Tikbalang Haibun

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
I've said Please may I each time I've passed, strewn bits of bread and sugar
at the foot of the tree, careful not to touch the bristling bark. I've worn
my shirt inside out, tucking the gleam of buttons away from light. Shouldn't
the journey be over by now? Shouldn't it get easier? Shouldn't I have found
my way years ago? But here I am again, returned to the same familiar ground:
every stone slippered in moss, the fences peeling, the shed falling down.
My pockets are nearly empty of coin, my lashes stenciled in salt and dust.
Every roof has a chimney and all of them smoke; and yet you look for me
in each house.

Shafts of light comb 
through leaves on the trees.
Their heads remain unruly.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

All the morning at the office busy. At noon to dinner, and thence to the office and did my business there as soon as I could, and then home and to my accounts, where very late at them, but, Lord! what a deale of do I have to understand any part of them, and in short do what I could, I could not come to any understanding of them, but after I had throughly wearied myself, I was forced to go to bed and leave them much against my will and vowe too, but I hope God will forgive me, for I have sat up these four nights till past twelve at night to master them, but cannot.
Thus ends this month, with my head and mind mighty full and disquiett because of my accounts, which I have let go too long, and confounded my publique with my private that I cannot come to any liquidating of them. However, I do see that I must be grown richer than I was by a good deale last month.
Busy also I am in thoughts for a husband for my sister, and to that end my wife and I have determined that she shall presently go into the country to my father and mother, and consider of a proffer made them for her in the country, which, if she likes, shall go forward.

could I understand
what I could not stand

forced to go to bed and give
the night a night
to master my mind

unfounded as a country
made for war

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 31 March 1666.

Postcard to myself in a bad marriage

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Walls were made for stopping fists
and paychecks were for squandering.
Shirts dried stiff on the line 
after bleaching. You left, you
always left, slamming every door
on the way out. The bed slid across
the floor and the child sitting on it
clutched at the blankets. I couldn't 
hear the voice in my head for all
the noise. I couldn't see the moon
following me on the road as I searched
for something I'd lost long before.
An owl called out in the dark. Or
perhaps it was me, asking.

Language of love

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

My wife and I mighty pleased with Jane’s coming to us again. Up, and away goes Alce, our cooke-mayde, a good servant, whom we loved and did well by her, and she an excellent servant, but would not bear being told of any faulte in the fewest and kindest words and would go away of her owne accord, after having given her mistresse warning fickly for a quarter of a yeare together. So we shall take another girle and make little Jane our cook, at least, make a trial of it.
Up, and after much business I out to Lumbard Streete, and there received 2200l. and brought it home; and, contrary to expectation, received 35l. for the use of 2000l. of it [for] a quarter of a year, where it hath produced me this profit, and hath been a convenience to me as to care and security of my house, and demandable at two days’ warning, as this hath been.
This morning Sir W. Warren come to me a second time about having 2000l. of me upon his bills on the Act to enable him to pay for the ships he is buying, wherein I shall have considerable profit. I am loth to do it, but yet speaking with Colvill I do not see but I shall be able to do it and get money by it too.
Thence home and eat one mouthful, and so to Hales’s, and there sat till almost quite darke upon working my gowne, which I hired to be drawn in; an Indian gowne, and I do see all the reason to expect a most excellent picture of it.
So home and to my private accounts in my chamber till past one in the morning, and so to bed, with my head full of thoughts for my evening of all my accounts tomorrow, the latter end of the month, in which God give me good issue, for I never was in such a confusion in my life and that in great sums.

we loved in the fewest words

loath to speak with one mouth
red and full of evening

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 30 March 1666.

In the hills, my heart breaks

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Imagine a lake fringed with weeping 
willows, a string of rowboats
floating on brown water.

A windless day,
pine trees not yet torn
from the hillsides.

Imagine the open
faces of sunflowers, not yet
in the manner of omens.

One salted cracker,
one boiled egg on the plate.
The mouth creaking open like a door.

In the tin-roofed houses, widows
lighting the stove, forgetting
the water when it boils.

Give thanks for the whorls
in wood shaped like watchful eyes,
the whistle that comes as if

out of nowhere--- meaning 
it is time to eat or pray or bathe
or surrender again to silence.

Hands on

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

All the morning hard at the office. At noon dined and then out to Lumbard Streete, to look after the getting of some money that is lodged there of mine in Viner’s hands, I having no mind to have it lie there longer. So back again and to the office, where and at home about publique and private business and accounts till past 12 at night, and so to bed. This day, poor Jane, my old, little Jane, came to us again, to my wife’s and my great content, and we hope to take mighty pleasure in her, she having all the marks and qualities of a good and loving and honest servant, she coming by force away from the other place, where she hath lived ever since she went from us, and at our desire, her late mistresse having used all the stratagems she could to keepe her.

hands having to lie
to be old and content

having all the marks of honest
lived-in desire

having to keep

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 29 March 1666.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
When I looked into the window's 
yellow well from an upper floor

When on the phone I heard
her say I cannot talk anymore

When they opened his chest to coax
the heart muscles open

When the corridor wound itself
tighter than a tourniquet

When the winds came through the floor-
boards as delicate sharp whips


Gloria mundi

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and with Creed, who come hither betimes to speake with me about his accounts, to White Hall by water, mighty merry in discourse, though I had been very little troubled with him, or did countenance it, having now, blessed be God! a great deale of good business to mind to better purpose than chatting with him.
Waited on the Duke, after that walked with Sir W. Clerke into St. James’s Parke, and by and by met with Mr. Hayes, Prince Rupert’s Secretary, who are mighty, both, briske blades, but I fear they promise themselves more than they expect. Thence to the Cockpitt, and dined with a great deal of company at the Duke of Albemarle’s, and a bad and dirty, nasty dinner.
So by coach to Hales’s, and there sat again, and it is become mighty like. Hither come my wife and Mercer brought by Mrs. Pierce and Knipp, we were mighty merry and the picture goes on the better for it.
Thence set them down at Pierces, and we home, where busy and at my chamber till 12 at night, and so to bed.
This night, I am told, the Queene of Portugall, the mother to our Queene, is lately dead, and newes brought of it hither this day.

who bled less than the blade
but more than the dirt

we were mighty
and it is all dead news

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 28 March 1666.

Time isn’t real:

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

a mural I saw at a museum exhibit, 
the words scripted across a lake 

of cloudy color against white. 
Except we had only twenty minutes 
before the doors would close 

and the guards ushered us back out 
into the rain. At the train

station, all the people turning
toward monitors, watching for arrivals 
and departures: each face cupped
like a flower toward the dropping
light. When I was a child, I liked

to spin in the playground--- 
my eyes fixed on the highest 
point of a rooftop,  

arms spread out like wings; 
the world a drum in a zoetrope. 


[ Zoetrope: Gr., ζωή zoe, "life" and τρόπος tropos, "turning" ]

Back kitchen

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

All the morning at the office busy. At noon dined at home, Mr. Cooke, our old acquaintance at my Lord Sandwich’s, come to see and dine with me, but I quite out of humour, having many other and better things to thinke of. Thence to the office to settle my people’s worke and then home to my publique accounts of Tangier, which it is strange by meddling with evening reckonings with Mr. Povy lately how I myself am become intangled therein, so that after all I could do, ready to breake my head and brains, I thought of another way, though not so perfect, yet the only one which this account is capable of. Upon this latter I sat up till past two in the morning and then to bed.

the busy cook
quite out of humor
evening rain

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 27 March 1666.