady Castlemaine and others, as well as any body; but though she hath spirit enough, yet seeing that she do no good by taking notice of it, for the present she forbears it in policy; of which I am very glad. But I pray God keep us in peace; for this, with other things, do give great discontent to all people.

books in the dull road like a dish of tripe
a meal of ill conception

books for the clerk
who tells me ill things

for the surgeon at a loss
what to do with her own body

for the bears

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 24 October 1662.

We sat outside

photo of sycamore-leaf shadows on the pavement

We sat outside the café,
stretched our legs

and soaked our feet
in the pool of sunshine

that dimpled and flickered
with the shifting

and whispering
of the sycamores overhead.

We forgot that tomorrow
the clocks go back,

that wet leaves will plaster
the chairs and tables.

Inscrutable Sonnets


Like an idol that will not be approached,
you sit in your house crammed with the flotsam
of years: melamine plates sharing space with old
dictionaries and law journals, umbrellas hung
on the bannister like pennants for the next
festival of rain. In the corner, the sewing
machine is an island overgrown with a vegetation
of cardboard boxes and plastic hangers. The upright
piano looms like a derelict volcano under a flannel
throw. When someone pries its ancient lid open, the notes
make sounds of discolored ivory. Do the bean curd vendors
ever knock at the gate anymore? What do the neighbors think
when they see you shuffle out to the driveway bristling
with your arsenal of keys, gnarled hands on your hips?


Up and among my workmen, and so to the office, and there sitting all the morning we stept all out to visit Sir W. Batten, who it seems has not been well all yesterday, but being let blood is now pretty well, and Sir W. Pen after office I went to see, but he continues in great pain of the gout and in bed, cannot stir hand nor foot but with great pain. So to my office all the evening putting things public and private in order, and so at night home and to supper and to bed, finding great content since I am come to follow my business again, which God preserve in me.

among men
let blood continue
great gout
great public supper
great God preserve

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 23 October 1662.