Impression after rain, off the highway

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Because it was raining and visibility
was poor and the backsplash from passing
cars made it seem personal even when
it wasn’t, the rolling stretches
of meadow don’t offer their usual
assurances of beauty, of never-ending
something beginning with wings
and concluding at the horizon, clichés
we have been taught to break up
with the blur of the unexpected—
As in that famous painting of the woman
and child waist-deep in the grass walking,
a long way off from where they’ve come,
a long way still from where they’re going,
the vivid poppies urging them along
like flames; the open blue parasol
a lopsided cloud trailing behind
on a string, not quite out of air.

Too rich

Up betimes to my office, busy, and so abroad to change some plate for my father to send to-day by the carrier to Brampton, but I observe and do fear it may be to my wrong that I change spoons of my uncle Robert’s into new and set a P upon them that thereby I cannot claim them hereafter, as it was my brother Tom’s practice. However, the matter of this is not great, and so I did it. So to the ‘Change, and meeting Sir W. Warren, with him to a taverne, and there talked, as we used to do, of the evils the King suffers in our ordering of business in the Navy, as Sir W. Batten now forces us by his knavery.
So home to dinner, and to the office, where all the afternoon, and thence betimes home, my eyes beginning every day to grow less and less able to bear with long reading or writing, though it be by daylight; which I never observed till now.
So home to my wife, and after supper to bed.

O plate O my wrong spoon
I cannot eat as we used to
the evils I order for dinner

the ice and the gin
less and less able to bear it
though it be light I served up

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 5 May 1664.

Doble Cara

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

When did you first become aware
of their benign neglect, their

terrible, grandiose omnipotence
at your expense? Was it your own

father making jokes about how women
are generally not to be trusted

because they have two mouths;
or at a reception table where the only

man seated there (a scientist)
did not deign to make conversation

with the wives and mothers at one end?
Was it the senator who claimed he

was only joking when he dismissed
single mothers for having been knocked up?

Was it the podiatrist who decided
to slice off half your toe-

nail without prior consultation, to solve
the smaller issue of the ingrown part?

You limped away from that and other injurious
encounters feeling unseen, unsettled, unwomaned,

undone; vowing that next time, you’d open your mouth
to show your protest, your disgust, your rage.


Up, and my new Taylor, Langford, comes and takes measure of me for a new black cloth suit and cloake, and I think he will prove a very carefull fellow and will please me well. Thence to attend my Lord Peterborough in bed and give him an account of yesterday’s proceeding with Povy. I perceive I labour in a business will bring me little pleasure; but no matter, I shall do the King some service. To my Lord’s lodgings, where during my Lady’s sickness he is, there spoke with him about the same business. Back and by water to my cozen Scott’s. There condoled with him the loss of my cozen, his wife, and talked about his matters, as atturney to my father, in his administering to my brother Tom. He tells me we are like to receive some shame about the business of his bastarde with Jack Noble; but no matter, so it cost us no money.
Thence to the Coffee-house and to the ‘Change a while. News uncertain how the Dutch proceed. Some say for, some against a war. The plague increases at Amsterdam. So home to dinner, and after dinner to my office, where very late, till my eyes (which begin to fail me nowadays by candlelight) begin to trouble me. Only in the afternoon comes Mr. Peter Honiwood to see me and gives me 20s., his and his friends’ pence for my brother John, which, God forgive my pride, methinks I think myself too high to take of him; but it is an ungratefull pitch of pride in me, which God forgive.
Home at night to supper and to bed.

measure me for a black suit
full of yesterday’s pleasure

I shall do business with loss and war
till my eyes begin to fail
and I begin to take a rat
home to supper

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 4 May 1664.


Up, and being ready, went by agreement to Mr. Bland’s and there drank my morning draft in good chocollatte, and slabbering my band sent home for another, and so he and I by water to White Hall, and walked to St. James’s, where met Creed and Vernatty, and by and by Sir W. Rider, and so to Mr. Coventry’s chamber, and there upon my Lord Peterborough’s accounts, where I endeavoured to shew the folly and punish it as much as I could of Mr. Povy; for, of all the men in the world, I never knew any man of his degree so great a coxcomb in such imployments. I see I have lost him forever, but I value it not; for he is a coxcomb, and, I doubt, not over honest, by some things which I see; and yet, for all his folly, he hath the good lucke, now and then, to speak his follies in as good words, and with as good a show, as if it were reason, and to the purpose, which is really one of the wonders of my life.
Thence walked to Westminster Hall; and there, in the Lords’ House, did in a great crowd, from ten o’clock till almost three, hear the cause of Mr. Roberts, my Lord Privy Seal’s son, against Win, who by false ways did get the father of Mr. Roberts’s wife (Mr. Bodvill) to give him the estate and disinherit his daughter. The cause was managed for my Lord Privy Seal by Finch the Solicitor [General]; but I do really think that he is truly a man of as great eloquence as ever I heard, or ever hope to hear in all my life.
Thence, after long staying to speak with my Lord Sandwich, at last he coming out to me and speaking with me about business of my Lord Peterborough, I by coach home to the office, where all the afternoon, only stept home to eat one bit and to the office again, having eaten nothing before to-day. My wife abroad with my aunt Wight and Norbury.
I in the evening to my uncle Wight’s, and not finding them come home, they being gone to the Parke and the Mulberry garden, I went to the ‘Change, and there meeting with Mr. Hempson, whom Sir W. Batten has lately turned out of his place, merely because of his coming to me when he came to town before he went to him, and there he told me many rogueries of Sir W. Batten, how he knows and is able to prove that Captain Cox of Chatham did give him 10l. in gold to get him to certify for him at the King’s coming in, and that Tom Newborne did make [the] poor men give him 3l. to get Sir W. Batten to cause them to be entered in the yard, and that Sir W. Batten had oftentimes said: “by God, Tom, you shall get something and I will have some on’t.” His present clerk that is come in Norman’s room has given him something for his place; that they live high and (as Sir Francis Clerk’s lady told his wife) do lack money as well as other people, and have bribes of a piece of sattin and cabinetts and other things from people that deal with him, and that hardly any body goes to see or hath anything done by Sir W. Batten but it comes with a bribe, and that this is publickly true that his wife was a whore, and that he had libells flung within his doors for a cuckold as soon as he was married; that he received 100l. in money and in other things to the value of 50l. more of Hempson, and that he intends to give him back but 50l.; that he hath abused the Chest and hath now some 1000l. by him of it.
I met also upon the ‘Change with Mr. Cutler, and he told me how for certain Lawson hath proclaimed warr again with Argier, though they had at his first coming given back the ships which they had taken, and all their men; though they refused afterwards to make him restitution for the goods which they had taken out of them.
Thence to my uncle Wight’s, and he not being at home I went with Mr. Norbury near hand to the Fleece, a mum house in Leadenhall, and there drunk mum and by and by broke up, it being about 11 o’clock at night, and so leaving them also at home, went home myself and to bed.

the slabbering men
I have lost forever
and some of the wonder of life

in the great sea a false eloquence
as ever I heard
staying out or coming in high

a whore old as money
with hips of lead

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 3 May 1664.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

I have these numbers—
I call every day but
no one picks up the phone

I don’t actually know
if it rings, how it rings,
in the rooms of the house

that I call or why
the people living there
won’t answer

I imagine the rings
echoing like ripples
along a corridor,

searching for
an alcove or an ear
to bump up against—

for the line
to reach its destination
for a voice to answer


In response to Via Negativa: Pilgrim's Progress.

On Beauty: Colonialism 101

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

We were taught to open
parasols when we walked
in the sun, and suffered

long sleeves in ninety-
degree heat. We never learned
about SPF sunscreen, but one year

the biggest trend was kaolin-
based medicinal creams. The fairest
girls were crowned school queens.

Can you see the rest of us, dark
as farmers’ daughters, throwing flowers
at floats passing us in the streets?

Pilgrims’ progress

Lay pretty long in bed. So up and by water to St. James’s, and there attended the Duke with Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes, and having done our work with him walked to Westminster Hall, and after walking there and talking of business met Mr. Rawlinson and by coach to the ‘Change, where I did some business, and home to dinner, and presently by coach to the King’s Play-house to see “The Labyrinth,” but, coming too soon, walked to my Lord’s to hear how my Lady do, who is pretty well; at least past all fear. There by Captain Ferrers meeting with an opportunity of my Lord’s coach, to carry us to the Parke anon, we directed it to come to the play-house door; and so we walked, my wife and I and Madamoiselle. I paid for her going in, and there saw “The Labyrinth,” the poorest play, methinks, that ever I saw, there being nothing in it but the odd accidents that fell out, by a lady’s being bred up in man’s apparel, and a man in a woman’s. Here was Mrs. Stewart, who is indeed very pretty, but not like my Lady Castlemayne, for all that. Thence in the coach to the Parke, where no pleasure; there being much dust, little company, and one of our horses almost spoiled by falling down, and getting his leg over the pole; but all mended presently, and after riding up and down, home. Set Madamoiselle at home; and we home, and to my office, whither comes Mr. Bland, and pays me the debt he acknowledged he owed me for my service in his business of the Tangier Merchant, twenty pieces of new gold, a pleasant sight. It cheered my heart; and he being gone, I home to supper, and shewed them my wife; and she, poor wretch, would fain have kept them to look on, without any other design but a simple love to them; but I thought it not convenient, and so took them into my own hand. So, after supper, to bed.

past all fear
we come to a labyrinth

nothing in it
but accidents like dust
falling down over all

the land in pieces
without any other design
but love

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 2 May 1664.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

I can feel the storm coming,
a system the weather reports warn

will move through the area
between midnight and early morning.

My restlessness is lit by the smell
of chemicals in the air, offset

by the sound of something kindled
as if on the other side of the world.

How do crops hold up their heads
to a battery of rain? I dream of swollen

star-apples, ruddy santol, Spanish
plums dipped in salt. By the fence,

wild berries scribble tiny hearts
along the ground. A thud in the eaves

could be the sound of flight
interrupted, a body reorienting

to the map. I pray to the heavenly ox,
to the clouds that bolt the axles

of the cart to the shaft— if it
should finally want to go, let the end

be swift. Let it come easy in sleep,
in her own bed, at the end of the day.


In response to Via Negativa: Night World.

Night world

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed. Went not to church, but staid at home to examine my last night’s accounts, which I find right, and that I am 908l. creditor in the world, the same I was last month.
Dined, and after dinner down by water with my wife and Besse with great pleasure as low as Greenwich and so back, playing as it were leisurely upon the water to Deptford, where I landed and sent my wife up higher to land below Half-way house. I to the King’s yard and there spoke about several businesses with the officers, and so with Mr. Wayth consulting about canvas, to Half-way house where my wife was, and after eating there we broke and walked home before quite dark. So to supper, prayers, and to bed.

a long night in the world
water playing on water
land and higher land

half canvas
half dark prayer

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 1 May 1664.