Whose side

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

was I supposed to take
in the middle of their arguments;
or later, those times I learned
I could test the edge of my
own voice against theirs?
I could hardly bear to watch
their hysterics— my mother
collapsing on the floor
and wailing that he loved
his mother more; my father
mumbling something about women
with two mouths, then clutching
his chest as he exited out the door—
When I think about these now,
the details blur and crease
except for a few things
still life-like from that stage:
long-handled butter knife
that sailed to the floor, shrill
outline of the coffeepot
boiling away on the stove.


In response to Via Negativa: Fool the eye.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

In the crawl space under the roof,
a taped-up box with the last
DVD player we bought. In the deep
recesses of a kitchen cabinet,
a crock pot with one wobbly leg.
Now whenever I can, I gather up
the bits and pieces of our life
so far— So much that fills
to overflowing clear plastic
and cardboard boxes. Oh!
I must have said once, lifting
a bowl of polished wood, a clever
piece of crystal, a trinket
from a shelf. Now I want
the silence of empty spaces
to sing back to me.


In response to Via Negativa: Fitness.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

To the office all the morning, at noon to dinner, where Mr. Creed dined with me, and Mr. Ashwell, with whom after dinner I discoursed concerning his daughter coming to live with us. I find that his daughter will be very fit, I think, as any for our turn, but the conditions I know not what they will be, he leaving it wholly to her, which will be agreed on a while hence when my wife sees her. After an hour’s discourse after dinner with them, I to my office again, and there about business of the office till late, and then home to supper and to bed.

to dine well is to live

I will be fit as an urn

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 3 February 1662/63

What it was like

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

I read the books and faithfully did
the breathing exercises, memorizing
a different rhythm of hold-and-release
to counter anticipated waves of pain.

But when the sheet beneath me swelled
with damp, and the smell of something
like the sea woke me at dawn,
I did not immediately connect it

to what happens when the body
begins to enter labor. So I rose
in the dark and groped in the kitchen
for a bucket and the handle of the mop,

wanting only to make sure I could dry
the embarrassing pools I’d left
behind in my wake. That’s how
they found me, worrying

about the floor, worrying
about what I thought to be my
incontinence— just as my first
child made her way into the world.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and after paying Jane her wages, I went away, because I could hardly forbear weeping, and she cried, saying it was not her fault that she went away, and indeed it is hard to say what it is, but only her not desiring to stay that she do now go.
By coach with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten to the Duke; and after discourse as usual with him in his closett, I went to my Lord’s: the King and Duke being gone to chappell, it being collar-day, it being Candlemas-day; where I staid with him a while until towards noon, there being Jonas Moore talking about some mathematical businesses, and thence I walked at noon to Mr. Povey’s, where Mr. Gawden met me, and after a neat and plenteous dinner as is usual, we fell to our victualling business, till Mr. Gawden and I did almost fall out, he defending himself in the readiness of his provision, when I know that the ships everywhere stay for them.
Thence Mr. Povey and I walked to White Hall, it being a great frost still, and after a turn in the Park seeing them slide, we met at the Committee for Tangier, a good full Committee, and agreed how to proceed in the dispatching of my Lord Rutherford, and treating about this business of Mr. Cholmely and Sir J. Lawson’s proposal for the Mole.
Thence with Mr. Coventry down to his chamber, where among other discourse he did tell me how he did make it not only his desire, but as his greatest pleasure, to make himself an interest by doing business truly and justly, though he thwarts others greater than himself, not striving to make himself friends by addresses; and by this he thinks and observes he do live as contentedly (now he finds himself secured from fear of want), and, take one time with another, as void of fear or cares, or more, than they that (as his own termes were) have quicker pleasures and sharper agonies than he.
Thence walking with Mr. Creed homewards we turned into a house and drank a cup of Cock ale and so parted, and I to the Temple, where at my cozen Roger’s chamber I met Madam Turner, and after a little stay led her home and there left her, she and her daughter having been at the play to-day at the Temple, it being a revelling time with them.
Thence called at my brother’s, who is at church, at the buriall of young Cumberland, a lusty young man.
So home and there found Jane gone, for which my wife and I are very much troubled, and myself could hardly forbear shedding tears for fear the poor wench should come to any ill condition after her being so long with me.
So to my office and setting papers to rights, and then home to supper and to bed. This day at my Lord’s I sent for Mr. Ashwell, and his wife came to me, and by discourse I perceive their daughter is very fit for my turn if my family may be as much for hers, but I doubt it will be to her loss to come to me for so small wages, but that will be considered of.

in some mathematical vision
we proceed by striving to find a void

quick pleasures and sharp agonies
turn into art after a time

who at the burial of lust
could forbear being ash

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 2 February 1662/63


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

A house sparrow touched down
on the corner of the roof.
Ordinary brown, leaflet of no

great importance, bringing no news
to the heartland or the outside world.
Inside my car, engine idling,

I listened to an interview
with the young imam
from the mosque in Iowa.

What is this confusing
intensity to our days,
he said. I want only

for my two daughters
an ordinary life,
a happy life, one

in which they shouldn’t
have to defend themselves
or what they might believe.


In response to Via Negativa: Among royals.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Lord’s day). Up and to church, where Mr. Mills, a good sermon, and so home and had a good dinner with my wife, with which I was pleased to see it neatly done, and this troubled me to think of parting with Jane, that is come to be a very good cook. After dinner walked to my Lord Sandwich, and staid with him in the chamber talking almost all the afternoon, he being not yet got abroad since his sickness. Many discourses we had; but, among others, how Sir R. Bernard is turned out of his Recordership of Huntingdon by the Commissioners for Regulation, &c., at which I am troubled, because he, thinking it is done by my Lord Sandwich, will act some of his revenge, it is likely, upon me in my business, so that I must cast about me to get some other counsel to rely upon.
In the evening came Mr. Povey and others to see my Lord, and they gone, my Lord and I and Povey fell to the business of Tangier, as to the victualling, and so broke up, and I, it being a fine frost, my boy lighting me I walked home, and after supper up to prayers, and then alone with my wife and Jane did fall to tell her what I did expect would become of her since, after so long being my servant, she had carried herself so as to make us be willing to put her away, and desired God to bless [her], but bid her never to let me hear what became of her, for that I could never pardon ingratitude. So I to bed, my mind much troubled for the poor girl that she leaves us, and yet she not submitting herself, for some words she spoke boldly and yet I believe innocently and out of familiarity to her mistress about us weeks ago, I could not recall my words that she should stay with me. This day Creed and I walking in White Hall garden did see the King coming privately from my Lady Castlemaine’s; which is a poor thing for a Prince to do; and I expressed my sense of it to Creed in terms which I should not have done, but that I believe he is trusty in that point.

how like a fine frost
my prayers fall on her ear

what ingratitude
the poor words of a liar

words that should stay private
expressed in rust

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 1 February 1662/63


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up and to my office, and there we sat till noon. I home to dinner, and there found my plate of the Soverayne with the table to it come from Mr. Christopher Pett, of which I am very glad. So to dinner late, and not very good, only a rabbit not half roasted, which made me angry with my wife. So to the office, and there till late, busy all the while. In the evening examining my wife’s letter intended to my Lady, and another to Mademoiselle; they were so false spelt that I was ashamed of them, and took occasion to fall out about them with my wife, and so she wrote none, at which, however, I was, sorry, because it was in answer to a letter of Madam about business. Late home to supper and to bed.

at home plate
only a rabbit
late in the fall

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 31 January 1662/63