Throw caution

into the flowerbeds. Fortune favors
the bold use of eggshells and ground

coffee in place of fertilizer.
There’s no such thing as a free
horse when you can see it’s tethered

to a post in the barn. Practice makes
an omelet worthy of the hens that laid
the beautiful brown speckled orbs

you collect every day. A little cream,
a spoonful of cornstarch, and it’s easy
come, easy around that symphony of bills

clucking open and close. Necessity
is a green basket that never fills,
no matter how you try. But eat, drink,

be wary. Every fortune has a price.

To use

“Where I come from/ would I go back? If yes, reload me….” ~ Lo Kwa Mei-en

Every day I turn over
my little basket of change

and count how much is left.
In the closet, blouses I’ve yet

to wear: a glorious sunflower
yellow, a nubby linen like sand.

On the nightstand, stacks
of beautiful books.

Now I promise to use
instead of save. Now I am

a receptacle of promise. Today
is a good day to collect.


Up, and Mr. Shepley came to me, who is lately come to town; among other things I hear by him how the children are sent for away from my father’s, but he says without any great discontent. I am troubled there should be this occasion of difference, and yet I am glad they are gone, lest it should have come to worse.
He tells me how my brave dogg I did give him, going out betimes one morning to Huntington, was set upon by five other doggs, and worried to pieces, of which I am a little, and he the most sorry I ever saw man for such a thing.
Forth with him and walked a good way talking, then parted and I to the Temple, and to my cozen Roger Pepys, and thence by water to Westminster to see Dean Honiwood, whom I had not visited a great while. He is a good-natured, but a very weak man, yet a Dean, and a man in great esteem. Thence walked to my Lord Sandwich’s, and there dined, my Lord there. He was pleasant enough at table with me, but yet without any discourse of business, or any regard to me when dinner was over, but fell to cards, and my Lady and I sat two hours alone, talking of the condition of her family’s being greatly in debt, and many children now coming up to provide for. I did give her my sense very plain of it, which she took well and carried further than myself, to the bemoaning their condition, and remembering how finely things were ordered about six years ago, when I lived there and my Lord at sea every year.
Thence home, doing several errands by the way. So to my office, and there till late at night, Mr. Comander coming to me for me to sign and seal the new draft of my will, which I did do, I having altered something upon the death of my brother Tom. So home to supper and to bed.

as if set upon by dogs
and worried to pieces
I am a sorry man

sand to the moaning sea
coming to sign the new
draft of my death

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 29 June 1664.


Up, and this day put on a half shirt first this summer, it being very hot; and yet so ill-tempered I am grown, that I am afeard I shall catch cold, while all the world is ready to melt away.
To the office all the morning, at noon to dinner at home, then to my office till the evening, then out about several businesses and then by appointment to the ‘Change, and thence with my uncle Wight to the Mum house, and there drinking, he do complain of his wife most cruel as the most troublesome woman in the world, and how she will have her will, saying she brought him a portion and God knows what. By which, with many instances more, I perceive they do live a sad life together. Thence to the Mitre and there comes Dr. Burnett to us and Mr. Maes, but the meeting was chiefly to bring the Doctor and me together, and there I began to have his advice about my disease, and then invited him to my house: and I am resolved to put myself into his hands. Here very late, but I drank nothing, nor will, though he do advise me to take care of cold drinks. So home and to bed.

I grow cold while all the world
is ready to melt away

noon cruel as the most
troublesome god

what life I have in my hands
is a cold drink

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 28 June 1664.


Up, and he and I walked to Paul’s Church yard, and there saw Sir Harry Spillman’s book, and I bespoke it and others, and thence we took coach, and he to my Lord’s and I to St. James’s, where we did our usual business, and thence I home and dined, and then by water to Woolwich, and there spent the afternoon till night under pretence of buying Captain Blackman’s house and grounds, and viewing the ground took notice of Clothiers’ cordage with which he, I believe, thinks to cheat the King. That being done I by water home, it being night first, and there I find our new mayd Jane come, a cook mayd.
So to bed.

I saw a book
in the water

a wing
the ground took to eat

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 27 June 1664.

The unexamined life

(Lord’s day). Up, and Sir J. Minnes set me down at my Lord Sandwich’s, where I waited till his coming down, when he came, too, could find little to say to me but only a general question or two, and so good-bye. Here his little daughter, my Lady Katharine was brought, who is lately come from my father’s at Brampton, to have her cheek looked after, which is and hath long been sore. But my Lord will rather have it be as it is, with a scarr in her face, than endanger it being worse by tampering. He being gone, I went home, a little troubled to see he minds me no more, and with Creed called at several churches, which, God knows, are supplied with very young men, and the churches very empty.
So home and at our owne church looked in, and there heard one preach whom Sir W. Pen brought, which he desired us yesterday to hear, that had been his chaplin in Ireland, a very silly fellow. So home and to dinner, and after dinner a frolique took us, we would go this afternoon to the Hope; so my wife dressed herself, and, with good victuals and drink, we took boat presently and the tide with us got down, but it was night, and the tide spent by the time we got to Gravesend; so there we stopped, but went not on shore, only Creed, to get some cherries, and send a letter to the Hope, where the Fleete lies. And so, it being rainy, and thundering mightily, and lightning, we returned. By and by the evening turned mighty clear and moonshine; we got with great pleasure home, about twelve o’clock, which did much please us, Creed telling pretty stories in the boat. He lay with me all night.

a question sore as a scar
would go to a good grave
not send a letter to hope

here lies the moon
great as a clock
telling pretty stories

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 26 June 1664.

Wall Street

We staid late, and he lay with me all night and rose very merry talking, and excellent company he is, that is the truth of it, and a most cunning man. He being gone I to the office, where we sat all the morning. At noon to dinner, and then to my office busy, and by and by home with Mr. Deane to a lesson upon raising a Bend of Timbers, and he being gone I to the office, and there came Captain Taylor, and he and I home, and I have done all very well with him as to the business of the last trouble, so that come what will come my name will be clear of any false dealing with him. So to my office again late, and then to bed.

a rose in a cell
that is truth to the office

where morning
is a done deal

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 25 June 1664.

No regrets

“Non, je ne regrette rien,” sings Edith
in her most perfect, grainy rendition.

According to the apocryphal story,
Charles Dumont and Michel Vaucaire

have only one nervous chance to audition
the new composition for her in 1959;

but halfway through she bursts out,
“Formidable! this is the song I

have been waiting for!” How I wish
I had that supreme self-confidence,

that capacity to cleave through the moment
and let it take me whole in its arms…

And she’s right, some things will now
never change: we don’t have a choice.

The good things and the bad that were done
to me may as well be the same. I can’t spend

any more of the present wondering if I should
have gone down a different path, or what

old things will surface in the crowded
cellars of the future. Like the sparrow,

I should welcome what comes out of my throat:
tend the notes the same as crumbs on the path.


Meaning the soft tufted heads
of carpet fabric I clean on hands
and knees with a brush since the vacuum
doesn’t really take out everything.

Meaning the mountain of envelopes,
unopened from two or three years
back, with expired credit
card and refinance offers.

Meaning the stacks of papers
that teachers take home to read
and grade— sometimes you see them
carting their wheelies across campus.

Meaning the money we spent on goods
and services before the money we got
—therefore the money we now owe
and have to pay back in trickles.

Meaning the little beds of laundry
sitting in their baskets in every room,
which alternately I gather up in my arms
or toss over the railing down the stairs.

Good woman

“…the night bus took me with it
and I am glad to be going” ~ D. Bonta

When we got married (a first for him,
the second time for me) it was at a time-
share in Galena— which our friends
Alex and Richard like to describe

as the only place in IL not flat as
a pancake. Guests drove in from the city
for a ceremony presided over by our
buddhist friend. My husband’s brother

and my first cousin read: first,
from the Psalms; then that poem
by Neruda which begins with the phrase
I don’t love you…, brings in salt

and dark things and earth and ends
with falling asleep. Which is to say,
nothing overly sentimental or saccharine,
but poetry— of course. Having been

through enough, we also knew
enough to plan the details
ourselves: local baker, edible
flowers on buttercream; green

dress from the racks at Marshall’s
for me; a potluck spread of ham
sandwiches and dim sum. When
my cousin and his wife (I hadn’t

seen them for more than 20 years)
prepared to take their leave
for their long drive back
to Lansing, MI, he shook

my husband’s hand then said
of me (by way of reassurance?
to say my husband had not made
a mistake?)— She’s a good woman.

It sounded almost Brechtian,
minus Szechuan. And perhaps
there is some way I can think
of myself as having had to assume

some kind of alter ego, a toughness
learned from having had so long
to fend for myself and my three
children from my first ill-fated

union. But what is good, and when
does one finally arrive at that destination?
We board the bus, even with the knowledge
that someone, something else, is driving.


In response to Via Negativa: Night bus.