Old salt

Up, and walked to Captain Cocke’s, where Sir G. Carteret promised to meet me and did come to discourse about the prize-business of my Lord Sandwich’s, which I perceive is likely to be of great ill consequence to my Lord, the House being mighty vehement in it. We could say little but advise that his friends should labour to get it put off, till he comes. We did here talk many things over, in lamentation of the present posture of affairs, and the ill condition of all people that have had anything to do under the King, wishing ourselves a great way off: Here they tell me how Sir Thomas Allen hath taken the Englishmen out of “La Roche,” and taken from him an Ostend prize which La Roche had fetched out of our harbours; and at this day La Roche keeps upon our coasts; and had the boldness to land some men and go a mile up into the country, and there took some goods belonging to this prize out of a house there; which our King resents, and, they say, hath wrote to the King of France about; and everybody do think a war will follow; and then in what a case we shall be for want of money, nobody knows. Thence to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon home to dinner, and to the office again in the afternoon, where we met to consider of an answer to the Parliament about the not paying of tickets according to our own orders, to which I hope we shall be able to give a satisfactory answer, but that the design of the House being apparently to remove us, I do question whether the best answer will prevail with them. This done I by coach with my wife to Martin, my bookseller’s, expecting to have had my Kercher’s Musurgia, but to my trouble and loss of trouble it was not done. So home again, my head full of thoughts about our troubles in the office, and so to the office. Wrote to my father this post, and sent him now Colvill’s note for 600l. for my sister’s portion, being glad that I shall, I hope, have that business over before I am out of place, and I trust I shall be able to save a little of what I have got, and so shall not be troubled to be at ease; for I am weary of this life.
So ends this month, with a great deal of care and trouble in my head about the answerings of the Parliament, and particularly in our payment of seamen by tickets.

captain of sand my harbor
is a mile into the country

where I hope we shall have no port
for I am out of rust

and weary
of answering the sea

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 29 February 1668.

Empire Cinema

In the archives,
old scripts and ledgers.
Drawers full of brass coins,
beautiful bones of fish.

Papery vertebrae, papyrus 
of skins. Which slot is ours
in the collapsible index?
Reels of sepia

nestled in velvet boxes.
The camera focuses: 
rippling mountain edges
armoring hunters' chests.
The longest running show—
if we stay it's because we 
want to check that our names 
appear in the credits.

Dream of arrival

Up, and to the office, where all the morning doing business, and after dinner with Sir W. Pen to White Hall, where we and the rest of us presented a great letter of the state of our want of money to his Royal Highness. I did also present a demand of mine for consideration for my travelling-charges of coach and boat-hire during the war, which, though his Royal Highness and the company did all like of, yet, contrary to my expectation, I find him so jealous now of doing any thing extraordinary, that he desired the gentlemen that they would consider it, and report their minds in it to him. This did unsettle my mind a great while, not expecting this stop: but, however, I shall do as well, I know, though it causes me a little stop. But that, that troubles me most is, that while we were thus together with the Duke of York, comes in Mr. Wren from the House, where, he tells us, another storm hath been all this day almost against the Officers of the Navy upon this complaint, — that though they have made good rules for payment of tickets, yet that they have not observed them themselves, which was driven so high as to have it urged that we should presently be put out of our places: and so they have at last ordered that we shall be heard at the bar of the House upon this business on Thursday next. This did mightily trouble me and us all; but me particularly, who am least able to bear these troubles, though I have the least cause to be concerned in it. Thence, therefore, to visit Sir H. Cholmly, who hath for some time been ill of a cold; and thence walked towards Westminster, and met Colonel Birch, who took me back to walk with him, and did give me an account of this day’s heat against the Navy Officers, and an account of his speech on our behalf, which was very good; and indeed we are much beholden to him, as I, after I parted with him, did find by my cozen Roger, whom I went to: and he and I to his lodgings. And there he did tell me the same over again; and how much Birch did stand up in our defence; and that he do see that there are many desirous to have us out of the Office; and the House is so furious and passionate, that he thinks nobody can be secure, let him deserve never so well. But now, he tells me, we shall have a fair hearing of the House, and he hopes justice of them: but, upon the whole, he do agree with me that I should hold my hand as to making any purchase of land, which I had formerly discoursed with him about, till we see a little further how matters go. He tells me that that made them so mad to-day first was, several letters in the House about the Fanatickes, in several places, coming in great bodies, and turning people out of the churches, and there preaching themselves, and pulling the surplice over the Parsons’ heads: this was confirmed from several places; which makes them stark mad, especially the hectors and bravadoes of the House, who shew all the zeal on this occasion. Having done with him, I home vexed in my mind, and so fit for no business, but sat talking with my wife and supped with her; and Nan Mercer come and sat all the evening with us, and much pretty discourse, which did a little ease me, and so to bed.

high on traveling
like a storm made

out of the day’s heat
we are passionate

hold my hand as
our fanatic bodies turn

and reach themselves
as places to come to

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 28 February 1668.


The sap is not yet risen in the tree
though days are warmer. Despite
the news, I'm still afraid 
of all  the optimism 
about getting back a world 
we thought unquestionably
ours. It's like that story in which
the woman craves a night—
just one—to press against her throat
like a jewel she  wishes she didn't have
to give back: how her nervous hands 
flutter like unnested birds to make sure 
it's still in place. How it disappears
so quietly, as if it were never there.


All the morning at the office, and at noon home to dinner, and thence with my wife and Deb. to the King’s House, to see “The Virgin Martyr,” the first time it hath been acted a great while: and it is mighty pleasant; not that the play is worth much, but it is finely acted by Becke Marshall. But that which did please me beyond any thing in the whole world was the wind-musique when the angel comes down, which is so sweet that it ravished me, and indeed, in a word, did wrap up my soul so that it made me really sick, just as I have formerly been when in love with my wife; that neither then, nor all the evening going home, and at home, I was able to think of any thing, but remained all night transported, so as I could not believe that ever any musick hath that real command over the soul of a man as this did upon me: and makes me resolve to practice wind-musique, and to make my wife do the like.

morning ice
as thin as the wind

when the angel comes
sweet or sick

as I have been in transport
over ice

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 27 February 1668.


There are songs my mother
            will not sing, nor listen to again
because they remind her of the war; 

how, among rows of men lined up against
            a masonry wall, one closed his eyes
and lifted his voice before the order

to fire was issued. It was in a town
           bordered with rice fields, where palm
crosses and braids of garlic shuddered 

in the windows. At night or coming back
           from a funeral, you might hear the voice
of the fourteen-stringed bandurria.  

L’esprit de l’escalier

Up, and by water to Charing Cross stairs, and thence to W. Coventry to discourse concerning the state of matters in the Navy, where he particularly acquainted me with the trouble he is like to meet with about the selling of places, all carried on by Sir Fr. Hollis, but he seems not to value it, being able to justify it to be lawful and constant practice, and never by him used in the least degree since he upon his own motion did obtain a salary of 500l. in lieu thereof. Thence to the Treasury Chamber about a little business, and so home by coach, and in my way did meet W. Howe going to the Commissioners of Accounts. I stopped and spoke to him, and he seems well resolved what to answer them, but he will find them very strict, and not easily put off. So home and there to dinner, and after dinner comes W. Howe to tell me how he sped, who says he was used civilly, and not so many questions asked as he expected; but yet I do perceive enough to shew that they do intend to know the bottom of things, and where to lay the great weight of the disposal of these East India goods, and that they intend plainly to do upon my Lord Sandwich. Thence with him by coach and set him down at the Temple, and I to Westminster Hall, where, it being now about six o’clock, I find the House just risen; and met with Sir W. Coventry and the Lieutenant of the Tower, they having sat all day; and with great difficulty have got a vote for giving the King 300,000l., not to be raised by any land-tax. The sum is much smaller than I expected, and than the King needs; but is grounded upon Mr. Wren’s reading our estimates the other day of 270,000l., to keep the fleete abroad, wherein we demanded nothing for setting and fitting of them out, which will cost almost 200,000l., I do verily believe: and do believe that the King hath no cause to thank Wren for this motion. I home to Sir W. Coventry’s lodgings, with him and the Lieutenant of the Tower, where also was Sir John Coventry, and Sir John Duncomb, and Sir Job Charleton. And here a great deal of good discourse: and they seem mighty glad to have this vote pass, which I did wonder at, to see them so well satisfied with so small a sum, Sir John Duncomb swearing, as I perceive he will freely do, that it was as much as the nation could beare. Among other merry discourse about spending of money, and how much more chargeable a man’s living is now more than it was heretofore, Duncomb did swear that in France he did live of 100l. a year with more plenty, and wine and wenches, than he believes can be done now for 200l., which was pretty odd for him, being a Committee-man’s son, to say. Having done here, and supped, where I eat very little, we home in Sir John Robinson’s coach, and there to bed.

stairs like a place
to practice going to
the bottom of things

the difficult ground of a wren
his swearing freely
at the odd robin

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 26 February 1668.

1-Point Perspective

In a small town you can hear
the rupture of sledgehammers on rock,
the suck of mud at the bottom of a creek
as the water drains away after months
of rain. Your mother hears from the one-
eyed pawnbroker that her ruby pendant 
and gold-plated chain are safe with him;
and that the man who brought them there
has been put to work in a farm. In such 
a town, a group of black-shirted birds 
plays chess under willows in the park.  
The oldest philosopher is a pine tree; 
how wise it is to keep its own counsel 
as one war follows another, as the young 
descend the mountains to the city, then 
return when all their faith has run out.
The future continues to row its flat-
bottomed boat on the lake, sometimes
stirring the water with only one oar
so it goes around in small circles.


Up, having lain the last night the first night that I have lain with my wife since she was last ill, which is about eight days. To the office, where busy all the morning. At noon comes W. Howe to me, to advise what answer to give to the business of the prizes, wherein I did give him the best advice I could; but am sorry to see so many things, wherein I doubt it will not be prevented but Sir Roger Cuttance and Mr. Pierce will be found very much concerned in goods beyond the distribution, and I doubt my Lord Sandwich too, which troubles me mightily. He gone I to dinner, and thence set my wife at the New Exchange, and I to Mr. Clerke, my solicitor, to the Treasury chamber, but the Lords did not sit, so I by water with him to the New Exchange, and there we parted, and I took my wife and Deb. up, and to the Nursery, where I was yesterday, and there saw them act a comedy, a pastorall, “The Faythful Shepherd,” having the curiosity to see whether they did a comedy better than a tragedy; but they do it both alike, in the meanest manner, that I was sick of it, but only for to satisfy myself once in seeing the manner of it, but I shall see them no more, I believe.
Thence to the New Exchange, to take some things home that my wife hath bought, a dressing-box, and other things for her chamber and table, that cost me above 4l., and so home, and there to the office, and tell W. Hewer of the letter from Captain Allen last night, to give him caution if any thing should be discovered of his dealings with anybody, which I should for his sake as well, or more than for my own, be sorry for; and with great joy I do find, looking over my memorandum books, which are now of great use to me, and do fully reward me for all my care in keeping them, that I am not likely to be troubled for any thing of the kind but what I shall either be able beforehand to prevent, or if discovered, be able to justify myself in, and I do perceive, by Sir W. Warren’s discourse, that they do all they can possibly to get out of him and others, what presents they have made to the Officers of the Navy; but he tells me that he hath denied all, though he knows that he is forsworn as to what relates to me. So home to supper and to bed.

last night the first night
that I was not sick

I believe in my box
my memorandum books

my care in keeping
to myself

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 25 February 1668.

Poem for the Last Generation Holding on to a World in which They Were Still the Majority

Right now there's a difference of only 15 million
             between the number 1 ranked language
(English) and number 2 (Mandarin Chinese)
             spoken by the most number of people
in the world. There will probably be new 
            programs like TCFL (Teaching Chinese 
as a Foreign Language); and eventually, 
            though a little farther down the road,
TIFL (Teaching Ilocano as a Foreign Language).
            When we were taught the story of Adam 
and Eve in the garden, we already knew 
            about  áhas— snakes that could at least 
be trusted to keep rodents away from the crops. 
            The world was only one sea and one sky
when a bird split a bamboo in half; Malakas 
            and Maganda stepped out at the same
time, which is possibly why they share the non- 
            gender specific pronoun siya. Census figures 
predict that by 2050, nonwhites will be the majority
            in America and Europe. Still, given how long  
you've lorded it over so much in history, I don't think
            English will completely disappear into some 
great marble mausoleum in the cemetery of dead 
           languages. But by then the rest of the world
will have come to more deeply appreciate  
            among other things the resonance of a science 
whose name for the universe is máyaw, which
            in Tagalog  also means harmony. Who 
could have foreseen how ube would become 
            the ubiquitous color of sliced bread; or how 
the richness of our poetries could finally be 
           acknowledged for what they've always been? 
Makahiya, sampaguita, dama de noche,  ylang-
           ylang, champaka; uwak, kuwago, loro, 
kalapati, agila—all such names for flora 
           and fauna could easily fill up codices. You 
still don't seem to know what you're missing.   

(after "Poem to the First Generation of People to Exist 
after the Death of the English Language")