Ennui (2)

To my office all the morning, after I was up (my wife beginning to make me lie long a mornings), where we sat till noon, and then dined at home, and after a little with my workmen to my office till 9 at night, among other things examining the particulars of the miscarriage of the Satisfaction, sunk the other day on the Dutch coast through the negligence of the pilott.

I lie till noon
and dine till nine at night
examining the miscarriage
of satisfaction

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 4 October 1662.

Day Seven: Anticipation

Second trial taking anti-seizure
medication. On the first, notices
stuck sideways on the bottle warned
to be aware of side effects, among
the possible were hallucinations,

visual. On day eight of that first
pass, a large brown rat escaped my
mind to race across the kitchen
floor, an event that startled me,

but was totally ignored by both
the husband and the hound. Day nine
morning, it returned in confidence,
parading its invisibility in face
of all but me. Then that was it.

No further visitations. But then,
an unexpected shift in care, a four-
day lapse in medications, and it’s
back to the beginning, second dial-

up on that prescription. Days one
through six were uneventful, but
this morning when I turned on lights,
an owl perched on the wood back
of a kitchen chair turret-turned

its head to face me, gave a blink
and then turned back to stare
at the space beneath the pantry
cupboard. I approached and stuck

my hand right through it, but it
would not be displaced, talon-
grip dissuaded. Sudden understanding
grips me: it is hungry, it too has
been counting days and so it waits

here for tomorrow’s manna, the fat
rat I’m half-expecting to appear.

After an entry from The Morning Porch.

Dubsmash Mouth: A Cento

I was not impressed. I did not want to be
you with a prophet’s name, posed—

Someone in an accent of seduction whispered salmon.
You plus me: the equation of initials equals love?

The room filled with smoke and sawdust:
a world of Netscape, chat rooms and Fruit by the Foot.

It is unbearable to watch, as if
humans were extra/ or already gone—

I said, “Love me better or go to hell.”
Relay a little venom to my darling:

Let her live with her boy toys and enjoy
breaking their balls again and again,/ loving none.

This circus I’m part of was built just for this.
I should have done it the other way.

[Source texts: “Heartsick,” Lynn Emanuel; “My Daguerrotype Boyfriend,” Alison Pelegrin; “The Donnellys,” Martin Dyar; “Property,” Robin Beth Schaer; “The Grain,” D. Nurske; “Here Comes the Hotstepper,” Adam Fitzgerald; “Communion,” Blas Falconer; “On a Day, in the World,” Brenda Hillman; “Misunderstandings,” Tony Hoagland; “Message to my Love,” Catullus, trans. from the Latin by Jeannine Diddle Uzzi and Jeffrey Thomson; “Practice for Being Empty,” Mary Jo Bang; “The Fatal Skin,” Peter Unwin]


Rose, and without taking leave or speaking to my Lord went out early and walked home, calling at my brother’s and Paul’s Churchyard, but bought nothing because of my oath, though I had a great mind to it.
At my office, and with my workmen till noon, and then dined with my wife upon herrings, the first I have eat this year, and so to my workmen again. By and by comes a gentleman to speak with my wife, and I found him to be a gentleman that had used her very civilly in her coming up out of the country, on which score I showed him great respect, and found him a very ingenious gentleman, and sat and talked with him a great while.
He gone, to my workmen again, and in the evening comes Captain Ferrers, and sat and talked a great while, and told me the story of his receiving his cut in the hand by falling out with one of my Lord’s footmen. He told me also of the impertinence and mischief that Ned Pickering has made in the country between my Lord and all his servants almost by his finding of faults, which I am vexed to hear, it being a great disgrace to my Lord to have the fellow seen to be so great still with him. He brought me a letter from my father, that appoints the day for the Court at Brampton to be the 13th of this month; but I perceive he has kept the letter in his pocket these three days, so that if the day had been sooner, I might have been spilt. So that it is a great folly to send letters of business by any friend that require haste. He being gone I to my office all the evening, doing business there till bedtime, it being now my manner since my wife is come to spend too much of my daytime with her and the workmen and do my office business at night, which must not be after the work of the house is done. This night late I had notice that Dekins, the merchant, is dead this afternoon suddenly, for grief that his daughter, my Morena, who has long been ill, is given over by the Doctors. For both which I am very sorry.
So home and to bed.

I walk home
all the herring coming out
with a grace as great as the night

after the work
of the house is done
this sudden grief

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 3 October 1662.

World enough

Moon that passes
infinitely slow
and infinitely fast
beneath a copper-

clad shadow, I stop
the hand that holds
a ladle from banging
on the iron pot—

The truth is, I don’t
want the monster
to spit you out
of its throat

just yet.
The truth is,
I think the longer
you stay on its

rough tongue,
the longer I
might have
to figure out

these forms. There’s
so much yet to do—
Count and sort
odds and ends;

spirit a steed;
teach the rain how
to salve and close
its wounds.


In response to Via Negativa: Self preservation.


Up and to the office, where we sat till noon, and then to dinner, and Mr. Moore came and dined with me, and after dinner to look over my Brampton papers, which was a most necessary work, though it is not so much to my content as I could wish. I fear that it must be as it can, and not as I would. He being gone I to my workmen again, and at night by coach towards Whitehall took up Mr. Moore and set him at my Lord’s, and myself, hearing that there was a play at the Cockpit (and my Lord Sandwich, who came to town last night, at it), I do go thither, and by very great fortune did follow four or five gentlemen who were carried to a little private door in a wall, and so crept through a narrow place and come into one of the boxes next the King’s, but so as I could not see the King or Queene, but many of the fine ladies, who yet are really not so handsome generally as I used to take them to be, but that they are finely dressed. Here we saw “The Cardinall,” a tragedy I had never seen before, nor is there any great matter in it. The company that came in with me into the box, were all Frenchmen that could speak no English, but Lord! what sport they made to ask a pretty lady that they got among them that understood both French and English to make her tell them what the actors said. Thence to my Lord’s, and saw him, and staid with him half an hour in his chamber talking about some of mine and his own business, and so up to bed with Mr. Moore in the chamber over my Lord’s.

my work is not as I could
and not as I would
work myself

at night I go to a little private
door in a wall
and through a narrow place
and into a box

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 2 October 1662.

At the Court Psychologist’s

They sent me to the fourth floor of the old
Laperal building; I remember how my heels

clicked when I climbed the stairs. Stenciled
numbers above doors were nondescript:

some were faded, some completely merged
with the background. It turned out the woman

behind the office door I opened was both clerk
and scribe. She looked up from the remains

of her lunch before rummaging in a dented
metal cabinet for a form and a ballpen— BIC,

orange plastic carriage, blue ink— and a sheet
of typewritten questions: Take your time,

come back when you have finished your marital
I paid and watched as she filled out

a receipt by hand then handed me the carbon
copy. She pointed out a blank and there I signed

my name. A nearly dry stamp pad lay open
on one side of the desk; she took my right thumb

and rolled it on its surface; then, pressing, I
affixed my mark in a box on the final page.


Up with my mind pretty well at rest about my accounts and other business, and so to my house and there put my work to business, and then down to Deptford to do the same there, and so back and with my workmen all the afternoon, and my wife putting a chamber in order for us to lie in. At night to look over some Brampton papers against the Court which I expect every day to hear of, and that done home and with my wife to bed, the first time I have lain there these two months and more, which I am now glad to do again, and do so like the chamber as it is now ordered that all my fear is my not keeping it. But I hope the best, for it would vex me to the heart to lose it.

My accounts own me
all afternoon
and lie at night
like amber
keeping the heart.

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 1 October 1662.

Obtaining Legal Counsel

What the lawyer said they’d look for was one
or a combination of the following conditions:

minority at age of marriage, unauthorized
solemnizing officer, bigamy or polygamy

at time of union; mistaken identity, proof
of incest via collateral blood or adoptive

parent-child relationship. As for the church:
absence of free and full consent, proof

that one or the other party did not have
maturity to understand the full extent

of the undertaking; proof that there was
never the intent to be faithful, or that one

or both did not plan on being open to the grace
of children. In both types of proceedings, the one

common thing that stood out as best possible defense
was “psychological incapacity”— I wondered

who would take the hit. The lawyer set me up
to meet with a court-appointed psychologist,

and indicated his own fees would range from thirty
to fifty thousand at minimum, depending on the speed

of the process. If the other party did not show up
at all, it might take six months to a year; if he did

and produced witnesses, or if there were other issues
involving custody and property, it would be more expensive

and of course, the trial might run longer. Sitting
in his office I felt unbidden tears well up.

I should have heeded the warning bells: he stopped
and brusquely asked why in the world I was crying.


black-and-white photo of a dressmaker's dummy in a shop window

Those old dressmaker’s dummies
that extremely tasteful shops
love to use in their window displays
do compel the eye pull at your mood
with their pale-flesh patina
catching light and shadows
and the sheer vulnerability
of headless limbless torsos
sometimes even a central seam
like the scar of drastic surgery
and holes that shockingly evoke
heart and sex.