Mahjongg

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

The aunts and uncles could play all night,
washing the tiles on felted tablecloth,

building them up— all those ivory facets
like yellowing teeth yanked loose from a velvet-

lined box. This, their own version of a great wall
that began perhaps in ennui, that ended in small

satisfactions or despair. Who played for change
or crisp stacks of larger bills? I never learned,

just like I never learned those card games
that mattered, perennially stuck with Old

Maid or Solitaire. I didn’t fan out and shuffle,
cut, and do it over. I was only the girl

who traveled from table to table, bringing hot
garlic peanuts from the kitchen, buckets

of ice for their drinks. I was too young,
really, to be noticed: good lesson for listening

and watching to click and click and waterfall,
hum of hands touching above the table and below.

Survey

Up, still in a constant pain in my back, which much afflicts me with fear of the consequence of it. All the morning at the office, we sat at the office extraordinary upon the business of our stores, but, Lord! what a pitiful account the Surveyor makes of it grieves my heart. This morning before I came out I made a bargain with Captain Taylor for a ship for the Commissioners for Tangier, wherein I hope to get 40l. or 50l..
To the ‘Change, and thence home and dined, and then by coach to White Hall, sending my wife to Mrs. Hunt’s. At the Committee for Tangier all the afternoon, where a sad consideration to see things of so great weight managed in so confused a manner as it is, so as I would not have the buying of an acre of land bought by the Duke of York and Mr. Coventry, for ought I see, being the only two that do anything like men; Prince Rupert do nothing but swear and laugh a little, with an oathe or two, and that’s all he do.
Thence called my wife and home, and I late at my office, and so home to supper and to bed, pleased at my hopes of gains by to-day’s work, but very sad to think of the state of my health.

in constant fear
I survey my heart for hope
an acre of land bought
for nothing but a laugh


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 3 June 1664.

Parable

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

“…A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.”

~ “A Song on the End of the World,” Czeslaw Milosz

In a picture from a book on how to sew
your own clothes, a woman pulls out

the linings of her pockets to show
they are in a contrast color: red,

like heads of tulips emerging from the sides
of her hips, or koi nosing out of the depths

of a pond. Such even, hand-stitched rows
going around the neckline and the wrists

and the hem— like a path on a field
to illustrate where a bee might circle,

driven by some tiny stroke of sweetness. The linen
is thick and coarse and gray. The air is full

of smoke, and there are cries on the bridge.
But the bee, the bee: it keeps threading the air.

Last resort

Up and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and then to the ‘Change, where after some stay by coach with Sir J. Minnes and Mr. Coventry to St. James’s, and there dined with Mr. Coventry very finely, and so over the Parke to White Hall to a Committee of Tangier about providing provisions, money, and men for Tangier. At it all the afternoon, but it is strange to see how poorly and brokenly things are done of the greatest consequence, and how soon the memory of this great man is gone, or, at least, out of mind by the thoughts of who goes next, which is not yet knowne. My Lord of Oxford, Muskerry, and several others are discoursed of. It seems my Lord Tiviott’s design was to go a mile and half out of the towne, to cut down a wood in which the enemy did use to lie in ambush. He had sent several spyes; but all brought word that the way was clear, and so might be for any body’s discovery of an enemy before you are upon them. There they were all snapt, he and all his officers, and about 200 men, as they say; there being left now in the garrison but four captains. This happened the 3d of May last, being not before that day twelvemonth of his entering into his government there: but at his going out in the morning he said to some of his officers, “Gentlemen, let us look to ourselves, for it was this day three years that so many brave Englishmen were knocked on the head by the Moores, when Fines made his sally out.”
Here till almost night, and then home with Sir J. Minnes by coach, and so to my office a while, and home to supper and bed, being now in constant pain in my back, but whether it be only wind or what it is the Lord knows, but I fear the worst.

we try out visions
but see poorly and brokenly

and memory is a cut-down wood
in the bush of our selves

for this we knock till night
be it only the Lord


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 2 June 1664.

Prayer for last things

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

I pray it will be easy. I pray it will
be swift. I pray, before the window

shade drops, for the most lucid light
there is; for there to be a strong,

hot wind from the sea. I pray the mouth
released from its feverish workings,

the eye clear-washed of all its salt
and stings. I pray the hands applied

to touch, then recognition of a face.
I pray at the last utterance of love,

the void fills up with gold as if
for burning, before the flood.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Sea wind.

Growth

Up, having lain long, going to bed very late after the ending of my accounts. Being up Mr. Hollyard came to me, and to my great sorrow, after his great assuring me that I could not possibly have the stone again, he tells me that he do verily fear that I have it again, and has brought me something to dissolve it, which do make me very much troubled, and pray to God to ease me.
He gone, I down by water to Woolwich and Deptford to look after the dispatch of the ships, all the way reading Mr. Spencer’s Book of Prodigys, which is most ingeniously writ, both for matter and style.
Home at noon, and my little girl got me my dinner, and I presently out by water and landed at Somerset stairs, and thence through Covent Garden, where I met with Mr. Southwell (Sir W. Pen’s friend), who tells me the very sad newes of my Lord Tiviott’s and nineteen more commission officers being killed at Tangier by the Moores, by an ambush of the enemy upon them, while they were surveying their lines; which is very sad, and, he says, afflicts the King much. Thence to W. Joyce’s, where by appointment I met my wife (but neither of them at home), and she and I to the King’s house, and saw “The Silent Woman;” but methought not so well done or so good a play as I formerly thought it to be, or else I am nowadays out of humour. Before the play was done, it fell such a storm of hayle, that we in the middle of the pit were fain to rise; and all the house in a disorder, and so my wife and I out and got into a little alehouse, and staid there an hour after the play was done before we could get a coach, which at last we did (and by chance took up Joyce Norton and Mrs. Bowles. and set them at home), and so home ourselves, and I, after a little to my office, so home to supper and to bed.

having lain long in bed
my sorrow is a stone
in the book of prodigies
ingeniously writ by water
in a storm of hail


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 1 June 1664.