- after Jane Kenyon

Let evening come, said a poet whose words
I loved much of the time; meaning the light 
         and the animals, the fields all disappearing 
in the tent that night throws down. One by one 
that litany of unclasping; the truth we know 
        is going to come. It seems easier to unwind 
the thread to the end of the spool—lie down 
with the wind, press accordion pleats to let out 
        the milk trickle of breath. And yet the fox 
and the owl still hunt all night for their young; 
water fowl drink the surplus shed by the moon.
        We push evening back on its cold saddle, we
turn its horse around.  We sentence it for the knee 
        that choked a man to his death on the ground.

Slice and dice

Up, and put on a new summer black bombazin suit, and so to the office; and being come now to an agreement with my barber, to keep my perriwig in good order at 20s. a-year, I am like to go very spruce, more than I used to do. All the morning at the office and at noon home to dinner, and so to the King’s playhouse, and there saw “Philaster;” where it is pretty to see how I could remember almost all along, ever since I was a boy, Arethusa, the part which I was to have acted at Sir Robert Cooke’s; and it was very pleasant to me, but more to think what a ridiculous thing it would have been for me to have acted a beautiful woman. Thence to Mr. Pierces, and there saw Knepp also, and were merry; and here saw my little Lady Katherine Montagu come to town, about her eyes, which are sore, and they think the King’s evil, poor, pretty lady. Here I was freed from a fear that Knepp was angry or might take advantage to declare the essay that je did the other day, quand je was con heri n ponendo her mano upon mi cosa — but I saw no such thing; but as pleased as ever, and I believe she can bear with any such thing.
Thence to the New Exchange, and there met Harris and Rolt, and one Richards, a tailor and great company-keeper, and with these over to Fox Hall, and there fell into the company of Harry Killigrew, a rogue newly come back out of France, but still in disgrace at our Court, and young Newport and others, as very rogues as any in the town, who were ready to take hold of every woman that come by them. And so to supper in an arbour: but, Lord! their mad bawdy talk did make my heart ake! And here I first understood by their talk the meaning of the company that lately were called Ballets; Harris telling how it was by a meeting of some young blades, where he was among them, and my Lady Bennet and her ladies; and their there dancing naked, and all the roguish things in the world. But, Lord! what loose cursed company was this, that I was in to-night, though full of wit; and worth a man’s being in for once, to know the nature of it, and their manner of talk, and lives. Thence set Rolt and some of [them] at the New Exchange, and so I home, and my business being done at the office, I to bed.

summer like a cook
my eyes are poor company

but you my ache
understood the blade

dancing naked to know
the nature of lives

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 30 May 1668

One Way toThink About the Past

      There's a print, a woodcut: rough grain inked
then pressed to creamy paper. Fish circling 
the murky lake bottom. Choppy waves 
and a rowboat passing beneath willows, their limbs 
slashed green and splayed out like the tail feathers
of fighting cocks. Fog, as in the mind, obscures 
the view of buildings, roofs of ridged metal. 
Whatever you were then—still so unfinished, 
inadequate—you're not sure you've left
completely behind. It must have followed you
or you must have carried it, folded and slipped into
a pocket, between creased pages. Every now
and then, you take that old you out and it blinks
slowly in the sun.  You have to lead it, make
a litany of the simplest things it used 
to think it could never have. 


Betimes up, and up to my Tangier accounts, and then by water to the Council Chamber, and there received some directions from the Duke of York and the Committee of the Navy there about casting up the charge of the present summer’s fleete, that so they may come within the bounds of the sum given by the Parliament. But it is pretty to see how Prince Rupert and other mad, silly people, are for setting out but a little fleete, there being no occasion for it; and say it will be best to save the money for better uses. But Sir W. Coventry did declare that, in wisdom, it was better to do so; but that, in obedience to the Parliament, he was [for] setting out the fifty sail talked on, though it spent all the money, and to little purpose; and that this was better than to leave it to the Parliament to make bad construction of their thrift, if any trouble should happen. Thus wary the world is grown!
Thence back again presently home, and did business till noon: and then to Sir G. Carteret’s to dinner, with much good company, it being the King’s birthday, and many healths drunk: and here I did receive another letter from my Lord Sandwich, which troubles me to see how I have neglected him, in not writing, or but once, all this time of his being abroad; and I see he takes notice, but yet gently, of it, that it puts me to great trouble, and I know not how to get out of it, having no good excuse, and too late now to mend, he being coming home. Thence home, whither, by agreement, by and by comes Mercer and Gayet, and two gentlemen with them, Mr. Monteith and Pelham, the former a swaggering young handsome gentleman, the latter a sober citizen merchant. Both sing, but the latter with great skill — the other, no skill, but a good voice, and a good basse, but used to sing only tavern tunes; and so I spent all this evening till eleven at night singing with them, till I was tired of them, because of the swaggering fellow with the base, though the girl Mercer did mightily commend him before to me. This night je had agreed par’ alter at Deptford, there par’ avoir lain con the moher de Bagwell, but this company did hinder me.

in summer’s mad wisdom
setting sail is better
than a bad birth

and see how this road
takes notice of you
a Zen merchant singing
for the company

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 29 May 1668

What Leaves and Comes Back in Another Body

Tiniest insect body pressed
against glass: a near-
translucent ochre, like a leaf
torn from its parent tree. 

No matter how far you drive,
it remains like that, unmoving,
perhaps already drained of life. 
You don't peel it off yet. 

You think of the possibility
it might house breath, 
a spirit returning from the other 
side— All the cloudy faces 

of your dead, constellated.
Papery husk, veined lacewing.


Up, to set right some little matters of my Tangier accounts, and so to the office, where busy all the morning, and then home with my people to dinner, and after dinner comes about a petition for a poor woman whose ticket she would get paid, and so talked a little and did baiser her, and so to the office, being pleased that this morning my bookseller brings me home Marcennus’s book of musick, which costs me 3l. 2s.; but is a very fine book. So to the office and did some business, and then by coach to the New Exchange, and there by agreement at my bookseller’s shop met Mercer and Gayet, and took them by water, first to one of the Neat-houses, where walked in the garden, but nothing but a bottle of wine to be had, though pleased with seeing the garden; and so to Fox Hall, where with great pleasure we walked, and then to the upper end of the further retired walk, and there sat and sang, and brought great many gallants and fine people about us, and, upon the bench, we did by and by eat and drink what we had, and very merry: and so with much pleasure to the Old Swan, and walked with them home, and there left them, and so I home to my business at the office a little, and so to bed.

dinner after dinner
no wine to be had

though seeing a fox
with fur red as sin

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 28 May 1668


Steeped in salt and smoke,
mystical tonics; no one says dying
though the king drowses every day in torpor 
thick as a winding sheet. Some say a trance 
and some, a curse. And with him, the land
is cursed: bare trees, dry pods, fish gasping 
for water. Aratiles fruit that rattle in the wind. 
Read again of the three sent to find for their lord
patriarch a remedy: for rousing him out of his 
stupor, for waking the limbs and lifting the body 
out of its bed, they'll walk beyond the border in search
of something they're not even sure exists. Only one 
will see through ash and stone, will bring back a lyric
unsullied, from the mouth of a coppery-tailed bird.

Big man

Up, and to the office, where some time upon Sir D. Gawden’s accounts, and then I by water to Westminster for some Tangier orders, and so meeting with Mr. Sawyers my old chamber-fellow, he and I by water together to the Temple, he giving me an account of the base, rude usage, which he and Sir G. Carteret had lately, before the Commissioners of Accounts, where he was, as Counsel to Sir G. Carteret, which I was sorry to hear, they behaving themselves like most insolent and ill-mannered men. Thence by coach to the Exchange, and there met with Sir H. Cholmly at Colvill’s; and there did give him some orders, and so home, and there to the office again, where busy till two o’clock, and then with Sir D. Gawden to his house, with my Lord Brouncker and Sir J. Minnes, to dinner, where we dined very well, and much good company, among others, a Dr., a fat man, whom by face I know, as one that uses to sit in our church, that after dinner did take me out, and walked together, who told me that he had now newly entered himself into Orders, in the decay of the Church, and did think it his duty so to do, thereby to do his part toward the support and reformation thereof; and spoke very soberly, and said that just about the same age Dr. Donne did enter into Orders. I find him a sober gentleman, and a man that hath seen much of the world, and I think may do good. Thence after dinner to the office, and there did a little business, and so to see Sir W. Pen, who I find still very ill of the goute, sitting in his great chair, made on purpose for persons sick of that disease, for their ease; and this very chair, he tells me, was made for my Lady Lambert! Thence I by coach to my tailor’s, there to direct about the making of me another suit, and so to White Hall, and through St. James’s Park to St. James’s, thinking to have met with Mr. Wren, but could not, and so homeward toward the New Exchange, and meeting Mr. Creed he and I to drink some whey at the whey-house, and so into the ’Change and took a walk or two, and so home, and there vexed at my boy’s being out of doors till ten at night, but it was upon my brother Jackson’s business, and so I was the less displeased, and then made the boy to read to me out of Dr. Wilkins his “Real Character,” and particularly about Noah’s arke, where he do give a very good account thereof, shewing how few the number of the several species of beasts and fowls were that were to be in the arke, and that there was room enough for them and their food and dung, which do please me mightily and is much beyond what ever I heard of the subject, and so to bed.

commissioner like a hangman
face newly entered
into decay

and his little pen
his great chair made
for that disease, ease

there to direct
another wren
toward the owls

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 27 May 1668

A Vision

Summer was rind and fruit;
then sudden, humid fermentation.  

We held one ear in the direction of rain,
the other open to cricket call.

Not even locusts gathered 
as clouds on the horizon. 

The fields radiated in all
directions, as though in those 

old dreams of possibility.
We tried to take the measure 

of this intractable body of heat.
No one had the heart to open

one striped umbrella, one
gaudy beach chair.

Lost time

Up by four o’clock; and by the time we were ready, and had eat, we were called to the coach, where about six o’clock we set out, there being a man and two women of one company, ordinary people, and one lady alone, that is tolerably handsome, but mighty well spoken, whom I took great pleasure in talking to, and did get her to read aloud in a book she was reading, in the coach, being the King’s Meditations; and then the boy and I to sing, and so about noon come to Bishop’s Stafford, to another house than what we were at the other day, and better used. And here I paid for the reckoning 11s., we dining together, and pretty merry; and then set out again, sleeping most part of the way; and got to Bishopsgate Street before eight o’clock, the waters being now most of them down, and we avoiding the bad way in the forest by a privy way, which brought us to Hodsden; and so to Tibalds, that road, which was mighty pleasant. So home, where we find all well, and brother Balty and his wife looking to the house, she mighty fine, in a new gold-laced ‘just a cour’. I shifted myself, and so to see Mrs. Turner, and Mercer appearing over the way, called her in, and sat and talked, and then home to my house by and by, and there supped and talked mighty merry, and then broke up and to bed, being a little vexed at what W. Hewer tells me Sir John Shaw did this day in my absence say at the Board, complaining of my doing of him injury and the board permitting it, whereas they had more reason to except against his attributing that to me alone which I could not do but with their condent and direction, it being to very good service to the King, and which I shall be proud to have imputed to me alone. The King I hear come to town last night.

clock sleeping in the forest
bald as a pear

an absence of direction
imputed to the town

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 26 May 1668