It Isn’t Empty if There’s a Dream In It

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
A poetry teacher once said, write a dream and lose 
your reader. But, wait, don't go— lately, you were in
several of my dreams: filling a grocery cart with boxes 
all the same shape but with different colored labels,
then building a box igloo in front of the store. Then,
you were delivering people's mail, and I noticed 
you were wearing one of those ear gauges.
I wanted to ask if they were standard issue 
by the USPS, but that doesn't even make sense. 
I know the teacher meant it's easier to find 
the escape hatch in a world that isn't real. 
But emptiness hates the voids it creates. 
An emptiness leading somewhere is more 
interesting than one that's just itself. 

Of ice

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to the office all the morning, the frost and cold continuing. At noon home with my people to dinner; and so to work at the office again; in the evening comes Creed to me, and tells me his wife is at my house. So I in, and spent an hour with them, the first time she hath been here, or I have seen her, since she was married. She is not overhandsome, though a good lady, and one I love. So after some pleasant discourse, they gone, I to the Office again, and there late, and then home to supper to my wife, who is not very well of those, and so sat talking till past one in the morning, and then to bed.

cold people
work at the ice

even over love
our one well

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 5 January 1669.

Thought leaders

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Lay long, talking with my wife, and did of my own accord come to an allowance of her of 30l. a-year for all expences, clothes and everything, which she was mightily pleased with, it being more than ever she asked or expected, and so rose, with much content, and up with W. Hewer to White Hall, there to speak with Mr. Wren, which I did about several things of the office entered in my memorandum books, and so about noon, going homeward with W. Hewer, he and I went in and saw the great tall woman that is to be seen, who is but twenty-one years old, and I do easily stand under her arms. Then, going further, The. Turner called me, out of her coach where her mother, &c., was, and invited me by all means to dine with them, at my cozen Roger’s mistress’s, the widow Dickenson! So, I went to them afterwards, and dined with them, and mighty handsomely treated, and she a wonderful merry, good-humoured, fat, but plain woman, but I believe a very good woman, and mighty civil to me. Mrs. Turner, the mother, and Mrs. Dyke, and The., and Betty was the company, and a gentleman of their acquaintance. Betty I did long to see, and she is indifferent pretty, but not what the world did speak of her; but I am mighty glad to have one so pretty of our kindred. After dinner, I walked with them, to shew them the great woman, which they admire, as well they may; and so back with them, and left them; and I to White Hall, where a Committee of Tangier met, but little to do there, but I did receive an instance of the Duke of York’s kindness to me, and the whole Committee, that they would not order any thing about the Treasurer for the Corporation now in establishing, without my assent, and considering whether it would be to my wrong or no. Thence up and down the house, and to the Duke of York’s side, and there in the Duchess’s presence; and was mightily complimented by my Lady Peterborough, in my Lord Sandwich’s presence, whom she engaged to thank me for my kindness to her and her Lord. By and by I met my Lord Brouncker; and he and I to the Duke of York alone, and discoursed over the carriage of the present Treasurers, in opposition to, or at least independency of, the Duke of York, or our Board, which the Duke of York is sensible of, and all remember, I believe; for they do carry themselves very respectlessly of him and us. We also declared our minds together to the Duke of York about Sir John Minnes’s incapacity to do any service in the Office, and that it is but to betray the King to have any business of trust committed to his weakness. So the Duke of York was very sensible of it and promised to speak to the King about it. That done, I with W. Hewer took up my wife at Unthank’s, and so home, and there with pleasure to read and talk, and so to supper, and put into writing, in merry terms, our agreement between my wife and me, about 30l. a-year, and so to bed. This was done under both our hands merrily, and put into W. Hewer’s to keep.

a rose and a wren
entered in
my memorandum book

under wonderful but plain
a different kind
of presence

alone together
we promise to speak
with our hands

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 4 January 1669.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Here is spangle and filigree; yards 

         clean as fresh-made beds or cake 

tops of piped buttercream. In the night,

         a sifting of cold  as you sigh through

mists of sleep.  The heart's burrow spirals

         like a snail's, crackles with residue

of reflected light. Somnambulist on the high 

         seas, aerialist on the ground. Every new 

wave gathered with foam could herald the next  

         unseen explosion.  Clear a path from your door 

to the end of the street. Keep going until the white-

         sleeved pines change out of their gowns.

They don't speak of beauty or pain, of whether or not

        they deserve the world or the world deserves them. 

Cum grano salis

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Lord’s day). Up, and busy all the morning, getting rooms and dinner ready for my guests, which were my uncle and aunt Wight, and two of their cousins, and an old woman, and Mr. Mills and his wife; and a good dinner, and all our plate out, and mighty fine and merry, only I a little vexed at burning a new table-cloth myself, with one of my trencher-salts. Dinner done, I out with W. Hewer and Mr. Spong, who by accident come to dine with me, and good talk with him: to White Hall by coach, and there left him, and I with my Lord Brouncker to attend the Duke of York, and then up and down the House till the evening, hearing how the King do intend this frosty weather, it being this day the first, and very hard frost, that hath come this year, and very cold it is. So home; and to supper and read; and there my wife and I treating about coming to an allowance to my wife for clothes; and there I, out of my natural backwardness, did hang off, which vexed her, and did occasion some discontented talk in bed, when we went to bed; and also in the morning, but I did recover all in the morning.

for my sins I ate
only a little salt

this first hard frost
is a cold supper

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 3 January 1669. (Note that the previous three diary entries from which I made erasures were actually from 1660, not 1669. Oops!)


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Sometimes I am a flag
of surrender, sometimes
an angry wind. I am 
eager for the moment 
to start, or straining to spit 
the bolt out of my mouth. 
Billow after billow, 
above, below. I am 
all of these or none 
of these. Perhaps I am
not sophisticated
enough to be a little 
of each. A gull 
rolls out of the sky
like a small wave 
practicing for attack. 
Tail first, an army 
of sand fiddlers 
anchors itself 
in the sand. 

Down payment

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

I went to my office, where the money was again expected from the Excise office, but none brought, but was promised to be sent this afternoon. I dined with Mr. Sheply, at my Lord’s lodgings, upon his turkey-pie. And so to my office again; where the Excise money was brought, and some of it told to soldiers till it was dark.
Then I went home, and after writing a letter to my Lord and told him the news that the Parliament hath this night voted that the members that were discharged from sitting in the years 1648 and 49, were duly discharged; and that there should be writs issued presently for the calling of others in their places, and that Monk and Fairfax were commanded up to town, and that the Prince’s lodgings were to be provided for Monk at Whitehall.
Then my wife and I, it being a great frost, went to Mrs. Jem’s, in expectation to eat a sack-posset, but Mr. Edward not coming it was put off; and so I left my wife playing at cards with her, and went myself with my lanthorn to Mr. Fage, to consult concerning my nose, who told me it was nothing but cold, and after that we did discourse concerning public business; and he told me it is true the City had not time enough to do much, but they are resolved to shake off the soldiers; and that unless there be a free Parliament chosen, he did believe there are half the Common Council will not levy any money by order of this Parliament. From thence I went to my father’s, where I found Mrs. Ramsey and her grandchild, a pretty girl, and staid a while and talked with them and my mother, and then took my leave, only heard of an invitation to go to dinner to-morrow to my cosen Thomas Pepys.
I went back to Mrs. Jem, and took my wife and Mrs. Sheply, and went home.

the money I was promised
is some dark discharge
in a sack
o my thorn
who told me to believe
in tomorrow

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 5 January 1660.

Snow swan

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Early came Mr. Vanly to me for his half-year’s rent, which I had not in the house, but took his man to the office and there paid him. Then I went down into the Hall and to Will’s, where Hawly brought a piece of his Cheshire cheese, and we were merry with it. Then into the Hall again, where I met with the Clerk and Quarter Master of my Lord’s troop, and took them to the Swan and gave them their morning’s draft, they being just come to town. Mr. Jenkins shewed me two bills of exchange for money to receive upon my Lord’s and my pay. It snowed hard all this morning, and was very cold, and my nose was much swelled with cold. Strange the difference of men’s talk! Some say that Lambert must of necessity yield up; others, that he is very strong, and that the Fifth-monarchy-men [will] stick to him, if he declares for a free Parliament. Chillington was sent yesterday to him with the vote of pardon and indemnity from the Parliament.
From the Hall I came home, where I found letters from Hinchingbroke and news of Mr. Sheply’s going thither the next week. I dined at home, and from thence went to Will’s to Shaw, who promised me to go along with me to Atkinson’s about some money, but I found him at cards with Spicer and D. Vines, and could not get him along with me. I was vext at this, and went and walked in the Hall, where I heard that the Parliament spent this day in fasting and prayer; and in the afternoon came letters from the North, that brought certain news that my Lord Lambert his forces were all forsaking him, and that he was left with only fifty horse, and that he did now declare for the Parliament himself; and that my Lord Fairfax did also rest satisfied, and had laid down his arms, and that what he had done was only to secure the country against my Lord Lambert his raising of money, and free quarter.
I went to Will’s again, where I found them still at cards, and Spicer had won 14s. of Shaw and Vines.
Then I spent a little time with G. Vines and Maylard at Vines’s at our viols.
So home, and from thence to Mr. Hunt’s, and sat with them and Mr. Hawly at cards till ten at night, and was much made of by them.
Home and so to bed, but much troubled with my nose, which was much swelled.

swan in the snow
nose as cold as news
from the north

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 4 January 1660.


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
Once I thought even a small garden
could multiply my hopes. I planted

bulbs in a plot. Citrus and persimmon, purple
streaked verbena. But never again the ridged

yellow of ginger flowers, never again 
the ghosts of white-throated lilies declaring

their own thirst. Everywhere in the world,
the soil hardens with rock and tree roots 

or grows shifty as sand. We think our greed will outlast 
these cycles, as long as we rename it desire. What we 

planted in heat will flourish and perish; what we 
let go in rain, fruit and distend. What temperature 

is the heat that simmers at earth's core?  
We are not even fat skimming its surface.