Should I paint over every
surface with white? Empty

all drawers, feed all moth-
balled things to the wind, open

the shutters that have hidden
themselves from the light?

I want to unburden each corner
of remainders and afterthoughts,

pour rice and beans and herbs into
clear containers, smooth out sheets

and linens; cup water in my palms,
press them into the lines on my face.


In response to Via Negativa: Standard bearer.


(Lord’s day). Up, and all the morning and afternoon (only at dinner at home) at my office doing many businesses for want of time on the week days. In the afternoon the greatest shower of rain of a sudden and the greatest and most continued thunder that ever I heard I think in my life. In the evening home to my wife, and there talked seriously of several of our family concernments, and among others of bringing Pall out of the country to us here to try to put her off, which I am very desirous, and my wife also of. So to supper, prayers, which I have of late too much omitted. So to bed.

at dinner
sudden thunder ringing out
the prayer omitted

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 19 June 1664.


From morning till 11 at night (only a little at dinner at home) at my office very busy, setting many businesses in order to my great trouble, but great content in the end. So home to supper and to bed.
Strange to see how pert Sir W. Pen is to-day newly come from Portsmouth with his head full of great reports of his service and the state of the ships there. When that is over he will be just as another man again or worse. But I wonder whence Mr. Coventry should take all this care for him, to send for him up only to look after his Irish business with my Lord Ormond and to get the Duke’s leave for him to come with so much officiousness, when I am sure he knows him as well as I do as to his little service he do.

from morning till night a din
to trouble but content me

strange how a new mouth
is just another wonder

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 18 June 1664.

Standard bearer

Up, and to my office, where I dispatched much business, and then down by water to Woolwich to make a discovery of a cheate providing for us in the working of some of our own ground Tows into new cordage, to be sold to us for Riga cordage.
Thence to Mr. Falconer’s, where I met Sir W. Batten and Lady, and Captain Tinker, and there dined with them, and so to the Dockyarde and to Deptford by water, and there very long informing myself in the business of flags and bewpers and other things, and so home late, being weary, and full of good information to-day, but I perceive the corruptions of the Navy are of so many kinds that it is endless to look after them, especially while such a one as Sir W. Batten discourages every man that is honest. So home to my office, there very late, and then to supper and to bed mightily troubled in my mind to hear how Sir W. Batten and Sir J. Minnes do labour all they can to abuse or enable others to abuse the King.

where do I discover
our own flag

home being weary
and full of corruption

endless to look after the rages
that nest in my mind

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 17 June 1664.


When it’s time, that flotilla
of sound in the trees— a great

rushing echo at their hems. After long
silence, they emerge into their gold-

outlined awakening. Our ears fill
with the tumult of wings opening,

of being opened, singed, tiled:
desire’s radio signals pinging.

Passing into that afterlife

Once, a woman I barely knew
confided to me that after a long
illness, she almost died— except

the way she put it was I nearly
went to heaven.
I looked at her
and marveled at the guilelessness

of her confession, the implication
that she’d passed every test, never had
the slightest blemish on her driving

record— nor ever swore, sneaked a cig,
lied to parents, teachers, lovers, friends;
touched herself in the dark, felt

the hot and sour ping of envy
at the girls who were golden
no matter what— how they ate

whatever they liked, never seeming
to gain a pound; kissed whoever
they liked and never lost

their social standing; and also
at the ones who had no qualms
about mouthing off at anyone

who crossed them, whose very
shadow in the hallways cleared
a path through rows of dented

lockers. From childhood catechism,
I still remember the definitions of
the venial and the mortal, those two

varieties of sin and the difference
between what could deprive the soul
of divine grace. And though I have

sometimes been so angry or frustrated
that I’ve come close to thinking I might
like to strangle someone with my bare hands,

of course I’d never do such a thing. But even
for my innumerable small transgressions and selfish
appetites, no matter how generous I was toward myself,

when all things end I don’t think I could feel
so confident of winding up sandaled, clad in an airy
white tunic, in a green garden garlanded with fruit.


In response to Via Negativa: Microcosmic.

Ode to my socks

I lay in my drawers and stockings and wastecoate till five of the clock, and so up; and being well pleased with our frolique, walked to Knightsbridge, and there eat a messe of creame, and so to St. James’s, and there walked a little, and so I to White Hall, and took coach, and found my wife well got home last night, and now in bed. So I to the office, where all the morning, and at noon to the ‘Change, so home and to my office, where Mr. Ackworth came to me (though he knows himself and I know him to be a very knave), yet he came to me to discover the knavery of other people like the most honest man in the world. However, good use I shall make of his discourse, for in this he is much in the right. He being gone I to the ‘Change, Mr. Creed with me, after we had been by water to see a vessell we have hired to carry more soldiers to Tangier, and also visited a rope ground, wherein I learnt several useful things. The talk upon the ‘Change is, that De Ruyter is dead, with fifty men of his own ship, of the plague, at Cales: that the Holland Embassador here do endeavour to sweeten us with fair words; and things likely to be peaceable. Home after I had spoke with my cozen Richard Pepys upon the ‘Change, about supplying us with bewpers from Norwich, which I should be glad of, if cheap. So home to supper and bed.

my stockings
walk to white noon

cover the world
with a hired ground

useful things to air
like a cheap bed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 16 June 1664.

Parable of Water

The water singing to the bridge
is past all fear, as are the fruits

that even in their greenness weigh
the branch nearly to the sodden ground—

As for the source of such increase,
I try to make an effort to remember:

before the bankruptcy and the homes lost
to one calamity after another, before

the deaths of those I’ve loved and
missed; before the growing frequency

of bulletins from this aching, aging body.
I scan the skies and there they are again:

the bilious clouds poised to release
a new and generous cache of rain.


In response to Via Negativa: The long view.

The long view

Up and by appointment with Captain Witham (the Captain that brought the newes of the disaster at Tangier, where my Lord Tiviott was slain) and Mr. Tooker to Beares Quay, and there saw and more afterward at the several grannarys several parcels of oates, and strange it is to hear how it will heat itself if laid up green and not often turned. We came not to any agreement, but did cheapen several parcels, and thence away, promising to send again to them.
So to the Victualling office, and then home. And in our garden I got Captain Witham to tell me the whole story of my Lord Tiviott’s misfortune; for he was upon the guard with his horse neare the towne, when at a distance he saw the enemy appear upon a hill, a mile and a half off, and made up to them, and with much ado escaped himself; but what became of my Lord he neither knows nor thinks that any body but the enemy can tell. Our losse was about four hundred. But he tells me that the greater wonder is that my Lord Tiviott met no sooner with such a disaster; for every day he did commit himself to more probable danger than this, for now he had the assurance of all his scouts that there was no enemy thereabouts; whereas he used every day to go out with two or three with him, to make his discoveries, in greater danger, and yet the man that could not endure to have anybody else to go a step out of order to endanger himself. He concludes him to be the man of the hardest fate to lose so much honour at one blow that ever was. His relation being done he parted; and so I home to look after things for dinner. And anon at noon comes Mr. Creed by chance, and by and by the three young ladies: and very merry we were with our pasty, very well baked; and a good dish of roasted chickens; pease, lobsters, strawberries. And after dinner to cards: and about five o’clock, by water down to Greenwich; and up to the top of the hill, and there played upon the ground at cards. And so to the Cherry Garden, and then by water singing finely to the Bridge, and there landed; and so took boat again, and to Somersett House. And by this time, the tide being against us, it was past ten of the clock; and such a troublesome passage, in regard of my Lady Paulina’s fearfullness, that in all my life I never did see any poor wretch in that condition. Being come hither, there waited for them their coach; but it being so late, I doubted what to do how to get them home. After half an hour’s stay in the street, I sent my wife home by coach with Mr. Creed’s boy; and myself and Creed in the coach home with them. But, Lord! the fear that my Lady Paulina was in every step of the way; and indeed at this time of the night it was no safe thing to go that road; so that I was even afeard myself, though I appeared otherwise. — We came safe, however, to their house, where all were abed; we knocked them up, my Lady and all the family being in bed. So put them into doors; and leaving them with the mayds, bade them good night, and then into the towne, Creed and I, it being about twelve o’clock and past; and to several houses, inns, but could get no lodging, all being in bed. At the last house, at last, we found some people drinking and roaring; and there got in, and after drinking, got an ill bed, where…

when at a distance the enemy appear on a hill
it is no disaster for the hill

the water singing to the bridge
is past all fear

the night itself is safe
however we roar

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 15 June 1664.

Study: Tree Creeper, 1899

“[Dr. Edward] Wilson …didn’t make it back from the 1910-13 Terra Nova Expedition. …The curious 1899 date on the painting may indicate that Wilson painted it years before, when he was recovering from tuberculosis in Europe, although the mystery of why he brought it to the isolated hut remains.”

Hooked bill narrower than the nose
of a boat, stiffened claw held

as if over the keys of an invisible
piano— I can understand why

he might have taken such a thing
with him to that icy wilderness,

this likeness of a dun bird
that once crept to forage along

the bark of trees. What did he hear
when the wind lashed across the open

face of those desolate plains?
The bird, being dead, could grip

no more than air that rendered all
dust, all trace of feathers, to clear

fossil. The bird, being dead, could not
have modeled the spasm of surrender,

that moment of the soul’s passing from one
spiraling end of the helix to the last.