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

all afternoon
looking over the night

leaving to the writing
most of me

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 17 December 1668.

Home bodies

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.

new life
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.

Two Cakes

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.

all alone
I answer myself
walking in the night

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 13 December 1668.