Self-destructive

Up both of us pretty early and to my chamber, where he and I did draw up a letter to Sir G. Carteret in excuse and preparation for Creed against we meet before the Duke upon his accounts, which I drew up and it proved very well, but I am pleased to see with what secret cunning and variety of artifice this Creed has carried on his business even unknown to me, which he is now forced by an accident to communicate to me. So that taking up all the papers of moment which lead to the clearing of his accounts unobserved out of the Controller’s hand, which he now makes great use of; knowing that the Controller has not wherewith to betray him. About this all the morning, only Mr. Bland came to me about some business of his, and told me the news, which holds to be true, that the Portuguese did let in the Spaniard by a plot, and they being in the midst of the country and we believing that they would have taken the whole country, they did all rise and kill the whole body, near 8,000 men, and Don John of Austria having two horses killed under him, was forced with one man to flee away.
Sir George Carteret at the office (after dinner, and Creed being gone, for both now and yesterday I was afraid to have him seen by Sir G. Carteret with me, for fear that he should increase his doubt that I am of a plot with Creed in the business of his accounts) did tell us that upon Tuesday last, being with my Lord Treasurer, he showed him a letter from Portugall speaking of the advance of the Spaniards into their country, and yet that the Portuguese were never more courageous than now; for by an old prophecy, from France, sent thither some years, though not many since, from the French King, it is foretold that the Spaniards should come into their country, and in such a valley they should be all killed, and then their country should be wholly delivered from the Spaniards. This was on Tuesday last.
And yesterday came the very first news that in this very valley they had thus routed and killed the Spaniards, which is very strange but true.
So late at the office, and then home to supper and to bed.
This noon I received a letter from the country from my wife, wherein she seems much pleased with the country; God continue that she may have pleasure while she is there.
She, by my Lady’s advice, desires a new petticoat of the new silk striped stuff, very pretty. So I went to Paternoster Row presently, and bought her one, with Mr. Creed’s help, a very fine rich one, the best I did see there, and much better than she desires or expects, and sent it by Creed to Unthanke to be made against tomorrow to send by the carrier, thinking it had been but Wednesday to-day, but I found myself mistaken, and also the taylor being out of the way, it could not be done, but the stuff was sent me back at night by Creed to dispose of some other way to make, but now I shall keep it to next week.

what what artifice
taking the moment unobserved
the hand has wherewithal
to kill the whole body

two horses for now and yesterday
were foretold
to unthank tomorrow
and dispose of all next week


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 25 June 1663.

Out

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up before 4 o’clock, and so to my lute an hour or more, and then by water, drinking my morning draft alone at an alehouse in Thames Street, to the Temple, and thence after a little discourse with my cozen Roger about some business, away by water to St. James’s, and there an hour’s private discourse with Mr. Coventry, where he told me one thing to my great joy, that in the business of Captain Cocke’s hemp, disputed before him the other day, Mr. Coventry absent, the Duke did himself tell him since, that Mr. Pepys and he did stand up and carry it against the rest that were there, Sir G. Carteret and Sir W. Batten, which do please me much to see that the Duke do take notice of me.
We did talk highly of Sir W. Batten’s corruption, which Mr. Coventry did very kindly say that it might be only his heaviness and unaptness for business, that he do things without advice and rashly, and to gratify people that do eat and drink and play with him, and that now and then he observes that he signs bills only in anger and fury to be rid of men.
Speaking of Sir G. Carteret, of whom I perceive he speaks but slightly, and diminishing of him in his services for the King in Jersey; that he was well rewarded, and had good lands and rents, and other profits from the King, all the time he was there; and that it was always his humour to have things done his way. He brought an example how he would not let the Castle there be victualled for more than a month, that so he might keep it at his beck, though the people of the town did offer to supply it more often themselves, which, when one did propose to the King, Sir George Carteret being by, says Sir George, “Let me know who they are that would do it, I would with all my heart pay them.” “Ah, by God,” says the Commander that spoke of it, “that is it that they are afeard of, that you would hug them,” meaning that he would not endure them.
Another thing he told me, how the Duke of York did give Sir G. Carteret and the Island his profits as Admirall, and other things, toward the building of a pier there. But it was never laid out, nor like to be. So it falling out that a lady being brought to bed, the Duke was to be desired to be one of the godfathers; and it being objected that that would not be proper, there being no peer of the land to be joyned with him, the lady replied, “Why, let him choose; and if he will not be a godfather without a peer, then let him even stay till he hath made a pier of his own.”
He tells me, too, that he hath lately been observed to tack about at Court, and to endeavour to strike in with the persons that are against the Chancellor; but this he says of him, that he do not say nor do anything to the prejudice of the Chancellor. But he told me that the Chancellor was rising again, and that of late Sir G. Carteret’s business and employment hath not been so full as it used to be while the Chancellor stood up. From that we discoursed of the evil of putting out men of experience in business as the Chancellor, and from that to speak of the condition of the King’s party at present, who, as the Papists, though otherwise fine persons, yet being by law kept for these fourscore years out of employment, they are now wholly uncapable of business; and so the Cavaliers for twenty years, who, says he, for the most part have either given themselves over to look after country and family business, and those the best of them, and the rest to debauchery, &c.; and that was it that hath made him high against the late Bill brought into the House for the making all men incapable of employment that had served against the King. Why, says he, in the sea-service, it is impossible to do any thing without them, there being not more than three men of the whole King’s side that are fit to command almost; and these were Captain Allen, Smith, and Beech; and it may be Holmes, and Utber, and Batts might do something.
I desired him to tell me if he thought that I did speak anything that I do against Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes out of ill will or design. He told me quite the contrary, and that there was reason enough. After a good deal of good and fine discourse, I took leave, and so to my Lord Sandwich’s house, where I met my Lord, and there did discourse of our office businesses, and how the Duke do show me kindness, though I have endeavoured to displease more or less of my fellow officers, all but Mr. Coventry and Pett; but it matters not. Yes, says my Lord, Sir J. Minnes, who is great with the Chancellor; I told him the Chancellor I have thought was declining, and however that the esteem he has among them is nothing but for a jester or a ballad maker; at which my Lord laughs, and asks me whether I believe he ever could do that well.
Thence with Mr. Creed up and down to an ordinary, and, the King’s Head being full, went to the other over against it, a pretty man that keeps it, and good and much meat, better than the other, but the company and room so small that he must break, and there wants the pleasure that the other house has in its company.
Here however dined an old courtier that is now so, who did bring many examples and arguments to prove that seldom any man that brings any thing to Court gets any thing, but rather the contrary; for knowing that they have wherewith to live, will not enslave themselves to the attendance, and flattery, and fawning condition of a courtier, whereas another that brings nothing, and will be contented to cog, and lie, and flatter every man and woman that has any interest with the persons that are great in favour, and can cheat the King, as nothing is to be got without offending God and the King, there he for the most part, and he alone, saves any thing.
Thence to St. James Park, and there walked two or three hours talking of the difference between Sir G. Carteret and Mr. Creed about his accounts, and how to obviate him, but I find Creed a deadly cunning fellow and one that never do any thing openly, but has intrigues in all he do or says.
Thence by water home to see all well, and thence down to Greenwich, and there walked into a pretty common garden and there played with him at nine pins for some drink, and to make the fellows drink that set up the pins, and so home again being very cold, and taking a very great cold, being to-day the first time in my tabby doublet this year.
Home, and after a small supper Creed and I to bed.
This day I observed the house, which I took to be the new tennis-court, newly built next my Lord’s lodgings, to be fallen down by the badness of the foundation or slight working, which my cozen Roger and his discontented party cry out upon, as an example how the King’s work is done, which I am sorry to see him and others so apt to think ill of things. It hath beaten down a good deal of my Lord’s lodgings, and had like to have killed Mrs. Sarah, she having but newly gone out of it.

out with joy
that kind unaptness for business

out with light and other
profits for the people

out like falling
into God or prejudice
out of years
out of service

out to leave our company a room so small
that arguments seldom get in

out for the alone hours
out for a drink and cry
out


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 24 June 1663.

Apprentice Pillar

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

“…monotony of green. In my last dream
before waking, …wading through snow.” ~ D. Bonta

For three glorious weeks in ’98, late spring, I lived
at a writer’s retreat in an honest to gosh castle up
in the Midlothian highlands, which Wikipedia describes

as a 15th-century ruin with a 17th-century L-plan house
attached
. In those days not so long ago, the internet
was still a fairly new-fangled thing, so when I called

the retreat administrator’s office to inquire about their
email address, the secretary paused and said, “Ach, dearie,
you’ll find that around here, we still use smoke signals.”

When I finally got there after several long plane rides
(Manila to Seoul, Seoul to Chicago, Chicago to Edinburgh),
of course I made the first mistake that every tourist did:

go around to the right side of the car to pull it open,
only to withdraw in confusion as that is the driver’s side.
My host, who’d come to meet me with a shepherd’s staff

in one hand, slapped his thigh and crowed, Gets them
every time!
We were warned it tended to be cold and damp,
even that late in the season. There was a small

fireplace in every bedroom, and tongs, and an iron
grate. Even so, some nights I had to plead for the use
of one of two electric space heaters in the castle.

I’m from a tropical country, I said
in my defense. Mostly, I didn’t want to wake
chilled to the bone, then find myself face to face

with the ghost of the Lady Fiona, the would-have-been
mistress of the premises and bride to the castle laird,
had she not mysteriously fallen to her death

from the ramparts the night before her wedding.
She was supposed to have been a commoner, a peasant;
while I could relate to that, I still preferred

not to be accosted by her sad and eternally
unhomed shroud. After breakfast, sometimes I’d catch
a bus to the city. Mostly, I’d go walking

along paths bordered by vivid green, fields of mustard
dotted with the obligatory moving clouds of sheep, and wind up
at nearby Rosslyn Chapel. There I’d sit in the cool nave,

staring at the Apprentice Pillar, its sinuous,
braiding lines— stark contrast to everything upright
and correct around it. They told the local legend

of the 18th century master mason, who did not believe
his lowly apprentice could have been visited by sheer
inspiration so that he carved this column,

thereby surpassing his teacher’s previous feats.
For this achievement, the apprentice received
a fatal blow to the head from his jealous

master’s mallet. There is some justice
in the story, if you can call it that–
because supposedly, for punishment,

they had the master mason’s face set into the wall
directly opposite the beautiful column, so he
would have to look at his apprentice’s creation

forever. He obviously lived much too long ago
to have benefited from the sage pronouncement
of the great Jedi master Yoda— How fear

leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, hatred
leads to suffering
— The same dark
green thread that spools under

and into everything we do, so we can’t stop
looking out of the corners of our eyes at what
everyone else is saying, writing, doing.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Rope

Up by four o’clock, and so to my office; but before I went out, calling, as I have of late done, for my boy’s copybook, I found that he had not done his task; so I beat him, and then went up to fetch my rope’s end, but before I got down the boy was gone. I searched the cellar with a candle, and from top to bottom could not find him high nor low. So to the office; and after an hour or two, by water to the Temple, to my cozen Roger; who, I perceive, is a deadly high man in the Parliament business, and against the Court, showing me how they have computed that the King hath spent, at least hath received, about four millions of money since he came in.
And in Sir J. Winter’s case, in which I spoke to him, he is so high that he says he deserves to be hanged, and all the high words he could give, which I was sorry to see, though I am confident he means well.
Thence by water home, and to the ‘Change; and by and by comes the King and the Queen by in great state, and the streets full of people. I stood in Mr.————’s balcone. They dine all at my Lord Mayor’s; but what he do for victuals, or room for them, I know not.
So home to dinner alone, and there I found that my boy had got out of doors, and came in for his hat and band, and so is gone away to his brother; but I do resolve even to let him go away for good and all.
So I by and by to the office, and there had a great fray with Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes, who, like an old dotard, is led by the nose by him. It was in Captain Cocke’s business of hemp, wherein the King is absolutely abused; but I was for peace sake contented to be quiet and to sign to his bill, but in my manner so as to justify myself, and so all was well; but to see what a knave Sir W. Batten is makes my heart ake. So late at my office, and then home to supper and to bed, my man Will not being well.

at the rope’s end
I find a dead man

they have hanged all
the words he could give

and all the good
with hemp absolute as a heart


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 23 June 1663.

Sentinel

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

It happens that when there’s nothing
else to find fault with, they’ll comb through
searching for random errors in punctuation.

*

I’ve refused the adjective deficient.
I am not the one who confuses
manors with manners.

*

Who is that walking on the roof, cawing,
making human-like thumps and noises?
Wings do not always equal flight.

*

The tree is heavy with fruit
on the verge of ripening. I have seen crows
lying in wait: they anticipate an undertaking.

*

Sun-catcher, clapper, brass
bell: I string you on the branches.
When something moves, summon the wind.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Revision.

Revision

Up betimes and to my office, reading over all our letters of the office that we have wrote since I came into the Navy, whereby to bring the whole series of matters into my memory, and to enter in my manuscript some of them that are needful and of great influence. By and by with Sir W. Batten by coach to Westminster, where all along I find the shops evening with the sides of the houses, even in the broadest streets; which will make the City very much better than it was.
I walked in the Hall from one man to another. Hear that the House is still divided about the manner of levying the subsidys which they intend to give the King, both as to the manner, the time, and the number.
It seems the House do consent to send to the King to desire that he would be graciously pleased to let them know who it was that did inform him of what words Sir Richard Temple should say, which were to this purpose: “That if the King would side with him, or be guided by him and his party, that he should not lack money:” but without knowing who told it, they do not think fit to call him to any account for it.
Thence with Creed and bought a lobster, and then to an alehouse, where the maid of the house is a confident merry lass, and if modest is very pleasant to the customers that come thither. Here we eat it, and thence to walk in the Park a good while. The Duke being gone a-hunting, and by and by came in and shifted himself; he having in his hunting, rather than go about, ‘light and led his horse through a river up to his breast, and came so home: and when we were come, which was by and by, we went on to him, and being ready he retired with us, and we had a long discourse with him. But Mr. Creed’s accounts stick still through the perverse ignorance of Sir G. Carteret, which I cannot safely control as I would.
Thence to the Park again, and there walked up and down an hour or two till night with Creed, talking, who is so knowing, and a man of that reason, that I cannot but love his company, though I do not love the man, because he is too wise to be made a friend of, and acts all by interest and policy, but is a man fit to learn of. So to White Hall, and by water to the Temple, and calling at my brother’s and several places, but to no purpose, I came home, and meeting Strutt, the purser, he tells me for a secret that he was told by Field that he had a judgment against me in the Exchequer for 400l. So I went to Sir W. Batten, and taking Mr. Batten, his son the counsellor, with me, by coach, I went to Clerke, our Solicitor, who tells me there can be no such thing, and after conferring with them two together, who are resolved to look well after the business, I returned home and to my office, setting down this day’s passages, and having a letter that all is well in the country I went home to supper, and then a Latin chapter of Will and to bed.

reading over
the whole manuscript

I find gracious words
but no come hither

a walk in the park
but no park

a night with talking
but no love

and there can be no
such passages
in Latin


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 22 June 1663.

Active voice

(Lord’s day). Up betimes, and fell to reading my Latin grammar, which I perceive I have great need of, having lately found it by my calling Will to the reading of a chapter in Latin, and I am resolved to go through it.
After being trimmed, I by water to White Hall, and so over the Park, it raining hard, to Mr. Coventry’s chamber, where I spent two hours with him about business of the Navy, and how by his absence things are like to go with us, and with good content from my being with him he carried me by coach and set me down at Whitehall, and thence to right home by water.
He shewed me a list, which he hath prepared for the Parliament’s view, if the business of his selling of offices should be brought to further hearing, wherein he reckons up, as I remember, 236 offices of ships which have been disposed of without his taking one farthing. This, of his own accord, he opened his cabinet on purpose to shew me, meaning, I suppose, that I should discourse abroad of it, and vindicate him therein, which I shall with all my power do.
At home, being wet, shifted my band and things, and then to dinner, and after dinner went up and tried a little upon my tryangle, which I understand fully, and with a little use I believe could bring myself to do something.
So to church, and slept all the sermon, the Scot, to whose voice I am not to be reconciled, preaching.
Thence with Sir J. Minnes (who poor man had forgot that he carried me the other day to the painter’s to see some pictures which he has since bought and are brought home) to his lodgings to see some base things he calls them of great masters of painting. So I said nothing that he had shown me them already, but commended them, and I think they are indeed good enough.
Thence to see Sir W. Pen, who continues ill of the gout still. Here we staid a good while, and then I to my office, and read my vows seriously and with content, and so home to supper, to prayers, and to bed.

a grammar of rain
is like the open road
a full thing whose voice
I am nothing to


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 21 June 1663.

Fascinator

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2016

 

Today this old-
fashioned word in a novel
I’m reading trembles

into view— fascinator
and immediately I remember
how my fingers fashioned

years ago from feel,
from scraps of ecru brocade
and lace, a little pillbox

of a hat with a hint
of veil, for my cousin
Cristy. She wore it pinned

to one side of her head,
to top off a modest skirt
and suit of plain beige.

It was a rushed wedding,
before her papers cleared
for her transfer to a hospital

in Saudi, before the seams
of her white nurse’s uniform
started to strain

at the seams around her belly;
before we learned the man
she thought she married

was already someone
else’s spouse. All she’d ever
wanted was a life outside

her mother’s tiny two-
room flat a street away
from where we lived,

a life for which she’d saved
every last coin toward that
plane ticket out.

It was she who’d taught me
how to wrap the blood
pressure cuff around

my father’s arm, pump
the bulb, slowly loosen
the valve then wait

to read the two
points where the needle
came to fitful rest

on the manometer’s face—
Systolic pressure in the arteries
when the heart muscle contracts,

diastolic pressure between beats
as the chamber fills with blood.
Two syllables separated

by barely the space of a sigh;
head slightly tilted to one
side as if already weighted

with ornament. If she
who was so good at listening
had not been able to catch

all that lay
beneath the surface,
how could I have hoped in my

own time to intercept the messages
that spun in circles, that would seem
to scintillate for me and me alone?

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Open

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

We look at charts and graphs set before us, the residues of testing. Here is the line that shows where we struggle through a wilderness of feelings we can’t yet name, where nights splinter from the metal aftertastes of worry. Outside, it is fully and ripeningly summer. The ache in the bud gives way to the shaken bloom. We have words for things we cannot guarantee, and jars in one corner of the shelf for catching change. So heavy with the green of its fruits, the tree in the yard bends beyond the scope of what it’s consigned to give. Look at how its flanks are so open: as if a hand running a closed fist back along the branch were all it would take to strip it of all it has.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Testament.