(Lord’s day). Up, and in my chamber all day long (but a little at dinner) settling all my Brampton accounts to this day in very good order, I having obliged myself by oathe to do that and some other things within this month, and did also perfectly prepare a state of my estate and annexed it to my last will and testament, which now is perfect, and, lastly, I did make up my monthly accounts, and find that I have gained above 50l. this month clear, and so am worth 858l. clear, which is the greatest sum I ever yet was master of, and also read over my usual vowes, as I do every Lord’s day, but with greater seriousness than ordinary, and I do hope that every day I shall see more and more the pleasure of looking after my business and laying up of money, and blessed be God for what I have already been enabled by his grace to do. So to supper and to bed with my mind in mighty great ease and content, but my head very full of thoughts and business to dispatch this next month also, and among others to provide for answering to the Exchequer for my uncle’s being Generall-Receiver in the year 1647, which I am at present wholly unable to do, but I must find time to look over all his papers.

the state is a great eater

I see more and more
but am wholly unable to look

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 31 January 1663/64.

Sleep cure

The doctor said
having tried all other
remedies it might be time
to consider some natural
ones— for instance,
as cure for insomnia:
submerge the feet
and legs (never going
above the hips) in coldest
water. Dry off without
completely drying off—
let the moisture cling
to your skin before you
climb into bed and pull
the covers close.
Blood in the brain,
churning all day
from stressful
and dystopian visions,
will rush to the rescue
of those outposts still
shivering with cold.
The room at the top
will go quiet, will
turn out the lights.

Mystery writer

Up, and a sorry sermon of a young fellow I knew at Cambridge; but the day kept solemnly for the King’s murder, and all day within doors making up my Brampton papers, and in the evening Mr. Commander came and we made perfect and signed and sealed my last will and testament, which is so to my mind, and I hope to the liking of God Almighty, that I take great joy in myself that it is done, and by that means my mind in a good condition of quiett. At night to supper and to bed. This evening, being in a humour of making all things even and clear in the world, I tore some old papers; among others, a romance which (under the title of “Love a Cheate”) I begun ten years ago at Cambridge; and at this time reading it over to-night I liked it very well, and wondered a little at myself at my vein at that time when I wrote it, doubting that I cannot do so well now if I would try.

a day for murder
a day with a paper evening

that tore like a vein
when I wrote

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 30 January 1663/64.

State of emergency

Up, and after shaving myself (wherein twice now, one after another, I have cut myself much, but I think it is from the bluntness of the razor) there came Mr. Deane to me and staid with me a while talking about masts, wherein he prepared me in several things against Mr. Wood, and also about Sir W. Petty’s boat, which he says must needs prove a folly, though I do not think so unless it be that the King will not have it encouraged.
At noon, by appointment, comes Mr. Hartlibb and his wife, and a little before them Messrs. Langley and Bostocke (old acquaintances of mine at Westminster, clerks), and after shewing them my house and drinking they set out by water, my wife and I with them down to Wapping on board the “Crowne,” a merchantman, Captain Floyd, a civil person. Here was Vice-Admiral Goodson, whom the more I know the more I value for a serious man and staunch. Here was Whistler the flagmaker, which vexed me, but it mattered not. Here was other sorry company and the discourse poor, so that we had no pleasure there at all, but only to see and bless God to find the difference that is now between our condition and that heretofore, when we were not only much below Hartlibb in all respects, but even these two fellows above named, of whom I am now quite ashamed that ever my education should lead me to such low company, but it is God’s goodness only, for which let him be praised.
After dinner I broke up and with my wife home, and thence to the Fleece in Cornhill, by appointment, to meet my Lord Marlborough, a serious and worthy gentleman, who, after doing our business, about the company, he and they began to talk of the state of the Dutch in India, which is like to be in a little time without any controll; for we are lost there, and the Portuguese as bad.
Thence to the Coffee-house, where good discourse, specially of Lt.-Coll. Baron touching the manners of the Turkes’ Government, among whom he lived long. So to my uncle Wight’s, where late playing at cards, and so home.

I have cut myself much
from the bluntness of the razor

here where a boat
must not drink the water

here was the flagmaker
here was the discourse of the corn

like a lost bad government
playing at cards

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 29 January 1663/64.

Submission to the State

We are so guarded
about our privacy

about the sanctity
of our bodies

about personal
space which must

on no account
be crossed or

Except when we

are at the dentist’s
and he says Open

your mouth or
at the doctor’s

and he says Take off
all your clothes or

This will not hurt
one bit or

passing through
security screening

at the airport
where the agent

says Step on the foot-
prints and raise both

hands in the air
If that should prove

not to be enough
Step outside

for another agent
to do the pat-down


Up and to the office, where all the morning sitting, and at noon upon several things to the ‘Change, and thence to Sir G. Carteret’s to dinner of my own accord, and after dinner with Mr. Wayth down to Deptford doing several businesses, and by land back again, it being very cold, the boat meeting me after my staying a while for him at an alehouse by Redriffe stairs. So home, and took Will coming out of my doors, at which I was a little moved, and told my wife of her keeping him from the office (though God knows my base jealous head was the cause of it), which she seemed troubled at, and that it was only to discourse with her about finding a place for her brother. So I to my office late, Mr. Commander coming to read over my will in order to the engrossing it, and so he being gone I to other business, among others chiefly upon preparing matters against Creed for my profit, and so home to supper and bed, being mightily troubled with my left eye all this evening from some dirt that is got into it.

sitting on the cold stairs
I read over it again
with my left eye

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 28 January 1663/64.


Up and to the office, and at noon to the Coffeehouse, where I sat with Sir G. Ascue and Sir William Petty, who in discourse is, methinks, one of the most rational men that ever I heard speak with a tongue, having all his notions the most distinct and clear, and, among other things (saying, that in all his life these three books were the most esteemed and generally cried up for wit in the world “Religio Medici,” “Osborne’s Advice to a Son,” and “Hudibras”), did say that in these — in the two first principally — the wit lies, and confirming some pretty sayings, which are generally like paradoxes, by some argument smartly and pleasantly urged, which takes with people who do not trouble themselves to examine the force of an argument, which pleases them in the delivery, upon a subject which they like; whereas, as by many particular instances of mine, and others, out of Osborne, he did really find fault and weaken the strength of many of Osborne’s arguments, so as that in downright disputation they would not bear weight; at least, so far, but that they might be weakened, and better found in their rooms to confirm what is there said. He shewed finely whence it happens that good writers are not admired by the present age; because there are but few in any age that do mind anything that is abstruse and curious; and so longer before any body do put the true praise, and set it on foot in the world, the generality of mankind pleasing themselves in the easy delights of the world, as eating, drinking, dancing, hunting, fencing, which we see the meanest men do the best, those that profess it. A gentleman never dances so well as the dancing master, and an ordinary fiddler makes better musique for a shilling than a gentleman will do after spending forty, and so in all the delights of the world almost.
Thence to the ‘Change, and after doing much business, home, taking Commissioner Pett with me, and all alone dined together. He told me many stories of the yard, but I do know him so well, and had his character given me this morning by Hempson, as well as my own too of him before, that I shall know how to value any thing he says either of friendship or other business. He was mighty serious with me in discourse about the consequence of Sir W. Petty’s boat, as the most dangerous thing in the world, if it should be practised by endangering our losse of the command of the seas and our trade, while the Turkes and others shall get the use of them, which, without doubt, by bearing more sayle will go faster than any other ships, and, not being of burden, our merchants cannot have the use of them and so will be at the mercy of their enemies. So that I perceive he is afeard that the honour of his trade will down, though (which is a truth) he pretends this consideration to hinder the growth of this invention. He being gone my wife and I took coach and to Covent Garden, to buy a maske at the French House, Madame Charett’s, for my wife; in the way observing the streete full of coaches at the new play, “The Indian Queene;” which for show, they say, exceeds “Henry the Eighth.” Thence back to Mrs. Turner’s and sat a while with them talking of plays and I know not what, and so called to see Tom, but not at home, though they say he is in a deep consumption, and Mrs. Turner and Dike and they say he will not live two months to an end.
So home and to the office, and then to supper and to bed.

to the rational tongue
books are like people born in the present

that set foot in the world
as light as a dancing master

and make better music
than the most dangerous seas

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 27 January 1663/64.


I’d forgotten
how young I was
when I first started
teaching— most

of the students
either my age, many
even a few years
older. I’d stand

beside the door, arms
folded around books
and a small box of chalk,
waiting for the bell

and for the instructor
inside the room to finish
with his class. I’d step in
at last; on the first

day, there were always
a few who stared with
disbelief, wondering
what I was doing

in front of the room,
setting up for a lesson.
It’s 36 years since
the first day I

stood there: clearing
my throat, then finding
the thread; taking it up,
following it to its source.

Now that the diplomats have all been fired from their posts, what is the meaning of visa?

I know, I know, now you can
apply online through most
countries’ designated

immigration portals— check
eligibility, check the boxes,
fill out the forms, file the fees.

It’s just that I remember the days
when you had to line up hours
before dawn on the sidewalk:

swat at mosquitoes, pinch
your nose against the smell
of urine wafting from the bushes

every time a hot wind blew in
from the bay. When the interview
windows opened at 8 am, it felt

like waiting for a turn at live
lotto. Never mind that you had
all your paperwork neatly

paper-clipped in a folder
along with your fee receipts.
What would the embassy official

stamp on your form? You prayed
for a different fate from the man
given Application Denied: begging

before the window, knowing
this would be his last hope
to see his dying mother

in that other land. At least then,
there might have been a chance
to see what kinds of faces

they wore. Whether there was
something in them that might
be moved by the human.