Of course there is a singing bone,
a treasure, a magic that has been stolen.

There is a king fallen into a stupor, a kingdom
of fields littered with empty cerveza bottles.

He roams the hallways whose walls bear
the imprint of his fists, unable to recognize

any of his daughters. Of course one of them
is determined to get things right again, says

she would do anything.
What will it take to bring him back?

Perhaps there is virtue if not blessedness
in oblivion. Perhaps it’s simply more difficult

to tell which rhetoric is vacant— the low
frequency hum of a radio station that’s always

been too far out of range; or the crickets
whose voices come back, night after night.


In response to Via Negativa: Notes on the office of hope.

Late love song

Lay pretty long in bed, and then I up and to Westminster Hall, and so to the Swan, sending for Mr. W. Bowyer, and there drank my morning draft, and had some of his simple discourse. Among other things he tells me how the difference comes between his fair cozen Butler and Collonell Dillon, upon his opening letters of her brother’s from Ireland, complaining of his knavery, and forging others to the contrary; and so they are long ago quite broke off.
Thence to a barber’s and so to my wife, and at noon took her to Mrs. Pierces by invitacion to dinner, where there came Dr. Clerke and his wife and sister and Mr. Knight, chief chyrurgeon to the King and his wife. We were pretty merry, the two men being excellent company, but I confess I am wedded from the opinion either of Mrs. Pierces beauty upon discovery of her naked neck to-day, being undrest when we came in, or of Mrs. Clerke’s genius, which I so much admired, I finding her to be so conceited and fantastique in her dress this day and carriage, though the truth is, witty enough.
After dinner with much ado the doctor and I got away to follow our business for a while, he to his patients and I to the Tangier Committee, where the Duke of York was, and we staid at it a good while, and thence in order to the despatch of the boats and provisions for Tangier away, Mr. Povy, in his coach, carried Mr. Gauden and I into London to Mr. Bland’s, the merchant, where we staid discoursing upon the reason of the delay of the going away of these things a great while. Then to eat a dish of anchovies, and drink wine and syder, and very merry, but above all things pleased to hear Mrs. Bland talk like a merchant in her husband’s business very well, and it seems she do understand it and perform a great deal. Thence merry back, Mr. Povy and, I to White Hall; he carrying me thither on purpose to carry me into the ball this night before the King. All the way he talking very ingenuously, and I find him a fine gentleman, and one that loves to live nobly and neatly, as I perceive by his discourse of his house, pictures, and horses.
He brought me first to the Duke’s chamber, where I saw him and the Duchess at supper; and thence into the room where the ball was to be, crammed with fine ladies, the greatest of the Court. By and by comes the King and Queen, the Duke and Duchess, and all the great ones: and after seating themselves, the King takes out the Duchess of York; and the Duke, the Duchess of Buckingham; the Duke of Monmouth, my Lady Castlemaine; and so other lords other ladies: and they danced the Bransle. After that, the King led a lady a single Coranto and then the rest of the lords, one after another, other ladies very noble it was, and great pleasure to see. Then to country dances; the King leading the first, which he called for; which was, says he, “Cuckolds all awry,” the old dance of England. Of the ladies that danced, the Duke of Monmouth’s mistress, and my Lady Castlemaine, and a daughter of Sir Harry de Vicke’s, were the best. The manner was, when the King dances, all the ladies in the room, and the Queen herself, stand up: and indeed he dances rarely, and much better that the Duke of York. Having staid here as long as I thought fit, to my infinite content, it being the greatest pleasure I could wish now to see at Court, I went out, leaving them dancing, and to Mrs. Pierces, where I found the company had staid very long for my coming, but all gone but my wife, and so I took her home by coach and so to my Lord’s again, where after some supper to bed, very weary and in a little pain from my riding a little uneasily to-night in the coach.
Thus ends this year with great mirth to me and my wife: Our condition being thus:— we are at present spending a night or two at my Lord’s lodgings at White Hall. Our home at the Navy-office, which is and hath a pretty while been in good condition, finished and made very convenient. My purse is worth about 650l., besides my goods of all sorts, which yet might have been more but for my late layings out upon my house and public assessment, and yet would not have been so much if I had not lived a very orderly life all this year by virtue of the oaths that God put into my heart to take against wine, plays, and other expenses, and to observe for these last twelve months, and which I am now going to renew, I under God owing my present content thereunto. My family is myself and wife, William, my clerk; Jane, my wife’s upper mayde, but, I think, growing proud and negligent upon it: we must part, which troubles me; Susan, our cook-mayde, a pretty willing wench, but no good cook; and Wayneman, my boy, who I am now turning away for his naughty tricks. We have had from the beginning our healths to this day very well, blessed be God! Our late mayde Sarah going from us (though put away by us) to live with Sir W. Pen do trouble me, though I love the wench, so that we do make ourselves a little strange to him and his family for it, and resolve to do so.
The same we are for other reasons to my Lady Batten and hers.
We have lately had it in our thoughts, and I can hardly bring myself off of it, since Mrs. Gosnell cannot be with us, to find out another to be in the quality of a woman to my wife that can sing or dance, and yet finding it hard to save anything at the year’s end as I now live, I think I shall not be such a fool till I am more warm in my purse, besides my oath of entering into no such expenses till I am worth 1000l..
By my last year’s diligence in my office, blessed be God! I am come to a good degree of knowledge therein; and am acknowledged so by all the world, even the Duke himself, to whom I have a good access and by that, and my being Commissioner with him for Tangier, he takes much notice of me; and I doubt not but, by the continuance of the same endeavours, I shall in a little time come to be a man much taken notice of in the world, specially being come to so great an esteem with Mr. Coventry.
The only weight that lies heavy upon my mind is the ending the business with my uncle Thomas about my dead uncle’s estate, which is very ill on our side, and I fear when all is done I must be forced to maintain my father myself, or spare a good deal towards it out of my own purse, which will be a very great pull back to me in my fortune. But I must be contented and bring it to an issue one way or other.
Publique matters stand thus: The King is bringing, as is said, his family, and Navy, and all other his charges, to a less expence. In the mean time, himself following his pleasures more than with good advice he would do; at least, to be seen to all the world to do so. His dalliance with my Lady Castlemaine being publique, every day, to his great reproach; and his favouring of none at Court so much as those that are the confidants of his pleasure, as Sir H. Bennet and Sir Charles Barkeley; which, good God! put it into his heart to mend, before he makes himself too much contemned by his people for it!
The Duke of Monmouth is in so great splendour at Court, and so dandled by the King, that some doubt, if the King should have no child by the Queen (which there is yet no appearance of), whether he would not be acknowledged for a lawful son; and that there will be a difference follow upon it between the Duke of York and him; which God prevent!
My Lord Chancellor is threatened by people to be questioned, the next sitting of the Parliament, by some spirits that do not love to see him so great: but certainly he is a good servant to the King.
The Queen-Mother is said to keep too great a Court now; and her being married to my Lord St. Albans is commonly talked of; and that they had a daughter between them in France, how true, God knows.
The Bishopps are high, and go on without any diffidence in pressing uniformity; and the Presbyters seem silent in it, and either conform or lay down, though without doubt they expect a turn, and would be glad these endeavours of the other Fanatiques would take effect; there having been a plot lately found, for which four have been publickly tried at the Old Bayley and hanged.
My Lord Sandwich is still in good esteem, and now keeping his Christmas in the country; and I in good esteem, I think, as any man can be, with him.
Mr. Moore is very sickly, and I doubt will hardly get over his late fit of sickness, that still hangs on him.
In fine, for the good condition of myself, wife, family, and estate, in the great degree that it is, and for the public state of the nation, so quiett as it is, the Lord God be praised!

the beauty of her naked neck
I admire it as we eat

she loves horses
and I am in pain from riding

I have lived
a very orderly life

a cook may find my heart
too old and hard

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 31 December 1662.

Notes on the office of hope

Up and to the office, whither Sir W. Pen came, the first time that he has come downstairs since his late great sickness of the gout. We with Mr. Coventry sat till noon, then I to the Change ward, to see what play was there, but I liked none of them, and so homeward, and calling in at Mr. Rawlinson’s, where he stopped me to dine with him and two East India officers of ships and Howell our turner. With the officers I had good discourse, particularly of the people at the Cape of Good Hope, of whom they of their own knowledge do tell me these one or two things: viz, that when they come to age, the men do cut off one of the stones of each other, which they hold doth help them to get children the better and to grow fat. That they never sleep lying, but always sitting upon the ground. That their speech is not so articulate as ours, but yet understand one another well. That they paint themselves all over with the grease the Dutch sell them (who have a fort there) and soot. After dinner drinking five or six glasses of wine, which liberty I now take till I begin my oath again, I went home and took my wife into coach, and carried her to Westminster; there visited Mrs. Ferrer, and staid talking with her a good while, there being a little, proud, ugly, talking lady there, that was much crying up the Queen-Mother’s Court at Somerset House above our own Queen’s; there being before no allowance of laughing and the mirth that is at the other’s; and indeed it is observed that the greatest Court now-a-days is there. Thence to White Hall, where I carried my wife to see the Queen in her presence-chamber; and the maydes of honour and the young Duke of Monmouth playing at cards.
Some of them, and but a few, were very pretty; though all well dressed in velvet gowns. Thence to my Lord’s lodgings, where Mrs. Sarah did make us my Lord’s bed, and Mr. Creed I being sent for, sat playing at cards till it was late, and so good night, and with great pleasure to bed.

the officers of hope
sleep sitting up

understand one another with ease
after five or six glasses of wine

take a little crying
above all mirth

and in the presence of the young
play at playing

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 30 December 1662.


Up and walked to Whitehall, where the Duke and Mr. Coventry being gone forth I went to Westminster Hall , where I staid reading at Mrs. Mitchell’s shop, and sent for half a pint of sack for her. Here she told me what I heard not of before, the strange burning of Mr. De Laun, a merchant’s house in Loathbury, and his lady (Sir Thomas Allen’s daughter) and her whole family; not one thing, dog nor cat, escaping; nor any of the neighbours almost hearing of it till the house was quite down and burnt. How this should come to pass, God knows, but a most strange thing it is! Hither came Jack Spicer to me, and I took him to the Swan, where Mr. Herbert did give me my breakfast of cold chine of pork; and here Spicer and I talked of Exchequer matters, and how the Lord Treasurer hath now ordered all monies to be brought into the Exchequer, and hath settled the King’s revenue, and given to every general expence proper assignments; to the Navy 200,000l. and odd. He also told me of the great vast trade of the goldsmiths in supplying the King with money at dear rates.
Thence to White Hall, and got up to the top gallerys in the Banquetting House, to see the audience of the Russia Embassadors; which after long waiting and fear of the falling of the gallery (it being so full, and part of it being parted from the rest, for nobody to come up merely from the weakness thereof): and very handsome it was. After they were come in, I went down and got through the croude almost as high as the King and the Embassadors, where I saw all the presents, being rich furs, hawks, carpets, cloths of tissue, and sea-horse teeth. The King took two or three hawks upon his fist, having a glove on, wrought with gold, given him for the purpose. The son of one of the Embassadors was in the richest suit for pearl and tissue, that ever I did see, or shall, I believe. After they and all the company had kissed the King’s hand, then the three Embassadors and the son, and no more, did kiss the Queen’s. One thing more I did observe, that the chief Embassador did carry up his master’s letters in state before him on high; and as soon as he had delivered them, he did fall down to the ground and lay there a great while. After all was done, the company broke up; and I spent a little while walking up and down the gallery seeing the ladies, the two Queens, and the Duke of Monmouth with his little mistress, which is very little, and like my brother-in-law’s wife. So with Mr. Creed to the Harp and Ball, and there meeting with Mr. How, Goodgroom, and young Coleman, did drink and talk with them, and I have almost found out a young gentlewoman for my turn, to wait on my wife, of good family and that can sing. Thence I went away, and getting a coach went home and sat late talking with my wife about our entertaining Dr. Clerke’s lady and Mrs. Pierce shortly, being in great pain that my wife hath never a winter gown, being almost ashamed of it, that she should be seen in a taffeta one; when all the world wears moyre; so to prayers and to bed, but we could not come to any resolution what to do therein, other than to appear as she is.

we hear nothing till matters settle
of the vast trade of money at dear rates

an audience full of weak hands
and seahorse teeth

having love for the high ground
that great taffeta the world wears

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 29 December 1662.

Year of mourning, year of unbearable loss

Crux: heart of the matter,
core that, when struck, turns
and moves the energy to its
inevitable conclusion—

But also just heart:
I cannot get away from the part
that fills and fills, that swings
with the wild anguish

of its reverberations,
careening in the blind
space of cathedrals
which the saints,

in their sorrow, have abandoned—
And in the darkness which has grown
out of proportion, signals
and white noise

crackle from just one
station— It sends out
bulletins of planes shot down
over the ocean, scrolling marquees

asking rhetorical questions
like Do you wonder how
something so enormous
could simply disappear

into thin air? Mostly
we get repeats and variations
of the same morbid script: two
seconds, five, ten; seven

shots, sixteen— The child
weaving then dead on the grass
beside the plastic firearm;
the boy fallen next

to the neighbor’s trash bin,
next to the packet of candy
with its red wrapper and banal
reference to a rainbow.

They’ve bagged and tagged
the workers and clients
who’d gathered to celebrate
in a hall; they’ve listed

the names of children whose bodies
fell in kindergarten classrooms;
have buried the diners, lovers,
friends who sat at tables

one clear Friday night
in the 10th arrondissement…
And still the darkness gathers
and presses on, grim maw

bent on attaching itself
to whatever remains resisting
its crudely lettered orders:
to take us like lowly criminals,

festoon our misery on a frame or a tree.
It’s here in this darkness we feel our way
as the crux of our anger gathers— wound
like a fist, sorrow in the shape of a heart.


In response to Via Negativa: Wings.


“The heart of Leeds should expect to suffer again.”
UK Environment Agency, 27 December 2015

Each house an island in roiling water where the streets should be – we’ve been seeing, from town after town in the North, these biblical images of floods. Last time I was in Leeds, oddly enough, it rained and rained, though not nearly like this. A disappointing trip that was, with so much that had changed too much, and then the rain. I took rueful photos that surprisingly turned out not too badly – the light at least was propitious, the colours saturated (in both senses of the word), the scenarios nicely quirky. It was nearly forty years earlier that the city had entered my heart, and my heart still catches when I hear now that its centre is under water. Looking now, too, at these photos, which still please me, I thought back over all those years and wondered: would things have been different if I’d had this back then to fall back on, this unfailing pleasure and need and obscure satisfaction in making pictures and making word-pictures, this sense of beauty, surprise, composition, irony? And faced with this week’s unbeautiful pictures of flooded streets, shops and houses threatened by the rising water, I remembered how threatened, how all at sea, I used often to feel all those years ago in Leeds, although I really liked living there, and was shocked at first that my thoughts were of this, my own history with the city, and not of people whose lives had been turned upside down by the floods, or of wider and urgent questions of why and of what can we do. And yet, our connections are complex and on many levels. While exposing the travesty of recent climate talks, the Tory cuts in funding for flood defences, the crying need for more trees and less concrete, don’t we also need to expose our own feelings and motivations, how we hate or love this place, my place, my life, my past, my present, to reclaim a sense of home and self as something wider and less purely immediate than the nuclear family and the tiny world behind our own front doors? Isn’t it all one, the turning both inwards and outwards, the personal and the political? This street in the TV news footage that touches me so, that is somehow familiar even under water: wasn’t it here that, a lifetime ago, I ran crying and calling your name?

Oracular Wheel

How did we come around
so quickly again
to this seemingly same
place of beginning?

It is and isn’t
the same time last year—
It’s this year’s monkey
waiting in the wings,

hair bristles made
of metal, more slippery
than the skins of fruit
he shucked then lobbed

onto the patio.
We used to be much
quicker at recovering
the hard bright bits

that hid inside
the ripened pericarp—
Howling at the moon, we jumped
on and off the hobo trains

of death, barely skirting
sickness, sleeping with one
eye open; catching the tails
of lucky fish as they flew by.


I was barely a girl, the stories start—
Or, During the war— And how the change

more momentous than anyone could know
came without warning. Yes, like a god,

like a brute— those terms can be used
interchangeably. But never natural,

never the way a hailstorm or cloud of locusts
are merely themselves even in their

rampant destruction; therefore, amoral.
One moment a chicken scratching

among pebbles in the yard; wet
laundry flapping on the line. Next,

a phalanx of muddy green, bayonet-
tipped waves moving across the field;

every snail crushed beneath a boot
one more number on the list of early

obituaries. Soft bodies pulled from the coil
of our small homes: how much to scrub off

the pickling smell of sex and blood? Not
every history rewrites well as apology.


In response to Via Negativa: Outward and South Korea and Japan Reach Landmark Deal Over Comfort Women.


(Lord’s day). Up and, with my wife to church, and coming out, went out both before my Lady Batten, he not being there, which I believe will vex her. After dinner my wife to church again, and I to the French church, where I heard an old man make a tedious, long sermon, till they were fain to light candles to baptize the children by. So homewards, meeting my brother Tom, but spoke but little with him, and calling also at my uncle Wight’s, but met him and her going forth, and so I went directly home, and there fell to the renewing my last year’s oaths, whereby it has pleased God so much to better myself and practise, and so down to supper, and then prayers and bed.

a bat in the church
they light candles
for the new year

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 28 December 1662.


“…I will live sparingly” ~ D. Bonta

There was a leather-bound bible embossed
with mother’s name; a ribbon marker, angels

with flaming swords on a gold-edged
prayer card tucked between pages

thinner than leaves. She let me read
from it, nights before I fell asleep.

And I’d fast-forward, skipping
from the Gospels to Revelations,

its visions of horned beasts rising from
the depths: crowned with bloody diadems,

ringed with teeth and claws, chimerical
phantoms bellowing the fire and smoke

of Armageddon. More suspenseful
than a thriller— but how much

of what I read was truth, how much
was mystery? My hands grew clammy

from reading of calamity: how stars
extinguished themselves and the dead

swam in lakes of fire; how ships
and their precious cargo sank

into oceans of bewilderment. How I
was smaller than a speck in the vastness

of this universe hurtling steadily
toward the certainty of the end of days.


In response to Via Negativa: Citizen.