Pull out the drawers, and balled-up socks sigh of their own accord. Throw open the windows and huddled shapes of air unfold forgotten wings. Old beds of ash retire into the soil so flint or a match could strike a small yellow flame to brilliance.
Up, and set my man Gibson and Mr. Fists to work to write it over fair, while I all the morning at the office sitting. At noon home to them, and all the afternoon looking over them and examining with W. Hewer, and so about to at night I to bed, leaving them to finish the writing it fair, which they did by sitting up most of the night, and so home to bed.
my fists work to write
while I sit
looking over the night
leaving to the writing
most of me
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 17 December 1668.
I did the like all day long, only a little at dinner, and so to work again, and were at it till 2 in the morning, and so W. Hewer, who was with me all day, home to his lodging, and I to bed, after we had finished it.
like a day-long dinner
were we a meal
home is a bed
after we shed
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 16 December 1668.
The days line up again,
like a procession that winds back to its starting point, the sky at this time of year still slow to brighten. In front or behind you: the same dark, if not for the usual city lights. Store signs, windows in dormitories to which students won't return until it's clear there won't be any school closings. A rescue helicopter rushes to lift blood or an organ to someone on a surgery table. No snow in the valley, no drifts. Some ships patrol the harbors. Along a path where others walk, nothing brighter than the orange glow of a cigarette, the ice blue pings from a cell phone. But out west, out of season, sudden grass fires flare and spread. People pack up belongings and animals, wondering if this time they should go or stay.
The Line Between Pleasure and Pain
What pain would you elect to keep you company in the bed of your desire? Climb a cliff face, run an ultramarathon, fast for weeks: at the farthest edge of the present moment soaked in a pain of your choosing, you might touch the hem of transcendence. It will fill you up with its dopamine, its message that the mind has won over the body and its cracked palms, its gangrened fingernails, its toes bent and bleeding from fouetté after fouetté on a lit-up stage. But what of the kind of pain for which there is no cure, that one day chooses you for no discernible reason; that brings you understanding of the differences between chronic, intractable, unyielding? The line between pleasure and pain is sometimes blurred, sometimes clear as a blade in this world of beings which must devour each other to survive: the cricket and the mealworm in the jaws of a frog; the frog in the mouth of a vole. The snake in the grass intent on working out the skin of its own brilliant transformation snatched up by a sharp-shinned raptor— which comes from the same root as rapture: meaning seize, abduct, ravish.
Up, and to the Office, where sat all the morning, and the new Treasurers there; and, for my life, I cannot keep Sir J. Minnes and others of the Board from shewing our weakness, to the dishonour of the Board, though I am not concerned but it do vex me to the heart to have it before these people, that would be glad to find out all our weaknesses. At noon Mrs. Mary Batelier with us, and so, after dinner, I with W. Hewer all the afternoon till night beginning to draw up our answer to Middleton, and it proves troublesome, because I have so much in my head at a time to say, but I must go through with it. So at night to supper and to bed.
in a weak heart
that would be glad to find
some time to go
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 15 December 1668.
Memory of Convalescence
Milk spills from its box as the girl pours at the counter. Why is the word milky used to describe a touchable surface gleaming with white? I would not use it to describe white sheets, white hospital sheets on the cold iron bed where I stayed for nearly a month as a child. I didn't know what my body was saying during that time; can't even remember what the liquid that dripped down clear tubing felt like as it passed through the cannula and into my arm. White as a sheet at first, they said; then flushed with the tinted foliage of fevers. In between, I remembered dreams of falling or flying. Time passed, as it always does. Cats licked themselves at high windows. I could see the wind slink around the corner, every hair put back in place.
Up, and by water to White Hall to a Committee of Tangier, where, among other things, a silly account of a falling out between Norwood, at Tangier, and Mr. Bland, the mayor, who is fled to Cales. His complaint is ill-worded, and the other’s defence the most ridiculous that ever I saw; and so everybody else that was there, thought it; but never did I see so great an instance of the use of grammar, and knowledge how to tell a man’s tale as this day, Bland having spoiled his business by ill-telling it, who had work to have made himself notorious by his mastering Norwood, his enemy, if he had known how to have used it. Thence calling Smith, the Auditor’s clerk at the Temple, I by the Exchange home, and there looked over my Tangier accounts with him, and so to dinner, and then set him down again by a hackney, my coachman being this day about breaking of my horses to the coach, they having never yet drawn. Left my wife at Unthank’s, and I to the Treasury, where we waited on the Lords Commissioners about Sir D. Gawden’s matters, and so took her up again at night, and home to the office, and so home with W. Hewer, and to talk about our quarrel with Middleton, and so to supper and to bed.
This day I hear, and am glad, that the King hath prorogued the Parliament to October next; and, among other reasons, it will give me time to go to France, I hope.
ill-worded body of grammar
tell us how to break
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 14 December 1668.
One, with a soft sugar flower in the center; the other, topped with a fort of strawberries and piped cream. When she bends to blow out the birthday candles, you can see the bow formed by her shoulder bones, notched at the center where they meet under thinned flaps of skin. In the room, as in a fairy tale, people clapping their hands and singing in a circle. Even the sound they make is fragile and breakable. On the recording that someone has made, the aura around every figure is blue as smoke. These are not the fates, yet they bristle with their own premonitory power.
(Lord’s day). Up, and with W. Hewer to the Office, where all the morning, and then home to a little dinner, and presently to it again all alone till twelve at night, drawing up my answer to Middleton, which I think I shall do to very good purpose — at least, I satisfy myself therein; and so to bed, weary with walking in my Office dictating to him [Hewer]. In the night my wife very ill, vomited, but was well again by and by.
I answer myself
walking in the night
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 13 December 1668.