Bus trip

Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and had great conflict about the flags again, and am vexed methought to see my Lord Berkely not satisfied with what I said, but however I stop the King’s being abused by the flag makers for the present. I do not know how it may end, but I will do my best to preserve it.
So home to dinner, and after dinner by coach to Kensington. In the way overtaking Mr. Laxton, the apothecary, with his wife and daughters, very fine young lasses, in a coach; and so both of us to my Lady Sandwich, who hath lain this fortnight here at Deane Hodges’s.
Much company came hither to-day, my Lady Carteret, &c., Sir William Wheeler and his lady, and, above all, Mr. Becke, of Chelsy, and wife and daughter, my Lord’s mistress, and one that hath not one good feature in her face, and yet is a fine lady, of a fine taille, and very well carriaged, and mighty discreet. I took all the occasion I could to discourse with the young ladies in her company to give occasion to her to talk, which now and then she did, and that mighty finely, and is, I perceive, a woman of such an ayre, as I wonder the less at my Lord’s favour to her, and I dare warrant him she hath brains enough to entangle him. Two or three houres we were in her company, going into Sir H. Finches garden, and seeing the fountayne, and singing there with the ladies, and a mighty fine cool place it is, with a great laver of water in the middle and the bravest place for musique I ever heard.
After much mirthe, discoursing to the ladies in defence of the city against the country or court, and giving them occasion to invite themselves to-morrow to me to dinner, to my venison pasty, I got their mother’s leave, and so good night, very well pleased with my day’s work, and, above all, that I have seen my Lord’s mistresse.
So home to supper, and a little at my office, and to bed.

overtaking you in a coach
the wheel of her face

you talk enough to entangle
two or three hours

finches singing
in the middle of the night

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 14 June 1664.


So up at 5 o’clock, and with Captain Taylor on board her at Deptford, and found all out of order, only the soldiers civil, and Sir Arthur Bassett a civil person. I rated at Captain Taylor, whom, contrary to my expectation, I found a lying and a very stupid blundering fellow, good for nothing, and yet we talk of him in the Navy as if he had been an excellent officer, but I find him a lying knave, and of no judgment or dispatch at all.
After finding the condition of the ship, no master, not above four men, and many ship’s provisions, sayls, and other things wanting, I went back and called upon Fudge, whom I found like a lying rogue unready to go on board, but I did so jeer him that I made him get every thing ready, and left Taylor and H. Russell to quicken him, and so away and I by water on to White Hall, where I met his Royal Highnesse at a Tangier Committee about this very thing, and did there satisfy him how things are, at which all was pacified without any trouble, and I hope may end well, but I confess I am at a real trouble for fear the rogue should not do his work, and I come to shame and losse of the money I did hope justly to have got by it.
Thence walked with Mr. Coventry to St. James’s, and there spent by his desire the whole morning reading of some old Navy books given him of old Sir John Cooke’s by the Archbishop of Canterbury that now is; wherein the order that was observed in the Navy then, above what it is now, is very observable, and fine things we did observe in our reading. Anon to dinner, after dinner to discourse of the business of the Dutch warr, wherein he tells me the Dutch do in every particular, which are but few and small things that we can demand of them, whatever cry we unjustly make, do seem to offer at an accommodation, for they do owne that it is not for their profit to have warr with England. We did also talk of a History of the Navy of England, how fit it were to be writ; and he did say that it hath been in his mind to propose to me the writing of the History of the late Dutch warr, which I am glad to hear, it being a thing I much desire, and sorts mightily with my genius; and, if well done, may recommend me much. So he says he will get me an order for making of searches to all records, &c., in order thereto, and I shall take great delight in doing of it. Thence by water down to the Tower, and thither sent for Mr. Creed to my house, where he promised to be, and he and I down to the ship, and find all things in pretty good order, and I hope will end to my mind. Thence having a gally down to Greenwich, and there saw the King’s works, which are great, a-doing there, and so to the Cherry Garden, and so carried some cherries home, and after supper to bed, my wife lying with me, which from my not being thoroughly well, nor she, we have not done above once these two or three weeks.

visions like whole books
a history of land
a history of light

where all things end in a green garden
and some cherries
my wife lying with me

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 13 June 1664.

On Wanting

On the drive home, the road narrows
to a point that ends at the water. Mine
is the last turn before the shingled house,
the one whose blue never got completely

painted. At dusk: sometimes the twin
dark-circled eyes of raccoons, caught
in the headlights. The bellows of frogs
by the river, where students dangle

their feet from the rocks and pass
smokes, their tips glowing in the dark.
It is the summer of sad gardenias,
funereal intoxication of rosemary

grown in rows in place of a fence.
It is a summer barely begun,
yet already full of news: fire
and death, people leaping

from burning buildings, men
holding their slashed throats
on trains, still blubbering
love. At night the solar

lights come on, a blue
string of them that we wound
around and around slats of wood,
against whose backs we rest

on the deck. And here
is that kingdom of clover
and crabgrass, their endless
conjugations standing up

to the tyranny of the blade.
If only I knew their secret for increase,
if only I had their confidence for filling
every boundary with riot. What is wealth?

I call to the birds that come and drop
their surplus of wrong answers on the leaves’
broad ledgers. And still I am only one,
blessed and unblessed, quarried with ink.


Goats scrabble for veined footholds, their faces
small horned triangles tufted and milk-thin.

From the cliff edge, on a day so hot, the coast looks
silvered as a tray on which white foam ripples in.

In the cool depths of the herbalist’s kitchen,
rows of oily vials: green forms undulating within.

What tonics for the spirit just coming back on bird-
wing, what poultices to lay on fevered skin?

A gourd tenses as it fills and empties, fills.
I think of you, climbing toward that loosening—

The world is hard and blue and full
of rocks before the milk comes in.


In response to Via Negativa: Burglary.

The big question

(Lord’s day). All the morning in my chamber consulting my lesson of ship building, and at noon Mr. Creed by appointment came and dined with us, and sat talking all the afternoon till, about church time, my wife and I began our great dispute about going to Griffin’s child’s christening, where I was to have been godfather, but Sir J. Minnes refusing, he wanted an equal for me and my Lady Batten, and so sought for other. Then the question was whether my wife should go, and she having dressed herself on purpose, was very angry, and began to talk openly of my keeping her within doors before Creed, which vexed me to the guts, but I had the discretion to keep myself without passion, and so resolved at last not to go, but to go down by water, which we did by H. Russell to the Half-way house, and there eat and drank, and upon a very small occasion had a difference again broke out, where without any the least cause she had the cunning to cry a great while, and talk and blubber, which made me mighty angry in mind, but said nothing to provoke her because Creed was there, but walked home, being troubled in my mind also about the knavery and neglect of Captain Fudge and Taylor, who were to have had their ship for Tangier ready by Thursday last, and now the men by a mistake are come on board, and not any master or man or boy of the ship’s company on board with them  when we came by her side this afternoon, and also received a letter from Mr. Coventry this day in complaint of it. We came home, and after supper Creed went home, and I to bed. My wife made great means to be friends, coming to my bedside and doing all things to please me, and at last I could not hold out, but seemed pleased, and so parted, and I with much ado to sleep, but was easily wakened by extraordinary great rain, and my mind troubled the more to think what the soldiers would do on board tonight in all this weather.

the child’s question
was very angry

and began to talk openly of my guts
a cunning blubber

who let this complaint and I be friends
wakened by extraordinary weather

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 12 June 1664.


With my hands I measure
the space around my heart

whenever I feel those moments
of ambush— when in great anxiety,

in fright or terror or sorrow
the spirit flutters from me

like a thin silk flag, like a covey
of birds in the bush. Where does it go

in the ticking seconds just after,
before someone remembers how to call

for its return? The sun is a disc
in burning fragments, and water

its liquid twin. High on the cliffs,
I know our dead sit in their library

of hanging coffins. Their bones are lighter
than husk, but not yet lighter than air. Like them

I am trying to learn to keep something back
even in passage: some thread to tether

the wrist to the doorpost, the belled sound
of a name to pierce the fog of distress.


In response to Via Negativa: Heart to heart.


“…And what does Sorrow care
For the rosemary
Or the marigolds there?”
– Edna St. Vincent Millay

Deep gold and orange, the bloom
of fire trees in summer; the waxy

blistering flesh of peppers.
I recall the story of a man

who sat by the roadside shoving
handful after handful of these

bright jewels into his inflamed
mouth, because he’d already spent

all his money from being tempted
by their red. What have I paid

for my own weaknesses? Night
after night my jaws grind through

the sluice in the cement mixer
of dreams. My hands cup to my lips

their extract: what remains after hot seeds
and skins have pressed into each other.


Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, where some discourse arose from Sir G. Carteret and Mr. Coventry, which gives me occasion to think that something like a war is expected now indeed, though upon the ‘Change afterwards I hear too that an Embassador is landed from Holland, and one from their East India Company, to treat with ours about the wrongs we pretend to.
Mr. Creed dined with me, and thence after dinner by coach with my wife only to take the ayre, it being very warm and pleasant, to Bowe and Old Ford; and thence to Hackney. There ‘light, and played at shuffle-board, eat cream and good churies; and so with good refreshment home. Then to my office vexed with Captain Taylor about the delay of carrying down the ship hired by me for Tangier, and late about that and other things at the office. So home to supper and to bed.

give me a hat
like an ambassador to the air
warm and light

and I go fresh to my thin ice

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 11 June 1664.

Heart to heart

Up and by water to White Hall, and there to a Committee of Tangier, and had occasion to see how my Lord Ashworth deports himself, which is very fine indeed, and it joys my heart to see that there is any body looks so near into the King’s business as I perceive he do in this business of my Lord Peterborough’s accounts.
Thence into the Parke, and met and walked with Captain Sylas Taylor, my old acquaintance while I was of the Exchequer, and Dr. Whore, talking of musique, and particularly of Mr. Berckenshaw’s way, which Taylor magnifies mightily, and perhaps but what it deserves, but not so easily to be understood as he and others make of it. Thence home by water, and after dinner abroad to buy several things, as a map, and powder, and other small things, and so home to my office, and in the evening with Captain Taylor by water to our Tangier ship, and so home, well pleased, having received 26l. profit to-day of my bargain for this ship, which comforts me mightily, though I confess my heart, what with my being out of order as to my health, and the fear I have of the money my Lord oweth me and I stand indebted to him in, is much cast down of late.
In the evening home to supper and to bed.

my heart that old whore
magnifies what it deserves

a home and a road map
and another small heart

it being out of order
or much cast down

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 10 June 1664.


Up and at my office all the morning. At noon dined at home, Mr. Hunt and his kinswoman (wife in the country), after dinner I to the office, where we sat all the afternoon. Then at night by coach to attend the Duke of Albemarle about the Tangier ship. Coming back my wife spied me going home by coach from Mr. Hunt’s, with whom she hath gained much in discourse to-day concerning W. Howe’s discourse of me to him. That he was the man that got me to be secretary to my Lord; and all that I have thereby, and that for all this I never did give him 6d. in my life. Which makes me wonder that this rogue dare talk after this manner, and I think all the world is grown false. But I hope I shall make good use of it. So home to supper and to bed, my eyes aching mightily since last night.

morning is where night spied me
going home in secret

all that I have
is in this rogue world of my eye

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 9 June 1664.