Who hasn’t asked to be granted reprieve, mouthed a plea not to be fossiled in despair? More time and space, please: and clear vistas, less elegy. Let our feet dance again, let us walk without limping, let us see and be seen; let the men come back from the edge of the tracks where they wished to throw their bodies at that machine rumbling closer out of the dark. Let the women repeat the owl’s whistle without lining it with warnings. Let the guards dismantle fences and those miles and miles of concertina wire. I ask the fields not to be so quiet, to make their poppy flares wilder and redder until even wandering ghosts are tempted to stop and eat or make bouquets. I want them to get up hours later washed in the perfume of wildflowers, no longer burdened with what it was that turned them away, turned them loose or out of doors, unhomed. I want the soldiers to walk through the desert bringing water, blankets, food; for the coyote to be nothing more than a small prairie wolf with broad ears, scraping at cypress bark with delicate paws.
Up and to the office, at noon home to dinner, and all the afternoon to my accounts again, and there find myself, to my great joy, a great deal worth above 4000l., for which the Lord be praised! and is principally occasioned by my getting 500l. of Cocke, for my profit in his bargains of prize goods, and from Mr. Gawden’s making me a present of 500l. more, when I paid him 8000 for Tangier. So to my office to write letters, then to my accounts again, and so to bed, being in great ease of mind.
I find myself at Lord
be praised a bargain
making me present more
when I paid for it
being as mind
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 30 December 1665.
When I'd misbehaved as child or broken
a lamp or plate, my mother would say
Do you want me
to return you to where you came from?
which made me stand stock still, squeeze
my brows together, confused from trying
to visualize what that might mean.
I'd heard whispers, jokes,
the kind that took one look at my dusky
skin and compared it to the fairer
ones in school: You
must have been picked from the garbage
bin. You must have floated out
of the murky river.
Whereas the Mayor's child was tucked
into bed at 8, but her nanny said
I could play
with her dolls if I liked,
until it was time for my parents to leave
the party. I combed their straight
yellow hair with my fingers
and took one of them for a walk
around the pool. I opened up
the face of a peach
hibiscus and turned it
into a boat. I pushed
the changeling out to sea
and waved goodbye,
Up betimes, and all day long within doors upon my accounts, publique and private, and find the ill effect of letting them go so long without evening, that no soul could have ever understood them but myself, and I with much ado. But, however, my regularity in all I did and spent do helpe me, and I hope to find them well. Late at them and to bed.
times and doors
letting them go without much ado
but how regular
I hope to find them
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 29 December 1665.
Up and to the office, and thence with a great deal of business in my head, dined alone with Cocke. So home alone strictly about my accounts, wherein I made a good beginning, and so, after letters wrote by the post, to bed.
the ice in my head
alone with my account
where I beg
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 28 December 1665.
Up, and with Cocke, by coach to London, there home to my wife, and angry about her desiring a mayde yet, before the plague is quite over. It seems Mercer is troubled that she hath not one under her, but I will not venture my family by increasing it before it be safe. Thence about many businesses, particularly with Sir W. Warren on the ‘Change, and he and I dined together and settled our Tangier matters, wherein I get above 200l. presently. We dined together at the Pope’s Head to do this, and thence to the goldsmiths, I to examine the state of my matters there too, and so with him to my house, but my wife was gone abroad to Mrs. Mercer’s, so we took boat, and it being darke and the thaw having broke the ice, but not carried it quite away, the boat did pass through so much of it all along, and that with the crackling and noise that it made me fearfull indeed. So I forced the watermen to land us on Redriffe side, and so walked together till Sir W. Warren and I parted near his house and thence I walked quite over the fields home by light of linke, one of my watermen carrying it, and I reading by the light of it, it being a very fine, clear, dry night. So to Captain Cocke’s, and there sat and talked, especially with his Counsellor, about his prize goods, that hath done him good turne, being of the company with Captain Fisher, his name Godderson; here I supped and so home to bed, with great content that the plague is decreased to 152, the whole being but 330.
over the pope’s head
that crackling noise
over the fields on a clear night
that turn of fish
God is decreased
to the whole
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 27 December 1665.
Up, and to the office, where Sir J. Minnes and my Lord Bruncker and I met, to give our directions to the Commanders of all the ships in the river to bring in lists of their ships’ companies, with entries, discharges, &c., all the last voyage, where young Seymour, among 20 that stood bare, stood with his hat on, a proud, saucy young man. Thence with them to Mr. Cuttle’s, being invited, and dined nobly and neatly; with a very pretty house and a fine turret at top, with winding stairs and the finest prospect I know about all Greenwich, save the top of the hill, and yet in some respects better than that. Here I also saw some fine writing worke and flourishing of Mr. Hore, he one that I knew long ago, an acquaintance of Mr. Tomson’s at Westminster, that is this man’s clerk. It is the story of the several Archbishops of Canterbury, engrossed in vellum, to hang up in Canterbury Cathedrall in tables, in lieu of the old ones, which are almost worn out. Thence to the office a while, and so to Captain Cocke’s and there talked, and home to look over my papers, and so to bed.
I give directions
to the wind
I know the top of the hill
in some respects better than it
in a cathedral of paper
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 26 December 1665.
(Christmas-day). To church in the morning, and there saw a wedding in the church, which I have not seen many a day; and the young people so merry one with another, and strange to see what delight we married people have to see these poor fools decoyed into our condition, every man and woman gazing and smiling at them. Here I saw again my beauty Lethulier. Thence to my Lord Bruncker’s by invitation and dined there, and so home to look over and settle my papers, both of my accounts private, and those of Tangier, which I have let go so long that it were impossible for any soul, had I died, to understand them, or ever come to any good end in them. I hope God will never suffer me to come to that disorder again.
I have not seen you
with another light
we have to see the poor
decoyed into our condition
gazing and smiling at that
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 25 December 1665.
"Déjà vu is French for already seen
while déjà rêvé means already dreamed."
Have I told you where I've just been
in a dream, one where my mother returns
after years of having lived a bohemian,
hippie life? When she shows up
on the doorstep, she is almost
unrecognizable: straight, dark hair
in a bob, round John Lennon glasses,
body-hugging turtleneck. She has on
what at first glance appears to be
skin-tight pants with psychedelic prints,
but on closer inspection is a full,
resplendent tattoo from the waist
down to her feet. I don't know
what to think, in fact I'm not sure
if she is a ghost of herself sent
to inform whoever cares to open
the telegram that where she's gone,
no one can follow. Or that in this dream,
she will never die, never have to file
down the bunion on her right big toe
in order to wear the bright red
stilettos with the pouffy skirt.
Now she is leaning toward the silver
mirror, drawing a crimson bow
around her mouth. She picks up a pink
powder puff and feathers her neck.
She's taking so long to get ready,
whoever is waiting in the driveway
has become impatient and starts
honking the horn. But she's unhurried;
the old-fashioned desk clock tells
a time that never changes.
“First, you must suffer for a thousand years.
Then you must renounce suffering
and dedicate yourself to joy.”
~ Richard Jones, “On Living”
The hour is late, or the hour
begins all over again. The quiet
gives way to clamor, to one
request then another; a little fire
to put out, some flood to staunch.
Ripped hems to stitch, a pot to boil.
You scrape leavings into the compost
bin, soap and rinse plates under cold
running water. The rule has always been
duty first, pleasure later. When does
obligation loll back in its chair, eyes
closed, drool at the corners of its mouth,
fed and finally satisfied? Can you
take off your shoes, tiptoe away, slip
into a hammock in the garden? Whenever
a curtain is drawn around any hard-won
solitude, it still feels so much harder
to keep inside it than to break
the spell. Winter is always coming,
and the mice can’t stop carrying away
the corn. In every gold-flecked bell
that flowers, an agitation of wings.
The dung beetle climbs out of the corpse
flower’s rotting inflorescence, hefting
panniers of spores. And there are so many
sums to reconcile, columns to fill with ink,
ledgers to put in order. But one could stop
to admire the cricket’s earnest if disjointed
music, the late pulsing flight of fireflies;
a squirrel uncertain, twitching in the middle
of the path, temporarily distracted by nothing more
than bars of honey-colored sunlight in the trees.