Rainy season

(Lord’s day). Up, and finding my father somewhat better, walked to Huntingdon church, where in my Lord’s pew, with the young ladies, by my Lord’s own showing me the place, I stayed the sermon, and so to Hinchingbroke, walking with Mr. Shepley and Dr. King, whom they account a witty man here, as well as a good physician, and there my Lord took me with the rest of the company, and singly demanded my opinion in the walks in his garden, about the bringing of the crooked wall on the mount to a shape; and so to dinner, there being Collonel Williams and much other company, and a noble dinner. But having before got my Lord’s warrant for travelling to-day, there being a proclamation read yesterday against it at Huntingdon, at which I am very glad, I took leave, leaving them at dinner, and walked alone to my father’s, and there, after a word or two to my father and mother, my wife and I mounted, and, with my father’s boy, upon a horse I borrowed of Captain Ferrers, we rode to Bigglesworth by the help of a couple of countrymen, that led us through the very long and dangerous waters, because of the ditches on each side, though it begun to be very dark, and there we had a good breast of mutton roasted for us, and supped, and to bed.

what wing broke a pinion in the garden

I am hunting a word to help us
through the long waters
on each side the east

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 20 September 1663.

Word Search

Do you know those squares crammed
with letters where you have to find

hidden words— across, up, down, diagonally,
in reverse? The first one your eye lights on

supposedly tells of your most scintillating
trait. But I doubt you’ll find (1) second

language speaker (2) foreign born (3) rice-
eater (4) linked to endemic infections

(5) I thought you were the maid or (6)
I hope your family isn’t in the path

of the latest hurricane. In fact,
there are no words over five

letters. You won’t be able to talk
about catastrophe, the feudal

agrarian economy, or who owns
the Spratly Islands. But there are

other words, words waiting
like mines in a field for you

to touch them, and then they implode:
Hinge. Home. Ginger flower. Monsoon.

Forest moth

Up pretty betimes, and after eating something, we set out and I (being willing thereto) went by a mistake with them to St. Ives, and there, it being known that it was their nearer way to London, I took leave of them there, they going straight to London and I to Brampton, where I find my father ill in bed still, and Madam Norbery (whom and her fair daughter and sister I was ashamed to kiss, but did, my lip being sore with riding in the wind and bit with the gnatts), lately come to town, come to see my father and mother, and they after a little stay being gone, I told my father my success. And after dinner my wife and I took horse, and rode with marvellous, and the first and only hour of, pleasure, that ever I had in this estate since I had to do with it, to Brampton woods; and through the wood rode, and gathered nuts in my way, and then at Graffam to an old woman’s house to drink, where my wife used to go; and being in all circumstances highly pleased, and in my wife’s riding and good company at this time, I rode, and she showed me the river behind my father’s house, which is very pleasant, and so saw her home, and I straight to Huntingdon, and there met Mr. Shepley and to the Crown (having sent home my horse by Stankes), and there a barber came and trimmed me, and thence walked to Hinchingbroke, where my Lord and ladies all are just alighted. And so I in among them, and my Lord glad to see me, and the whole company. Here I staid and supped with them, and after a good stay talking, but yet observing my Lord not to be so mightily ingulphed in his pleasure in the country as I expected and hoped, I took leave of them, and after a walk in the courtyard in the dark with Mr. Howe, who tells me that my Lord do not enjoy himself and please himself as he used to do, but will hasten up to London, and that he is resolved to go to Chelsey again, which we are heartily grieved for and studious how to prevent if it be possible, I took horse, there being one appointed for me, and a groom to attend me, and so home, where my wife staid up and sister for me, and so to bed, troubled for what I hear of my Lord.

a moth in the woods is her own light

serving not the expected dark joy

but haste and a heart studious to be a room

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 19 September 1663.


In the car, driving
between errands, I practice
talking to the air. I pretend
the stop light is a sentinel
requiring a password.
It changes frequently, sometimes
from block to block in the same
day. It does not care
whether I cleaned the toilet
or if, at my age, I have read
all of Swann’s Way
or Ulysses or the great
classics of western philosophy.
It does not want to know
if I went to church on Sunday;
or if I handed fruit or a dollar bill
to the man holding up a Please help,
anything will do
at the intersection of City Hall
and Granby. It does not say
whether what I throw with my voice
is caught in a basket on the other end;
who I’m speaking with, or whether
I am a fool driving around in circles,
driving across the bridge,
driving farther into the country
where every hour is a gradual
purpling that shades into winter.
Should I worry about the messes
left behind, about who will pick up
after? I peer through the dusty,
bird-poop spattered windshield.
Should I write down instructions
in a notebook, should I leave
these somewhere they will be
impossible to miss? In the old
stories, the gods or saints decide
one day to go on a meander that lasts
decades. They never ask anyone’s
permission, they never think
of details like rent or taxes
or child support. They come back
when they’re finally tired
or bored or have run out
of places to conquer.
Unlike them, I’m no one
important: so I practice talking
my way through passage,
every opportunity I can.


In response to Via Negativa: Homeless.


Up, and got our people together as soon as we could; and after eating a dish of cold cream, which was my supper last night too, we took leave of our beggarly company, though they seem good people, too; and over most sad Fenns, all the way observing the sad life which the people of the place which if they be born there, they do call the Breedlings’ of the place, do live, sometimes rowing from one spot to another, and then wadeing, to Wisbeach, a pretty town, and a fine church and library, where sundry very old abbey manuscripts; and a fine house, built on the church ground by Secretary Thurlow, and a fine gallery built for him in the church, but now all in the Bishop of Ely’s hands. After visiting the church, &c., we went out of the towne, by the help of a stranger, to find out one Blinkhorne, a miller, of whom we might inquire something of old Day’s disposal of his estate, and in whose hands it now is; and by great chance we met him, and brought him to our inn to dinner; and instead of being informed in his estate by this fellow, we find that he is the next heir to the estate, which was matter, of great sport to my cozen Thomas and me, to see such a fellow prevent us in our hopes, he being Day’s brother’s, daughter’s son, whereas we are but his sister’s sons and grandsons; so that, after all, we were fain to propose our matter to him, and to get him to give us leave to look after the business, and so he to have one-third part, and we two to have the other two-third parts, of what should be recovered of the estate, which he consented to; and after some discourse and paying the reckoning, we mounted again, and rode, being very merry at our defeat, to Chatteris, my uncle very weary, and after supper, and my telling of three stories, to their good liking, of spirits, we all three in a chamber went to bed.

a beggar in the library
dry old manuscripts of hands

in the church of no chance
we find him telling stories to the spirits

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 18 September 1663.


Opaque surface, mirror to only
rain and the necks of boats
made to look like swans—

I had never seen
such birds themselves
threading the glossy mud

beneath the arms of willows,
never seen their pristine
white galvanizing the fog—

What they say
about this place is myth
if not marketing—

The deer, their salt
craving, the way form
supposedly stays

the same beneath a changing
surface. The gold bands once worn
by women around their necks,

their forearms; the floating rib
a gold conjecture: like opulence,
embellishment, the empty space

filled suddenly with riches
not even anticipated. Today the water
is thigh-high: theoretically, no one

could really fall out of a boat and drown.
But every limit has its soft elastic,
its emergency exit. The merest idea

inked out, improvised, is charming.
But what do I really know,
having left a long time ago?


In response to Via Negativa: Mute.


Up, and my father being gone to bed ill last night and continuing so this morning, I was forced to come to a new consideration, whether it was fit for to let my uncle and his son go to Wisbeach about my uncle Day’s estate alone or no, and concluded it unfit; and so resolved to go with them myself, leaving my wife there, I begun a journey with them, and with much ado, through the fens, along dikes, where sometimes we were ready to have our horses sink to the belly, we got by night, with great deal of stir and hard riding, to Parson’s Drove, a heathen place, where I found my uncle and aunt Perkins, and their daughters, poor wretches! in a sad, poor thatched cottage, like a poor barn, or stable, peeling of hemp, in which I did give myself good content to see their manner of preparing of hemp; and in a poor condition of habitt took them to our miserable inn, and there, after long stay, and hearing of Frank, their son, the miller, play, upon his treble, as he calls it, with which he earns part of his living, and singing of a country bawdy song, we sat down to supper; the whole crew, and Frank’s wife and child, a sad company, of which I was ashamed, supped with us. And after supper I, talking with my aunt about her report concerning my uncle Day’s will and surrender, I found her in such different reports from what she writes and says to the people, and short of what I expected, that I fear little will be done of good in it. By and by newes is brought to us that one of our horses is stole out of the stable, which proves my uncle’s, at which I am inwardly glad — I mean, that it was not mine; and at this we were at a great loss; and they doubting a person that lay at next door, a Londoner, some lawyer’s clerk, we caused him to be secured in his bed, and other care to be taken to seize the horse; and so about twelve at night or more, to bed in a sad, cold, nasty chamber, only the mayde was indifferent handsome, and so I had a kiss or two of her, and I to bed, and a little after I was asleep they waked me to tell me that the horse was found, which was good newes, and so to sleep till the morning, but was bit cruelly, and nobody else of our company, which I wonder at, by the gnatts.

I come with my gun
and the belly of a heathen

hatch like a sad will
in some lawyer’s indifferent hands

kiss her and go to sleep
bit cruelly by gnats

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 17 September 1663.


The tendril shriveled
as it left the stalk behind;
and the fruit and the bark

as they sloughed off the last
of the heated days. The deck
chairs tilted to the left

as if tipsy. The lawn
lay clipped in a haze
of medium green.

When the sun went down,
it did so darkly.
You couldn’t see the flash

of synchronized wings,
but you heard the sound
they made, departing.


In response to Via Negativa: Armchair traveler.


Up betimes, and with my wife to Hinchingbroke to see my Lady, she being to go to my Lord this morning, and there I left her, and so back to the Court, and heard Sir R. Bernard’s charges to the Courts Baron and Leete, which took up till noon, and were worth hearing, and after putting my business into some way, went home to my father’s to dinner, and after dinner to the Court, where Sir Robert and his son came again by and by, and then to our business, and my father and I having given bond to him for the 21l. Piggott owed him, my uncle Thomas did quietly admit himself and surrender to us the lands first mortgaged for our whole debt, and Sir Robert added to it what makes it up 209l., to be paid in six months. But when I came to give him an account of more lands to be surrendered to us, wherein Piggott’s wife was concerned, and she there to give her consent, Sir Robert would not hear of it, but began to talk very high that we were very cruel, and we had caution enough for our money, and he could not in conscience let the woman do it, and reproached my uncle, both he and his son, with taking use upon use for this money. To all which I did give him such answers and spoke so well, and kept him so to it, that all the Court was silent to hear us, and by report since do confess they did never hear the like in the place. But he by a wile had got our bond, and I was content to have as much as I could though I could not get all, and so took Piggott’s surrender of them without his wife, and by Sir Robert’s own consent did tell the Court that if the money were not paid in the time, and the security prove not sufficient, I would conclude myself wronged by Sir Robert, which he granted I should do.
This kept us till night, but am heartily glad it ended so well on my uncle’s part, he doing that and Prior’s little house very willingly. So the Court broke up, and my father and Mr. Shepley and I to Gorrum’s to drink, and then I left them, and to the Bull, where my uncle was to hear what he and the people said of our business, and here nothing but what liked me very well. So by and by home and to supper, and with my mind in pretty good quiett, to bed.

morning put me into debt
I surrendered my answers

silent as money this heart
little bull in a well

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 16 September 1663.


Do you want to visit
your father?
she said.
And we did. He was wan

but jovial in the bed cranked
up to receiving position;
his friends played cards

on the cotton sheet and reached
for shot glasses on the side table.
This was back in the day

when no one said No Smoking
or You can’t bring such things
in here
. The balcony doors

overlooked the parking lot,
where you’d think the air was still
pristine despite the spew

of diesel from trucks and jeeps.
You’d think it was some cheap
hotel, checkerboard tile

floors, something like on the set
of Casablanca; or grainy around
the edges in that Polaroid way

as Mrs. Robinson turns to Benjamin
in The Graduate, still holding
aloft her cigarette. I wonder what

the good sisters at Notre Dame
de Lourdes Hospital would say
if they knew he’d taken me

to these films? In 1968,
I was 7. Close your eyes,
he ordered, just before

the salacious scenes.
Obedience, curiosity’s boring
older sibling. I can almost hear

his defense: no one ever died
from learning how to live
in the world. The good

sisters made clucking noises
but also brought in ash trays.
His friends tore off

the silver tab on a box
of Salem Menthol Lights
and tapped smartly on one end.

No, no, he smiled
and shook his head. This is it,
he declared. I’m quitting.