End times

Up at 4 o’clock, and all the morning in my office with W. Hewer finishing my papers that were so long out of order, and at noon to my bookseller’s, and there bespoke a book or two, and so home to dinner, where Creed dined with me, and he and I afterwards to Alderman Backewell’s to try him about supplying us with money, which he denied at first and last also, saving that he spoke a little fairer at the end than before. But the truth is I do fear I shall have a great deale of trouble in getting of money. Thence home, and in the evening by water to the Duke of Albemarle, whom I found mightily off the hooks, that the ships are not gone out of the River; which vexed me to see, insomuch that I am afeard that we must expect some change or addition of new officers brought upon us, so that I must from this time forward resolve to make myself appear eminently serviceable in attending at my office duly and no where else, which makes me wish with all my heart that I had never anything to do with this business of Tangier. After a while at my office, home to supper vexed, and to bed.

my books spoke to me
about the end

but I fear I shall have
a great deal of evening

the hooks are gone
out of the river

I expect some new time
to make myself a wish

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 26 May 1665.

Reality check

Up, and to the office, where all the morning. At noon dined at home, and then to the office all the afternoon, busy till almost 12 at night, and then home to supper and to bed.

up and to
the real morning
of all the busy ill almost night

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 25 May 1665.

You give your name a shadow so it won’t follow you

Benign: some things mark you that are neither sad nor angry,
neither bitter nor sad, nor other combination of feeling.
In lamplight, moles lie quiet on your thigh, soft brown

constellation you used to trace with a fingertip as a child.
And the one below the outer edge of your left eye: modest
as a freckle, yet that one, your elders clucked most

about— saying A pity it lies in the place where tears
are bound to fall
. They dripped hot wax into a waiting
bowl of water and sucked on a fingertip with which

they made the sign of the cross on your forehead and feet.
To trick the gods, you were given a different name—
long and rough with consonants, clumsy on any tongue.

Did it work? You track the distances between signposts
in this so called life that tries to find and break you.

Sometimes, I am more broken than brave

At my wrist, constant beat of what the gecko sings in the eaves:
Be brave, be brave. I try to quiet that pulse when it hammers

too loud in my ears, when the merest tender bar of moonlight
threatens to break a dam of pent-up tears. In the mountains,

many years ago, I dreamed I could give myself to a lifetime
of work and words. And this morning I knew when a bird

touched down in the fig by the tremble in the net of leaves.
What it tells me is that the unseen magician has pulled

almost all the knotted silk squares from out of his sleeve—
rippling blue, golden yellow, crimson visible from miles away.

When I move to the couch to lie down in afternoon heat, I feel
the very fingertips of time press down on my lids. These days,

I am either sad and angry, or bitter and sad. I’m begging you,
please don’t let these be the only combinations at the end.


Up, and by 4 o’clock in the morning, and with W. Hewer, there till 12 without intermission putting some papers in order. Thence to the Coffee-house with Creed, where I have not been a great while, where all the newes is of the Dutch being gone out, and of the plague growing upon us in this towne; and of remedies against it: some saying one thing, some another.
So home to dinner, and after dinner Creed and I to Colvill’s, thinking to shew him all the respect we could by obliging him in carrying him 5 tallys of 5000l. to secure him for so much credit he has formerly given Povy to Tangier, but he, like an impertinent fool, cavills at it, but most ignorantly that ever I heard man in my life. At last Mr. Viner by chance comes, who I find a very moderate man, but could not persuade the fool to reason, but brought away the tallys again, and so vexed to my office, where late, and then home to my supper and to bed.

in the papers
news is a plague
growing and not thinking
like an ignorant ear

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 24 May 1665.

Phenomenology of the body as reflection

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.

Privacy matters

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).

That which won’t leave you

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.

Swamp gas

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.