Tomb Guard

How do they stand
steadfast in weather,
unbending with time?

They don’t respond
to any distraction,
don’t fret or smile

or frown. When they need
to be still, they keep
still. How is it

part of such
excessive contract—
They keep a straight

spine, hold
the unvaried beat
and line. I can’t

imagine what goes on
in their minds, what
it takes not to flinch

in even the slightest
while I keep stumbling
from one desire to

another: though more way-
ward, I, sentinel too,
of the same tomb.


Tonight I read of the tricycle driver who played dead
for over an hour. After police sprayed him and another man

with a rain of bullets, he lay still, knowing he’d been hurt,
but somehow knowing too he wasn’t gone yet. When his limbs

twitched, onlookers thought it a miracle. Such gravity,
so near at hand. To crawl back into the carapace

and wear it again. Not like armor, but like a shirt—
ordinary but for the fact of bloodstains drying.


In response to Via Negativa: Specific gravity.

Quiet house

Lay pretty long in bed, and so to my office all the morning till by and by called out by Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten, with them by water to Deptford, where it of a sudden did lighten, thunder, and rain so as we could do nothing but stay in Davis’s house, and by and by Sir J. Minnes and I home again by water, and I home to dinner, and after dinner to the office, and there till night all alone, even of my clerks being there, doing of business, and so home and to bed.

a long call
and the sudden nothing after
alone in bed

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 25 September 1663.

Specific gravity

Up betimes, and after taking leave of my brother, John, who went from me to my father’s this day, I went forth by water to Sir Philip Warwick’s, where I was with him a pretty while; and in discourse he tells me, and made it appear to me, that the King cannot be in debt to the Navy at this time 5,000l.; and it is my opinion that Sir G. Carteret do owe the King money, and yet the whole Navy debt paid. Thence I parted, being doubtful of myself that I have not, spoke with the gravity and weight that I ought to do in so great a business. But I rather hope it is my doubtfulness of myself, and the haste which he was in, some very great personages waiting for him without, while he was with me, that made him willing to be gone. To the office by water, where we sat doing little, now Mr. Coventry is not here, but only vex myself to see what a sort of coxcombs we are when he is not here to undertake such a business as we do. In the afternoon telling my wife that I go to Deptford, I went, by water to Westminster Hall, and there finding Mrs. Lane, took her over to Lambeth, where we were lately, and there, did what I would with her, but only the main thing, which she would not consent to, for which God be praised, and yet I came so near, that I was provoked to spend. But, trust in the Lord, I shall never do so again while I live. After being tired with her company I landed her at White Hall, and so home and at my office writing letters till 12 at night almost, and then home to supper and bed, and there found my poor wife hard at work, which grieved my heart to see that I should abuse so good a wretch, and that is just with God to make her bad with me for my wronging of her, but I do resolve never to do the like again. So to bed.

in water I appear to myself

I have no gravity without it
only myself

what sort of water would God be
so near that I rust
the ice hard at my heart

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 24 September 1663.

Part for the whole

For my birthday, my friend gave me
the stone head of a Buddha
brought back from her travels
to Nepal and India. My first,

she said, wrapping it in yards
of bubble wrap then hefting all
25 pounds of it into a box.
At home, I found a place for it

in one corner of the deck, next to
the patio set and green canvas umbrella.
Setting shallow terracotta pots of herbs
around it, I wondered where it once held

court: if it sat in a bamboo grove or nameless
village temple, its carved fingers curled,
touching. Its eyes don’t give anything away.
It doesn’t say what blasted the rest

of its anatomy, what saved it from complete
ruin in order for the soft bloom of green
to spread like the shadow of a milkweed
butterfly across the high cheekbones.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Night music

Up betimes and to my office, where setting down my journall while I was in the country to this day, and at noon by water to my Lord Crew’s, and there dined with him and Sir Thomas, thinking to have them inquire something about my Lord’s lodgings at Chelsey, or any thing of that sort, but they did not, nor seem to take the least notice of it, which is their discretion, though it might be better for my Lord and them too if they did, that so we might advise together for the best, which cannot be while we seem ignorant one to another, and it is not fit for me to begin the discourse. Thence walked to several places about business and to Westminster Hall, thinking to meet Mrs. Lane, which is my great vanity upon me at present, but I must correct it. She was not in the way.
So by water home and to my office, whither by and by came my brother John, who is to go to Cambridge to-morrow, and I did give him a most severe reprimand for his bad account he gives me of his studies. This I did with great passion and sharp words, which I was sorry to be forced to say, but that I think it for his good, forswearing doing anything for him, and that which I have yet, and now do give him, is against my heart, and will also be hereafter, till I do see him give me a better account of his studies. I was sorry to see him give me no answer, but, for aught I see, to hear me without great resentment, and such as I should have had: in his condition. But I have done my duty, let him do his, for I am resolved to be as good as my word. After two hours walking in the garden, till after it was dark, I ended with him and to my office, and there set some papers in order, and so to supper, and my poor wife, who is mighty busy at home; fitting her closet. So to bed.

they did not seem to take
the least notice of it

did not seem fit for it
the great harp

that I hear in the garden
after dark

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 23 September 1663.

Writ: Habeas corpus

A whisper carries a long way.
That’s why we are taught
to confide only in what
cannot make reflections.
There is no such thing
as an empty field—
The wind tests its blades
when you least expect it.
Do you love your country?
When did you last see
your little boy?
The blindfold fills
your head with cricket
sounds. Somewhere close
to your cheek, you know
a cigarette smolders.
Someone asks if it’s true
about the size of a water-
melon and a human head.


In response to Via Negativa: Killing field.

Quixote at home

I up, well refreshed after my journey, and to my office and there set some things in order, and then Sir W. Pen and I met and held an office, and at noon to dinner, and so by water with my wife to Westminster, she to see her father and mother, and we met again at my Lord’s lodgings, and thence by water home again, where at the door we met Sir W. Pen and his daughter coming to visit us, and after their visit I to my office, and after some discourse to my great satisfaction with Sir W. Warren about our bargain of masts, I wrote my letters by the post, and so home to supper and to bed.
This day my wife showed me bills printed, wherein her father, with Sir John Collidon and Sir Edward Ford, have got a patent for curing of smoky chimneys. I wish they may do good thereof, but fear it will prove but a poor project.
This day the King and Queen are to come to Oxford. I hear my Lady Castlemaine is for certain gone to Oxford to meet him, having lain within here at home this week or two, supposed to have miscarried; but for certain is as great in favour as heretofore; at least Mrs. Sarah at my Lord’s, who hears all from their own family, do say so.
Every day brings newes of the Turke’s advance into Germany, to the awakeing of all the Christian Princes thereabouts, and possessing himself of Hungary. My present care is fitting my wife’s closett and my house, and making her a velvet coate, and me a new black cloth suit, and coate and cloake, and evening my reckoning as well as I can against Michaelmas Day, hoping for all that to have my balance as great or greater than ever I had yet.

after my journey
the door is great as a wish

but poor as the prince of a closet
and a new black cloak

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 22 September 1663.

Killing field

Up very betimes by break of day, and got my wife up, whom the thought of this day’s long journey do discourage; and after eating something, and changing of a piece of gold to pay the reckoning, we mounted, and through Baldwicke, where a fayre is kept to-day, and a great one for cheese and other such commodities, and so to Hatfield, it being most curious weather from the time we set out to our getting home, and here we dined, and my wife being very weary, and believing that it would be hard to get her home to-night, and a great charge to keep her longer abroad, I took the opportunity of an empty coach that was to go to London, and left her to come in it to London, for half-a-crown, and so I and the boy home as fast as we could drive, and it was even night before we got home. So that I account it very good fortune that we took this course, being myself very weary, much more would my wife have been. At home found all very well and my house in good order. To see Sir W. Pen, who is pretty well, and Sir J. Minnes, who is a little lame on one foot, and the rest gone to Chatham, viz.: Sir G. Carteret and Sir W. Batten, who has in my absence inveighed against my contract the other day for Warren’s masts, in which he is a knave, and I shall find matter of tryumph, but it vexes me a little. So home, and by and by comes my wife by coach well home, and having got a good fowl ready for supper against her coming, we eat heartily, and so with great content and ease to our own bed, there nothing appearing so to our content as to be at our own home, after being abroad awhile.

the field at night
empty as good fortune

who is a little lame
on one foot

who has an owl ready for supper
in her heart

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 21 September 1663.

Flood City

This is the street
that yesterday had a four-

way intersection. The side
roads ferry a flotilla

of migrant ducks.
The students are happy

that classes have been canceled;
they get to wear their cute

raincoats and wellies
in jellybean colors;

and the coffee shop
is still open, serving cups

of coffee and soup.
Meanwhile if you parked

in a lot that historically
swells with more than six

inches of water, don’t be
surprised to find your car

either submerged or carried
away. I stay indoors

in my house on this island,
and you stay in yours. Meanwhile

the mailman wades with his bag
of letters, his parcels

that he wraps in plastic
before leaving them at the door.

Meanwhile, we listen to the news.
We know it must be really bad

if the Navy moves its fleet
out to the open sea.


In response to Via Negativa: Rainy season.