Off limits

Lay long in bed, and by and by called up by Sir H. Cholmly, who tells me that my Lord Middleton is for certain chosen Governor of Tangier; a man of moderate understanding, not covetous, but a soldier of fortune, and poor. Here comes Mr. Sanchy with an impertinent business to me of a ticket, which I put off. But by and by comes Dr. Childe by appointment, and sat with me all the morning making me bases and inward parts to several songs that I desired of him, to my great content. Then dined, and then abroad by coach, and I set him down at Hatton Garden, and I to the King’s house by chance, where a new play: so full as I never saw it; I forced to stand all the while close to the very door till I took cold, and many people went away for want of room. The King, and Queene, and Duke of York and Duchesse there, and all the Court, and Sir W. Coventry. The play called “The Change of Crownes;” a play of Ned Howard’s, the best that ever I saw at that house, being a great play and serious; only Lacy did act the country-gentleman come up to Court, who do abuse the Court with all the imaginable wit and plainness about selling of places, and doing every thing for money. The play took very much. Thence I to my new bookseller’s, and there bought “Hooker’s Polity,” the new edition, and “Dugdale’s History of the Inns of Court,” of which there was but a few saved out of the fire, and Playford’s new Catch-book, that hath a great many new fooleries in it. Then home, a little at the office, and then to supper and to bed, mightily pleased with the new play.

o my poor inward parts

a garden forced to close for want of room

only the unimaginable is saved

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 15 April 1667.

Calling the docket

It is easy to say such              & such a person 
never took care of us              when that person
has been away for years         in the land of milk

& money

It is easy to say we          did what we could when
by that is meant     we slept under another's roof &
through mutual            avoidance of confrontation
skirted the subjects          
                                of rent & obligation

How is the story                supposed to continue
perennially stuck          in games of power & water
shortage                            Spiders & snakes 

& people keep turning up in rooms   with no business
being there
                       Who is the child of the child 

or the mother                         or brother who
wrought the most ruin             Took until no more 
could be taken
                       There are cracks in the walls
& the floorboards        like a mouth of loose teeth

Everyone they say                        has a price
Name it                                 Just name it 
Just name it 

Instructions for Moving into the Future

We should let the animals
         graze freely in fields. We should weave
                  fronds of sleepy fern into hammocks
for morticians whose labor prepares
        our dead for elegies. Does the smell
                 of the furnace cling to their hair
and clothes for days, and do their dreams
        echo with voices reciting
                 our offerings? Incense and
candles, rosemary wands; oranges
        wrinkled and sweet; rain water
                in a blue ceramic cup, hair
ornaments quivering with wires of clover.
        To the blue shadow of hills,
                we gave our loves and secrets.
Now we go and ransom them.
         We pin them to our chests, in case
                 the infinite comes calling.
We trace a line from our doorstep
         to any distant opening for light.


still from Brachiate
This entry is part 8 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year


View on Vimeo.

I don’t remember the dream that woke me, just that it seemed suddenly very important to breathe, and to go on breathing. To go on, despite fear, loneliness or depression. I thought of a stone I’d found on a walk that was too charismatic to just toss aside but which I knew I had no reason to keep, since I’m in the process of moving out (or was, before the pandemic hit). I put it in my pocket, and a moment later took it out again and set it down beside the trail for some child to find, with its red mineral heart outlined in yellow. I thought of Charles Simic’s definition of a stone as a mirror that works poorly.

as if my lungs too
might leaf out


Process notes

I tend not to do much with text animation, but some sort of zoom effect seemed essential, given the strange footage—which I suppose I should explain for anyone who’s completely baffled by it. It’s on the shore of one of the small, seasonal, woodland pools at the top of the watershed. What was happening I think was that this little puddle happened to be situated right beside or on top of a root, or possibly two intertwined roots of adjacent trees. As the wind blew and the trees swayed, the roots were raised and lowered, causing the puddle to grow and shrink.

Either that, it was just haunted.

They say that the pandemic is causing people all over the world to have unusually vivid, frightening dreams. My dreams have always been pretty vivid, so I can’t say I’ve really noticed a difference.

House arrest

(Lord’s day). Up, and to read a little in my new History of Turkey, and so with my wife to church, and then home, where is little Michell and my pretty Betty and also Mercer, and very merry. A good dinner of roast beef. After dinner I away to take water at the Tower, and thence to Westminster, where Mrs. Martin was not at home. So to White Hall, and there walked up and down, and among other things visited Sir G. Carteret, and much talk with him, who is discontented, as he hath reason, to see how things are like to come all to naught, and it is very much that this resolution of having of country Admirals should not come to his eares till I told him the other day, so that I doubt who manages things. From him to Margaret’s Church, and there spied Martin, and home with her, who had those, so could have ninguno placer; but fell out to see her expensefullness, having bought Turkey work, chairs, &c. By and by away home, and there took out my wife, and the two Mercers, and two of our mayds, Barker and Jane, and over the water to the Jamaica House, where I never was before, and there the girls did run for wagers over the bowling-green; and there, with much pleasure, spent little, and so home, and they home, and I to read with satisfaction in my book of Turkey, and so to bed.

a little new history
and a little hell

and home here
is like an old gun

full of bark and use
and little action

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 14 April 1667.


Up, and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and strange how the false fellow Commissioner Pett was eager to have had Carcasses business brought on to-day that he might give my Lord Bruncker (who hates him, I am sure, and hath spoke as much against him to the King in my hearing as any man) a cast of his office in pleading for his man Carcasse, but I did prevent its being brought on to-day, and so broke up, and I home to dinner, and after dinner with a little singing with some pleasure alone with my poor wife, and then to the office, where sat all the afternoon till late at night, and then home to supper and to bed, my eyes troubling me still after candle-light, which troubles me. Wrote to my father, who, I am glad to hear, is at some ease again, and I long to have him in town, that I may see what can be done for him here; for I would fain do all I can that I may have him live, and take pleasure in my doing well in the world. This afternoon came Mrs. Lowther to me to the office, and there yo did tocar su mamelles and did bezar them and su boca, which she took fort willingly, and perhaps yo posse in time a hazer mas to her.

in my car
broke and alone
with candlelight to see
all the world

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 13 April 1667.


       It is my wish to learn 
the proper words to accompany
       the fermentation of grain,
the binding of affluence
       to the foot of each house
post. How sweet the yeast
       that rises at 4 AM, 
that thickens above the wrist
       which plies it into ribbons.
Will I see you then lose you again
       in this lifetime, mother?
In all your pictures, the mole 
       underneath your lip still glows 
like a small, half-buried planet; 
       one tiny hair whitens
on its surface like a flag. 
       Some tasks do not require
a knife or any other implements made 
       of teeth or metal. My fingers 
tug open the winged bean, touch 
       each numbered curl on fern.
All of them tell me what I 
       already know: the cleanest bone
is the one lifted from its body. 


Spring Evening

still from Pandemic Time - distant lights in the darkness
This entry is part 7 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year


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For anyone in the rural U.S., power outages are a way of life, so one of the most surprising things about the pandemic so far is that the lights have stayed on. I stand on the ridgetop as darkness falls, gazing at a very bright Venus high in the sky; below that, a sliver of moon, the black bulk of the Allegheny Front, and then the usual display of interstate exit lights, street lights and house lights. And in a town of 5000, however Appalachian, there must be at least a few Muslim families breaking their Ramadan fast.

spring evening
of a backyard grill

8:30 and already most traffic has stopped. Way off down the ridge I hear the first whip-poor-will.

night forest
a glowworm’s
slow blink


Process notes

Written three or four nights ago (time is a blur these days). I thought I could use other, more oblique footage, but ultimately it just didn’t work, so I went back to the same ridgetop spot tonight to shoot what I could of the valley (the iPhone video camera is not great in low light) as well as to grab some audio with my trusty Zoom H2 microphone. I was worried about it resembling too closely my earlier haibun in this series, Quarantine Walk, which also used a single, slow panning shot at dusk, but oh well. I take a lot of night-time walks; what can I say?

If you’ve missed any of the other haibun in this on-going series, there’s now an archive page for them here under the ad hoc name Pandemic Time: Haibun, as well as a showcase on Vimeo.

After many years, the river runs into the river

but is tired of leaving no trace
of its origins. The land itself 
has changed; and the skies 
are always missing a body 
that vapors into nothing. But water 
is always this blue haze in the mind. 
Or a limpid thing with none of the brittle 
edges of glass. Or a glossy brown sheet 
over which a ferry is crossing. Water 
wants to touch the face looking 
over the handrail, bored by the sun,
tired of its own loneliness and need. 
The loneliness of water is also 
                      like that: empty 
theatre filled with echoes of other
voices, making it seem unoriginal. 
Water wants to throw itself into 
an opening and understand
slaked or flooded 
      or filled. But the metaphysic 
of moments is a privilege claimed 
by stable bodies. Water is not—
at the same time is more than— 
two drops fixed by gold wire 
and dangling from the earlobe.
Put it to bed in a box flocked
with velvet. 
         Carry it cupped
in both hands as you walk 
through a field that feels
larger than any sense of yourself
that you know. But still tenderly. 


Up, and when ready, and to my office, to do a little business, and, coming homeward again, saw my door and hatch open, left so by Luce, our cookmayde, which so vexed me, that I did give her a kick in our entry, and offered a blow at her, and was seen doing so by Sir W. Pen’s footboy, which did vex me to the heart, because I know he will be telling their family of it; though I did put on presently a very pleasant face to the boy, and spoke kindly to him, as one without passion, so as it may be he might not think I was angry, but yet I was troubled at it.
So away by water to White Hall, and there did our usual business before the Duke of York; but it fell out that, discoursing of matters of money, it rose to a mighty heat, very high words arising between Sir G. Carteret and W. Coventry, the former in his passion saying that the other should have helped things if they were so bad; and the other answered, so he would, and things should have been better had he been Treasurer of the Navy. I was mightily troubled at this heat, and it will breed ill blood, I fear; but things are in that bad condition that I do daily expect when we shall all fly in one another’s faces, when we shall be reduced, every one, to answer for himself. We broke up; and I soon after to Sir G. Carteret’s chamber, where I find the poor man telling his lady privately, and she weeping. I went into them, and did seem, as indeed I was, troubled for this; and did give the best advice I could, which, I think, did please them: and they do apprehend me their friend, as indeed I am, for I do take the Vice-chamberlain for a most honest man. He did assure me that he was not, all expences and things paid, clear in estate 15,000l. better than he was when the King come in; and that the King and Lord Chancellor did know that he was worth, with the debt the King owed him, 50,000l., I think, he said, when the King come into England. I did pacify all I could, and then away by water home, there to write letters and things for the dispatch of Balty away this day to sea; and after dinner he did go, I having given him much good counsell; and I have great hopes that he will make good use of it, and be a good man, for I find him willing to take pains and very sober. He being gone, I close at my office all the afternoon getting off of hand my papers, which, by the late holidays and my laziness, were grown too many upon my hands, to my great trouble, and therefore at it as late as my eyes would give me leave, and then by water down to Redriffe, meaning to meet my wife, who is gone with Mercer, Barker, and the boy (it being most sweet weather) to walk, and I did meet with them, and walked back, and then by the time we got home it was dark, and we staid singing in the garden till supper was ready, and there with great pleasure. But I tried my girles Mercer and Barker singly one after another, a single song, “At dead low ebb,” etc., and I do clearly find that as to manner of singing the latter do much the better, the other thinking herself as I do myself above taking pains for a manner of singing, contenting ourselves with the judgment and goodness of eare. So to supper, and then parted and to bed.

in matters of passion
I should have been a fly

I have grown many
hands and eyes

to meet the sweet weather
of her selves

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 12 April 1667.