Stop light

(Lord’s day). Up by four o’clock, and ready with Mrs. Turner to take coach before five; which we did, and set on our journey, and got to the Wells at Barnett by seven o’clock, and there found many people a-drinking; but the morning is a very cold morning, so as we were very cold all the way in the coach. Here we met Joseph Batelier, and I talked with him, and here was W. Hewer also, and his uncle Steventon: so, after drinking three glasses and the women nothing, we back by coach to Barnett, where to the Red Lyon, where we ’light, and went up into the great Room, and there drank, and eat some of the best cheese-cakes that ever I eat in my life, and so took coach again, and W. Hewer on horseback with us, and so to Hatfield, to the inn, next my Lord Salisbury’s house, and there rested ourselves, and drank, and bespoke dinner; and so to church, it being just church-time, and there we find my Lord and my Lady Sands and several fine ladies of the family, and a great many handsome faces and genteel persons more in the church, and did hear a most excellent good sermon, which pleased me mightily, and very devout; it being upon, the signs of saving grace, where it is in a man, and one sign, which held him all this day, was, that where that grace was, there is also the grace of prayer, which he did handle very finely. In this church lies the former Lord of Salisbury, Cecil, buried in a noble tomb. So the church being done, we to our inn, and there dined very well, and mighty merry; and as soon as we had dined we walked out into the Park through the fine walk of trees, and to the Vineyard, and there shewed them that, which is in good order, and indeed a place of great delight; which, together with our fine walk through the Park, was of as much pleasure as could be desired in the world for country pleasure and good ayre. Being come back, and weary with the walk, for as I made it, it was pretty long, being come back to our inne, there the women had pleasure in putting on some straw hats, which are much worn in this country, and did become them mightily, but especially my wife. So, after resting awhile, we took coach again, and back to Barnett, where W. Hewer took us into his lodging, which is very handsome, and there did treat us very highly with cheesecakes, cream, tarts, and other good things; and then walked into the garden, which was pretty, and there filled my pockets full of filberts, and so with much pleasure. Among other things, I met in this house with a printed book of the Life of O. Cromwell, to his honour as a soldier and politician, though as a rebell, the first of that kind that ever I saw, and it is well done. Took coach again, and got home with great content, just at day shutting in, and so as soon as home eat a little and then to bed, with exceeding great content at our day’s work.

drink is the red
light of my life

at church-time
the many hands of trees

fill my pockets
full of filberts

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 11 August 1667.

Portrait as Parade with Carnival Music

Zero in on crazed bees or
    your yellow-edged 
xylophone, as widows &
    waifs trail behind
voodoo dancers. Silver  
    umbrellas open, twirl; 
then as if on cue, down-
    spouts of bashing
rain. The ensuing blur does
    quiet the world somehow.
Parrots in their cages stop
    ogling and repeating; but
nobody's business still 
    makes the news in
little towns. It's why you
    keep to yourself, yet admire
jays and their carefree racket
    in the bushes. You can't
howl in public, can't wear
    grief's uniform as your only 
face. Procession, parade: that
    eerie music haunted and jaunty.
Don't tap your toe to that tune. O 
    Calliope, how'd your beautiful voice
become this wheezy organ? Once again,
    around and around we'll go.


Up, and to the Office, and there finished the letter about Carcasse, and sent it away, I think well writ, though it troubles me we should be put to trouble by this rogue so much. At the office all the morning, and at noon home to dinner, where I sang and piped with my wife with great pleasure, and did hire a coach to carry us to Barnett to-morrow. After dinner I to the office, and there wrote as long as my eyes would give me leave, and then abroad and to the New Exchange, to the bookseller’s there, where I hear of several new books coming out — Mr. Spratt’s History of the Royal Society, and Mrs. Phillips’s poems. Sir John Denham’s poems are going to be all printed together; and, among others, some new things; and among them he showed me a copy of verses of his upon Sir John Minnes’s going heretofore to Bullogne to eat a pig. Cowley, he tells me, is dead; who, it seems, was a mighty civil, serious man; which I did not know before. Several good plays are likely to be abroad soon, as Mustapha and Henry the 5th. Here having staid and divertised myself a good while, I home again and to finish my letters by the post, and so home, and betimes to bed with my wife because of rising betimes to-morrow.

where I sang with my eyes
a poem all printed up

I go to eat a pig
dead like my letters

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 10 August 1667.


Up, and betimes with Sir H. Cholmly upon some accounts of Tangier, and then he and I to Westminster, to Mr. Burges, and then walked in the Hall, and he and I talked, and he do really declare that he expects that of necessity this kingdom will fall back again to a commonwealth, and other wise men are of the same mind: this family doing all that silly men can do, to make themselves unable to support their kingdom, minding their lust and their pleasure, and making their government so chargeable, that people do well remember better things were done, and better managed, and with much less charge under a commonwealth than they have been by this King, and do seem to resolve to wind up his businesses and get money in his hand against the turn do come. After some talk I by coach and there dined, and with us Mr. Batelier by chance coming in to speak with me, and when I come home, and find Mr. Goodgroome, my wife’s singing-master, there I did soundly rattle him for neglecting her so much as he hath done — she not having learned three songs these three months and more. After dinner my wife abroad with Mrs. Turner, and I to the office, where busy all the afternoon, and in the evening by coach to St. James’s, and there met Sir W. Coventry; and he and I walked in the Park an hour. And then to his chamber, where he read to me the heads of the late great dispute between him and the rest of the Commissioners of the Treasury, and our new Treasurer of the Navy where they have overthrown him the last Wednesday, in the great dispute touching his having the payment of the Victualler, which is now settled by Council that he is not to have it and, indeed, they have been most just, as well as most severe and bold, in the doing this against a man of his quality; but I perceive he do really make no difference between any man. He tells me this day it is supposed the peace is ratified at Bredah, and all that matter over. We did talk of many retrenchments of charge of the Navy which he will put in practice, and every where else; though, he tells me, he despairs of being able to do what ought to be done for the saving of the kingdom, which I tell him, as indeed all the world is almost in hopes of, upon the proceeding of these gentlemen for the regulating of the Treasury, it being so late, and our poverty grown so great, that they want where to set their feet, to begin to do any thing. He tells me how weary he hath for this year and a half been of the war; and how in the Duke of York’s bedchamber, at Christ Church, at Oxford, when the Court was there, he did labour to persuade the Duke to fling off the care of the Navy, and get it committed to other hands; which, if he had done, would have been much to his honour, being just come home with so much honour from sea as he did. I took notice of the sharp letter he wrote, which he sent us to read yesterday, to Sir Edward Spragg, where he is very plain about his leaving his charge of the ships at Gravesend, when the enemy come last up, and several other things: a copy whereof I have kept. But it is done like a most worthy man; and he says it is good, now and then, to tell these gentlemen their duties, for they need it. And it seems, as he tells me, all our Knights are fallen out one with another, he, and Jenings, and Hollis, and (his words were) they are disputing which is the coward among them; and yet men that take the greatest liberty of censuring others! Here, with him, very late, till I could hardly get a coach or link willing to go through the ruines; but I do, but will not do it again, being, indeed, very dangerous. So home and to supper, and bed, my head most full of an answer I have drawn this noon to the Committee of the Council to whom Carcasses business is referred to be examined again.

fall wind
the rattle of
a bold rat

poverty grown so great
we have just one another

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 9 August 1667.

Death Asks for Pictures on his Scythe

~ after Hugo Simberg; etching, 1897

It's as personal as getting a tattoo:
     only it's not a forearm or chest Death 

offers, but the face of his blade. 
     How patiently he waits, legs crossed, 

one bony arm draped over his lap, 
     as the artist bends over his work. 

He's sketching in the bodies of two 
     lovers oblivious to anything but

the sharp edge of their pleasure. 
     Though the scene is also scratched on

a surface of metal, I imagine the bright
     peacock blue of the bedspread, a faint 

breeze coming through the window. The stain 
     tender on their lips, a faint shimmer   

on their thighs ending in the darker 
     shadow of the V where they meet. 


Not from the throat, said Lorca; but a current
passing as if from the earth, through the soles

of the feet. Sometimes, even the very young
are seized by it when they open their mouths 

to sing; then the voice deepens and colors
alongside of trembling guitars. Waterfalls

pour unstoppable from dark clefts of rock.
Or is it the sound of a heart being rolled

up a hill then hurtling down on the other 
side? I wonder if Sisyphus cried out or sang

under his breath as he pushed eternity 
up to its pinnacle, only for the boulder

to drop without pity back to its sandy
beginnings— Down in the marketplaces

of everyday life, the roosters crow  
and fish thrash in their baskets. Oxen

pull the plow through the earth, which closes 
its seams almost as soon as they're opened.