Up, and with Sir W. Pen to White Hall (setting his lady and daughter down by the way at a mercer’s in the Strand, where they are going to lay out some money), where, though it blows hard and rains hard, yet the Duke of York is gone a-hunting. We therefore lost our labour, and so back again, and by hackney coach to secure places to get things ready against dinner, and then home, and did the like there, and to my great satisfaction: and at noon comes my Lord Hinchingbroke, Sir Thomas Crew, Mr. John Crew, Mr. Carteret, and Brisband. I had six noble dishes for them, dressed by a man-cook, and commended, as indeed they deserved, for exceeding well done. We eat with great pleasure, and I enjoyed myself in it with reflections upon the pleasures which I at best can expect, yet not to exceed this; eating in silver plates, and all things mighty rich and handsome about me. A great deal of fine discourse, sitting almost till dark at dinner, and then broke up with great pleasure, especially to myself; and they away, only Mr. Carteret and I to Gresham College, where they meet now weekly again, and here they had good discourse how this late experiment of the dog, which is in perfect good health, may be improved for good uses to men, and other pretty things, and then broke up. Here was Mr. Henry Howard, that will hereafter be Duke of Norfolke, who is admitted this day into the Society, and being a very proud man, and one that values himself upon his family, writes his name, as he do every where, Henry Howard of Norfolke.
Thence home and there comes my Lady Pen, Pegg, and Mrs. Turner, and played at cards and supped with us, and were pretty merry, and Pegg with me in my closet a good while, and did suffer me ‘a la baiser mouche et toucher ses cosas’ upon her breast, wherein I had great pleasure, and so spent the evening and then broke up, and I to bed, my mind mightily pleased with the day’s entertainment.

though it blows and rains
he is gone hunting till dark

and his late dog and the war
that everywhere war

come close
suffer a touch

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 28 November 1666.

Water Study

The women carry bottles and pails, 
earthen jugs that swing from belts
around their hips. They pump water up
from the rusted well, its copper taste
beating against stone then coating
the insides of their mouths.

This is the taste of wealth, they tell
their children: green as algae, rich
with minerals and the sediment of life
after life long before you. Be thankful.
When the taps gape with foul rumors
of hot air, you learn to pray

for rain. Every ear can cup
part of the ocean. Snails wash
the walls of their spiraled houses;
the reeds are efficient at up and down,
in and out. And we, running around
with upturned mouths and faces. Take

a spoonful of broth laced with
mushroom spores, spiked with one sinew
clinging to an oily bone. Close your eyes.
The fronds in your chest rattle from
long dryness then exhale as slowly
as curtains threaded with mist.

Settling down

Up, and to the office, where we sat all the morning, and here I had a letter from Mr. Brisband on another occasion, which, by the by, intimates my Lord Hinchingbroke’s intention to come and dine with me to-morrow. This put me into a great surprise, and therefore endeavoured all I could to hasten over our business at the office, and so home at noon and to dinner, and then away by coach, it being a very foul day, to White Hall, and there at Sir G. Carteret’s find my Lord Hinchingbroke, who promises to dine with me to-morrow, and bring Mr. Carteret along with him. Here I staid a little while talking with him and the ladies, and then away to my Lord Crew’s, and then did by the by make a visit to my Lord Crew, and had some good discourse with him, he doubting that all will break in pieces in the kingdom; and that the taxes now coming out, which will tax the same man in three or four several capacities, as for lands, office, profession, and money at interest, will be the hardest that ever come out; and do think that we owe it, and the lateness of its being given, wholly to the unpreparedness of the King’s own party, to make their demand and choice; for they have obstructed the giving it by land-tax, which had been done long since. Having ended my visit, I spoke to Sir Thomas Crew, to invite him and his brother John to dinner tomorrow, at my house, to meet Lord Hinchingbroke; and so homewards, calling at the cook’s, who is to dress it, to bespeak him, and then home, and there set things in order for a very fine dinner, and then to the office, where late very busy and to good purpose as to dispatch of business, and then home. To bed, my people sitting up to get things in order against to-morrow. This evening was brought me what Griffin had, as he says, taken this evening off of the table in the office, a letter sealed and directed to the Principal Officers and Commissioners of the Navy. It is a serious and just libel against our disorder in paying of our money, making ten times more people wait than we have money for, and complaining by name of Sir W. Batten for paying away great sums to particular people, which is true. I was sorry to see this way of reproach taken against us, but more sorry that there is true ground for it.

I had an intimate discourse
with three or four lands

will I be wholly prepared
to set things in order
to get things in order
to take just one
particular ground

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 27 November 1666.

The children take pity on the lobsters,

their pincers trussed with rubber bands
though they're still immersed in water

(a sad-looking tank in one corner of
the grocery store); and we are sad for all
the exotic fruit no one will buy: cherimoyas

and horned jelly melons, softening to tallow
in their trays. Who thinks anymore of the glut
of cranberries, as soon as foil-wrapped

pots of poinsettia appear in the island
displays? A while ago, a show played
on the TV monitors of a sushi bar;

we watched as two chefs rowed extra-long-
handled wooden ladles in water, prodding
four eels awake. When they lit a fire beneath,

we understood it was a giant chafing dish.
The water boiled; the eels burrowed into
the cool center of a large block of tofu

near the top, floating half in, half out
of the water. Can you think of one good
reason to justify making our hunger

more pointed than it is, or more like a fable
meant to demonstrate how danger whips
the blood into a more delicious frenzy?

Most everything we eat is something we first
need to change from its raw state into a form
that won't protest when we tear it into bits.


We've bagged most of the leaves that finally fell 
from the fig and two maples. The grass is drab
and brown, threadbare like a garment that's seen
better days. The wooden fence has the look
of waterlogged cardboard; it's starting to cave
in the middle. Along one length, mushrooms ripple
like a lace hem. The men who trim and edge the lawns
won't come again until the middle of spring.
So it's quiet as evening approaches, no sounds
of motorized whirring. When night drops its dark
dishcloth on our roofs, we pull the blinds close.
Passing cars and delivery trucks turn on the outside
lights and motion sensors, or neighbors out with their
dogs. The man who's always walked with two grey poodles,
one young and one old, passes by; but now with only one dog.


Up, and to my chamber to do some business. Then to speak with several people, among others with Mrs. Burroughs, whom I appointed to meet me at the New Exchange in the afternoon. I by water to Westminster, and there to enquire after my tallies, which I shall get this week. Thence to the Swan, having sent for some burnt claret, and there by and by comes Doll Lane, and she and I sat and drank and talked a great while, among other things about her sister’s being brought to bed, and I to be godfather to the girle. I did tumble Doll, and do almost what I would with her, and so parted, and I took coach, and to the New Exchange, buying a neat’s tongue by the way, thinking to eat it out of town, but there I find Burroughs in company of an old woman, an aunt of hers, whom she could not leave for half an hour. So after buying a few baubles to while away time, I down to Westminster, and there into the House of Parliament, where, at a great Committee, I did hear, as long as I would, the great case against my Lord Mordaunt, for some arbitrary proceedings of his against one Taylor, whom he imprisoned, and did all the violence to imaginable, only to get him to give way to his abusing his daughter. Here was Mr. Sawyer, my old chamber-fellow, a counsel against my Lord; and I am glad to see him in so good play. Here I met, before the committee sat, with my cozen Roger Pepys, the first time I have spoke with him this parliament. He hath promised to come, and bring Madam Turner with him, who is come to towne to see the City, but hath lost all her goods of all kinds in Salisbury Court, Sir William Turner having not endeavoured, in her absence, to save one penny, to dine with me on Friday next, of which I am glad. Roger bids me to help him to some good rich widow; for he is resolved to go, and retire wholly, into the country; for, he says, he is confident we shall be all ruined very speedily, by what he sees in the State, and I am much in his mind. Having staid as long as I thought fit for meeting of Burroughs, I away and to the ‘Change again, but there I do not find her now, I having staid too long at the House, and therefore very hungry, having eat nothing to-day. Home, and there to eat presently, and then to the office a little, and to Sir W. Batten, where Sir J. Minnes and Captain Cocke was; but no newes from the North at all to-day; and the newes-book makes the business nothing, but that they are all dispersed. I pray God it may prove so. So home, and, after a little, to my chamber to bed.

a doll with a tongue
to whom he did all
violence imaginable

his daughter
for the first time spoke
in court to save him

who says he is ruined
by what he sees now
having nothing to eat

and little in the news
but that they pray it may
prove little

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 26 November 1666.

Lives of the saints

(Lord’s day). Up, and with Sir J. Minnes by coach to White Hall, and there coming late, I to rights to the chapel, where in my usual place I heard one of the King’s chaplains, one Mr. Floyd, preach. He was out two or three times in his prayer, and as many in his sermon, but yet he made a most excellent good sermon, of our duty to imitate the lives and practice of Christ and the saints departed, and did it very handsomely and excellent stile; but was a little overlarge in magnifying the graces of the nobility and prelates, that we have seen in our memorys in the world, whom God hath taken from us.
At the end of the sermon an excellent anthem; but it was a pleasant thing, an idle companion in our pew, a prating, bold counsellor that hath been heretofore at the Navy Office, and noted for a great eater and drinker, not for quantity, but of the best, his name Tom Bales, said, “I know a fitter anthem for this sermon,” speaking only of our duty of following the saints, and I know not what. “Cooke should have sung, ‘Come, follow, follow me.’”
After sermon up into the gallery, and then to Sir G. Carteret’s to dinner; where much company. Among others, Mr. Carteret and my Lady Jemimah, and here was also Mr. Ashburnham, the great man, who is a pleasant man, and that hath seen much of the world, and more of the Court.
After dinner Sir G. Carteret and I to another room, and he tells me more and more of our want of money and in how ill condition we are likely to be soon in, and that he believes we shall not have a fleete at sea the next year. So do I believe; but he seems to speak it as a thing expected by the King and as if their matters were laid accordingly.
Thence into the Court and there delivered copies of my report to my Lord Treasurer, to the Duke of York, Sir W. Coventry, and others, and attended there till the Council met, and then was called in, and I read my letter. My Lord Treasurer declared that the King had nothing to give till the Parliament did give him some money. So the King did of himself bid me to declare to all that would take our tallys for payment, that he should, soon as the Parliament’s money do come in, take back their tallys, and give them money: which I giving him occasion to repeat to me, it coming from him against the ‘gre’1 I perceive, of my Lord Treasurer, I was content therewith, and went out, and glad that I have got so much. Here staid till the Council rose, walking in the gallery. All the talke being of Scotland, where the highest report, I perceive, runs but upon three or four hundred in armes; but they believe that it will grow more, and do seem to apprehend it much, as if the King of France had a hand in it. My Lord Lauderdale do make nothing of it, it seems, and people do censure him for it, he from the beginning saying that there was nothing in it, whereas it do appear to be a pure rebellion; but no persons of quality being in it, all do hope that it cannot amount to much.
Here I saw Mrs. Stewart this afternoon, methought the beautifullest creature that ever I saw in my life, more than ever I thought her so, often as I have seen her; and I begin to think do exceed my Lady Castlemayne, at least now.
This being St. Catherine’s day, the Queene was at masse by seven o’clock this morning; and. Mr. Ashburnham do say that he never saw any one have so much zeale in his life as she hath: and, the question being asked by my Lady Carteret, much beyond the bigotry that ever the old Queen-mother had.
I spoke with Mr. May who tells me that the design of building the City do go on apace, and by his description it will be mighty handsome, and to the satisfaction of the people; but I pray God it come not out too late.
The Council up, after speaking with Sir W. Coventry a little, away home with Captain Cocke in his coach, discourse about the forming of his contract he made with us lately for hempe, and so home, where we parted, and I find my uncle Wight and Mrs. Wight and Woolly, who staid and supped, and mighty merry together, and then I to my chamber to even my journal, and then to bed. I will remember that Mr. Ashburnham to-day at dinner told how the rich fortune Mrs. Mallett reports of her servants; that my Lord Herbert would have had her; my Lord Hinchingbroke was indifferent to have her; my Lord John Butler might not have her; my Lord of Rochester would have forced her; and Sir ——— Popham, who nevertheless is likely to have her, would kiss her breach to have her.

the plain lives of the saints
have seen no saints

have see the world like a rose
grow from pure rebellion
into the fullest life

more than any zeal
beyond bigotry to a god
forming his contract with us
like a kiss

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 25 November 1666.


All I want is more time; nice if in the shape of a reading room, 
zero emergency phone calls or text messages, with a plain
bench and uncluttered desk. But would it be unseemly to also
yearn for a karaoke mic for belting torch songs when one's
capacity for solitary endurance has reached its limit?
Except I'm currently stuck in the flaps of this mood; can't
ditch it for good, despite light therapy. You know
women aren't the only ones afflicted. Given the global
environment, everyone I talk to seems on the verge;
vulnerable, feeling all the feels. We commiserate, mostly.
Food is also diversion: nothing like old-fashioned pigging out;
unlike the fakeness of that Peloton commercial in which these
good-looking, what-do-they-need-to-work-out-for-anyway people
touch a screen and, voila, simulate a slalom down winding
hillsides, even if they're in an uncluttered room with a window
sleeker than a giant plasma screen. They hop off, gushing
I'm changed! The price of that glowing makeover machine
runs over $2K: more than an adjunct's monthly salary; or
just a bit more than the cost of a new fence. And we need one
quickly, or before winter does the old one in. Things are so
killjoy like that. What I want, what I need: though I've said
pah to every Black Friday sale, another kind of void, a secret
laryngitis, makes the soul feel scratched, hoarse; or worse,
opiumed into silence. Weariness, wordlessness: almost
made from the same disheartenment. Remind me again of the
numinous: that reverent feeling, entering a temple or mosque.

The burning

Up, and to the office, where we sat all the morning. At noon rose and to my closet, and finished my report to my Lord Treasurer of our Tangier wants, and then with Sir J. Minnes by coach to Stepney to the Trinity House, where it is kept again now since the burning of their other house in London. And here a great many met at Sir Thomas Allen’s feast, of his being made an Elder Brother; but he is sick, and so could not be there. Here was much good company, and very merry; but the discourse of Scotland, it seems, is confirmed, and that they are 4000 of them in armes, and do declare for King and Covenant, which is very ill news. I pray God deliver us from the ill consequences we may justly fear from it. Here was a good venison pasty or two and other good victuals; but towards the latter end of the dinner I rose, and without taking leave went away from the table, and got Sir J. Minnes’ coach and away home, and thence with my report to my Lord Treasurer’s, where I did deliver it to Sir Philip Warwicke for my Lord, who was busy, my report for him to consider against to-morrow’s council. Sir Philip Warwicke, I find, is full of trouble in his mind to see how things go, and what our wants are; and so I have no delight to trouble him with discourse, though I honour the man with all my heart, and I think him to be a very able and right honest man. So away home again, and there to my office to write my letters very late, and then home to supper, and then to read the late printed discourse of witches by a member of Gresham College, and then to bed; the discourse being well writ, in good stile, but methinks not very convincing. This day Mr. Martin is come to tell me his wife is brought to bed of a girle, and I promised to christen it next Sunday.

burning the otherland
are we on the side of light

is the man with all ink right
to let witches become a sun

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 24 November 1666.

I could sing in a confident way about nothing so I do—

                     although I am not entirely without purpose; just that the current
economies feel increasingly toxic to the propagation of meaning.
                     Bourgeois doesn’t even seem to carry any stigma anymore:
how many will blithely chime in with Let them eat cake?        
                     Citizen, meaning freeman or inhabitant of an urban center, legally
recognized member of the state or nation; “not an alien,” in
                     distinction from a city-dweller (14th c.). Thus, in distinction too
from  countryfolk, villager, peasant— the marginal,
                     easy to dismiss as without sophistication, lacking education. Or, 
as the poor but happy with their simple pleasures of palm wine,
                     farming while singing folk songs in the blistering sun. Is it nothing,
then, to be able to sing while under physical duress, while
                     gashing a path with machetes or burning a field to take it
from fallow to fruitful?  Regarding the right to regard as
                     human what or who is human: the arbiters of such standards,
always historically gilded with conscience, morality,
                     intelligence. As when those representatives of the future
heavenly kingdom reaped flocks of dark bodies, 
                     joined them in chains, and ferried them over to their new
world (guess who supplied the labor). In the names of
                    kings and queens, archipelagos were tagged and numbered;
all their denizens cataloged and inventoried, like fish.
                    Long lived the majesties. Longer abiding, the contracts
that passed from indenture to indenture. O
                    my children, my children’s children, imagine such a future
as  a rope that lengthens but wears itself down as we climb; 
                    non-renewable only perhaps with the proper fee…
Or what’s that thing they say?—if you have to ask 
                    outright about the price, you probably can’t afford it.  
Though the idea of value in this case is a construct,  the op-        
                     pressions people actually live through are hardly that.  
There’s enough research established to show how poverty is un-                      
                     questionably related to mental health.  A 
decent wage,
a living wage, might have prevented Yang Gailan from feeding
                     rat poison or pesticide to her four children and herself.

They found them lifeless on the hillside, among the sheep and goats.
                     So many variations of this kind of story,  each worth more
than “nothing.”  So we’ll sing and write about such nothings; we’ll 
                     try to zoom in closer, focus so the distant dots on our
screens become a shape, a form—refugees fleeing, soldiers
                      unbuckling their weapons. Children run  into school
closets as, seemingly out of nowhere, someone orchestrates clipped
                   volley; the sound of slugs and shells skittering on linoleum.
Coming to this part, and the parts afterward of counting: no one could 
                      withstand, bear up against such grief that 
will come in waves 
as if without ending. Even the bravest who’ve seen the worst of war with
                       xerotic eye would weep, grow weak at the sight of hallways
lined with the dead and dying. And what is confidence but forceful
                       yearning for the lark that lifts from the thorny tree, to which
I might pin my voice? O bright nooses and lassos of belonging, nights
                       zapped with alternating currents: offering and burden and brunt.      


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