Piece work

Piecing together the way a word
arrives on the threshold

and then maybe is followed
haltingly by another; how a memory

might hold a little water, the sound
of a particular morning long ago

when the child woke to a tumult
in the household. The way a hot wind

that comes in the middle of the day
reminds her of catastrophe

and ghosts standing behind
the drapery, mouthing tremors—

When she hears others talk
of the important work of poetry

she wants to exit the french doors
and sit on the balcony to throw

pieces of bread to the birds, to count
how many shirts are drying on the line.

Sleeping on it

Lay long talking with my wife about ordering things in our family, and then rose and to my office, there collecting an alphabet for my Navy Manuscript, which, after a short dinner, I returned to and by night perfected to my great content. So to other business till 9 at night, and so home to supper and to bed.

lay long
talking about order

a rose collecting
an alphabet

night perfected
at night

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 4 March 1662/63.


(Shrove Tuesday). Up and walked to the Temple, and by promise calling Commissioner Pett, he and I to White Hall to give Mr. Coventry an account of what we did yesterday. Thence I to the Privy Seal Office, and there got a copy of Sir W. Pen’s grant to be assistant to Sir J. Minnes, Comptroller, which, though there be not much in it, yet I intend to stir up Sir J. Minnes to oppose, only to vex Sir W. Pen. Thence by water home, and at noon, by promise, Mrs. Turner and her daughter, and Mrs. Morrice, came along with Roger Pepys to dinner. We were as merry as I could be, having but a bad dinner for them; but so much the better, because of the dinner which I must have at the end of this month. And here Mrs. The. shewed me my name upon her breast as her Valentine, which will cost me 20s. After dinner I took them down into the wine-cellar, and broached my tierce of claret for them. Towards the evening we parted, and I to the office awhile, and then home to supper and to bed, the sooner having taken some cold yesterday upon the water, which brings me my usual pain. This afternoon Roger Pepys tells me, that for certain the King is for all this very highly incensed at the Parliament’s late opposing the Indulgence; which I am sorry for, and fear it will breed great discontent.

the promise of ivy
is to troll
though there be not much in it
to oppose only to vex

then promise to be bad for us
hew to the ache of noon
tell me
all I fear will breed

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


Up early and by water with Commissioner Pett to Deptford, and there took the Jemmy yacht (that the King and the Lords virtuosos built the other day) down to Woolwich, where we discoursed of several matters both there and at the Ropeyard, and so to the yacht again, and went down four or five miles with extraordinary pleasure, it being a fine day, and a brave gale of wind, and had some oysters brought us aboard newly taken, which were excellent, and ate with great pleasure.
There also coming into the river two Dutchmen, we sent a couple of men on board and bought three Hollands cheeses, cost 4d. a piece, excellent cheeses, whereof I had two and Commissioner Pett one.
So back again to Woolwich, and going aboard the Hulke to see the manner of the iron bridles, which we are making of for to save cordage to put to the chain, I did fall from the shipside into the ship (Kent), and had like to have broke my left hand, but I only sprained some of my fingers, which, when I came ashore I sent to Mrs. Ackworth for some balsam, and put to my hand, and was pretty well within a little while after.
We dined at the White Hart with several officers with us, and after dinner went and saw the Royal James brought down to the stern of the Docke (the main business we came for), and then to the Ropeyard, and saw a trial between Riga hemp and a sort of Indian grass, which is pretty strong, but no comparison between it and the other for strength, and it is doubtful whether it will take tarre or no.
So to the yacht again, and carried us almost to London, so by our oars home to the office, and thence Mr. Pett and I to Mr. Grant’s coffee-house, whither he and Sir J. Cutler came to us and had much discourse, mixed discourse, and so broke up, and so home where I found my poor wife all alone at work, and the house foul, it being washing day, which troubled me, because that tomorrow I must be forced to have friends at dinner.
So to my office, and then home to supper and to bed.

a virtuoso at rope
the wind aboard the ships

as we went down to the dock
for strong coffee

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


This entry is part 2 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016


I am glad for the door
with its deadbolt and chain

and for the sleeve of paper
that filters coffee in the machine.

I am glad for the little ties
in the duvet’s four inside corners

and for each window’s double pane of glass
that keeps more of the cold outside.

I am glad for the discs of rubber
that stick to the feet of chairs

and keep them from scratching
too deeply the heart of the wood.

And when I first arrived in this country
I was perplexed by how most living

room ceilings were smooth and plain,
without any visible light fixtures

though lamps flanked each armchair
or sat beneath shades on side tables—

By which I gradually came to understand
that for all that prides itself on being

forthright, we still like to keep a little
space between ourselves and the thing in question:

like the vinyl lining that takes the spray and not
the actual shower curtain; or the rubber mute, slipped

onto the instrument’s bridge, that dampens sound
and makes it possible to practice late into the night.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


This entry is part 1 of 15 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016


She tells me
about the hive of bees in her ears.

Their dialect of drone and fuzz
drowns out everyday sounds—

water from the tap
overflowing the bathroom pail,

kettle straddling the blue
stove flame on its highest setting.

I knock and knock on the metal gate,
hoping the radio network

of nerves translates the signals.
She tells me she’s sold

or pawned off most of her jewelry.
But she puts in my hands a box

in whose tissue folds twin
silver peacocks dangle

from French wire hoops,
their tail feathers trembling.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.


(Lord’s day). Up and walked to White Hall, to the Chappell, where preached one Dr. Lewes, said heretofore to have been a great witt; but he read his sermon every word, and that so brokenly and so low, that nobody could hear at any distance, nor I anything worth hearing that sat near. But, which was strange, he forgot to make any prayer before sermon, which all wonder at, but they impute it to his forgetfulness.
After sermon a very fine anthem.
So I up into the house among the courtiers, seeing the fine ladies, and, above all, my Lady Castlemaine, who is above all, that only she I can observe for true beauty. The King and Queen being set to dinner I went to Mr. Fox’s, and there dined with him. Much genteel company, and, among other things, I hear for certain that peace is concluded between the King of France and the Pope; and also I heard the reasons given by our Parliament yesterday to the King why they dissent from him in matter of Indulgence, which are very good quite through, and which I was glad to hear.
Thence to my Lord Sandwich, who continues with a great cold, locked up; and, being alone, we fell into discourse of my uncle the Captain’s death and estate, and I took the opportunity of telling my Lord how matters stand, and read his will, and told him all, what a poor estate he hath left, at all which he wonders strangely, which he may well do.
Thence after singing some new tunes with W. Howe I walked home, whither came Will. Joyce, whom I have not seen here a great while, nor desire it a great while again, he is so impertinent a coxcomb, and yet good natured, and mightily concerned for my brother’s late folly in his late wooing at the charge to no purpose, nor could in any probability a it.
He gone, we all to bed, without prayers, it being washing day to-morrow.

every word broken
among the fine ladies
old coxcomb

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 1 March 1662/63.

Professional skeptic

Waked with great pain in my right ear (which I find myself much subject to) having taken cold. Up and to my office, where we sat all the morning, and I dined with Sir W. Batten by chance, being in business together about a bargain of New England masts.
Then to the Temple to meet my uncle Thomas, who I found there, but my cozen Roger not being come home I took boat and to Westminster, where I found him in Parliament this afternoon. The House have this noon been with the King to give him their reasons for refusing to grant any indulgence to Presbyters or Papists; which he, with great content and seeming pleasure, took, saying, that he doubted not but he and they should agree in all things, though there may seem a difference in judgement, he having writ and declared for an indulgence: and that he did believe never prince was happier in a House of Commons, than he was in them.
Thence he and I to my Lord Sandwich, who continues troubled with his cold. Our discourse most upon the outing of Sir R. Bernard, and my Lord’s being made Recorder of Huntingdon in his stead, which he seems well contented with, saying, that it may be for his convenience to have the chief officer of the town dependent upon him, which is very true.
Thence he and I to the Temple, but my uncle being gone we parted, and I walked home, and to my office, and at nine o’clock had a good supper of an oxe’s cheek, of my wife’s dressing and baking, and so to my office again till past eleven at night, making up my month’s account, and find that I am at a stay with what I was last, that is 640l. So home and to bed.
Coming by, I put in at White Hall, and at the Privy Seal I did see the docquet by which Sir W. Pen is made the Comptroller’s assistant, as Sir J. Minnes told me last night, which I must endeavour to prevent.

I take great pleasure in doubt

never prince was happier than I
who bled out of my own temple

an ox making my home by the sea

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 28 February 1662/63.