Ash Wednesday

Up, and with Tom to White Hall; and there at a Committee of Tangier, where a great instance of what a man may lose by the neglect of a friend: Povy never had such an opportunity of passing his accounts, the Duke of York being there, and everybody well disposed, and in expectation of them; but my Lord Ashly, on whom he relied, and for whose sake this day was pitched on, that he might be sure to be there, among the rest of his friends, staid too long, till the Duke of York and the company thought unfit to stay longer and so the day lost, and God knows when he will ever have so good a one again, as long as he lives; and this was the man of the whole company that he hath made the most interest to gain, and now most depended upon him.
So up and down the house a while, and then to the plaisterer’s, and there saw the figure of my face taken from the mould: and it is most admirably like, and I will have another made, before I take it away, and therefore I away and to the Temple, and thence to my cozen Turner’s, where, having the last night been told by her that she had drawn me for her Valentine, I did this day call at the New Exchange, and bought her a pair of green silk stockings and garters and shoe-strings, and two pair of jessimy gloves, all coming to about 28s., and did give them her this noon. At the ’Change, I did at my bookseller’s shop accidentally fall into talk with Sir Samuel Tuke about trees, and Mr. Evelyn’s garden; and I do find him, I think, a little conceited, but a man of very fine discourse as any I ever heard almost, which I was mighty glad of.
I dined at my cozen Turner’s, and my wife also and her husband there, and after dinner, my wife and I endeavoured to make a visit to Ned Pickering; but he not at home, nor his lady; and therefore back again, and took up my cozen Turner, and to my cozen Roger’s lodgings, and there find him pretty well again, and his wife mighty kind and merry, and did make mighty much of us, and I believe he is married to a very good woman. Here was also Bab. and Betty, who have not their clothes yet, and therefore cannot go out, otherwise I would have had them abroad to-morrow; but the poor girls mighty kind to us, and we must shew them kindness also. Here in Suffolk Street lives Moll Davis; and we did see her coach come for her to her door, a mighty pretty fine coach. Here we staid an hour or two, and then carried Turner home, and there staid and talked a while, and then my wife and I to White Hall; and there, by means of Mr. Cooling, did get into the play, the only one we have seen this winter: it was “The Five Hours’ Adventure:” but I sat so far I could not hear well, nor was there any pretty woman that I did see, but my wife, who sat in my Lady Fox’s pew with her. The house very full; and late before done, so that it was past eleven before we got home. But we were well pleased with seeing it, and so to supper, where it happened that there was no bread in the house, which was an unusual case, and so to bed.

what a man may lose
by the neglect of a friend

every well is ash

my face is like an old shoe

I talk with trees

we have had our winter
but not the fox’s

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 15 February 1669.

A Few Small, Lucky Escapes

It's evening again, then it will be midnight 
followed by dawn, which many describe 
as arriving with a crack—as if someone 
tapped an egg on the rim of the horizon 

so the world could be goldened by its light
or bathed in its viscous fluids. In a small 
house, everyone hears the first one in the toilet
flush his morning tribute down the drain. 

I don't miss that. I do miss the way roosters 
in the neighborhood colored the trees 
with bright orange leaflets of their 
trumpeting. In that time, we believed 

the amulets pinned to our undershirts 
by our mothers would steady and protect us 
from sudden wind gusts or toothless men 
wagging their genitals in the streets. How 

do we know such precarious escapes  
were not indeed the result of someone's 
fervent intercession? Didn't we drink the powdered 
milk that came in cans from factories in Chernobyl, 

yet live without seeing our hair fall out in chunks
or feel our insides boil like overcooked sausages?
In other words, I am trying to tell myself the stones 
haven't all fallen into the gorge. I saw a circle of twigs 

in the arms of the maple and heard an owl 
take up its night patrol. A gull opened its wings 
like a woman shaking snow from her robe. 
What else can we do but write all of this down?

Bons vivants

(Lord’s day). Up, and by coach to Sir W. Coventry, and there, he taking physic, I with him all the morning, full of very good discourse of the Navy and publick matters, to my great content, wherein I find him doubtful that all will be bad, and, for his part, he tells me he takes no more care for any thing more than in the Treasury; and that, that being done, he goes to cards and other delights, as plays, and in summertime to bowles. But here he did shew me two or three old books of the Navy, of my Lord Northumberland’s times, which he hath taken many good notes out of, for justifying the Duke of York and us, in many things, wherein, perhaps, precedents will be necessary to produce, which did give me great content. At noon home, and pleased mightily with my morning’s work, and coming home, I do find a letter from Mr. Wren, to call me to the Duke of York after dinner. So dined in all haste, and then W. Hewer and my wife and I out, we set her at my cozen Turner’s while we to White Hall, where the Duke of York expected me; and in his closet Wren and I. He did tell me how the King hath been acquainted with the Treasurers’ discourse at the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, the other day, and is dissatisfied with our running him in debt, which I removed; and he did, carry me to the King, and I did satisfy him also; but his satisfaction is nothing worth, it being easily got, and easily removed; but I do purpose to put in writing that which shall make the Treasurers ashamed. But the Duke of York is horrid angry against them; and he hath cause, for they do all they can to bring dishonour upon his management, as do vainly appear in all they do. Having done with the Duke of York, who do repose all in me, I with Mr. Wren to his chamber to talk; where he observed, that these people are all of them a broken sort of people, that have not much to lose, and therefore will venture all to make their fortunes better: that Sir Thomas Osborne is a beggar, having 11 of 1200l. a-year, but owes above 10,000l.. The Duke of Buckingham’s condition is shortly this: that he hath about 19,600l. a-year, of which he pays away about 7,000l. a-year in interest, about 2000l. in fee-farm rents to the King, about 6000l. wages and pensions, and the rest to live upon, and pay taxes for the whole. Wren says, that for the Duke of York to stir in this matter, as his quality might justify, would but make all things worse, and that therefore he must bend, and suffer all, till time works it out: that he fears they will sacrifice the Church, and that the King will take anything, and so he will hold up his head a little longer, and then break in pieces. But Sir W. Coventry did today mightily magnify my late Lord Treasurer, for a wise and solid, though infirm man: and, among other things, that when he hath said it was impossible in nature to find this or that sum of money, and my Lord Chancellor hath made sport of it, and tell the King that when my Lord hath said it [was] impossible, yet he hath made shift to find it, and that was by Sir G. Carteret’s getting credit, my Lord did once in his hearing say thus, which he magnifies as a great saying — that impossible would be found impossible at last; meaning that the King would run himself out, beyond all his credit and funds, and then we should too late find it impossible; which is, he says, now come to pass. For that Sir W. Coventry says they could borrow what money they would, if they had assignments, and funds to secure it with, which before they had enough of, and then must spend it as if it would never have an end.
From White Hall to my cozen Turner’s, and there took up my wife; and so to my uncle Wight’s, and there sat and supped, and talked pretty merry, and then walked home, and to bed.

all care
goes to cards

light as summertime owls
a broken sort of people

to live for quality things
that time will sacrifice

that it would never end

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 14 February 1669.

Argument and Uncertainty

You call it cleaning and ordering
but really you're thinking of what 
you'll leave when you go, and who 
will get this lifetime of collected 
items. They're only things, they're only
clothes or cookery says the youngest
who is either practical or cynical or both. 
But I don't know how to wear these, 
says the oldest; you're more confident 
than me. Why do you talk like that, says
another. Take them out and start using 
them—maybe there's no best yet to come, 
maybe this is it: drink a little wine, eat bread
or a sweet. Love whatever it is that's still here.

What the Poets are Saying About the War (an imperfect cento)

~ while  attending the "Voices for Ukraine" virtual reading 
organized by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach and Olga Livshin, 
01 March 2022  

Any country is an easy target

Stop who goes there

The shovel is making a hole in the gravedigger

Now is a time of hybrid war

The tail is wagging the dog

Lord have mercy on us

And on earth more war

Be not troubled, soldier, nightingales

Slender of neck, slight of throat

You who have robbed us blind

One hit and no more void to fill

The ship of the universe

A ship with hundreds of thousands of cannons on board

The graves will open right up

And the tanks rumbled as armored tractors down the road

In a glorious and frightening time

Each one shall be a hero

The farther into battle the fewer heroes left behind

Cinders rise with the earth

Darkness invisible

As ice turns to water

Evil is not a big lie

It's small shards resembling truth

Evil can't lead, it lures

Burn down to the ground and rise up as smoke

Once on a train without warning

I remembered it all

The blue sea 

My friend's fishing boat

My friends are held hostage and I can't reach them

There is no poetry about war 

Just decomposition

Sunflowers dip their heads in the field

I have gotten so very old

It's a time to sing songs

Always a good time for defense

Our heads are dusted with the ash of the first snow

To hold a needle of silence in your mouth

To whimper while drowning

To hold the water of a language on your tongue

To mend things that are still useful

In these parts it's considered unnatural if war doesn't course 
through the pipes

In the square across the way kids play at war

She danced since evenings were still warm

She danced because she wanted to turn back

It's better to remember with the body

A wrist where all the blood had gathered

Another convoy was right behind us

Perfectly round with a hole in the middle

Which war zone?

No one has heard of here

Used to making a meal out of nothing

So it goes

Bargaining with hope

Let me live at least through mid-day

So white this explosion, she says

So quiet

We got surrounded

I was walking with a spare pair of underwear in my pocket

I don't believe it

They called our killers police

Russian warship go fuck yourself

You choose when to shift gears


Up, and all the morning at the office, and at noon home to dinner, and thence to the office again mighty busy, to my great content, till night, and then home to supper and, my eyes being weary, to bed.

off and on
home and office
busy till night met my eyes

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 13 February 1669.