Night from the inside (5)

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Night from the Inside


To go for a walk in the woods during the day is to participate in a fantasy of knowing through seeing. The mysterious unknown is pushed back, engendering the desire to keep walking just to see what’s around the next bend. At night, all such illusions fall away. The forest we’ve just walked through retains its essential unknowability. Without darkness, the very possibility of the wild becomes endangered.


From off in the darkness, the sound of a porcupine clacking its teeth. Against what threat, I wonder?

It goes on and on. Somebody doesn’t have much sense.


I sit on a bench in the moonlight, put down my hand, and find the pen I didn’t know I’d lost. A small moment of grace, like so many over the years that have allowed me to see myself as deeply fortunate, despite the fact that I’m broke.


The absolute silence of an owl’s flight. If I hadn’t been gazing in the right direction, I wouldn’t have known it was there. Even the moonlight makes more noise.


In a moonlit forest there are far more beasts. I have had to get out my flashlight three times in the course of a mile to verify that dark shapes were merely logs or root balls. But of course in reality, too, more animals are able to forage or to hunt when the moon is bright.


Trees don’t need heads because they have the sun. At night, all that remains are their gestures of ardent worship silhouetted against the sky.


Angels with the jaws of lions, these clouds trying to swallow the full moon. A bat less seen than felt — a ripple through the still air currently bearing the monotonous hectoring of a whip-poor-will.


Full moon through the trees: the last I’ll see it like that, with so few leaves, until November. I watch it inching along through the branches.


Sitting in the middle of a mowed path through the meadow, I feel something bump into the back of my canvas chair, followed by the sound of running feet. Didn’t turn around in time to see what it was. Too small for a deer, too fast for a porcupine. A near-sighted fox? A not-so-wily coyote?


moon dog
taking off my glasses
to make sure it’s real

moon dog
sprouting a cloudy tail
time to plant


the old anthill’s
shaggy look


moon bathing
that elusive piece
of soap


Sólo la luna sospecha la verdad.
Y es que el hombre no existe.
(Only the moon suspects the truth.
And that is that Man doesn’t exist.)
Vicente Aleixandre


The night’s doors opening all at once. Flickers of lightning on the horizon. The false thunder of a jet.


The sounds of my digestion startle me — and perhaps others off in the darkness. Wouldn’t this have given our hunter-gatherer ancestors an adaptive advantage? I like the idea of the wild within — our gut microflora — helping to safeguard us against the wild without.

A penny saved

Up, and Captain Perryman come to me to tell me how Tatnell told him that this day one How is to charge me before the Commissioners of Prizes to the value of 8000l. in prizes, which I was troubled to hear, so fearful I am, though I know that there is not a penny to be laid to my charge that I dare not own, or that I have not owned under my hand, but upon recollection it signifies nothing to me, and so I value it not, being sure that I can have nothing in the world to my hurt known from the business. So to the office, where all the morning to despatch business, and so home to dinner with my clerks, whose company is of great pleasure to me for their good discourse in any thing of the navy I have a mind to talk of. After dinner by water from the Tower to White Hall, there to attend the Duke of York as usual, and particularly in a fresh complaint the Commissioners of the Treasury do make to him, and by and by to the Council this day of our having prepared certificates on the Exchequer to the further sum of near 50,000l., and soon as we had done with the Duke of York we did attend the Council; and were there called in, and did hear Mr. Sollicitor [General] make his Report to the Council in the business; which he did in a most excellent manner of words, but most cruelly severe against us, and so were some of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, as men guilty of a practice with the tradesmen, to the King’s prejudice. I was unwilling to enter into a contest with them; but took advantage of two or three words last spoke, and brought it to a short issue in good words, that if we had the King’s order to hold our hands, we would, which did end the matter: and they all resolved we should have it, and so it ended: and so we away; I vexed that I did not speak more in a cause so fit to be spoke in, and wherein we had so much advantage; but perhaps I might have provoked the Sollicitor and the Commissioners of the Treasury, and therefore, since, I am not sorry that I forbore. Thence my Lord Brouncker and I to the Duke of York’s playhouse, and there saw the latter part of “The Master and the Man,” and thence by coach to Duck Lane, to look out for Marsanne, in French, a man that has wrote well of musique, but it is not to be had, but I have given order for its being sent for over, and I did here buy Des Cartes his little treatise of musique, and so home, and there to read a little, and eat a little, though I find that my having so little taste do make me so far neglect eating that, unless company invite, I do not love to spend time upon eating, and so bring emptiness and the Cholique. So to bed. This day I hear that Prince Rupert and Holmes do go to sea: and by this there is a seeming friendship and peace among our great seamen; but the devil a bit is there any love among them, or can be.

a penny signifies the world
we would not miss

a sorry playhouse home
having so little

that emptiness is
a seeming great sea

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 3 April 1668

Terra Firma

It took years to acknowledge I didn't want
to stay. But not in the way you think 

you understand. To do that 
took all of the last gifts I'd been given.

Now my world is the constant re-assemblage
of before and after. What's left over:

a kind of moss I use to pad
the bottom of this terrarium. 

Everything I've ever had to prove
of worth, gnawed through to the core

by river rats that came into the house
at night until they became familiar.


Up, after much pleasant talk with my wife, and upon some alterations I will make in my house in her absence, and I do intend to lay out some money thereon. So she and I up, and she got her ready to be gone, and by and by comes Betty Turner and her mother, and W. Batelier, and they and Deb., to whom I did give 10s. this morning, to oblige her to please her mistress (and ego did baiser her mouche), and also Jane, and so in two coaches set out about eight o’clock towards the carrier, there for to take coach for my father’s, that is to say, my wife and Betty Turner, Deb., and Jane; but I meeting my Lord Anglesey going to the Office, was forced to ’light in Cheapside, and there took my leave of them (not baisado Deb., which je had a great mind to), left them to go to their coach, and I to the office, where all the morning busy, and so at noon with my other clerks (W. Hewer being a day’s journey with my wife) to dinner, where Mr. Pierce come and dined with me, and then with Lord Brouncker (carrying his little kinswoman on my knee, his coach being full), to the Temple, where my Lord and I ’light and to Mr. Porter’s chamber, where Cocke and his counsel, and so to the attorney’s, whither the Sollicitor-Generall come, and there, their cause about their assignments on the 1,250,000l Act was argued, where all that was to be said for them was said, and so answered by the Sollicitor-Generall beyond what I expected, that I said not one word all my time, rather choosing to hold my tongue, and so mind my reputation with the Sollicitor-Generall, who did mightily approve of my speech in Parliament, than say anything against him to no purpose. This I believe did trouble Cocke and these gentlemen, but I do think this best for me, and so I do think that the business will go against them, though it is against my judgment, and I am sure against all justice to the men to be invited to part with their goods and be deceived afterward of their security for payment. Thence with Lord Brouncker to the Royall Society, where they were just done; but there I was forced to subscribe to the building of a College, and did give 40l.; and several others did subscribe, some greater and some less sums; but several I saw hang off: and I doubt it will spoil the Society, for it breeds faction and ill-will, and becomes burdensome to some that cannot, or would not, do it. Here, to my great content, I did try the use of the Otacousticon, which was only a great glass bottle broke at the bottom, putting the neck to my eare, and there I did plainly hear the dashing of the oares of the boats in the Thames to Arundell gallery window, which, without it, I could not in the least do, and may, I believe, be improved to a great height, which I am mighty glad of. Thence with Lord Brouncker and several of them to the King’s Head Taverne by Chancery Lane, and there did drink and eat and talk, and, above the rest, I did hear of Mr. Hooke and my Lord an account of the reason of concords and discords in musique, which they say is from the equality of vibrations; but I am not satisfied in it, but will at my leisure think of it more, and see how far that do go to explain it. So late at night home with Mr. Colwell, and parted, and I to the office, and then to Sir W. Pen to confer with him, and Sir R. Ford and Young, about our St. John Baptist prize, and so home, without more supper to bed, my family being now little by the departure of my wife and two maids.

if the light were a word
my tongue could become
a glass-bottom boat

I could say and see
far into you
without being lit

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 2 April 1668

Histories of Conquest

"No geology is neutral." - Kathryn Yusoff

Divide, they said. And they divided
valleys into troughs, separated water 

from its native names, our people
from each other.  Collectors flapped 

their arms under the canopy, marveling
at the ruffled crest of the umbrella 

cockatoo while thinking up possible
carnival routines. The tiny footprints 

of chevrotain disappeared in dense 
carpets  of moss. Domesticate meant: 

make a hole large enough for a body 
to occupy, so the work of expansion 

continues from inside. Mountains 
hollowed for silver and gold, for copper 

vein. The opening in the land a skylight 
for all the dark bodies dropped into it,

made to extract their most sacred
elements. In time, the land publishes

every incursion— Open any rock face to read 
the overlapping tables.  Make a pin map 

of every place where matter was atomized 
for some kind of conquest or consumption.


Enjoying the journey

Up, and to dress myself, and call as I use Deb. to brush and dress me, and there I did again as I did the last night con mi mano, but would have tocado su thing; but ella endeavored to prevent me con much modesty by putting su hand there about, which I was well pleased with and would not do too much, and so con great kindness dismissed la; and I to my office, where busy till noon, and then out to bespeak some things against my wife’s going into the country to-morrow, and so home to dinner, my wife and I alone, she being mighty busy getting her things ready for her journey, I all the afternoon with her looking after things on the same account, and then in the afternoon out and all alone to the King’s house, and there sat in an upper box, to hide myself, and saw “The Black Prince,” a very good play; but only the fancy, most of it, the same as in the rest of my Lord Orrery’s plays; but the dance very stately; but it was pretty to see how coming after dinner and with no company with me to talk to, and at a play that I had seen, and went to now not for curiosity but only idleness, I did fall asleep the former part of the play, but afterward did mind it and like it very well. Thence called at my bookseller’s, and took Mr. Boyle’s Book of Formes, newly reprinted, and sent my brother my old one. So home, and there to my chamber till anon comes Mr. Turner and his wife and daughter, and Pelling, to sup with us and talk of my wife’s journey to-morrow, her daughter going with my wife; and after supper to talk with her husband about the Office, and his place, which, by Sir J. Minnes’s age and inability, is very uncomfortable to him, as well as without profit, or certainty what he shall do, when Sir J. Minnes dies, which is a sad condition for a man that hath lived so long in the Office as Mr. Turner hath done. But he aymes, and I advise him to it, to look for Mr. Ackworth’s place, in case he should be removed. His wife afterwards did take me into my closet, and give me a cellar of waters of her own distilling for my father, to be carried down with my wife and her daughter to-morrow, which was very handsome. So broke up and to bed.

going into a box to hide
and fall asleep
is my journey

going to a place
out of place in my cellar
of waters and hands

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 1 April 1668

Self Portrait, with Memory of Lost Child

There was the one lost shortly after being discovered; 
it was the year a man smashed his SUV into the front 
of a St. Paul Planned Parenthood office, on the 36th 

anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Not there, but in Virginia 
later that spring, she found herself waiting to be examined. 
The doctor remarked on how all the women that morning 

seemed "of a certain age,"in that time when the body starts 
playing tricks on you. She was sent home to wait another week; 
too early. Then that weekend, in the shower, a dark red memento

slipped with hardly a spasm from between her thighs onto wet 
tile. Perhaps her body was no longer a structure with strong 
beams or working viaducts. Perhaps a wound

is better left alone. Perhaps another body orbiting in space
blinked faintly before deciding to go its own inscrutable way.


Up pretty betimes and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon I home to dinner, where uncle Thomas dined with me, as he do every quarter, and I paid him his pension; and also comes Mr. Hollier a little fuddled, and so did talk nothing but Latin, and laugh, that it was very good sport to see a sober man in such a humour, though he was not drunk to scandal. At dinner comes a summons for this office and the Victualler to attend a Committee of Parliament this afternoon, with Sir D. Gawden, which I accordingly did, with my papers relating to the sending of victuals to Sir John Harman’s fleete; and there, Sir R. Brookes in the chair, we did give them a full account, but, Lord! to see how full they are and immoveable in their jealousy that some means are used to keep Harman from coming home, for they have an implacable desire to know the bottom of the not improving the first victory, and would lay it upon Brouncker. Having given them good satisfaction I away thence, up and down, wanting a little to see whether I could get Mrs. Burroughes out, but elle being in the shop ego did speak con her much, she could not then go far, and so I took coach and away to Unthanke’s, and there took up my wife and Deb., and to the Park, where, being in a hackney, and they undressed, was ashamed to go into the tour, but went round the park, and so with pleasure home, where Mr. Pelling come and sat and talked late with us, and he being gone, I called Deb. to take pen, ink, and paper and write down what things come into my head for my wife to do in order to her going into the country, and the girl, writing not so well as she would do, cried, and her mistress construed it to be sullenness, and so away angry with her too, but going to bed she undressed me, and there I did give her good advice and baiser la, elle weeping still; and yo did take her, the first time in my life, sobra mi genu and did poner mi mano sub her jupes and toca su thigh, which did hazer me great pleasure; and so did no more, but besando-la went to my bed.

office scandal
the implacable faction
dressed all in paper

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 31 March 1668

The Difficult Lesson

No matter how much you want to,
you cannot do the work for others.

Where did they go, those cool
pine-scented nights that breathed
so quietly you believed
no harm could come to those
you loved?

Boats melt into the bluegreen
dapple of evening; a fountain
turns itself on somewhere.
The water as tender 
as a new wound—

How long
and hard you've prayed 
for some kind of angel to scatter 
the dark birds that keep 
coming to rest in your children's hair. 

Red clay

Up betimes, and so to the office, there to do business till about 10 o’clock, and then out with my wife and Deb. and W. Hewer by coach to Common-garden Coffee-house, where by appointment I was to meet Harris; which I did, and also Mr. Cooper, the great painter, and Mr. Hales: and thence presently to Mr. Cooper’s house, to see some of his work, which is all in little, but so excellent as, though I must confess I do think the colouring of the flesh to be a little forced, yet the painting is so extraordinary, as I do never expect to see the like again. Here I did see Mrs. Stewart’s picture as when a young maid, and now just done before her having the smallpox: and it would make a man weep to see what she was then, and what she is like to be, by people’s discourse, now. Here I saw my Lord Generall’s picture, and my Lord Arlington and Ashly’s, and several others; but among the rest one Swinfen, that was Secretary to my Lord Manchester, Lord Chamberlain, with Cooling, done so admirably as I never saw any thing: but the misery was, this fellow died in debt, and never paid Cooper for his picture; but, it being seized on by his creditors, among his other goods, after his death, Cooper himself says that he did buy it, and give 25l. out of his purse for it, for what he was to have had but 30l.. Being infinitely satisfied with this sight, and resolving that my wife shall be drawn by him when she comes out of the country, I away with Harris and Hales to the Coffee-house, sending my people away, and there resolve for Hales to begin Harris’s head for me, which I will be at the cost of. After a little talk, I away to White Hall and Westminster, where I find the Parliament still bogling about the raising of this money: and every body’s mouth full now; and Mr. Wren himself tells me that the Duke of York declares to go to sea himself this year; and I perceive it is only on this occasion of distaste of the Parliament against W. Pen’s going, and to prevent the Prince’s: but I think it is mighty hot counsel for the Duke of York at this time to go out of the way; but, Lord! what a pass are all our matters come to! At noon by appointment to Cursitor’s Alley, in Chancery Lane, to meet Captain Cocke and some other creditors of the Navy, and their Counsel, Pemberton, North, Offly, and Charles Porter; and there dined, and talked of the business of the assignments on the Exchequer of the 1,250,000l. on behalf of our creditors; and there I do perceive that the Counsel had heard of my performance in the Parliamenthouse lately, and did value me and what I said accordingly. At dinner we had a great deal of good discourse about Parliament: their number being uncertain, and always at the will of the King to encrease, as he saw reason to erect a new borough. But all concluded that the bane of the Parliament hath been the leaving off the old custom of the places allowing wages to those that served them in Parliament, by which they chose men that understood their business and would attend it, and they could expect an account from, which now they cannot; and so the Parliament is become a company of men unable to give account for the interest of the place they serve for.
Thence, the meeting of the Counsel with the King’s Counsel this afternoon being put off by reason of the death of Serjeant Maynard’s lady, I to White Hall, where the Parliament was to wait on the King; and they did: and it was to be told that he did think fit to tell them that they might expect to be adjourned at Whitsuntide, and that they might make haste to raise their money; but this, I fear, will displease them, who did expect to sit as long as they pleased, and whether this be done by the King upon some new counsel I know not, for the King must be beholding to them till they do settle this business of money. Great talk to-day as if Beaufort was come into the Channel with about 20 ships, and it makes people apprehensive, but yet the Parliament do not stir a bit faster in the business of money. Here I met with Creed, expecting a Committee of Tangier, but the Committee met not, so he and I up and down, having nothing to do, and particularly to the New Cockpit by the King’s Gate in Holborne, but seeing a great deal of rabble we did refuse to go in, but took coach and to Hide Park, and there till all the tour was empty, and so he and I to the Lodge in the Park, and there eat and drank till it was night, and then carried him to White Hall, having had abundance of excellent talk with him in reproach of the times and managements we live under, and so I home, and there to talk and to supper with my wife, and so to bed.

the color of flesh

like a man that died
in a bog

mouth full
of some unheard Thou

in a rough old
custom of the place

to give the sun someone
to be reborn

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 30 March 1668