(Lord’s day) Up and after the barber had done he and I walked to the Docke, and so on board the Mathias, where Commissioner Pett and he and I and a good many of the officers and others of the yard did hear an excellent sermon of Mr. Hudson’s upon “All is yours and you are God’s,” a most ready, learned, and good sermon, such as I have not heard a good while, nor ever thought he could have preached.
We took him with us to the Hill-house, and there we dined, and an officer or two with us. So after dinner the company withdrew, and we three to private discourse and laid the matters of the yard home again to the Commissioner, and discoursed largely of several matters.
Then to the parish church, and there heard a poor sermon with a great deal of false Greek in it, upon these words, “Ye are my friends, if ye do these things which I command you.”
Thence to the Docke and by water to view St. Mary Creeke, but do not find it so proper for a wet docks as we would have it, it being uneven ground and hard in the bottom and no great depth of water in many places.
Returned and walked from the Docke home, Mr. Coventry and I very much troubled to see how backward Commissioner Pett is to tell any of the faults of the officers, and to see nothing in better condition here for his being here than they are in other yards where there is none. After some discourse to bed. But I sat up an hour after Mr. Coventry was gone to read my vows, it raining a wonderful hard showre about 11 at night for an hour together. So to bed.

a ready sermon
to the yard in false Greek
rain at night

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 2 August 1663.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

~ after “La Pluie” (1889)

Ominous gray overhead; so we ducked into
the coffee shop mid-morning, just before

the rain. I was there to meet Sarah,
to talk about her manuscript draft

coming together. She handed me a sheaf
of poems tucked into a purple binder,

all the while narrating how in the space
of a week she almost moved to Richmond

but after all didn’t, only to a different
neighborhood up the road. My daughter’s

old professor, making for an armchair nearby,
stopped to chat and mentioned he would visit

India and Sri Lanka in the fall. I told him
I’d gone home as well this time last year,

my timing perhaps not the best: I’d chosen
to travel at the height of monsoon season.

It rained for three weeks straight, the whole time
I was there. See, this is what it is, he said,

settling into his chair and opening his laptop.
Have we been so spoiled by living here

in the belly of the beast? I knew what he meant:
for those like us, born and raised in the third

world, what was a little rain? From May to November,
every scene like the one from Van Gogh’s window

in the clinic of Saint-Paul-de-Mausolée—
verticals and diagonals slashing through fields,

invisible towns, the blurred edges
of a mountain range to which we’ve given

all possible names for our nostalgia.
You can watch such rain for hours on end

and feel as if the sun might never come back
again— It leaves its damp signature on all

it touches: mildew on the sill, faint smell
of fatalism clinging to clothes that never quite

completely dry— Endows the stamina that comes
from waiting, from persisting: that kind

of grace given to those who live in this world,
not entirely sure they might have any other choice.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up betimes and got me ready, and so to the office and put things in order for my going. By and by comes Sir G. Carteret, and he and I did some business, and then Mr. Coventry sending for me, he staying in the boat, I got myself presently ready and down to him, he and I by water to Gravesend (his man Lambert with us), and there eat a bit and so mounted, I upon one of his horses which met him there, a brave proud horse, all the way talking of businesses of the office and other matters to good purpose.
Being come to Chatham, we put on our boots and so walked to the yard, where we met Commissioner Pett, and there walked up and down looking and inquiring into many businesses, and in the evening went to the Commissioner’s and there in his upper Arbor sat and talked, and there pressed upon the Commissioner to take upon him a power to correct and suspend officers that do not their duty and other things, which he unwillingly answered he would if we would own him in it. Being gone thence Mr. Coventry and I did discourse about him, and conclude that he is not able to do the same in that yard that he might and can and it maybe will do in another, what with his old faults and the relations that he has to most people that act there. After an hour or two’s discourse at the Hill-house before going to bed, I see him to his and he me to my chamber, he lying in the Treasurer’s and I in the Controller’s chambers.

time got me ready
for my grave

a brave proud horse
of good purpose

we walked up and down
and into the evening

I miss that hour or two
lying in amber

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 1 August 1663.

Ode to Amargoso

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Momordica charantia)

It is your smell that precedes everything else:
before your leaves shoot up and crowd the trellis,

it is the one thing that tells me you’ve taken root
for certain— singular impudence of bitter green

lining the air, sending wiry tendrils in search
of more space to coil around and conquer.

The small yellow blossoms are foils, deflector
shields: covering the rough bulge of fruit

behind them, until there’s no recourse.
They’ll fall away as the fruit lengthens,

ridged hollow boat packed to the core
with bitter juice and pith, with seeds

flatter and thinner but less shapely
than almonds, taught to row in darkness

without stopping, toward whatever exit.
Where is your heart among them? If I found

and ate it dressed with every bitter thing
in your retinue, would it make me stronger?

You know I’d do so to make my own heart more
impervious to fickle milk and sugar, to the balm

of honey offered by the bees, to the stings
that lash my cheeks, leaving trails of salt.

Low-information voter

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up early to my accounts this month, and I find myself worth clear 730l., the most I ever had yet, which contents me though I encrease but very little.
Thence to my office doing business, and at noon to my viall maker’s, who has begun it and has a good appearance, and so to the Exchange, where I met Dr. Pierce, who tells me of his good luck to get to be groom of the Privy-Chamber to the Queen, and without my Lord Sandwich’s help; but only by his good fortune, meeting a man that hath let him have his right for a small matter, about 60l., for which he can every day have 400l.. But he tells me my Lord hath lost much honour in standing so long and so much for that coxcomb Pickering, and at last not carrying it for him; but hath his name struck out by the King and Queen themselves after he had been in ever since the Queen’s coming. But he tells me he believes that either Sir H. Bennet, my Lady Castlemaine, or Sir Charles Barkeley had received some money for the place, and so the King could not disappoint them, but was forced to put out this fool rather than a better man. And I am sorry to hear what he tells me that Sir Charles Barkeley hath still such power over the King, as to be able to fetch him from the Council-table to my Lady Castlemaine when he pleases.
He tells me also, as a friend, the great injury that he thinks I do myself by being so severe in the Yards, and contracting the ill-will of the whole Navy for those offices, singly upon myself. Now I discharge a good conscience therein, and I tell him that no man can (nor do he say any say it) charge me with doing wrong; but rather do as many good offices as any man. They think, he says, that I have a mind to get a good name with the King and Duke, who he tells me do not consider any such thing; but I shall have as good thanks to let all alone, and do as the rest. But I believe the contrary; and yet I told him I never go to the Duke alone, as others do, to talk of my own services. However, I will make use of his council, and take some course to prevent having the single ill-will of the office.
Before I went to the office I went to the Coffee House, where Sir J. Cutler and Mr. Grant were, and there Mr. Grant showed me letters of Sir William Petty’s, wherein he says, that his vessel which he hath built upon two keeles (a modell whereof, built for the King, he showed me) hath this month won a wager of 50l. in sailing between Dublin and Holyhead with the pacquett-boat, the best ship or vessel the King hath there; and he offers to lay with any vessel in the world. It is about thirty ton in burden, and carries thirty men, with good accommodation, (as much more as any ship of her burden,) and so any vessel of this figure shall carry more men, with better accommodation by half, than any other ship. This carries also ten guns, of about five tons weight.
In their coming back from Holyhead they started together, and this vessel came to Dublin by five at night, and the pacquett-boat not before eight the next morning; and when they came they did believe that, this vessel had been drowned, or at least behind, not thinking she could have lived in that sea.
Strange things are told of this vessel, and he concludes his letter with this position, “I only affirm that the perfection of sayling lies in my principle, finde it out who can.”
Thence home, in my way meeting Mr. Rawlinson, who tells me that my uncle Wight is off of his Hampshire purchase and likes less of the Wights, and would have me to be kind and study to please him, which I am resolved to do.
Being at home he sent for me to dinner to meet Mr. Moore, so I went thither and dined well, but it was strange for me to refuse, and yet I did without any reluctancy to drink wine in a tavern, where nothing else almost was drunk, and that excellent good.
Thence with Mr. Moore to the Wardrobe, and there sat while my Lord was private with Mr. Townsend about his accounts an hour or two, we reading of a merry book against the Presbyters called Cabbala, extraordinary witty.
Thence walked home and to my office, setting papers of all sorts and writing letters and putting myself into a condition to go to Chatham with Mr. Coventry to-morrow. So, at almost 12 o’clock, and my eyes tired with seeing to write, I went home and to bed. Ending the month with pretty good content of mind, my wife in the country and myself in good esteem, and likely by pains to become considerable, I think, with God’s blessing upon my diligence.

who without help
can believe in a fool

rather than himself
rather than his own lived principle

like a book against paper
or eyes tired with seeing a pretty wife

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 31 July 1663.