This is the year in which we come to know 
about edible spoons and forks made not from 
plastic but millet or wheat or rice in India; that you 
could take a slow container ship to travel 28 days 
from Europe to Pasir Gudang,  Hakata, Incheon, 
                 and Manila. Keep brown grocery bags, 
turn the cardboard seams of cereal boxes 
inside out; iron last year's glossy printed 
gift papers so you're never out of mailing 
supplies. In 1898, Commodore Dewey 
defeated the Spanish fleet in the Battle 
                 of Manila Bay. A young man from New 
Jersey, one of 13,000 American soldiers deployed
in Cavite, wrote home in a letter: It's strange 
that we're here because, as far as we're concerned, 
the battle against the Spanish has been won at sea. 
This winter, we'll have to learn all over again 
                  how not to be the envelopes that new mutations 
of a virus could slip into. Wars never end, do they? 
Lethal doesn't only mean the number of dead 
or dying. Look at the boys on the playground, 
pocketing the shiny marbles they won 
by knocking out the others from the circle. 

Office worker

Up, and she with me as heretofore, and so I to the Office, where all the morning, and at noon to dinner, and Mr. Wayth, who, being at my office about business, I took him with me to talk and understand his matters, who is in mighty trouble from the Committee of Accounts about his contracting with this Office for sayle-cloth, but no hurt can be laid at his door in it, but upon us for doing it, if any, though we did it by the Duke of York’s approval, and by him I understand that the new Treasurers do intend to bring in all new Instruments, and so having dined we parted, and I to my wife and to sit with her a little, and then called her and Willet to my chamber, and there did, with tears in my eyes, which I could not help, discharge her and advise her to be gone as soon as she could, and never to see me, or let me see her more while she was in the house, which she took with tears too, but I believe understands me to be her friend, and I am apt to believe by what my wife hath of late told me is a cunning girle, if not a slut. Thence, parting kindly with my wife, I away by coach to my cozen Roger, according as by mistake (which the trouble of my mind for some days has occasioned, in this and another case a day or two before) is set down in yesterday’s notes, and so back again, and with Mr. Gibson late at my chamber making an end of my draught of a letter for the Duke of York, in answer to the answers of this Office, which I have now done to my mind, so as, if the Duke likes it, will, I think, put an end to a great deal of the faults of this Office, as well as my trouble for them. So to bed, and did lie now a little better than formerly, but with little, and yet with some trouble.

to the office where
my committee is a sail

my eyes never
let me believe

my wife is
not my wife

my mind is another
day’s notes

and I am making
an answer do for a lie

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 12 November 1668.

Five Spices

Cinnamon and star
           anise, fennel seed; cloves, 
ginger. Sifting them I'm reminded 
          of how, in this world, one taste 
combines with another, or 
         splinters off; or returns as a thin 
stroke remembered by the tongue
         deep in the night, long after
 the last crumbs have been swept away 
         from the temple steps of the mouth. 


Up, and my wife with me as before, and so to the Office, where, by a speciall desire, the new Treasurers come, and there did shew their Patent, and the Great Seal for the suspension of my Lord Anglesey: and here did sit and discourse of the business of the Office: and brought Mr. Hutchinson with them, who, I hear, is to be their Paymaster, in the room of Mr. Waith. For it seems they do turn out every servant that belongs to the present Treasurer: and so for Fenn, do bring in Mr. Littleton, Sir Thomas’s brother, and oust all the rest. But Mr. Hutchinson do already see that his work now will be another kind of thing than before, as to the trouble of it. They gone, and, indeed, they appear, both of them, very intelligent men, I home to dinner, and there with my people dined, and so to my wife, who would not dine with [me] that she might not have the girle come in sight, and there sat and talked a while with her and pretty quiet, I giving no occasion of offence, and so to the office [and then by coach to my cozen Roger Pepys, who did, at my last being with him this day se’nnight, move me as to the supplying him with 500l. this term, and 500l. the next, for two years, upon a mortgage, he having that sum to pay, a debt left him by his father, which I did agree to, trusting to his honesty and ability, and am resolved to do it for him, that I may not have all I have lie in the King’s hands. Having promised him this I returned home again, where to the office], and there having done, I home and to supper and to bed, where, after lying a little while, my wife starts up, and with expressions of affright and madness, as one frantick, would rise, and I would not let her, but burst out in tears myself, and so continued almost half the night, the moon shining so that it was light, and after much sorrow and reproaches and little ravings (though I am apt to think they were counterfeit from her), and my promise again to discharge the girle myself, all was quiet again, and so to sleep.

the great sea
belongs to the present

all the rest already
is gone to rust

where madness
is half moon

shining so that it aches
raving in my sleep

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 11 November 1668.


When the boy with the gun.

When the man with the rifle
that he fires through a door.

When the men with the guns
in the flatbed truck.

When parade is prelude.
Is litany of the newly dead. 

Is it that we ask too much
or expect too little?

For a body that simply runs.

Toward nothing
and toward everything.

For the cost of a happiness
not linked to a wound.

When the flood and the breath
of yearned-for light.


Up, and my wife still every day as ill as she is all night, will rise to see me out doors, telling me plainly that she dares not let me see the girle, and so I out to the office, where all the morning, and so home to dinner, where I found my wife mightily troubled again, more than ever, and she tells me that it is from her examining the girle and getting a confession now from her of all, even to the very tocando su thing with my hand — which do mightily trouble me, as not being able to foresee the consequences of it, as to our future peace together. So my wife would not go down to dinner, but I would dine in her chamber with her, and there after mollifying her as much as I could we were pretty quiet and eat, and by and by comes Mr. Hollier, and dines there by himself after we had dined, and he being gone, we to talk again, and she to be troubled, reproaching me with my unkindness and perjury, I having denied my ever kissing her. As also with all her old kindnesses to me, and my ill-using of her from the beginning, and the many temptations she hath refused out of faithfulness to me, whereof several she was particular in, and especially from my Lord Sandwich, by the sollicitation of Captain Ferrers, and then afterward the courtship of my Lord Hinchingbrooke, even to the trouble of his lady. All which I did acknowledge and was troubled for, and wept, and at last pretty good friends again, and so I to my office, and there late, and so home to supper with her, and so to bed, where after half-an-hour’s slumber she wakes me and cries out that she should never sleep more, and so kept raving till past midnight, that made me cry and weep heartily all the while for her, and troubled for what she reproached me with as before, and at last with new vows, and particularly that I would myself bid the girle be gone, and shew my dislike to her, which I will endeavour to perform, but with much trouble, and so this appeasing her, we to sleep as well as we could till morning.

doors confess all
to my hand

one of the many
temptations of faith

to and fro I lumber
and never go to sleep

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 10 November 1668.


Up, and I did by a little note which I flung to Deb. advise her that I did continue to deny that ever I kissed her, and so she might govern herself. The truth is that I did adventure upon God’s pardoning me this lie, knowing how heavy a thing it would be for me to the ruin of the poor girle, and next knowing that if my wife should know all it were impossible ever for her to be at peace with me again, and so our whole lives would be uncomfortable. The girl read, and as I bid her returned me the note, flinging it to me in passing by. And so I abroad by [coach] to White Hall, and there to the Duke of York to wait on him, who told me that Sir W. Pen had been with him this morning, to ask whether it would be fit for him to sit at the Office now, because of his resolution to be gone, and to become concerned in the Victualling. The Duke of York answered, “Yes, till his contract was signed:” Thence I to Lord Sandwich’s, and there to see him; but was made to stay so long, as his best friends are, and when I come to him so little pleasure, his head being full of his own business, I think, that I have no pleasure [to] go to him. Thence to White Hall with him, to the Committee of Tangier; a day appointed for him to give an account of Tangier, and what he did, and found there, which, though he had admirable matter for it, and his doings there were good, and would have afforded a noble account, yet he did it with a mind so low and mean, and delivered in so poor a manner, that it appeared nothing at all, nor any body seemed to value it; whereas, he might have shewn himself to have merited extraordinary thanks, and been held to have done a very great service: whereas now, all that cost the King hath been at for his journey through Spain thither, seems to be almost lost. After we were up, Creed and I walked together, and did talk a good while of the weak report my Lord made, and were troubled for it; I fearing that either his mind and judgment are depressed, or that he do it out of his great neglect, and so my fear that he do all the rest of his affairs accordingly. So I staid about the Court a little while, and then to look for a dinner, and had it at Hercules-Pillars, very late, all alone, costing me 10d. And so to the Excise Office, thinking to meet Sir Stephen Fox and the Cofferer, but the former was gone, and the latter I met going out, but nothing done, and so I to my bookseller’s, and also to Crows, and there saw a piece of my bed, and I find it will please us mightily. So home, and there find my wife troubled, and I sat with her talking, and so to bed, and there very unquiet all night.

our whole lives passing
in one day

all out of air
I look for crows

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 9 November 1668.

Pardoning the Turkeys

Young men who were called to serve
but  dodged the draft or deserted
some long and useless war.
The heiress who spent years 
in jail for acts of terrorism.  
The brother-in-law of a public 
servant caught in possession of cocaine 
(but not the public servant, ). The states-
man who lied about illegally selling 
arms to  terrorists. The former governor 
who once appeared on a celebrity
TV show, sentenced for solicitation 
of bribes. The sheriff who put 
hundreds of undocumented immigrants 
in jail; who humiliated them and issued
them pink underwear. The man who robbed
the US Mail in 1829 (actually, the only one 
so far to refuse a presidential pardon).
Everyone else ready to give themselves
and other rich, powerful and well-
connected white men a Christmas 
pardon, an 11th  hour pardon, a means 
of supposedly wiping their slates clean.  

What To Do When Banished to the Underworld

Globes of them  appear at farmstands 
                  and in the supermarket, 

crowned and shiny in their red 
                  leather corsets; scored, peeled 

back, baring the teeth of hundreds 
                  of days and the darkness they drop

early. The red muscled fruit inside your own 
                  chest tightens as soon as winged flocks 

trace their coal-black routes southward,
                  as soon as bedroom floors creak and door 

hinges swing with every daughter's departure. Sure,
                  they come back in time, sporting gauge earrings, 

dramatic hair, a new tattoo on their arm; a way 
                  of talking absently or as if you aren't really

there. In famous stories of descent into some 
                   underworld, there's a dark wood in which one

could get lost, a boat at the river or an opening in the earth.
                  Next time,  you'll be the one to heed the cue of

the season. You'll pack good shoes, tinned food, a warm blanket,
                   stacks of books to read through the rest of winter.