Family Secrets

They're nothing important now, 
though they must have been 

at some point in their writing: 
depositions, sworn statements; 

judgments that sent the innocent 
back to their wives, or sentenced 

the guilty to punishment. A yellowed
letter fell out of a sheaf of crumpled 

pages bound together with rubber 
bands—It read like a map slowly

uncovering hidden markings, tracking
your life back to an origin you didn't yet

know. Sometimes you wonder:  if you 
hadn't uncreased its folds to read, 

would the libretto carry a different song, 
life fill with a different cast of characters?


Up, and to the office, where Kate Joyce come to me about some tickets of hers, but took no notice to me of her being married, but seemed mighty pale, and doubtful what to say or do, expecting, I believe, that I should begin; and not finding me beginning, said nothing, but, with trouble in her face, went away. At the office all the morning, and after dinner also all the afternoon, and in the evening with my wife and Deb. and Betty Turner to Unthanke’s, where we are fain to go round by Newgate, because of Fleet Bridge being under rebuilding. They stayed there, and I about some business, and then presently back and brought them home and supped and Mrs. Turner, the mother, comes to us, and there late, and so to bed.

the tick took no notice
of her being married

finding her face
under the bed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 7 July 1668

Public servant

Up, and to St. James’s, and there attended the Duke of York, and was there by himself told how angry he was, and did declare to my Lord Anglesey, about his late complaining of things of the Navy to the King in Council, and not to him; and I perceive he is mightily concerned at it, and resolved to reform things therein.
Thence with W. Coventry walked in the Park together a good while, he mighty kind to me. And hear many pretty stories of my Lord Chancellor’s being heretofore made sport of by Peter Talbot the priest, in his story of the death of Cardinall Bleau; by Lord Cottington, in his ‘Dolor de las Tyipas’; and Tom Killigrew, in his being bred in Ram Ally, and now bound prentice to Lord Cottington, going to Spain with 1000l., and two suits of clothes. Thence home to dinner, and thence to Mr. Cooper’s, and there met my wife and W. Hewer and Deb.; and there my wife first sat for her picture: but he is a most admirable workman, and good company. Here comes Harris, and first told us how Betterton is come again upon the stage: whereupon my wife and company to the house to see “Henry the Fifth;” while I to attend the Duke of York at the Committee of the Navy, at the Council, where some high dispute between him and W. Coventry about settling pensions upon all Flag-Officers, while unemployed: W. Coventry against it, and, I think, with reason. Thence I to the playhouse, and saw a piece of the play, and glad to see Betterton; and so with wife and Deb. to Spring-garden, and eat a lobster, and so home in the evening and to bed. Great doings at Paris, I hear, with their triumphs for their late conquests! The Duchesse of Richmond sworn last week of the queen’s Bedchamber, and the King minding little else but what he used to do — about his women.

so many stories of death
in his red suit

he is a most admirable workman
and good company

come old age or the flag
with their triumphs

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 6 July 1668

Giving In

It's the little voice
that starts to speak
in imperatives, while gesturing
at the clock. It's the random
post that stops you and makes 
you laugh: take all the naps, eat 
all the snacks— Of course, 
what timely wisdom! 
When you swing into 
the parking lot at Four Seasons, 
right after the dentist scrapes
through a COVID year's 
worth of tartar buildup,
aren't there shelves of White 
Rabbit candy and Flat Tops, 
Haw Flakes and champoy
brightly puckering hello 
like old friends? Grab
a crinkly packet of pork 
floss that looks like wiry 
shavings; they'll bring a hot 
bowl of congee to life. 
Tart green mangos, shrimp
paste. Later, you can plunge
a whole hand into a bowl
of jackfruit,  while reading 
a book—each of the yellow-
gold pieces are really  
flowers growing like you
toward their own desire.

The Future Only Calls But Doesn’t Answer

The subject of continuity
is what comes back the most 

now—a complexity of thoughts
branching from the tiniest 

node, like a plant whose name 
I didn't know at first, but 

whose growing shape 
has made  itself familiar. At first 

the idea of it, the feeling
of it, curled slight as a pliant red

lucky fish on my palm. Then It flipped
on its side when I spoke to it.

Second sleep

(Lord’s day). About four in the morning took four pills of Dr. Turberville’s prescribing, for my eyes, and they wrought pretty well most of the morning, and I did get my wife to spend the morning reading of Wilkins’s Reall Character. At noon comes W. Hewer and Pelling, and young Michell and his wife, and dined with us, and most of the afternoon talking; and then at night my wife to read again, and to supper and to bed.

four in the morning
four pills of real noon
and you
and us

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 5 July 1668


Up, and to see Sir W. Coventry, and give him account of my doings yesterday, which he well liked of, and was told thereof by my Lord Halifax before; but I do perceive he is much concerned for this business. Gives me advice to write a smart letter to the Duke of York about the want of money in the Navy, and desire him to communicate it to the Commissioners of the Treasury; for he tells me he hath hot work sometimes to contend with the rest for the Navy, they being all concerned for some other part of the King’s expenses, which they would prefer to this, of the Navy. He shewed me his closet, with his round table, for him to sit in the middle, very convenient; and I borrowed several books of him, to collect things out of the Navy, which I have not, and so home, and there busy sitting all the morning, and at noon dined, and then all the afternoon busy, till night, and then to Mile-End with my wife and girl, and there drank and eat a joie of salmon, at the Rose and Crown, our old house; and so home to bed.

oven of my yesterday
an old bus
I miss sometimes

concerned for
some other part
of the book of night

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 4 July 1668


Betimes to the office, my head full of this business. Then by coach to the Commissioners of Accounts at Brooke House, the first time I was ever there, and there Sir W. Turner in the chair; and present, Lord Halifax, Thoms[on], Gregory, Dunster, and Osborne. I long with them, and see them hot set on this matter; but I did give them proper and safe answers. Halifax, I perceive, was industrious on my side, in behalf of his uncle Coventry, it being the business of Sir W. Warren. Vexed only at their denial of a copy of what I set my hand to, and swore. Here till almost two o’clock, and then home to dinner, and set down presently what I had done and said this day, and so abroad by water to Eagle Court in the Strand, and there to an alehouse: met Mr. Pierce, the Surgeon, and Dr. Clerke, Waldron, Turberville, my physician for the eyes, and Lowre, to dissect several eyes of sheep and oxen, with great pleasure, and to my great information. But strange that this Turberville should be so great a man, and yet, to this day, had seen no eyes dissected, or but once, but desired this Dr. Lowre to give him the opportunity to see him dissect some. Thence to Unthanke’s, to my wife, and carried her home, and there walked in the garden, and so to supper and to bed.

my head full
of unborn answers

ax in my hand
to dissect an ox

to see red
is to unsee the garden

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


“Our lives are shorter than the stars but longer 
than flowers.”  ~ attributed to Jeffrey Byrd

No doors ever banged 
shut or open in our house; 
maybe rarely. The rooms

spilled over, but just short of
true chaos. Tears and tears 
and tears. But mostly 

books and laundry, laundry
and books. Expenses and some
foolish gains. The extravagance  

of a bankruptcy; years of long
recovery called restructuring,
then a cautious coming out

on some other side. The surprise
of not being  completely broken. 
A growing  quiet from the increasing 

absence of children; perhaps 
some softening in the insistence of 
their needs— In frustration 

or anger, we know we can raise 
our voices beyond the edgy 
whisper, then sink back 

into arms made 
familiar through the decades. 
Whenever we want, we can fill 

these rooms with takeout 
and instacart deliveries, 
Hulu marathons, 

off-key tunes on piano.
We already know this is
likely a preview of some

of the life remaining 
ahead, granted we live
long enough to live into it.