Living on the road

Sam Pepys and me

(Lord’s day). In the forenoon I alone to our church, and after dinner I went and ranged about to many churches, among the rest to the Temple, where I heard Dr. Wilkins a little (late Maister of Trinity in Cambridge). That being done to my father’s to see my mother who is troubled much with the stone, and that being done I went home, where I had a letter brought me from my Lord to get a ship ready to carry the Queen’s things over to France, she being to go within five or six days. So to supper and to bed.

alone in the temple
of a bridge

my mother stone
home to a car

with five or six days
to supper

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 25 November 1660.

Self Portrait with Yard in Need of Raking

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
          Three days of high wind—the row of pines out front
rains fusillade of dry needles on the yard. I tell
           myself, perhaps one day I might muster the daily 
kind of industry I see the neighbors apply 
           to this everlasting disorder. But they are armed
with leaf-blowers, leaf-collection chutes, lawn
           edgers, as if the sky won't last longer than any of us.
I go out with a bent-toothed rake and gather dry
           leaves into piles, though what I've read is they're better
laid on a landscape bed as mulch instead of stuffed in bags
           that end up in landfills. While the season is busy
with dying, it's also true that nothing dies. Though it's hard,
           I try to remind myself that every change is not merely 
a vacating. The sky will last longer, almost a kind of love. 

Fire water

Sam Pepys and me

To my Lord’s, where after I had done talking with him Mr. Townsend, Rumball, Blackburn, Creed and Shepley and I to the Rhenish winehouse, and there I did give them two quarts of Wormwood wine, and so we broke up.
So we parted, and I and Mr. Creed to Westminster Hall and looked over a book or two, and so to my Lord’s, where I dined with my lady, there being Mr. Child and Mrs. Borfett, who are never absent at dinner there, under pretence of a wooing. From thence I to Mr. de Cretz and did take away my Lord’s picture, which is now finished for me, and I paid 3l. 10s. for it and the frame, and am well pleased with it and the price.
So carried it home by water, Will being with me. At home, and had a fire made in my closet, and put my papers and books and things in order, and that being done I fell to entering these two good songs of Mr. Lawes, “Helpe, helpe, O helpe,” and “O God of Heaven and Hell” in my song book, to which I have got Mr. Child to set the base to the Theorbo, and that done to bed.

done with rum and wormwood
we broke up

over an absent dinner
under a picture frame

I carried water and had
a fire made

the two good songs
of heaven and hell

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 24 November 1660.


Sam Pepys and me

This morning standing looking upon the workmen doing of my new door to my house, there comes Captain Straughan the Scot (to whom the King has given half of the money that the two ships lately sold do bring), and he would needs take me to the Dolphin, and give me a glass of ale and a peck of oysters, he and I. He did talk much what he is able to advise the King for good husbandry in his ships, as by ballasting them with lead ore and many other tricks, but I do believe that he is a knowing man in sea-business. Home and dined, and in the afternoon to the office, where till late, and that being done Mr. Creed did come to speak with me, and I took him to the Dolphin, where there was Mr. Pierce the purser and his wife and some friends of theirs. So I did spend a crown upon them behind the bar, they being akin to the people of the house, and this being the house where Mr. Pierce was apprentice.
After they were gone Mr. Creed and I spent an hour in looking over the account which he do intend to pass in our office for his lending moneys, which I did advise about and approve or disapprove of as I saw cause.
After an hour being serious at this we parted about 11 o’clock at night. So I home and to bed, leaving my wife and the maid at their linen to get up.

I work my hips
a good husband

is ballast at sea
being one dolphin

for an hour
being a part

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 23 November 1660.

Entry way

Sam Pepys and me

This morning came the carpenters to make me a door at the other side of my house, going into the entry, which I was much pleased with.
At noon my wife and I walked to the Old Exchange, and there she bought her a white whisk and put it on, and I a pair of gloves, and so we took coach for Whitehall to Mr. Fox’s, where we found Mrs. Fox within, and an alderman of London paying 1000l. or 1500l. in gold upon the table for the King, which was the most gold that ever I saw together in my life.
Mr. Fox came in presently and did receive us with a great deal of respect; and then did take my wife and I to the Queen’s presence-chamber; where he got my wife placed behind the Queen’s chair, and I got into the crowd, and by and by the Queen and the two Princesses came to dinner. The Queen a very little plain old woman, and nothing more in her presence in any respect nor garb than any ordinary woman. The Princess of Orange I had often seen before. The Princess Henrietta is very pretty, but much below my expectation; and her dressing of herself with her hair frized short up to her ears, did make her seem so much the less to me.
But my wife standing near her with two or three black patches on, and well dressed, did seem to me much handsomer than she.
Dinner being done, we went to Mr. Fox’s again, where many gentlemen dined with us, and most princely dinner, all provided for me and my friends, but I bringing none but myself and wife, he did call the company to help to eat up so much good victuals. At the end of dinner, my Lord Sandwich’s health was drunk in the gilt tankard that I did give to Mrs. Fox the other day.
After dinner I had notice given me by Will my man that my Lord did inquire for me, so I went to find him, and met him and the Duke of York in a coach going towards Charing Cross. I endeavoured to follow them but could not, so I returned to Mr. Fox, and after much kindness and good discourse we parted from thence.
I took coach for my wife and me homewards, and I light at the Maypole in the Strand, and sent my wife home.
I to the new playhouse and saw part of the “Traitor,” a very good Tragedy; Mr. Moon did act the Traitor very well.
So to my Lord’s, and sat there with my Lady a great while talking. Among other things, she took occasion to inquire (by Madame Dury’s late discourse with her) how I did treat my wife’s father and mother. At which I did give her a good account, and she seemed to be very well opinioned of my wife.
From thence to White Hall at about 9 at night, and there, with Laud the page that went with me, we could not get out of Henry the Eighth’s gallery into the further part of the boarded gallery, where my Lord was walking with my Lord Ormond; and we had a key of Sir S. Morland’s, but all would not do; till at last, by knocking, Mr. Harrison the door-keeper did open us the door.
And, after some talk with my Lord about getting a catch to carry my Lord St. Albans a goods to France, I parted and went home on foot, it being very late and dirty, and so weary to bed.

make me a door

I pay in gold
for a life of presence

am a crow no more
than ordinary

dressing in black
bringing light to the moon

give me the night
on the open door

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 22 November 1660.

Fire Signs

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
Because she always falls         asleep last, she regards
the nape of the man beside her          in bed, the outline
of his leg, the slant of either       moonlight or the motion-
sensor light on the deck          coming through bathroom 
blinds, then coming through         the door. She remembers
where they keep one fire              extinguisher (at the bottom
of the stairs nearest            the stove) but doesn't know where
the other one is.               In the event of an emergency, says
every ad that leaps out          when they watch the late night
news or when she's scrolling                    idly on her phone. 
She wants to tell the man beside her          about her friend's
husband who probably has more             than two dozen
fire extinguishers throughout             their one-floor 
apartment. When she visited                    in April,
they were pointed out to her so she          wouldn't trip 
on them in the dark. His trauma,       her friend explained:
how an arsonist set fire               to the safehouse 
he was hiding in        and he got out, but not his other             
activist friends. Now she finds              herself more 
watchful sometimes                 and amazed at how many
things in the world are shaded       the color of fire or a burn.             


river in November light between bare woods and mountain

Undulant as banked blue 
             asperitas clouds, bright as the film 

around a fish's eye— which is how 
            you can tell it's fresh, so you can harvest

its life. It's funny but sometimes  the dead
             seem to communicate better than

the not yet dead. Back when you were a child
            you took a pink plastic hair band and taped

a length of twine to each side. Then you looped
            the ends together around a hairpin and punched

connections through a paper switchboard. 
           Do you still hear that vast humming beneath 

the surface? Fields of seagrass scarred by boat 
           propellers; mangroves collapsed  in stagnant water.


Sam Pepys and me

Lay long in bed. This morning my cozen Thomas Pepys, the turner, sent me a cupp of lignum vitae for a token. This morning my wife and I went to Paternoster Row, and there we bought some green watered moyre for a morning wastecoate. And after that we went to Mr. Cade’s to choose some pictures for our house. After that my wife went home, and I to Pope’s Head, and bought me an aggate hafted knife, which cost me 5s. So home to dinner, and so to the office all the afternoon, and at night to my viallin (the first time that I have played on it since I came to this house) in my dining room, and afterwards to my lute there, and I took much pleasure to have the neighbours come forth into the yard to hear me.
So down to supper, and sent for the barber, who staid so long with me that he was locked into the house, and we were fain to call up Griffith, to let him out. So up to bed, leaving my wife to wash herself, and to do other things against to-morrow to go to court.

turn green water
for an agate knife

oh night
oh barber

who locked us into
a thin tomorrow

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 21 November 1660.

Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 46

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. You can also browse the blog digest archive, subscribe to its RSS feed in your favorite feed reader, or, if you’d like it in your inbox, subscribe on Substack. This week: the Bird King, 1300 chapbooks, the air full of silk, a Tasmanian double, the absence of sex in lit mags, and much, much more. Enjoy.

Continue reading “Poetry Blog Digest 2023, Week 46”