Come back to the body as it thrashes back into the dream

After a cry, a nap so heavy you feel drugged, you come up
for air and test how skin might breathe again through silk,
cotton, viscose; the humidity that’s settled in your hair.
Out of every corner of the house, when you sweep, you collect

the dust that bodies have made— flakes sloughed off elbows
and knees, the head that lolled on the sofa pillow or rested
in cupped palms. How is it we haven’t managed to completely
rub away into nothing? But then again, from our 2 square meters

of skin, 30 to 40 thousand cells shed every minute, only to renew
every 28 days. So even at this level, biology resists the drama of our
zero sum games, the take-it-or-leave-its; those ideals of perfection
paired with such stubborn unwillingness to compromise—

when even the fish thrown back in the river after the barbs
are taken out leap back into the current, injured but alive.


In response to Via Negativa: End times.


Lay long, and very busy all the morning, at noon to the ‘Change, and thence to dinner to Sir G. Carteret’s, to talk upon the business of insuring our goods upon the Hambrough [ships]. Here a very fine, neat French dinner, without much cost, we being all alone with my Lady and one of the house with her.
Thence home and wrote letters, and then in the evening, by coach, with my wife and mother and Mercer, our usual tour by coach, and eat at the old house at Islington; but, Lord! to see how my mother found herself talk upon every object to think of old stories. Here I met with one that tells me that Jack Cole, my old schoolefellow, is dead and buried lately of a consumption, who was a great crony of mine.
So back again home, and there to my closet to write letters. Hear to my great trouble that our Hambrough ships, valued of the King’s goods and the merchants’ (though but little of the former) to 200,000l. [are lost]. By and by, about 11 at night, called into the garden by my Lady Pen and daughter, and there walked with them and my wife till almost twelve, and so in and closed my letters, and home to bed.

I am all alone with her letters
in the evening
her old talk upon every object

dead letters that call to my pen
so close

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 30 May 1665.


Our living and dying, like clothes we might pick out
from a rack and put on, that we might drop on the floor
of a fitting room, or discard after the season’s trends
are tired of bell sleeves or camouflage. Mostly, we need
to tailor and repair everything to our own dimensions.
Mother used to have a cabinet with glass doors, in which
she stored the most precious of her garments. I wonder where
they are now— the damask skirts, the pencil-cut suits and
sheaths with their Jackie O collars, the yards and yards
of silver lace and scratchy tulle. In the market we scoured
the shelves of Chinese dry goods merchants, folded triangles
of Tetoron like flags giving off heavy vapors in each stall.
She flicked her nail over each surface or fingered their nap,
testing how skin might breathe through silk, cotton, viscose.

On the bay

Lay long in bed, being in some little pain of the wind collique, then up and to the Duke of Albemarle, and so to the Swan, and there drank at Herbert’s, and so by coach home, it being kept a great holiday through the City, for the birth and restoration of the King. To my office, where I stood by and saw Symson the joyner do several things, little jobbs, to the rendering of my closet handsome and the setting up of some neat plates that Burston has for my money made me, and so home to dinner, and then with my wife, mother, and Mercer in one boat, and I in another, down to Woolwich. I walking from Greenwich, the others going to and fro upon the water till my coming back, having done but little business. So home and to supper, and, weary, to bed. We have every where taken some prizes. Our merchants have good luck to come home safe: Colliers from the North, and some Streights men just now. And our Hambrough ships, of whom we were so much afeard, are safe in Hambrough. Our fleete resolved to sail out again from Harwich in a day or two.

a little wind for the little boat
going to and fro
on one little sail

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 29 May 1665.

To joy

Head dangling from the stem of your neck, think of bells, the weight
of lilac blooms clustered around a stalk that bows yet doesn’t let them go.
Hinge forward from the hip, then open up in reverse swan dive. In a dream,
my arms fill with other than air: a wild bouquet, its scent urging me on

to an appointment I know I could be late for, because I am often accused
of worrying about the mundane— from the French mondain, meaning of
this world
, but also orderly. And my love stood at one end of a hallway,
gesturing for me to come: It will be just us and our vows. Yet how

are there those who don’t seem to have any uncertainty about the future,
about anything like consequence for whatever they might do, whatever door
they might break to enter? Through a keyhole, see how they sweep arcs
without hesitation, but shade their eyes against the sun’s gold downpour.

A speck gleams across emerald lawns, blue water. Our living and dying:
arrows notched toward what’s human, what we remember of the country of joy.


In response to Via Negativa: Liability.


(Lord’s day). By water to the Duke of Albemarle, where I hear that Nixon is condemned to be shot to death, for his cowardice, by a Council of War. Went to chapel and heard a little musique, and there met with Creed, and with him a little while walking, and to Wilkinson’s for me to drink, being troubled with winde, and at noon to Sir Philip Warwicke’s to dinner, where abundance of company come in unexpectedly; and here I saw one pretty piece of household stuff, as the company increaseth, to put a larger leaf upon an oval table. After dinner much good discourse with Sir Philip, who I find, I think, a most pious, good man, and a professor of a philosophical manner of life and principles like Epictetus, whom he cites in many things. Thence to my Lady Sandwich’s, where, to my shame, I had not been a great while before. Here, upon my telling her a story of my Lord Rochester’s running away on Friday night last with Mrs. Mallett, the great beauty and fortune of the North, who had supped at White Hall with Mrs. Stewart, and was going home to her lodgings with her grandfather, my Lord Haly, by coach; and was at Charing Cross seized on by both horse and foot men, and forcibly taken from him, and put into a coach with six horses, and two women provided to receive her, and carried away. Upon immediate pursuit, my Lord of Rochester (for whom the King had spoke to the lady often, but with no successe) was taken at Uxbridge; but the lady is not yet heard of, and the King mighty angry, and the Lord sent to the Tower. Hereupon my Lady did confess to me, as a great secret, her being concerned in this story. For if this match breaks between my Lord Rochester and her, then, by the consent of all her friends, my Lord Hinchingbroke stands fair, and is invited for her. She is worth, and will be at her mother’s death (who keeps but a little from her), 2500l. per annum. Pray God give a good success to it! But my poor Lady, who is afeard of the sickness, and resolved to be gone into the country, is forced to stay in towne a day or two, or three about it, to see the event of it. Thence home and to see my Lady Pen, where my wife and I were shown a fine rarity: of fishes kept in a glass of water, that will live so for ever; and finely marked they are, being foreign. So to supper at home and to bed, after many people being with me about business, among others the two Bellamys about their old debt due to them from the King for their victualling business, out of which I hope to get some money.

condemned to
an abundance of stuff

I find a philosophical
manner of life

like a fine fish kept
in a glass of water

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 28 May 1665.

In all the stories, you’re asked to choose one door or the other

“Blow after blow, my heart
couldn’t survive this beating.”
~ Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, “Love Opened a Mortal Wound”

The night, the night is a beast with so many beasts
inside it. I long for quiet, for hours that don’t wring

my heart in a vise; no one to care for beyond what I’ve
already done. I can’t change water into wine, peel

the blindness away from eyes that refuse to see. Can’t you
speak of something good that’s happened to you? Throughout

the day, I keep moving from one unfinished task to another:
sorting, mending, counting what yet remains before my bones

burn to ash. I pull out the beautiful things I’d kept
in hopes of that one clear day: all keepsakes, feeble

attempts to give homage to desire. Sometimes, I want to parcel
them out; sometimes I can’t bear to think there’s so little time

left to use them. A door in the hip opens a hinge to pain,
and I cry out for bells, for the moon, for light, for mercy.


Up, and to the office, where all the morning; at noon dined at home, and then to my office again, where late, and so to bed, with my mind full of fears for the business of this office and troubled with that of Tangier, concerning which Mr. Povy was with me, but do give me little help, but more reason of being troubled. So that were it not for our Plymouth business I would be glad to be rid of it.

my mind full of fears
were it not for our mouth
I would be glad to be rid of it

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 27 May 1665.

And moths are souls circling the light

Tell me again, how does it work— this so called life
that tries to find and break us every chance it gets?

Deep in the night, the sounds of things attempting
passage: foghorn over water, trains hurtling

over tracks; high beams of light surveilling. I pray
for safety of whoever needs to cross over to another

side; for sanctuary from prowling animals, men
with billy sticks and firearms. I don’t want

the cloudy beating of moth wings ringing every
lamppost to mean more souls have died without finding

relief from their exhaustion, without finding a way
home. Let a child’s slipper be returned to its pair,

an infant to its mother. The night, the night
is a beast with so many beasts inside it.