June 2018

Sir J. Minnes carried me and my wife to White Hall, and thence his coach along with my wife where she would. There after attending the Duke to discourse of the navy. We did not kiss his hand, nor do I think, for all their pretence, of going away to-morrow. Yet I believe they will not go for good and all, but I did take my leave of Sir William Coventry, who, it seems, was knighted and sworn a Privy-Counsellor two days since; who with his old kindness treated me, and I believe I shall ever find [him] a noble friend.
Thence by water to Blackfriars, and so to Paul’s churchyard and bespoke severall books, and so home and there dined, my man William giving me a lobster sent him by my old maid Sarah.
This morning I met with Sir G. Carteret, who tells me how all things proceed between my Lord Sandwich and himself to full content, and both sides depend upon having the match finished presently, and professed great kindnesse to me, and said that now we were something akin. I am mightily, both with respect to myself and much more of my Lord’s family, glad of this alliance.
After dinner to White Hall, thinking to speak with my Lord Ashly, but failed, and I whiled away some time in Westminster Hall against he did come, in my way observing several plague houses in King’s Street and [near] the Palace. Here I hear Mrs. Martin is gone out of town, and that her husband, an idle fellow, is since come out of France, as he pretends, but I believe not that he hath been. I was fearful of going to any house, but I did to the Swan, and thence to White Hall, giving the waterman a shilling, because a young fellow and belonging to the Plymouth.
Thence by coach to several places, and so home, and all the evening with Sir J. Minnes and all the women of the house (excepting my Lady Batten) late in the garden chatting. At 12 o’clock home to supper and to bed.
My Lord Sandwich is gone towards the sea to-day, it being a sudden resolution, I having taken no leave of him.

we kiss and do not tell
how all things end

profess great kindness
at a plague house

I hear that pretend mouth
the evening sea


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 28 June 1665.

Up and to the office, where all the morning. At noon dined by chance at my Lady Batten’s, and they sent for my wife, and there was my Lady Pen and Pegg. Very merry, and so I to my office again, where till 12 o’clock at night, and so home to supper and to bed.

chance was my pen
an egg my clock


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 27 June 1665.

Cities in the south
streaming past the dirty
taxicab window.

Roadside kiosks selling fruit
and roast pork, mounds of ripe

jackfruit, their golden yellow
bellies hacked open. The heat
like a veil over everything;

and somewhere in its pocket,
a whiff of the sea.

Not far from the shopping mall
and mega-grocery store, a statue
of a native who killed

the Portuguese sailor.
It’s almost impossible to find

anything that isn’t made
in China. A woman wants to know
how she can make sure the rice

she’s buying hasn’t been bulked up
with grain-shaped plastic pellets.

*

Another summer, another country.
My friend asks if I feel I
could ever go back

to that place we both
once called home.

She doesn’t really wait
for my answer. Her husband pours
a beer into my glass.

In their backyard, they name
for me the climbing roses:

Lady of Shallott. Boscobels.
The Lark Ascending. Frau Eva
Schubert. Jubilee Celebration.

I want to empty myself wholly
into their scented cups.

*

Here, we make fried
breakfasts when we can: eggs;
toast; rice on weekends.

I miss that old ritual of waiting
for the bean curd vendor at the gate.

Or brown paper bags filled
with hot knuckles of bread
dusted with salt and crumbs.

I don’t mean for everything I write
to sound like nostalgia.

Perhaps it’s more like
inventory: one column for things
that continue to simmer under

the skin, another for those
that have evaporated.

*

I had a blue linen dress
with printed flowers. A scratchy
sweater of woven brown fibers.

I had a stone carved in the shape
of a Buddha; a polished wooden

shoehorn; a basket of woven
seagrass. I am always listing,
adding details as they get clearer.

*

For months, I stood in front
of the bathroom mirror, twisting
at wayward bone fragments

embedded in the gum above my teeth until,
finally, they gave. My little vampire

apparatus, my wish: not to live forever,
only to live. Here I am, unhomed body;
older now but still pulsing with longing.

*

 

In response to Via Negativa: Autumnal.

Up and to White Hall with Sir J. Minnes, and to the Committee of Tangier, where my Lord Treasurer was, the first and only time he ever was there, and did promise us 15,000l. for Tangier and no more, which will be short. But if I can pay Mr. Andrews all his money I care for no more, and the bills of Exchange. Thence with Mr. Povy and Creed below to a new chamber of Mr. Povy’s, very pretty, and there discourse about his business, not to his content, but with the most advantage I could to him, and Creed also did the like. Thence with Creed to the King’s Head, and there dined with him at the ordinary, and good sport with one Mr. Nicholls, a prating coxcombe, that would be thought a poet, but would not be got to repeat any of his verses. Thence I home, and there find my wife’s brother and his wife, a pretty little modest woman, where they dined with my wife. He did come to desire my assistance for a living, and, upon his good promises of care, and that it should be no burden to me, I did say and promise I would think of finding something for him, and the rather because his wife seems a pretty discreet young thing, and humble, and he, above all things, desirous to do something to maintain her, telling me sad stories of what she endured with him in Holland, and I hope it will not be burdensome.
So down by water to Woolwich, walking to and again from Greenwich thither and back again, my business being to speak again with Sheldon, who desires and expects my wife coming thither to spend the summer, and upon second thoughts I do agree that it will be a good place for her and me too.
So, weary, home, and to my office a while, till almost midnight, and so to bed. The plague encreases mightily, I this day seeing a house, at a bitt-maker’s over against St. Clement’s Church, in the open street, shut up; which is a sad sight.

time is short but I am
like a poet living on ink
and sad stories

hope will not burden me again
with summer thoughts


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 26 June 1665.

~ After “Pag-ahon” (“Ascent”), Elmer Borlongan, 2011

O that the future were cuttlebone-
sleek as the front of this outrigger
canoe— sharp as the nib of a pen
unsullied by dragon-scale inks
and knifed sea-water. Out
of the deeps we lift and bend,
wearing the yoke of a single story
that links our lives. Maybe there is
a whorl like an eye in the wood, maybe
somewhere a tear in the sheet of copper
that heats almost to armor the skin
on our backs. When we open
our mouths for air, we look like fish
after they swim out of the foam
into the tired geometry of our nets.
At night, by the light of kerosene
lamps, we line our mouths and bellies
with the frugal salt of their charred
silver: a wedding performed over
and over. And still, the only bonds
to sound in our bones are those
that bell with the names of water: storms
battering these shores, each a jealous
lover reaching, not wanting to let go.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Burial at sea.

~ After “I took my way down, like a messenger, to the deep,” Leonora Carrington; 1977

What are those lights flashing red and blue
in darkness? Herald of an accident, abduction,
a death; a body camera turned on to record

one grainy testament after another? A rain
of colored fragments streams from dark

lanterns that keep our dreams. The soul,
they say, travels from one depth to another,
calling out to all its familiars even as it

negotiates escape. Take care not to grow
more weighted in your descent— touch

the spirals of time set into the walls
and flex your toes in readiness: at rock
bottom, push off and aim for a distant marble

that could be the moon, or the light it poured
into a basin someone left at the window.

(Lord’s day). Up, and several people about business come to me by appointment relating to the office. Thence I to my closet about my Tangier papers. At noon dined, and then I abroad by water, it raining hard, thinking to have gone down to Woolwich, but I did not, but back through bridge to White Hall, where, after I had again visited Sir G. Carteret, and received his (and now his Lady’s) full content in my proposal, I went to my Lord Sandwich, and having told him how Sir G. Carteret received it, he did direct me to return to Sir G. Carteret, and give him thanks for his kind reception of this offer, and that he would the next day be willing to enter discourse with him about the business. Which message I did presently do, and so left the business with great joy to both sides. My Lord, I perceive, intends to give 5000l. with her, and expects about 800l. per annum joynture. So by water home and to supper and bed, being weary with long walking at Court, but had a Psalm or two with my boy and Mercer before bed, which pleased me mightily. This night Sir G. Carteret told me with great kindnesse that the order of the Council did run for the making of Hater and Whitfield incapable of any serving the King again, but that he had stopped the entry of it, which he told me with great kindnesse, but the thing troubles me.
After dinner, before I went to White Hall, I went down to Greenwich by water, thinking to have visited Sir J. Lawson, where, when I come, I find that he is dead, and died this morning, at which I was much surprized; and indeed the nation hath a great loss; though I cannot, without dissembling, say that I am sorry for it, for he was a man never kind to me at all.
Being at White Hall, I visited Mr. Coventry, who, among other talk, entered about the great question now in the House about the Duke’s going to sea again; about which the whole House is divided. He did concur with me that, for the Duke’s honour and safety, it were best, after so great a service and victory and danger, not to go again; and, above all, that the life of the Duke cannot but be a security to the Crowne; if he were away, it being more easy to attempt anything upon the King; but how the fleete will be governed without him, the Prince being a man of no government and severe in council, that no ordinary man can offer any advice against his; saying truly that it had been better he had gone to Guinny, and that were he away, it were easy to say how matters might be ordered, my Lord Sandwich being a man of temper and judgment as much as any man he ever knew, and that upon good observation he said this, and that his temper must correct the Prince’s. But I perceive he is much troubled what will be the event of the question. And so I left him.

out on the water
rain is no making of a field
but a great kindness

when I die
who will offer any advice
what will be the question


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 25 June 1665.

~ after “Pastoral,” Leonora Carrington, 1950

Where is that space left
in the world where we can spread

a blanket of linen on the ground
and confide in the beasts

that come to rest their heads
upon ours? In the canopy,

a glimpse of ourselves
still festooned with wings,

gliding through smoke-
blackened leaves. It is

the moment after, or
the moment in between.

The neck of the fowl
doesn’t twitch anymore;

the horned animals look on
without comment. No one moves

toward the bridge that connects
to whatever took place before.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Conversationalists.

(Midsummer-day). Up very betimes, by six, and at Dr. Clerke’s at Westminster by 7 of the clock, having over night by a note acquainted him with my intention of coming, and there I, in the best manner I could, broke my errand about a match between Sir G. Carteret’s eldest son and my Lord Sandwich’s eldest daughter, which he (as I knew he would) took with great content: and we both agreed that my Lord and he, being both men relating to the sea, under a kind aspect of His Majesty, already good friends, and both virtuous and good familys, their allyance might be of good use to us; and he did undertake to find out Sir George this morning, and put the business in execution. So being both well pleased with the proposition, I saw his niece there and made her sing me two or three songs very prettily, and so home to the office, where to my great trouble I found Mr. Coventry and the board met before I come. I excused my late coming by having been on the River about office business. So to business all the morning. At noon Captain Ferrers and Mr. Moore dined with me, the former of them the first time I saw him since his corning from sea, who do give me the best conversation in general, and as good an account of the particular service of the Prince and my Lord of Sandwich in the late sea-fight that I could desire. After dinner they parted. So I to White Hall, where I with Creed and Povy attended my Lord Treasurer, and did prevail with him to let us have an assignment for 15 or 20,000l., which, I hope, will do our business for Tangier. So to Dr. Clerke, and there found that he had broke the business to Sir G. Carteret, and that he takes the thing mighty well. Thence I to Sir G. Carteret at his chamber, and in the best manner I could, and most obligingly, moved the business: he received it with great respect and content, and thanks to me, and promised that he would do what he could possibly for his son, to render him fit for my Lord’s daughter, and shewed great kindness to me, and sense of my kindness to him herein. Sir William Pen told me this day that Mr. Coventry is to be sworn a Privy Counsellor, at which my soul is glad. So home and to my letters by the post, and so home to supper and bed.

not friends and family
it is the river and the sea
who give me the best conversation
and as good an account of the particular sand
that I could desire
so sure and well worn


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 24 June 1665.

What is the sum of the sum
of all the parts gathered

in order to be divided and sold
or left to ruin? In summer,

the fields get busy with
the drone of combine harvesters

collecting crops of winter
wheat and potatoes. Sometimes,

when the trucks carrying
the harvest away hit a bump

in the road, some produce
falls out. What profits a man

who doesn’t bother to stop
and recover the negligible?

But the invisible need
to feed their hunger, make

some kind of miracle out of
what doesn’t matter.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Moth parts.