Up, and to the office, to the getting of my books in order, to carry to the Commissioners of Accounts this morning. This being done, I away first to Westminster Hall, and there met my cozen, Roger Pepys, by his desire, the first time I have seen him since his coming to town, the Parliament meeting yesterday and adjourned to Monday next; and here he tells me that Mr. Jackson, my sister’s servant, is come to town, and hath this day suffered a recovery on his estate, in order to the making her a settlement. The young man is gone out of the Hall, so I could not now see him, but here I walked a good while with my cozen, and among other things do hear that there is a great triall between my Lord Gerard and Carr to-day, who is indicted for his life at the King’s Bench, for running from his colours; but all do say that my Lord Gerard, though he designs the ruining of this man, will not get any thing by it. Thence to the Commissioners of Accounts, and there presented my books, and was made to sit down, and used with much respect, otherwise than the other day, when I come to them as a criminal about the business of the prizes. I sat here with them a great while, while my books were inventoried. And here do hear from them by discourse that they are like to undo the Treasurer’s instruments of the Navy by making it a rule that they shall repay all money paid to wrong parties, which is a thing not to be supported by these poor creatures the Treasurer’s instruments, as it is also hard for seamen to be ruined by their paying money to whom they please. I know not what will be the issue of it. I find these gentlemen to sit all day, and only eat a bit of bread at noon, and a glass of wine; and are resolved to go through their business with great severity and method. Thence I, about two o’clock, to Westminster Hall, by appointment, and there met my cozen Roger again, and Mr. Jackson, who is a plain young man, handsome enough for Pall, one of no education nor discourse, but of few words, and one altogether that, I think, will please me well enough. My cozen had got me to give the odd sixth 100l. presently, which I intended to keep to the birth of the first child: and let it go — I shall be eased of the care, and so, after little talk, we parted, resolving to dine together at my house tomorrow. So there parted, my mind pretty well satisfied with this plain fellow for my sister, though I shall, I see, have no pleasure nor content in him, as if he had been a man of reading and parts, like Cumberland, and to the Swan, and there sent for a bit of meat and eat and drank, and so to White Hall to the Duke of York’s chamber, where I find him and my fellows at their usual meeting, discoursing about securing the Medway this year, which is to shut the door after the horse is stole. However, it is good. Having done here, my Lord Brouncker, and W. Pen, and I, and with us Sir Arnold Breames, to the King’s playhouse, and there saw a piece of “Love in a Maze,” a dull, silly play, I think; and after the play, home with W. Pen and his son Lowther, whom we met there, and then home and sat most of the evening with my wife and Mr. Pelling, talking, my head being full of business of one kind or other, and most such as do not please me, and so to supper and to bed.

I have seen yesterday come today
among other signs

like making bread
and wine out of words

or meeting my love in a maze
after supper

Erasure poems derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 7 February 1668.

Architectures of Feeling

What kind of shape
      rises to meet your hands
groping in the dark; what 
glass body will yield its cool 

lips to yours
      so you can drink until 
your thirst is quenched. 
The spice drawer exhales, 

releasing the last 
     secrets your fingers 
sifted into a bowl.
When you close 

your eyes, atoms of water
     gather in the seams and flush
the walls with mossy color.
Somewhere in the depths

of a snail's curled shell, a cool
     blanket. You remember coiled
green fronds, the pop of sea-grapes 
so tiny against the roof of your mouth.  


Up, and to the office, where all the morning, and among other things Sir H. Cholmly comes to me about a little business, and there tells me how the Parliament, which is to meet again to-day, are likely to fall heavy on the business of the Duke of Buckingham’s pardon; and I shall be glad of it. And that the King hath put out of the Court the two Hides, my Lord Chancellor’s two sons, and also the Bishops of Rochester and Winchester, the latter of whom should have preached before him yesterday, being Ash Wednesday, and had his sermon ready, but was put by; which is great news. He gone, we sat at the office all the morning, and at noon home to dinner, and my wife being gone before, I to the Duke of York’s playhouse; where a new play of Etherige’s, called “She Would if she Could;” and though I was there by two o’clock, there was 1000 people put back that could not have room in the pit. And I at last, because my wife was there, made shift to get into the 18d. box, and there saw; but, Lord! how full was the house, and how silly the play, there being nothing in the world good in it, and few people pleased in it. The King was there; but I sat mightily behind, and could see but little, and hear not all. The play being done, I into the pit to look (for) my wife, and it being dark and raining, I to look my wife out, but could not find her; and so staid going between the two doors and through the pit an hour and half, I think, after the play was done; the people staying there till the rain was over, and to talk with one another. And, among the rest, here was the Duke of Buckingham to-day openly sat in the pit; and there I found him with my Lord Buckhurst, and Sidly, and Etherige, the poet; the last of whom I did hear mightily find fault with the actors, that they were out of humour, and had not their parts perfect, and that Harris did do nothing, nor could so much as sing a ketch in it; and so was mightily concerned while all the rest did, through the whole pit, blame the play as a silly, dull thing, though there was something very roguish and witty; but the design of the play, and end, mighty insipid. At last I did find my wife staying for me in the entry; and with her was Betty Turner, Mercer, and Deb. So I got a coach, and a humour took us, and I carried them to Hercules Pillars, and there did give them a kind of a supper of about 7s., and very merry, and home round the town, not through the ruines; and it was pretty how the coachman by mistake drives us into the ruines from London-wall into Coleman Street, and would persuade me that I lived there. And the truth is, I did think that he and the linkman had contrived some roguery; but it proved only a mistake of the coachman; but it was a cunning place to have done us a mischief in, as any I know, to drive us out of the road into the ruines, and there stop, while nobody could be called to help us. But we come safe home, and there, the girls being gone home, I to the office, where a while busy, my head not being wholly free of my trouble about my prize business, I home to bed. This evening coming home I did put my hand under the coats of Mercer and did touch her thigh, but then she did put by my hand and no hurt done, but talked and sang and was merry.

if I could put back
in the box all
my dark rain

and play a poet
of insipid ruins

would I live
only on the road
and stop being hurt

Erasure poems derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 6 February 1668.

The Kodomoroid reads the news

to museum-goers; she sports 
a cute bob and wears a clean 
white cotton smock. Her older 
sister Otonoroid has her hair 
in a neat ponytail; she talks, 
acts, even breathes, if that's 
what we can call the light 
puffs of air escaping from 
her mouth. They each take up 
about the same amount of space 
as one human would and look 
almost lifelike, except for those
small inconsistencies that make
us second-guess our own sense
of reality: a rubbery fold
at the corners of the eyes, 
the not-quite-fluid motion 
of a body copying the way 
the body moves. And I know 
a sepia-tinted photograph 
of my father from the '80s 
that I feed into an app called 
Deep Nostalgia will not bring 
him back— Still, when I press 
play and his animated head 
turns gently toward me, the part 
of my brain that startles
at the uncanny is overcome 
by wonder. How those clear
blue-gray eyes look as if
they're looking right at me, 
even as the smallest half-smile 
seems to hold something back.


Poor in spirit

Up, and I to Captain Cocke’s, where he and I did discourse of our business that we are to go about to the Commissioners of Accounts about our prizes, and having resolved to conceal nothing but to confess the truth, the truth being likely to do us most good, we parted, and I to White Hall, where missing of the Commissioners of the Treasury, I to the Commissioners of Accounts, where I was forced to stay two hours before I was called in, and when come in did take an oath to declare the truth to what they should ask me, which is a great power; I doubt more than the Act do, or as some say can, give them, to force a man to swear against himself; and so they fell to enquire about the business of prize-goods, wherein I did answer them as well as I could, answer them in everything the just truth, keeping myself to that. I do perceive at last, that, that they did lay most like a fault to me was, that I did buy goods upon my Lord Sandwich’s declaring that it was with the King’s allowance, and my believing it, without seeing the King’s allowance, which is a thing I will own, and doubt not to justify myself in. That that vexed me most was, their having some watermen by, to witness my saying that they were rogues that they had betrayed my goods, which was upon some discontent with one of the watermen that I employed at Greenwich, who I did think did discover the goods sent from Rochester to the Custom-House officer; but this can do me no great harm. They were inquisitive into the minutest particulars, and the evening great information; but I think that they can do me no hurt, at the worst, more than to make me refund, if it must be known, what profit I did make of my agreement with Captain Cocke; and yet, though this be all, I do find so poor a spirit within me, that it makes me almost out of my wits, and puts me to so much pain, that I cannot think of anything, nor do anything but vex and fret, and imagine myself undone, so that I am ashamed of myself to myself, and do fear what would become of me if any real affliction should come upon me. After they had done with me, they called in Captain Cocke, with whom they were shorter; and I do fear he may answer foolishly, for he did speak to me foolishly before he went in; but I hope to preserve myself, and let him shift for himself as well as he can. So I away, walked to my flageolet maker in the Strand, and there staid for Captain Cocke, who took me up and carried me home, and there coming home and finding dinner done, and Mr. Cooke, who come for my Lady Sandwich’s plate, which I must part with, and so endanger the losing of my money, which I lent upon my thoughts of securing myself by that plate. But it is no great sum — but 60l.: and if it must be lost, better that, than a greater sum. I away back again, to find a dinner anywhere else, and so I, first, to the Ship Tavern, thereby to get a sight of the pretty mistress of the house, with whom I am not yet acquainted at all, and I do always find her scolding, and do believe she is an ill-natured devil, that I have no great desire to speak to her. Here I drank, and away by coach to the Strand, there to find out Mr. Moore, and did find him at the Bell Inn, and there acquainted him with what passed between me and the Commissioners to-day about the prize goods, in order to the considering what to do about my Lord Sandwich, and did conclude to own the thing to them as done by the King’s allowance, and since confirmed. Thence to other discourse, among others, he mightily commends my Lord Hinchingbroke’s match and Lady, though he buys her 10,000l. dear, by the jointure and settlement his father makes her; and says that the Duke of York and Duchess of York did come to see them in bed together, on their weddingnight, and how my Lord had fifty pieces of gold taken out of his pocket that night, after he was in bed. He tells me that an Act of Comprehension is likely to pass this Parliament, for admitting of all persuasions in religion to the public observation of their particular worship, but in certain places, and the persons therein concerned to be listed of this, or that Church; which, it is thought, will do them more hurt than good, and make them not own, their persuasion. He tells me that there is a pardon passed to the Duke of Buckingham, my Lord of Shrewsbury, and the rest, for the late duell and murder; which he thinks a worse fault than any ill use my late Lord Chancellor ever put the Great Seal to, and will be so thought by the Parliament, for them to be pardoned without bringing them to any trial: and that my Lord Privy-Seal therefore would not have it pass his hand, but made it go by immediate warrant; or at least they knew that he would not pass it, and so did direct it to go by immediate warrant, that it might not come to him. He tells me what a character my Lord Sandwich hath sent over of Mr. Godolphin, as the worthiest man, and such a friend to him as he may be trusted in any thing relating to him in the world; as one whom, he says, he hath infallible assurances that he will remaine his friend which is very high, but indeed they say the gentleman is a fine man. Thence, after eating a lobster for my dinner, having eat nothing to-day, we broke up, here coming to us Mr. Townsend of the Wardrobe, who complains of the Commissioners of the Treasury as very severe against my Lord Sandwich, but not so much as they complain of him for a fool and a knave, and so I let him alone, and home, carrying Mr. Moore as far as Fenchurch Street, and I home, and there being vexed in my mind about my prize businesses I to my chamber, where my wife and I had much talk of W. Hewer, she telling me that he is mightily concerned for my not being pleased with him, and is herself mightily concerned, but I have much reason to blame him for his little assistance he gives me in my business, not being able to copy out a letter with sense or true spelling that makes me mad, and indeed he is in that regard of as little use to me as the boy, which troubles me, and I would have him know it, — and she will let him know it. By and by to supper, and so to bed, and slept but ill all night, my mind running like a fool on my prize business, which according to my reason ought not to trouble me at all.

what do I own
not even the spirit within me

imagine if any
affliction should come
all my money must be lost

better that than a mistress
with whom I am always a devil

I drank away my wedding night
bed like a great sea
that might not go out

Erasure poems derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 5 February 1668.


still from "55" showing a junker car in the middle of a snowy field
This entry is part 34 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year


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I turned 55 on the first spring-like day in late February, which felt like a cosmic mixed message. For weeks I’ve been fighting low-level depression about getting older and being a failure as a husband — and by fighting I mean going for long walks, mostly on snowshoes.

ogling the snow-free
strips of field

My birthday was shopping day, though, and when I got back to my parents’ house with their groceries, just past noon, Mom surprised me with a cake. And it was warm enough to sit out on their veranda and talk. It took me back.

When I think about my childhood now, it seems to me that I spent an inordinate amount of time just kind of poking at things with a stick. I suppose that must sound absurd to anyone who grew up with video games and the internet.

after the last train

I’m consoled by the thought that this sort of arm’s-length but intent preoccupation with whatever was in front of me may have been the perfect preparation for being a haiku poet. Though of course predilection doesn’t necessarily imply a gift. It would be presumptuous to assume that nature works like that.

a thicker exoskeleton
rock tripe

Period Piece

We climbed the hundred steps and rang 
the bell. Taking turns, we wrapped 
our hands around a bundle of prayer 
sticks and dropped them 

on the table. Sleepy-eyed, a monk 
pushed toward us a pad of paper, 
a pencil stub. We were to write 
down a question or a wish, 

which is also a kind of question. 
How far we were from the cities 
where we'd crossed the thresholds 
of all our houses. We didn't save

the stone of every fruit that fell 
so brightly from the tree, proclaiming 
it was ready to become our brand-
new heart. Mist was always drifting 

through the valley. A bridge was always 
cutting through it to disappear somewhere 
beyond. On a distant ridge, the ruins 
of a convent or a garrison,  

where ghosts walked their labyrinths 
and kept to themselves any counsel about 
the future. I wanted to keep a souvenir, 
to take a sheaf of creased 

and dog-eared photos: sunlight on a shaded 
porch, the roots of orchids parting the air.
The man and woman seated next to each 
other but smiling only with their eyes.


Up, and to the office, where a full Board sat all the morning, busy among other things concerning a solemn letter we intend to write to the Duke of York about the state of the things of the Navy, for want of money, though I doubt it will be to little purpose. After dinner I abroad by coach to Kate Joyce’s, where the jury did sit where they did before, about her husband’s death, and their verdict put off for fourteen days longer, at the suit of somebody, under pretence of the King; but it is only to get money out of her to compound the matter. But the truth is, something they will make out of Stillingfleete’s sermon, which may trouble us, he declaring, like a fool, in his pulpit, that he did confess that his losses in the world did make him do what he did. This do vex me to see how foolish our Protestant Divines are, while the Papists do make it the duty of Confessor to be secret, or else nobody would confess their sins to them.
All being put off for to-day, I took my leave of Kate, who is mightily troubled at it for her estate sake, not for her husband; for her sorrow for that, I perceive, is all over. I home, and, there to my office busy till the evening, and then home, and there my wife and Deb. and I and Betty Turner, I employed in the putting new titles to my books, which we proceeded on till midnight, and then being weary and late to bed.

concerning solemn things
I doubt their verdict

of truth like a pulpit
to protest in

I confess no sins to the state
no sorrow to my midnight

Erasure poems derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 4 February 1668.



Halo of stutter-
     light in every window 
Signs lettered with the names
     of streets that once
weren't chained to any one
     particular destination
As opposed to how at dusk 
     my mouth is a cave in which 
a hundred bats will not 
     stop careening 
In the park horses wait
     to be led through paths
thick with tourists 
     and camera clicks 
That sound isn't rain
     but dry pine needles
They too are looking for 
     openings in a field of breath

Water bearish

Up, and to the office, where with my clerks all the morning very busy about several things there wherein I was behindhand. At noon home to dinner, and thence after dinner to the Duke of York’s house, to the play, “The Tempest,” which we have often seen, but yet I was pleased again, and shall be again to see it, it is so full of variety, and particularly this day I took pleasure to learn the tune of the seaman’s dance, which I have much desired to be perfect in, and have made myself so. So home with my wife and Deb., and there at the office met to my trouble with a warrant from the Commissioners of Accounts for my attending them and Cocke two days hence, which I apprehend by Captain Cocke’s being to go also, to be about the prizes. But, however, there is nothing of crime can be laid to my charge, and the worst that can be is to refund my 500l. profit, and who can help it. So I resolve not to be troubled at it, though I fear I cannot bear it so, my spirit being very poor and mean as to the bearing with trouble that I do find of myself. So home, and there to my chamber and did some business, — and thence to supper and to bed.

I have seen the sea
which I have much desired

I have made myself
commissioner of nothing

I resolve not to fear
a bear spirit

poor and mean
bearing me up

Erasure poems derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 3 February 1668.