river in November light between bare woods and mountain

Roses in pots; stubby, uneven grass we believed 
would grow into luxuriant green. We tried to make 
that garden as pleasing as others'. I remember 
mint growing on one side of the porch, bougainvillea 
quickly taking over the wall. No birdbath or statuary 
of cherubs, but Saturday afternoons we drank
soda on the steps, fingered dog-paged komiks 
borrowed from the corner store. Angela 
puckered her lips and boasted that she'd filched 
her sister's tube of coral lipstick. Unless the grownups
were around, no one really batted an eye, not even when 
she asked if we wanted to see the lace edge of her new 
panty. On the downwind, the heavy musk of magnolias.
The call of owls at night, always interrogating.

Broken home (2)

Sam Pepys and me

Office day. That done to the church, where we did consult about our gallery. So home to dinner, where I found Mrs. Hunt, who brought me a letter for me to get my Lord to sign for her husband, which I shall do for her.
At home with the workmen all the afternoon, our house being in a most sad pickle.
In the evening to the office, where I fell a-reading of Speed’s Geography for a while.
So home thinking to have found Will at home, but he not being come home but gone somewhere else I was very angry, and when he came did give him a very great check for it, and so I went to bed.

a home brought me
all the house
a sad geography

thinking to have found a home
but being gone

somewhere else
as angry

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 26 September 1660, a revision of my 2013 erasure.


river in November light between bare woods and mountain

My mother stands in the garden, dressed
in stirrup pants and a print top cropped 
at the hip. I am five, according to the date
she writes in blue ballpoint pen ink directly  
on the photograph: April 1966. I stand right next 
to her with a ribbon in my hair, wearing an outfit 
she must have sewn—a close-necked dress which
looks like a tunic, because she was always leaving 
some allowance for growth. Behind us is a row 
of hollyhocks, most taller than me. The photograph 
is sepia, but I remember the flowers were pink 
and white. I can't see her eyes shaded by cat-eye
sunglasses; can't tell if she was happy in the middle 
of that garden: roses in pots, stubby, uneven grass. 


Sam Pepys and me

To the office, where Sir W. Batten, Colonel Slingsby, and I sat awhile, and Sir R. Ford coming to us about some business, we talked together of the interest of this kingdom to have a peace with Spain and a war with France and Holland; where Sir R. Ford talked like a man of great reason and experience. And afterwards I did send for a cup of tee (a China drink) of which I never had drank before, and went away.
Then came Col. Birch and Sir R. Browne by a former appointment, and with them from Tower wharf in the barge belonging to our office we went to Deptford to pay off the ship Success, which (Sir G. Carteret and Sir W. Pen coming afterwards to us) we did, Col. Birch being a mighty busy man and one that is the most indefatigable and forward to make himself work of any man that ever I knew in my life. At the Globe we had a very good dinner, and after that to the pay again, which being finished we returned by water again, and I from our office with Col. Slingsby by coach to Westminster (I setting him down at his lodgings by the way) to inquire for my Lord’s coming thither (the King and the Princess coming up the river this afternoon as we were at our pay), and I found him gone to Mr. Crew’s, where I found him well, only had got some corns upon his foot which was not well yet. My Lord told me how the ship that brought the Princess and him (The Tredagh) did knock six times upon the Kentish Knock, which put them in great fear for the ship; but got off well. He told me also how the King had knighted Vice-Admiral Lawson and Sir Richard Stayner. From him late and by coach home, where the plasterers being at work in all the rooms in my house, my wife was fain to make a bed upon the ground for her and me, and so there we lay all night.

to have peace
like a cup of tea

after the war
to make a life again

I return to my corn and knock
six times on the ground

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 25 September 1660.

Unanswered Letter #81

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
Entering the spice markets I smell 
the simmering energy of yellow and red: 

turmeric, ground annatto seed, anise 
and sweet clove. I don't buy anything. 

I remember only how, once, not 
so long ago, I drew a warm bath for you 

with eucalyptus and cinnamon bark. 
Live your life, friends admonish me.

What does it matter that night dips
into darkest vats of color, that day

shutters the stars with light? I want 
to believe there were many things we shared 

that still make you feel sweet, that make you 
feel something when we say your name.  


Sam Pepys and me

(Office day). From thence to dinner by coach with my wife to my Cozen Scott’s, and the company not being come, I went over the way to the Barber’s. So thither again to dinner, where was my uncle Fenner and my aunt, my father and mother, and others. Among the rest my Cozen Rich. Pepys, their elder brother, whom I had not seen these fourteen years, ever since he came from New England. It was strange for us to go a gossiping to her, she having newly buried her child that she was brought to bed of.
I rose from table and went to the Temple church, where I had appointed Sir W. Batten to meet him; and there at Sir Heneage Finch Sollicitor General’s chambers, before him and Sir W. Wilde, Recorder of London (whom we sent for from his chamber) we were sworn justices of peace for Middlesex, Essex, Kent, and Southampton; with which honour I did find myself mightily pleased, though I am wholly ignorant in the duty of a justice of peace. From thence with Sir William to Whitehall by water (old Mr. Smith with us) intending to speak with Secretary Nicholas about the augmentation of our salaries, but being forth we went to the Three Tuns tavern, where we drank awhile, and then came in Col. Slingsby and another gentleman and sat with us. From thence to my Lord’s to enquire whether they have had any thing from my Lord or no.
Knocking at the door, there passed me Mons. L’Impertinent for whom I took a coach and went with him to a dancing meeting in Broad Street, at the house that was formerly the glasshouse, Luke Channel, Master of the School, where I saw good dancing, but it growing late, and the room very full of people and so very hot, I went home.

a child brought
from the wild

I find my ignorant ass
in a glass house

where I grow
full and hot

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 24 September 1660.


river in November light between bare woods and mountain
"It is the memory of love we love."
                                            ~ Sandeep Parmar

if it's true death binds us                                            closer to history
then we've always studied                                                                elegy

schooled in grief                                                 the moment we break
from the womb we squint                               through the first door

overcome by light                                                and air— i dont' know 
how to describe                                      the first cry that left my lips

how long it bannered                                                        until subsiding 
a friend asked if i could remember         how it felt to be carried

in my mother's arms                                       what color and texture
how time felt then                                                         how it feels now

Anonymous source

Sam Pepys and me

(Lord’s day). My wife got up to put on her mourning to-day and to go to Church this morning. I up and set down my journall for these 5 days past. This morning came one from my father’s with a black cloth coat, made of my short cloak, to walk up and down in. To church my wife and I, with Sir W. Batten, where we heard of Mr. Mills a very good sermon upon these words, “So run that ye may obtain.”
After dinner all alone to Westminster. At Whitehall I met with Mr. Pierce and his wife (she newly come forth after childbirth) both in mourning for the Duke of Gloucester. She went with Mr. Child to Whitehall chapel and Mr. Pierce with me to the Abbey, where I expected to hear Mr. Baxter or Mr. Rowe preach their farewell sermon, and in Mr. Symons’s pew I sat and heard Mr. Rowe. Before sermon I laughed at the reader, who in his prayer desires of God that He would imprint his word on the thumbs of our right hands and on the right great toes of our right feet. In the midst of the sermon some plaster fell from the top of the Abbey, that made me and all the rest in our pew afeard, and I wished myself out.
After sermon with Mr. Pierce to Whitehall, and from thence to my Lord, but Diana did not come according to our agreement. So calling at my father’s (where my wife had been this afternoon but was gone home) I went home.
This afternoon, the King having news of the Princess being come to Margate, he and the Duke of York went down thither in barges to her.

a journal for the past
in black cloth

for a child in the well
who desires God

his great feet of plaster
not in the news

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 23 September 1660.

Stages of Grief

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
What you find is there's no definitive
progression from 1 to 5. You knew

acceptance long before the last time 
you guided her slowly to the bathroom 

(she had begun to fold into herself,
like a bird; could still walk, but not 

on her own) and sat her down on the cold 
toilet rim. You never thought to offer prayer 

that was plea; bargaining—for what? more 
time, more days of the mind's awful fading 

away, flashing less and less in random bursts 
of remembrance? As for anger—it came 

much earlier, learning of the forms of cruel 
neglect at the hands of kin supposed to be 

caring for her. Long years of bereavement, 
prior to the fact of her actual passing; 

coming upon fragments of her life in such
sad disarray. Until just before the end,

there was no denying the strength of her spirit.
Seven months ago, she'd asked for a swipe 

of lipstick, loved on slices of custard pie;
declared she wanted to live to be a hundred.

Until just before the end and the body's failing, 
still fiercely unwilling to let go yet of this life.