Ghost crab

~ Ocypode quadrata

Salt freckling the air, signature
of the decomposing under every

chassis that wheels across the sand.
It doesn’t care if the light is translucent

on skin, it doesn’t want to hear
the constant echo of I, I, I

on every wind stream. Past the strandline,
litter swept in by a recent storm, among which

scavenger birds conduct sweeping investigations.
Blue flesh, ammonite of lyrical spirals—

I can’t help it if I sway, dizzy
in the labyrinth. Every hull I pick up

on the beach is clear warning,
though when I tilt my head the sky

still froths with what refuses
to be deleted. So many forms

from which to choose: fine fuzz, pale
thread, needle spinning on the surface.

Cracked carapace, heft of a bone left to dry; ashes
like bits of language, left in the pan after the fire.


In response to Via Negativa: Isolationist.


Up betimes, and an hour at my viall, and then abroad by water to White Hall and Westminster Hall, and there bought the first newes-books of L’Estrange’s writing; he beginning this week; and makes, methinks, but a simple beginning. Then to speak to Mrs. Lane, who seems desirous to have me come to see her and to have her company as I had a little while ago, which methinks if she were very modest, considering how I tumbled her and tost her, she should not.
Thence to Mrs. Harper, and sent for Creed, and there Mrs. Harper sent for a maid for me to come to live with my wife. I like the maid’s looks well enough, and I believe may do well, she looking very modestly and speaking so too. I directed her to speak with my wife, and so Creed and I away to Mr. Povy’s, and he not being at home, walked to Lincoln’s Inn walks, which they are making very fine, and about one o’clock went back to Povy’s; and by and by in comes he, and so we sat and down to dinner, and his lady, whom I never saw before (a handsome old woman that brought him money that makes him do as he does), and so we had plenty of meat and drink, though I drunk no wine, though mightily urged to it, and in the exact manner that I never saw in my life any where, and he the most full and satisfied in it that man can be in this world with any thing.
After dinner done, to see his new cellars, which he has made so fine with so noble an arch and such contrivances for his barrels and bottles, and in a room next to it such a grotto and fountayne, which in summer will be so pleasant as nothing in the world can be almost.
But to see how he himself do pride himself too much in it, and command and expect to have all admiration, though indeed everything do highly deserve it, is a little troublesome.
Thence Creed and I away, and by his importunity away by coach to Bartholomew Fayre, where I have no mind to go without my wife, and therefore rode through the fayre without ‘lighting, and away home, leaving him there; and at home made my wife get herself presently ready, and so carried her by coach to the fayre, and showed her the monkeys dancing on the ropes, which was strange, but such dirty sport that I was not pleased with it. There was also a horse with hoofs like rams hornes, a goose with four feet, and a cock with three. Thence to another place, and saw some German Clocke works, the Salutation of the Virgin Mary, and several Scriptural stories; but above all there was at last represented the sea, with Neptune, Venus, mermaids, and Ayrid on a dolphin, the sea rocking, so well done, that had it been in a gaudy manner and place, and at a little distance, it had been admirable.
Thence home by coach with my wife, and I awhile to the office, and so to supper and to bed. This day I read a Proclamation for calling in and commanding every body to apprehend my Lord Bristoll.

to live like a lock
exact and satisfied

so fine a contrivance
in such a grotto

but then to have
no light dancing on the sea

and the sea rocking at a distance
in every body

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 4 September 1663.

The scales tip one way or the other

Hot summer in the city, walking
the streets to find a room
to rent: thinking the signs
on gates and windows spoke
a straightforward honesty
until inspection yielded
the crumbling insides, close
quarters, latrines with slats
on walls and open stalls,
the total lack of privacy.

Look what money can buy,
my father would say as we drove
past summer homes of the rich
and mostly absent from our hometown.
How do they make their money, I
wanted to know; how did their children,
who sat in the same schoolrooms as I,
never seem to worry or care about
anything? —not grades, not where
to sleep or eat; certainly not the future.


In response to Via Negativa: Riot.


Lord, there is the imprint
of a bee on the handle of the knife

that cuts through meat as if
effortlessly— let me be

that kind of courage
when I need to enter the dark

but need more than my hands
and eyes to see.


Up betimes, and for an hour at my viall before my people rise. Then up and to the office a while, and then to Sir W. Batten, who is going this day for pleasure down to the Downes. I eat a breakfast with them, and at my Lady’s desire with them by coach to Greenwich, where I went aboard with them on the Charlotte yacht. The wind very fresh, and I believe they will be all sicke enough, besides that she is mighty troublesome on the water. Methinks she makes over much of her husband’s ward, young Mr. Griffin, as if she expected some service from him when he comes to it, being a pretty young boy.
I left them under sayle, and I to Deptford, and, after a word or two with Sir J. Minnes, walked to Redriffe and so home. In my way, it coming into my head, overtaking of a beggar or two on the way that looked like Gypsys, what the Gypsys 8 or 9 days ago had foretold, that somebody that day se’nnight should be with me to borrow money, but I should lend none; and looking, when I came to my office, upon my journall, that my brother John had brought a letter that day from my brother Tom to borrow 20l. more of me, which had vexed me so that I had sent the letter to my father into the country, to acquaint him of it, and how little he is beforehand that he is still forced to borrow. But it pleased me mightily to see how, contrary to my expectations, having so lately lent him 20l., and belief that he had money by him to spare, and that after some days not thinking of it, I should look back and find what the Gypsy had told me to be so true.
After dinner at home to my office, and there till late doing business, being very well pleased with Mr. Cutler’s coming to me about some business, and among other things tells me that they value me as a man of business, which he accounts the best virtuoso, and I know his thinking me so, and speaking where he comes, may be of good use to me.
Home to supper, and to bed.

down down the green wind
troubles the water

makes a pretty beggar
look like a Gypsy

her hand still and spare
as the best virtuoso peak

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 3 September 1663.


Up betimes and to my office, and thence with Sir J. Minnes by coach to White Hall, where met us Sir W. Batten, and there staid by the Council Chamber till the Lords called us in, being appointed four days ago to attend them with an account of the riott among the seamen the other day, when Sir J. Minnes did as like a coxcomb as ever I saw any man speak in my life, and so we were dismissed, they making nothing almost of the matter. We staid long without, till by and by my Lord Mayor comes, who also was commanded to be there, and he having, we not being within with him, an admonition from the Lords to take better care of preserving the peace, we joyned with him, and the Lords having commanded Sir J. Minnes to prosecute the fellows for the riott, we rode along with my Lord Mayor in his coach to the Sessions House in the Old Bayley, where the Sessions are now sitting. Here I heard two or three ordinary tryalls, among others one (which, they say, is very common now-a-days, and therefore in my now taking of mayds I resolve to look to have some body to answer for them) a woman that went and was indicted by four names for entering herself a cookemayde to a gentleman that prosecuted her there, and after 3 days run away with a silver tankard, a porringer of silver, and a couple of spoons, and being now found is found guilty, and likely will be hanged.
By and by up to dinner with my Lord Mayor and the Aldermen, and a very great dinner and most excellent venison, but it almost made me sick by not daring to drink wine. After dinner into a withdrawing room; and there we talked, among other things, of the Lord Mayor’s sword. They tell me this sword, they believe, is at least a hundred or two hundred years old; and another that he hath, which is called the Black Sword, which the Lord Mayor wears when he mournes, but properly is their Lenten sword to wear upon Good Friday and other Lent days, is older than that. Thence I, leaving Sir J. Minnes to look after his indictment drawing up, I home by water, and there found my wife mightily pleased with a present of shells, fine shells given her by Captain Hickes, and so she and I up and look them over, and indeed they are very pleasant ones. By and by in comes Mr. Lewellin, lately come from Ireland, to see me, and he tells me how the English interest falls mightily there, the Irish party being too great, so that most of the old rebells are found innocent, and their lands, which were forfeited and bought or given to the English, are restored to them; which gives great discontent there among the English.
He being gone, I to my office, where late, putting things in order, and so home to supper and to bed. Going through the City, my Lord Mayor told me how the piller set up by Exeter House is only to show where the pipes of water run to the City; and observed that this City is as well watered as any city in the world, and that the bringing the water to the City hath cost it first and last above 300,000l.; but by the new building, and the building of St. James’s by my Lord St. Albans,1 which is now about (and which the City stomach I perceive highly, but dare not oppose it), were it now to be done, it would not be done for a million of money.

called to riot
like any life
no matter no peace

we riot for a self
and a silver spoon

now found guilty
like a raw black word

the rope is older
than the indictment

all lands given to the great
city stomach

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 2 September 1663.


The man who used to do
contracting work around the house
once brought us a string bag of oysters
he’d hauled up from the bay— They sat
a day in the refrigerator while we researched
the proper way to insert the tip of the oyster
knife into the hinge of the shell, to shuck
them open on the table then carefully
loosen each briny mouthful to slide
down our throats. I still remember
their buttery texture, the tang
of salt, the faint trace of grit;
the way the empties piled up,
their insides nacre and divested
of their contents. So much work
to get to each small muscle
threaded firmly to its brittle
shell— Like any pleasure,
so rapid in its consumption,
and mostly without regret.


In response to Via Negativa: Above the river.

Letter to doubt

There are days that are difficult
to love, days I don’t think I love
you or any of the things
I thought I used to love,

Sometimes, we love only
our solitude. Other times
we despise it
because it will
not leave us.

I think I have felt
the tremor of joy;
I am certain I know
the incomprehensible
helplessness of peering

into the interior.
We waver in the blur
between doubt of self
and doubt of the other,
and conclude

the only certainty
is what we will ourselves
to decide. Who has not
ever felt the desire
to run away from oneself?

But time is as constant
as it is fickle. Truth,
one of many stones
that pave the inky

When I rinse my hands,
I see my face. When I touch
the surface, it clouds over
with the terrible urgency
of my need.

Does it matter we don’t know
in what terms to address
the future? Each thing
we do every day, we do
from wanting to come home.


Up pretty betimes, and after a little at my viall to my office, where we sat all the morning, and I got my bill among others for my carved work (which I expected to have paid for myself) signed at the table, and hope to get the money back again, though if the rest had not got it paid by the King, I never intended nor did desire to have him pay for my vanity. At noon to the Exchange, where among many merchants abut provisions for the navy; and so home to dinner, where I met Mr. Hunt, his wife and child, and dined with us very merry. And after dinner I to my office with Captain Hickes, who brought my wife some shells, very pretty. He gives me great informacion against the officers and men at Deptford; I find him a talking fellow, but believe much of what he says is true.
In the evening my brother John coming to me to complain that my wife seems to be discontented at his being here, and shows him great disrespect; so I took and walked with him in the garden, and discoursed long with him about my affairs, and how imprudent it is for my father and mother and him to take exceptions without great cause at my wife, considering how much it concerns them to keep her their friend and for my peace; not that I would ever be led by her to forget or desert them in the main, but yet she deserves to be pleased and complied with a little, considering the manner of life that I keep her to, and how convenient it were for me to have Brampton for her to be sent to when I have a mind or occasion to go abroad to Portsmouth or elsewhere about pleasure or business, when it will not be safe for me to leave her alone. So directed him how to behave himself to her, and gave him other counsel; and so to my office, where late.

the navy captain
brought some shells
to be with him in the desert

he deserves a little ring of life

and how convenient to have
a road to elsewhere leave him here

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 1 September 1663.