2018

The moon: I was told it’s steadfast, it never leaves.
It watches from behind its curtains, sometimes letting
its full face show. The stars, on the other hand,
plant asterisks across darkness that is both desert

and field. I’ve been thinking of finally writing down
stories from that other time, the ones where the father
leaves for work in the mornings and the mother scrubs
the old-new house from top to bottom, erasing as much

of its histories as she could. She spoke of the oil portrait
of a president hanging in the foyer. A hired boy murmured
things to himself as he separated vine from flowering shrub.
The bathroom tiles were white and cold. Bright holding cell

with the sheen of bone, nothing gave beneath my slight weight, under
my small hand. High in the eaves a gecko sang Be brave, be brave.

Up, and at the office busy all the morning. At noon dined alone, my wife and mother being gone by invitation to dine with my mother’s old servant Mr. Cordery, who made them very welcome. So to Mr. Povy’s, where after a little discourse about his business I home again, and late at the office busy.
Late comes Sir Arthur Ingram to my office, to tell me that, by letters from Amsterdam of the 28th of this month (their style), the Dutch fleete, being about 100 men-of-war, besides fire-ships, &c., did set out upon the 23rd and 24th inst. Being divided into seven squadrons; viz., 1. Generall Opdam. 2. Cottenar, of Rotterdam. 3. Trump. 4. Schram, of Horne. 5. Stillingworth, of Freezland. 6. Everson. 7. One other, not named, of Zealand.

moth to moth
we discourse in letters of fire
still free


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 23 May 1665.

You’ve no doubt heard about the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that comes into effect, er, tomorrow. As far as I can determine, Via Negativa’s new privacy policy (say that three times quickly) should suffice to bring us into compliance. If you subscribe to the daily digest, it’s because you opted in, and you can unsubscribe at any time. There doesn’t seem to be any need to ask recipients to re-subscribe, as so many newsletters are doing in a lemming-like rush to shed 90% of their audience.

As we say on the privacy policy page, we will never share your data with a third party for any reason. We’ve never made any attempt to match emails on the MailChimp list with names and addresses, and frankly never would because I barely know what the hell I’m doing here, and can’t even summon up the energy to care about website visitor stats most of the time, let alone wonder how many subscribers open their emails and all that. As an automated, RSS-to-email service, the daily digest purrs along quietly with little maintenance needed. You can unsubscribe from the newsletter anytime by clicking the link in the email footer (or by contacting me at bontasaurus@yahoo.com).

Where was the last place words went hiding
before they said goodbye? My life’s a spool,

a stumbling transcript or translation
of itself among others. The early parts

clumsy, the bones of their orphaned grammar
rattling in jars. I look at the way they amber

in evening light and am dumbstruck at how I don’t
yet have their final names. When others come to me

with their catalog of needs, it’s the long sweep
of road I hear ahead: that familiar restlessness

punctuated by the thin, sharp cries of crickets.
I want a quiet room, a bed laid with linen; my head

turned to a window for want of sight of the moon—
because once I was told it’s steadfast, it never leaves.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Stuck in the past.

Up, and down to the ships, which now are hindered from going down to the fleete (to our great sorrow and shame) with their provisions, the wind being against them. So to the Duke of Albemarle, and thence down by water to Deptford, it being Trinity Monday, and so the day of choosing the Master of Trinity House for the next yeare, where, to my great content, I find that, contrary to the practice and design of Sir W. Batten, to breake the rule and custom of the Company in choosing their Masters by succession, he would have brought in Sir W. Rider or Sir W. Pen, over the head of Hurleston (who is a knave too besides, I believe), the younger brothers did all oppose it against the elder, and with great heat did carry it for Hurleston, which I know will vex him to the heart.
Thence, the election being over, to church, where an idle sermon from that conceited fellow, Dr. Britton, saving that his advice to unity, and laying aside all envy and enmity among them was very apposite.
Thence walked to Redriffe, and so to the Trinity House, and a great dinner, as is usual, and so to my office, where busy all the afternoon till late, and then home to bed, being much troubled in mind for several things, first, for the condition of the fleete for lacke of provisions, the blame this office lies under and the shame that they deserve to have brought upon them for the ships not being gone out of the River, and then for my business of Tangier which is not settled, and lastly for fear that I am not observed to have attended the office business of late as much as I ought to do, though there has been nothing but my attendance on Tangier that has occasioned my absence, and that of late not much.

great visions
sing in the head
and heat the heart

the election over
it is vice and enmity as usual

here and gone
the river has nothing
but a dance


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 22 May 1665.

And you, what story do you have that’s worth
telling? The way you still walk the streets,

your heart a vase emptied of all its massed
and wilted flowers? The way you hide the face

that goes with that: and instead, carefully
cultivate a dropcloth through which a kind

of breathing might be performed? More than once,
twice, thrice— taken from and taken over.

When they say on the side of history, who
do they mean? You can look at the hero’s artifacts

in the house where he spent the last few months
before his execution. Someone shows you a lantern

where a poem was hidden: the last one, goodbye
in its title. We can transcribe it, even if badly.

…Lord’s day, in the morning writing letters to the fleete and elsewhere, and my mind eased of much business, home to bed and slept till 8. So up, and this day is brought home one of my new silk suits, the plain one, but very rich camelott and noble. I tried it and it pleases me, but did not wear it, being I would not go out today to church. So laid it by, and my mind changed, thinking to go see my Lady Sandwich, and I did go a little way, but stopped and returned home to dinner, after dinner up to my chamber to settle my Tangier accounts, and then to my office, there to do the like with other papers. In the evening home to supper and to bed.

writing letters to her
I slept on silk
and would not go out

my mind turned to amber
like the evening


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 21 May 1665.

Up, and to White Hall, where the Committee for Tangier met, and there, though the case as to the merit of it was most plain and most of the company favourable to our business, yet it was with much ado that I got the business not carried fully against us, but put off to another day, my Lord Arlington being the great man in it, and I was sorry to be found arguing so greatly against him. The business I believe will in the end be carried against us, and the whole business fall; I must therefore endeavour the most I can to get money another way. It vexed me to see Creed so hot against it, but I cannot much blame him, having never declared to him my being concerned in it.
But that that troubles me most is my Lord Arlington calls to me privately and asks me whether I had ever said to any body that I desired to leave this employment, having not time to look after it. I told him, No, for that the thing being settled it will not require much time to look after it. He told me then he would do me right to the King, for he had been told so, which I desired him to do, and by and by he called me to him again and asked me whether I had no friend about the Duke, asking me (I making a stand) whether Mr. Coventry was not my friend. I told him I had received many friendships from him. He then advised me to procure that the Duke would in his next letter write to him to continue me in my place and remove any obstruction; which I told him I would, and thanked him.
So parted, vexed at the first and amazed at this business of my Lord Arlington’s. Thence to the Exchequer, and there got my tallys for 17,500l., the first payment I ever had out of the Exchequer, and at the Legg spent 14s. upon my old acquaintance, some of them the clerks, and away home with my tallys in a coach, fearful every step of having one of them fall out, or snatched from me.
Being come home, I much troubled out again by coach (for company taking Sir W. Warren with me), intending to have spoke to my Lord Arlington to have known the bottom of it, but missed him, and afterwards discoursing the thing as a confidant to Sir W. Warren, he did give me several good hints and principles not to do anything suddenly, but consult my pillow upon that and every great thing of my life, before I resolve anything in it. Away back home, and not being fit for business I took my wife and Mercer down by water to Greenwich at 8 at night, it being very fine and cool and moonshine afterward. Mighty pleasant passage it was; there eat a cake or two, and so home by 10 or 11 at night, and then to bed, my mind not settled what to think.

I put off to another day
my hot body

it will require time to look
after it right

making a friend
out of an old acquaintance

and intending not to do
anything suddenly

not being fit I eat
a cake or two


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 19 May 1665.

You pick up a new novel or memoir,
and it seems everyone’s shaking
their family tree to find a movie
star relative back in the day;
a general, a cousin thrown in jail
for being part of some resistance
movement in a distant land. Is there
a grand-aunt or grandmother who was
a sex slave during the war, who hid
a runaway soldier that turned into
the paterfamilias? Who leaped out
a window without any clothes, straight
from the bed of whose wife? And you, what
story do you have that’s worth telling?