Anatomy of melancholy

Up betimes and to my office, leaving my wife in bed to take her physique, myself also not being out of some pain to-day by some cold that I have got by the sudden change of the weather from hot to cold.
This day is five years since it pleased God to preserve me at my being cut of the stone, of which I bless God I am in all respects well. Only now and then upon taking cold I have some pain, but otherwise in very good health always. But I could not get my feast to be kept to-day as it used to be, because of my wife’s being ill and other disorders by my servants being out of order.
This morning came a new cook-maid at 4l. per annum, the first time I ever did give so much, but we hope it will be nothing lost by keeping a good cook. She did live last at my Lord Monk’s house, and indeed at dinner did get what there was very prettily ready and neat for me, which did please me much.
This morning my uncle Thomas was with me according to agreement, and I paid him the 50l., which was against my heart to part with, and yet I must be contented; I used him very kindly, and I desire to continue so voyd of any discontent as to my estate, that I may follow my business the better.
At the Change I met him again, with intent to have met with my uncle Wight to have made peace with him, with whom by my long absence I fear I shall have a difference, but he was not there, so we missed. All the afternoon sat at the office about business till 9 or 10 at night, and so dispatch business and home to supper and to bed.
My maid Susan went away to-day, I giving her something for her lodging and diet somewhere else a while that I might have room for my new maid.

her physique is cut stone
a feast of disorders

I am a new cook
but will be nothing by morning

my heart must be
a missed supper in her diet

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 26 March 1663.


(Lady-day). Up betimes and to my office, where all the morning, at noon dined and to the Exchange, and thence to the Sun Tavern, to my Lord Rutherford, and dined with him, and some others, his officers, and Scotch gentlemen, of fine discourse and education. My Lord used me with great respect, and discoursed upon his business as with one that he did esteem of, and indeed I do believe that this garrison is likely to come to something under him. By and by he went away, forgetting to take leave of me, my back being turned, looking upon the aviary, which is there very pretty, and the birds begin to sing well this spring.
Thence home and to my office till night, reading over and consulting upon the book and Ruler that I bought this morning of Browne concerning the lyne of numbers, in which I find much pleasure.
This evening came Captain Grove about hiring ships for Tangier. I did hint to him my desire that I could make some lawfull profit thereof, which he promises that he will tell me of all that he gets and that I shall have a share, which I did not demand, but did silently consent to it, and money I perceive something will be got thereby.
At night Mr. Bland came and sat with me at my office till late, and so I home and to bed. This day being washing day and my maid Susan ill, or would be thought so, put my house so out of order that we had no pleasure almost in anything, my wife being troubled thereat for want of a good cook-maid, and moreover I cannot have my dinner as I ought in memory of my being cut for the stone, but I must have it a day or two hence.

gentlemen of fine discourse
like birds on a line

I am silent with my memory
of being stone

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 25 March 1663.

Consumer culture

Lay pretty long, that is, till past six o’clock, and then up and W. Howe and I very merry together, till having eat our breakfast, he went away, and I to my office. By and by Sir J. Minnes and I to the Victualling Office by appointment to meet several persons upon stating the demands of some people of money from the King.
Here we went into their Bakehouse, and saw all the ovens at work, and good bread too, as ever I would desire to eat.
Thence Sir J. Minnes and I homewards calling at Browne’s, the mathematician in the Minnerys, with a design of buying White’s ruler to measure timber with, but could not agree on the price. So home, and to dinner, and so to my office.
Where we sat anon, and among other things had Cooper’s business tried against Captain Holmes, but I find Cooper a fuddling, troublesome fellow, though a good artist, and so am contented to have him turned out of his place, nor did I see reason to say one word against it, though I know what they did against him was with great envy and pride.
So anon broke up, and after writing letters, &c., home to supper and to bed.

we breakfast on money
use all the ovens at work

bread would own the mathematician
buy the troublesome artist out

no reason to say one word
against what they let be

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 24 March 1662/63.

Machina materna

A world I’d lived in and a world I never knew
Until I entered it, and made it mine. ~ John Koethe

To listen for that deepest self
I try to grow quiet in the twilit
in-between, the world not plunged
yet into darkness but tilting—

Sometimes, in dreams,
I’m back there, in that time
before life after life
after life split from me

at the seams, and I became
impossible lantern, intricate
machine walking its architecture
of bones and windmills on the beach.

A cowbird’s liquid note

This entry is part 4 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016


—we hear it at the same time, ask
about the source. And in the group,

there’s always someone who self-
assuredly knows, it would seem,

the answer to everything from color
to weight and habitat, mating

rituals. And not just birds:
the subject’s not the issue

so much as how it’s offered—
that bit of smugness floating

its oily film beneath the words,
the chance to show. Or show off.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Surprised by Joy

…my chief joy
is to buy a virginal book
Dave Bonta, “Booklover

and joy arrived, taking me partly by surprise,
i who once said i hate surprises
unless it is i who is springing it on you
with joy came peace,
the kind i can still measure
in the tangible form of forgotten books
re-opened on an unhurried day like this,
joy in hearing the distant, elusive notes
of piano music from the neighbor’s
on a sultry Friday afternoon
when yielding to a siesta
is the most inconsequential
and venial of sins

What the heart longs for it will long for

Some days I want nothing more than to lie
still in bed, listening for the subterranean,
for the slowing thud and pulse of the blood.
Then someone asks from the next room, Isn’t it
the first day of spring?
or Do we have any more
broccoli in the fridge?
A sigh passes over me
like a butterfly or the shadow of a wing—
my feet touch the floor again and I smooth back
the creased field of the coverlet.


In response to Via Negativa: In the wee hours.

Saying it like it is

Up betimes and to my office, before noon my wife and I eat something, thinking to have gone abroad together, but in comes Mr. Hunt, who we were forced to stay to dinner, and so while that was got ready he and I abroad about 2 or 3 small businesses of mine, and so back to dinner, and after dinner he went away, and my wife and I and Ashwell by coach, set my wife down at her mother’s and Ashwell at my Lord’s, she going to see her father and mother, and I to Whitehall, being fearful almost, so poor a spirit I have, of meeting Major Holmes. By and by the Duke comes, and we with him about our usual business, and then the Committee for Tangier, where, after reading my Lord Rutherford’s commission and consented to, Sir R. Ford, Sir W. Rider, and I were chosen to bring in some laws for the Civill government of it, which I am little able to do, but am glad to be joyned with them, for I shall learn something of them.
Thence to see my Lord Sandwich, and who should I meet at the door but Major Holmes. He would have gone away, but I told him I would not spoil his visitt, and would have gone, but however we fell to discourse and he did as good as desire excuse for the high words that did pass in his heat the other day, which I was willing enough to close with, and after telling him my mind we parted, and I left him to speak with my Lord, and I by coach home, where I found Will. Howe come home to-day with my wife, and staid with us all night, staying late up singing songs, and then he and I to bed together in Ashwell’s bed and she with my wife. This the first time that I ever lay in the room. This day Greatorex brought me a very pretty weather-glass for heat and cold.

noon comes to stay
and being poor

we consent to a government
of sand and spoil

but how we desire words
as close to home as the weather

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 23 March 1662/63.

In the wee hours

(Lord’s day). Up betimes and in my office wrote out our bill for the Parliament about our being made justices of Peace in the City.
So home and to church, where a dull formall fellow that prayed for the Right Hon. John Lord Barkeley, Lord President of Connaught, &c. So home to dinner, and after dinner my wife and I and her woman by coach to Westminster, where being come too soon for the Christening we took up Mr. Creed and went out to take some ayre, as far as Chelsey and further, I lighting there and letting them go on with the coach while I went to the church expecting to see the young ladies of the school, Ashwell desiring me, but I could not get in far enough, and so came out and at the coach’s coming back went in again and so back to Westminster, and led my wife and her to Captain Ferrers, and I to my Lord Sandwich, and with him talking a good while; I find the Court would have this Indulgence go on, but the Parliament are against it. Matters in Ireland are full of discontent.
Thence with Mr. Creed to Captain Ferrers, where many fine ladies; the house well and prettily furnished. She lies in, in great state, Mr. G. Montagu, Collonel Williams, Cromwell that was, and Mrs. Wright as proxy for my Lady Jemimah, were witnesses. Very pretty and plentiful entertainment, could not get away till nine at night, and so home. My coach cost me 7s. So to prayers, and to bed.
This day though I was merry enough yet I could not get yesterday’s quarrel out of my mind, and a natural fear of being challenged by Holmes for the words I did give him, though nothing but what did become me as a principal officer.

a dull light
far out on the land

the fine fur of my fear
of being nothing

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 22 March 1662/63.

From the window the moon, like a flower,

suspends from an edge
the way sometimes
we hold our breath—
what is coming? what new
uncertainty lies ahead?
My heel brushed against
the cold porcelain rim
of the tub where the flat
body of a roach lay
upside down. That slight
feeling papered my day
as I made several calls to find
a therapist for my child,
as I revised the stations
of routine and improvised.
In the waiting times
I tore the wilted leaf
off the blue orchid
in the pot and set
the timer to cook
brown rice. Where steam
escapes it is important
to keep the valves clean.
Fingerprints, yes.
But barely a trace
of humidity on the glass.