October 2018

so much from day to day and
what do you do when you need

to put it down to hold
your head in your hands or
make dinner or rake leaves

or pick up the children
from school; how do you keep
from breaking or just

breaking into tears
or throwing balled-up socks
against a wall instead of

clearing and putting away; how
do you live with yourself when you
don’t know how to take care

of ailing family overseas
that you haven’t seen in years;
how do you weigh the cost of

a plane ticket versus
the rate of currency exchange
in a third world country and

how much of other things that
same amount might buy; how
do you keep the body’s

reflexes from dulling, you
from wanting to curl into a ball;
but then the alarm won’t stop

ringing in your ears until
the covers come off and you rise
again into another day of carrying

and holding, lifting and bearing,
resting and putting down when
your arms and heart are tired.

Up and to my Lord Sandwich’s, where several Commanders, of whom I took the state of all their ships, and of all could find not above four capable of going out. The truth is, the want of victuals being the whole overthrow of this yeare both at sea, and now at the Nore here and Portsmouth, where all the fleete lies. By and by comes down my Lord, and then he and I an houre together alone upon private discourse. He tells me that Mr. Coventry and he are not reconciled, but declared enemies: the only occasion of it being, he tells me, his ill usage from him about the first fight, wherein he had no right done him, which, methinks, is a poor occasion, for, in my conscience, that was no design of Coventry’s. But, however, when I asked my Lord whether it were not best, though with some condescension, to be friends with him, he told me it was not possible, and so I stopped. He tells me, as very private, that there are great factions at the Court between the King’s party and the Duke of Yorke’s, and that the King, which is a strange difficulty, do favour my Lord in opposition to the Duke’s party; that my Lord Chancellor, being, to be sure, the patron of the Duke’s, it is a mystery whence it should be that Mr. Coventry is looked upon by him as an enemy to him; that if he had a mind himself to be out of this employment, as Mr. Coventry, he believes, wishes, and himself and I do incline to wish it also, in many respects, yet he believes he shall not be able, because of the King, who will keepe him in on purpose, in opposition to the other party; that Prince Rupert and he are all possible friends in the world; that Coventry hath aggravated this business of the prizes, though never so great plundering in the world as while the Duke and he were at sea; and in Sir John Lawson’s time he could take and pillage, and then sink a whole ship in the Streights, and Coventry say nothing to it; that my Lord Arlington is his fast friend; that the Chancellor is cold to him, and though I told him that I and the world do take my Lord Chancellor, in his speech the other day, to have said as much as could be wished, yet he thinks he did not. That my Lord Chancellor do from hence begin to be cold to him, because of his seeing him and Arlington so great: that nothing at Court is minded but faction and pleasure, and nothing intended of general good to the kingdom by anybody heartily; so that he believes with me, in a little time confusion will certainly come over all the nation. He told me how a design was carried on a while ago, for the Duke of Yorke to raise an army in the North, and to be the Generall of it, and all this without the knowledge or advice of the Duke of Albemarle, which when he come to know, he was so vexed, they were fain to let it fall to content him: that his matching with the family of Sir G. Carteret do make the difference greater between Coventry and him, they being enemies; that the Chancellor did, as every body else, speak well of me the other day, but yet was, at the Committee for Tangier, angry that I should offer to suffer a bill of exchange to be protested. So my Lord did bid me take heed, for that I might easily suppose I could not want enemies, no more than others. In all he speaks with the greatest trust and love and confidence in what I say or do, that a man can do.
After this discourse ended we sat down to dinner and mighty merry, among other things, at the Bill brought into the House to make it felony to break bulke, which, as my Lord says well, will make that no prizes shall be taken, or, if taken, shall be sunke after plundering; and the Act for the method of gathering this last 1,250,000l. now voted, and how paid wherein are several strange imperfections.
After dinner my Lord by a ketch down to Erith, where the Bezan was, it blowing these last two days and now both night and day very hard southwardly, so that it has certainly drove the Dutch off the coast.
My Lord being gone I to the office, and there find Captain Ferrers, who tells me his wife is come to town to see him, having not seen him since 15 weeks ago at his first going to sea last. She is now at a Taverne and stays all night, so I was obliged to give him my house and chamber to lie in, which he with great modesty and after much force took, and so I got Mr. Evelyn’s coach to carry her thither, and the coach coming back, I with Mr. Evelyn to Deptford, where a little while with him doing a little business, and so in his coach back again to my lodgings, and there sat with Mrs. Ferrers two hours, and with my little girle, Mistress Frances Tooker, and very pleasant. Anon the Captain comes, and then to supper very merry, and so I led them to bed. And so to bed myself, having seen my pretty little girle home first at the next door.

who could be whole
all alone

and not fight with some
possible faction

in the mystery of
his possible mind

or let his body suffer
another great love

we shall all be sunk
after plundering for imperfections

who having seen a sea
stays at home


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 25 October 1665.

Are there days when you wonder
if you are almost empty, if
the pitcher can hold any more,
if the sky is done dumping
its load of bad news, if
the laundry will ever dry?
Are there fences of wire
and beds cut from tinfoil,
are there feet that have walked
for days and days in the desert?
Sometimes it is hard to tell
if the wound is closed
or if it has opened again,
if the line nicked with barbs
is trimmed with salt or snow.

Lay long, having a cold. Then to my Lord and sent him going to Oxford, and I to my office, whither comes Sir William Batten now newly from Oxford. I can gather nothing from him about my Lord Sandwich about the business of the prizes, he being close, but he shewed me a bill which hath been read in the House making all breaking of bulke for the time to come felony, but it is a foolish Act, and will do no great matter, only is calculated to my Lord Sandwich’s case.
He shewed me also a good letter printed from the Bishopp of Munster to the States of Holland shewing the state of their case. Here we did some business and so broke up and I to Cocke, where Mr. Evelyn was, to dinner, and there merry, yet vexed again at publique matters, and to see how little heed is had to the prisoners and sicke and wounded.
Thence to my office, and no sooner there but to my great surprise am told that my Lord Sandwich is come to towne; so I presently to Boreman’s, where he is and there found him: he mighty kind to me, but no opportunity of discourse private yet, which he tells me he must have with me; only his business is sudden to go to the fleet, to get out a few ships to drive away the Dutch. I left him in discourse with Sir W. Batten and others, and myself to the office till about 10 at night and so, letters being done, I to him again to Captain Cocke’s, where he supped, and lies, and never saw him more merry, and here is Charles Herbert, who the King hath lately knighted. My Lord, to my great content, did tell me before them, that never anything was read to the King and Council, all the chief Ministers of State being there, as my letter about the Victualling was, and no more said upon it than a most thorough consent to every word was said, and directed, that it be pursued and practised. After much mirth, and my Lord having travelled all night last night, he to bed, and we all parted, I home.

now nothing
but the print of a wing
where prison wounded him

no opportunity yet
to flee in the night
the night that was the state


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 24 October 1665.

It feels like I’ve known Rachel Barenblat, AKA the Velveteen Rabbi, forever… but actually it’s only been since 2003, when she and I and a bunch of other people got bit by the blogging bug. She recently got in touch with a few of us who, like her, have kept it up all these years, wondering if we’d like to participate in some kind of celebration of (at least) 15 years of blogging. We used a Google document to share some thoughts in response to an initial question, “Why the hell am I still blogging?” Here are some excerpts from our discussion, jointly blogged here and at Blaugustine, the cassandra pages, Hoarded Ordinaries, mole, and of course Velveteen Rabbi.

Buried Temple, by Natalie D’Arbeloff. Acrylic on paper, 37cm x 37 cm.
NdA. Buried Temple. 2018. Acrylic on paper 37 x 37 cms.

Rachel: Writing is one of the fundamental ways I experience and explore the world, both the external world and my own internal world. I think it was EM Forster who wrote, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” Blogging as I’ve come to understand it is living one’s life in the open, with spiritual authenticity and intellectual curiosity, ideally in conversation or relationship with others who are doing the same.

Dave: At some level, it’s easier to keep blogging at Via Negativa, the Morning Porch, and Moving Poems than it is to stop. Basically I’m an addict. Writing poetry is fun for me — entering that meditative head-space required for immersion in writing. As for the social aspect, I’ve been in, or on the periphery of, several distinct blogging communities over the years, and at one time, we all commented on each other’s sites, but with the rise of social media, most blog commenting went away — and I’m not entirely sure that’s a bad thing. Writing and responding to comments did take up a lot of my time ten years ago, and now that I can scratch that conversational itch on Twitter, or in real life with my partner, I’m OK with most interactions on my blogs being limited to pings. But I must immediately qualify that and admit that Via Negativa is a special case, because for well over half its existence now I’ve enjoyed the virtual companionship of a co-blogger, the brilliant and prolific poet Luisa Igloria, and a small number of occasional guest bloggers as well. I wouldn’t say I’m competitive, but Luisa’s commitment to a daily poetry practice has definitely forced me to up my game. Then there’s Mr. Pepys. My Pepys Diary erasure project grew directly from sociability: my partner and I wanted to read the online version of the diary together, and I worried I might eventually get bored with it if I weren’t mining it for blog fodder.

Lorianne: I am not attached to the medium, but I am attached to the message, and the process of creating/sharing that message.  There has been a lot of hand-wringing among bloggers over the “death of the blog,” with long-time (and former) bloggers worried about attention divides between blogs and social media.  Where do “I” live if I post in multiple places: on blog, in a paper notebook, on social media? For those of us who do all three, the result can be confusing, distracting, and frazzling…or it can be creative, collaborative, and synergistic.

DaleI didn’t really expect ever to have readers, so in a way, having readership dwindle is a return to the early days… I’ve outlived some of my personas — I’m no longer recognizeably very Buddhist, and my politics have morphed in some odd ways. I don’t think I’m as salable an item as I used to be :-) But the inertia, as Dave said. When I do have something to say and my censor doesn’t step in, the blog is still where I go. It’s been home for fifteen years: my strand of the web… The community that was established way back when is still important to me, and still a large part of my life. And there’s still a lot of value in having a public space. The act of making something public changes it, changes how I look at. I become the viewers and the potential viewers. It helps me get out of myself. It helps me work through my favorite game of “what if I’m wrong about all these things?”

Natalie: Why the hell still blogging? Not sure I am still blogging. I put something up on Facebook whenever I feel like saying hey, listen, or hey, look at this. Then I copy/paste the post to Blogger where I keep Blaugustine going, mainly out of a sense of imaginary duty. The idea that there are some real people out there who may be actually interested in some of my thoughts and/or artwork is undoubtedly attractive, even necessary. I live a mostly hermit life and don’t get much feedback of any kind. But my interior life is very active, all the time, and having a tiny public platform online where I can put stuff is really helpful. To be perfectly honest I think that’s about it for me and blogging at present. I don’t do any other social media, it would all take too much time which I’d rather devote to artwork.

BethI think a lot of it has to do with a sense of place. My blog is like a garden or a living room that I’ve put energy and thought and care into as a place that’s a reflection of myself and is hopefully welcoming for others.. The discipline of gathering work and talking about it coherently has been extremely good for me and for my art practice. And I’ve also really appreciated and been inspired by other people who do the same, whatever their means of expression. There’s something deeply meaningful about following someone’s body of work, and their struggles, over not just months but years. In today’s climate of too-muchness and attention-seeking and short attention spans, I feel so encouraged and supported by the quiet, serious doggedness of other people like me!

Up, and after doing some business I down by water, calling to see my wife, with whom very merry for ten minutes, and so to Erith, where my Lord Bruncker and I kept the office, and dispatched some business by appointment on the Bezan. Among other things about the slopsellers, who have trusted us so long, they are not able, nor can be expected to trust us further, and I fear this winter the fleete will be undone by that particular. Thence on board the East India ship, where my Lord Bruncker had provided a great dinner, and thither comes by and by Sir John Minnes and before him Sir W. Warren and anon a Perspective glasse maker, of whom we, every one, bought a pocket glasse.
But I am troubled with the much talke and conceitedness of Mrs. Williams and her impudence, in case she be not married to my Lord. They are getting themselves ready to deliver the goods all out to the East India Company, who are to have the goods in their possession and to advance two thirds of the moderate value thereof and sell them as well as they can and the King to give them 6 per cent. for the use of the money they shall so advance. By this means the company will not suffer by the King’s goods bringing down the price of their own.
Thence in the evening back again with Sir W. Warren and Captain Taylor in my boat, and the latter went with me to the office, and there he and I reckoned; and I perceive I shall get 100l. profit by my services of late to him, which is a very good thing. Thence to my lodging, where I find my Lord Rutherford, of which I was glad. We supped together and sat up late, he being a mighty wanton man with a daughter in law of my landlady’s, a pretty conceited woman big with child, and he would be handling her breasts, which she coyly refused. But they gone, my Lord and I to business, and he would have me forbear paying Alderman Backewell the money ordered him, which I, in hopes to advantage myself, shall forbear, but do not think that my Lord will do any thing gratefully more to me than he hath done, not that I shall get any thing as I pretended by helping him to interest for his last 7700l., which I could do, and do him a courtesy too. Discourse being done, he to bed in my chamber and I to another in the house.

water where ice
is the expected fur

I fear winter
will be undone

the great glass maker
will not deliver us

the company will profit
big with child

but a bear will get thin
in his amber house


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 23 October 1665.

Some people believe the average
person swallows at least eight
spiders a year— or is it
a lifetime— while they

are sleeping. I wonder
what hour of the night, what
month of the year the eight-
legged visitor chooses;

and what kind of quest it’s bent
on completing that ends in gaining
entrance to the cave of the mouth,
scampering down the narrow

tunnel of the throat to finally
arrive at the wet, humid bog
that is the average person’s
stomach. Scientific

American says A sleeping
person isn’t something a spider
would willingly approach

Still, who are we to think

we’re the only creatures
capable of turning our faces
toward a Mecca or oasis, leaving
everything we know of our old

existence behind in order
to undertake the journey of
a lifetime? Those are the kinds
of goals that ask for everything

we can give; and isn’t it true?
How often we prayed for something
larger than ourselves to burn us,
take us in, change us completely.