On the eve of travel

(Lord’s day). To church in the morning, and Mr. Mills made a pretty good sermon. It is a bitter cold frost to-day. Dined alone with my wife to-day with great content, my house being quite clean from top to bottom. In the afternoon I to the French church here in the city, and stood in the aisle all the sermon, with great delight hearing a very admirable sermon, from a very young man, upon the article in our creed, in order of catechism, upon the Resurrection. Thence home, and to visit Sir W. Pen, who continues still bed-rid. Here was Sir W. Batten and his Lady, and Mrs. Turner, and I very merry, talking of the confidence of Sir R. Ford’s new-married daughter, though she married so strangely lately, yet appears at church as brisk as can be, and takes place of her elder sister, a maid.
Thence home and to supper, and then, cold as it is, to my office, to make up my monthly accounts, and I do find that, through the fitting of my house this month, I have spent in that and kitchen 50l. this month; so that now I am worth but 660l., or thereabouts. This being done and fitted myself for the Duke to-morrow, I went home, and to prayers and to bed. This day I first did wear a muffe, being my wife’s last year’s muffe, and now I have bought her a new one, this serves me very well.
Thus ends this month; in great frost; myself and family all well, but my mind much disordered about my uncle’s law business, being now in an order of being arbitrated between us, which I wish to God it were done.
I am also somewhat uncertain what to think of my going about to take a woman-servant into my house, in the quality of a woman for my wife. My wife promises it shall cost me nothing but her meat and wages, and that it shall not be attended with any other expenses, upon which termes I admit of it; for that it will, I hope, save me money in having my wife go abroad on visits and other delights; so that I hope the best, but am resolved to alter it, if matters prove otherwise than I would have them.
Publique matters in an ill condition of discontent against the height and vanity of the Court, and their bad payments: but that which troubles most, is the Clergy, which will never content the City, which is not to be reconciled to Bishopps: the more the pity that differences must still be.
Dunkirk newly sold, and the money brought over; of which we hope to get some to pay the Navy: which by Sir J. Lawson’s having dispatched the business in the Straights, by making peace with Argier, Tunis, and Tripoli (and so his fleet will also shortly come home), will now every day grow less, and so the King’s charge be abated; which God send!

my house clean
from top to bottom

but my mind disordered
about my going

I shall visit other lights
which now every day grow less

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 30 November 1662.

Marking time

This morning, before I was up, I fell a-singing of my song, “Great, good, and just,” &c. and put myself thereby in mind that this was the fatal day, now ten years since, his Majesty died.
Scull the waterman came and brought me a note from the Hope from Mr. Hawly with direction, about his money, he tarrying there till his master be gone.
To my office, where I received money of the excise of Mr. Ruddyer, and after we had done went to Will’s and staid there till 3 o’clock and then I taking my 12l. 10s. 0d. due to me for my last quarter’s salary, I went with them by water to London to the house where Signr. Torriano used to be and staid there a while with Mr. Ashwell, Spicer and Ruddier. Then I went and paid 12l. 17s. 6d. due from me to Captn. Dick Matthews according to his direction the last week in a letter. After that I came back by water playing on my flageolette and not finding my wife come home again from her father’s I went and sat awhile and played at cards with Mrs. Jem, whose maid had newly got an ague and was ill thereupon.
So homewards again, having great need to do my business, and so pretending to meet Mr. Shott the wood monger of Whitehall I went and eased myself at the Harp and Ball, and thence home where I sat writing till bed-time and so to bed.
There seems now to be a general cease of talk, it being taken for granted that Monk do resolve to stand to the Parliament, and nothing else. Spent a little time this night in knocking up nails for my hat and cloaks in my chamber.

a song is fatal
the note is as gone as ash after I play it

who having great need
to meet myself at the harp

take for granted that time
is knocking nails

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 30 January 1659/60. (See the original erasure.)

Layered Existence

Wraith-white, milk-white, rind that wrapped everything close in this village shaped like a woman’s breast. Even the horses looked wrought in old silver, grazing on ghost-like plains. Outside in the street, assortment of shoes paired in a grey procession: leather brogues, brocaded slippers, clogs hewn from the flanks of fallen boughs, babies’ booties. The line they made stretched from the capitol and ended at the riverbank. I heard the earnest sound of their progress on the cobblestones, their chafing arguments. I was told to go outside and just observe. I was told there was no interest in arriving at epiphany. I was told to dwell only in idea, eschew any tendency to uncover such things as inherent properties. The sky was filled with voluptuous forms— Clouds hung in clusters, as though butter-heavy. A sign on the underpass said: Do Not Sift. Two women sat in a room, solemnly sniffing each other’s armpits. Cats circled the terrace then sleeked their glistening fur. I wanted badly to find a store where I could buy a box of matches, a beautiful silk tie, sushi grass that smelled and tasted like cilantro; a metal cup in which to cool the water I never drink enough of.

Louder than words

In the morning I went to Mr. Gunning’s, where he made an excellent sermon upon the 2d of the Galatians, about the difference that fell between St. Paul and St. Peter (the feast day of St. Paul being a day or two ago), whereby he did prove, that, contrary to the doctrine of the Roman Church, St. Paul did never own any dependance, or that he was inferior to St. Peter, but that they were equal, only one a particular charge of preaching to the Jews, and the other to the Gentiles.
Here I met with Mr. Moore, and went home with him to dinner to Mr. Crew’s, where Mr. Spurrier being in town did dine with us. From thence I went home and spent the afternoon in casting up my accounts, and do find myself to be worth 40l. and more, which I did not think, but am afraid that I have forgot something.
To my father’s to supper, where I heard by my brother Tom how W. Joyce would the other day have Mr. Pierce and his wife to the tavern after they were gone from my house, and that he had so little manners as to make Tom pay his share notwithstanding that he went upon his account, and by my father I understand that my uncle Fenner and my aunt were much pleased with our entertaining them.
After supper home without going to see Mrs. Turner.

the gun made an excellent sermon
on the difference between us

I am afraid I have forgot
how not to see

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 29 January 1659/60. (See the original erasure.)

The Painting Room

For fifteen pesos each a month, a group of us
took painting lessons every Saturday in a room
on the second floor of the old music building—

the Uson brothers, the Jularbal sisters,
my schoolmate Joseph who likewise took music
lessons from my teacher; the Chinese girls Judy

and Debbie, Mitos who ran a local pizza parlor,
and a few others I no longer remember. Most of us
then had never been inside a museum, much less seen

a work of art that wasn’t a reproduction hanging
in someone’s home. For instruction on depth
of field and perspective, chiaroscuro

and color tone, our teacher rooted through the bottom
shelf of a cabinet stuffed with pictures from glossy
magazines like National Geographic or Life.

When we graduated from sketchbook to our first
canvas and six-tube pack of oils, we rummaged
through trays that held pictures torn from art

books: Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and his Starry Night,
Fragonard’s slipper falling from the foot of the lady
frocked in cream and peach on a garden swing. Dutch

still life arrangements: waxy fruit reflected
globe-like on the mirror surfaces of pewter dishes
and glass goblets, the blood-rimmed eye

and neck feathers of a pheasant draped artfully
on the table’s edge. First, we learned to apply
outlines in burnt ochre thinned with a bit

of linseed oil; then filled in a primer, building up
a base for where the play of light and shadow would,
if we were lucky, quicken to a likeness in three

dimensions, then lift to passable beauty. Combustible
smells of thinner and turpentine rose from empty
mayonnaise jars where we soaked our brushes—

lingering hours in the air, burrowing into fingers
and clothes, even when we took breaks outside to share
sips from bottles of Coke. Every now and then

the nun in the room across the hall came over
to give us snacks— crisp handfuls of cut-outs,
remnants from trays of communion wafers

she baked for the church. I liked to hold them up
to my eyes like a viewfinder, aim at the trees outside,
observe what light did to make aureoles around each leaf.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


Before I went to the office my wife’s brother did come to us, and we did instruct him to go to Gosnell’s and to see what the true matter is of her not coming, and whether she do intend to come or no, and so I to the office; and this morning come Sir G. Carteret to us (being the first time we have seen him since his coming from France): he tells us, that the silver which he received for Dunkirk did weigh 120,000 weight.
Here all the morning upon business, and at noon (not going home to dinner, though word was brought me that Will. Joyce was there, whom I had not seen at my house nor any where else these three or four months) with Mr. Coventry by his coach as far as Fleet Street, and there stepped into Madam Turner’s, where was told I should find my cozen Roger Pepys, and with him to the Temple, but not having time to do anything I went towards my Lord Sandwich’s. (In my way went into Captn. Cuttance’s coach, and with him to my Lord’s.) But the company not being ready I did slip down to Wilkinson’s, and having not eat any thing to-day did eat a mutton pie and drank, and so to my Lord’s, where my Lord and Mr. Coventry, Sir Wm. Darcy, one Mr. Parham (a very knowing and well-spoken man in this business), with several others, did meet about stating the business of the fishery, and the manner of the King’s giving of this 200l. to every man that shall set out a new-made English Busse by the middle of June next. In which business we had many fine pretty discourses; and I did here see the great pleasure to be had in discoursing of publique matters with men that are particularly acquainted with this or that business. Having come to some issue, wherein a motion of mine was well received, about sending these invitations from the King to all the fishing-ports in general, with limiting so many Busses to this, and that port, before we know the readiness of subscribers, we parted, and I walked home all the way, and having wrote a letter full of business to my father, in my way calling upon my cozen Turner and Mr. Calthrop at the Temple, for their consent to be my arbitrators, which they are willing to. My wife and I to bed pretty pleasant, for that her brother brings word that Gosnell, which my wife and I in discourse do pleasantly call our Marmotte, will certainly come next week without fail, which God grant may be for the best.

noon street
the many pretty discourses
in public

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 29 November 1662. Prompted by “69-Year Old Man Tries to Adjust To Modern Life in New York City After Spending 44 Years in Prison.”

About the daily email digest

Just a brief note to anyone who gets the daily email digest (or who follows the site on Feedly): My apologies for the huge lags recently between the actual posting times and when (or even if) new items have showed up in the newsletter. I believe I have it sorted now—last night’s edition included all three of yesterday’s posts. Do note, however, that in the process of catching up, the email delivery service decided to skip over Friday’s posts, so you’ll have to read those on the website.

For my more tech-minded friends: It turned out to be a problem with overly aggressive caching of RSS feeds by the plugin I use to cache and serve static files. (Beware performance-enhancing plugins!) So similar lag-times at Feedly and other feed readers should also now be fixed. Unfortunately for fans of my Pepys Diary erasure project, though, RSS subscribers will still have to click through to the site (or subscribe to the email digest) to see the actual erasures, since only the late, lamented Google Reader correctly displayed the sort of simple HTML formatting I’m using there.


A very hard frost; which is news to us after having none almost these three years. Up and to Ironmongers’ Hall by ten o’clock to the funeral of Sir Richard Stayner. Here we were, all the officers of the Navy, and my Lord Sandwich, who did discourse with us about the fishery, telling us of his Majesty’s resolution to give 200l. to every man that will set out a Busse; and advising about the effects of this encouragement, which will be a very great matter certainly. Here we had good rings, and by and by were to take coach; and I being got in with Mr. Creed into a four-horse coach, which they come and told us were only for the mourners, I went out, and so took this occasion to go home. Where I staid all day expecting Gosnell’s coming, but there came an excuse from her that she had not heard yet from her mother, but that she will come next week, which I wish she may, since I must keep one that I may have some pleasure therein.
So to my office till late writing out a copy of my uncle’s will, and so home and to bed.

hard is the funeral of the fish
that come in May

I must keep one in ice

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 28 November 1662.


I went to Mr. Downing and carried him three characters, and then to my office and wrote another, while Mr. Frost staid telling money. And after I had done it Mr. Hawly came into the office and I left him and carried it to Mr. Downing, who then told me that he was resolved to be gone for Holland this morning. So I to my office again, and dispatch my business there, and came with Mr. Hawly to Mr. Downing’s lodging, and took Mr. Squib from White Hall in a coach thither with me, and there we waited in his chamber a great while, till he came in; and in the mean time, sent all his things to the barge that lay at Charing-Cross Stairs. Then came he in, and took a very civil leave of me, beyond my expectation, for I was afraid that he would have told me something of removing me from my office; but he did not, but that he would do me any service that lay in his power. So I went down and sent a porter to my house for my best fur cap, but he coming too late with it I did not present it to him. Thence I went to Westminster Hall, and bound up my cap at Mrs. Michell’s, who was much taken with my cap, and endeavoured to overtake the coach at the Exchange and to give it him there, but I met with one that told me that he was gone, and so I returned and went to Heaven, where Luellin and I dined on a breast of mutton all alone, discoursing of the changes that we have seen and the happiness of them that have estates of their own, and so parted, and I went by appointment to my office and paid young Mr. Walton 500l.; it being very dark he took 300l. by content. He gave me half a piece and carried me in his coach to St. Clement’s, from whence I went to Mr. Crew’s and made even with Mr. Andrews, and took in all my notes. and gave him one for all. Then to my Lady Wright and gave her my Lord’s letter which he bade me give her privately. So home and then to Will’s for a little news, then came home again and wrote to my Lord, and so to Whitehall and gave them to the post-boy. Back again home and to bed.

I am too afraid
of any vice

too late to give her
that old gone heaven

I dine on a breast of mutton
all alone in the dark

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 28 January 1659/60. (See the original erasure.)


What a beautiful sweep
of sky, empty as an inverted bowl,
wide as the synonym
for beginning. Below,
brushed wet sable of salt water,
and on the periphery, sketched nibs
of trees coming clear of morning—
Here, then, is everything I wish for you.


In response to Via Negativa: Zazen.