1. What must have had a name, though it was penned up and bleated for weeks, for the fattening.

2. When no one yet thought of packing for any journey; all of the house posts still stood upright.

3. When it rained, and mud stained the hems of our clothes brick red.

4. How we sheltered most those plants that had more than one use: salve, decoction, bitter soup.

5. Afternoons, when we fiddled with the knobs of the TV set to watch old black and white movies and people danced with umbrellas in the rain; plantation hands sang sweet, sweet potato pie.

5. When sometimes the cook would take pity and save a plate of scraps.

6. When a woman at the dinner table remarked on the long wait cicadas are subject to— in comparison to the briefness of the ecstatic moment.

7. That is, we are habituated to assume that the longer the length and distance, the more unpleasant the experience.

8. How trees must know true clairvoyance; they are the only ones who ever really talk with each other in a language often dismissed as sighing, rustling, trembling.

9. That need to touch the surface to sense where vibrations visited last.

10. Every time I falter and look for some tether to draw on; for light to materialize in a form I might recognize.

Lay long, then up, and among others Bagwell’s wife coming to speak with me put new thoughts of folly into me which I am troubled at. Thence after doing business at my office, I by coach to my Lady Sandwich’s, and there dined with her, and found all well and merry. Thence to White Hall, and we waited on the Duke, who looks better than he did, methinks, before his voyage; and, I think, a little more stern than he used to do.
Thence to the Temple to my cozen Roger Pepys, thinking to have met the Doctor to have discoursed our business, but he came not, so I home, and there by agreement came my Lord Rutherford, Povy, Gauden, Creed, Alderman Backewell, about Tangier business of accounts between Rutherford and Gauden. Here they were with me an hour or more, then after drinking away, and Povy and Creed staid and eat with me; but I was sorry I had no better cheer for Povy; for the foole may be useful, and is a cunning fellow in his way, which is a strange one, and that, that I meet not in any other man, nor can describe in him. They late with me, and when gone my boy and I to musique, and then to bed.

a long bag of folly who looks
better than he thinks

a little king of drink
was I

for the fool may be
a cunning scribe

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 7 December 1664.

Louise Labé - engraving by Pierre Woeiriot

Dear lioness, Louise, coming upon
the sonnets was a coup de foudre
you reached across the centuries
to touch a lonely heart as I thought
nothing old and formal could.
Your lute-songs, silliness and sorrow
inspired me to wordplay – hours
of delight today, tomorrow…

You ambushed me with memories,
a buried sense of self – so long since
I’d been young, yet I was moved.
Nearly five hundred years apart
and some things never change: yours,
Louise, is the lasting roar of love.


Image: Louise Labé – engraving by Pierre Woeiriot, 1555.

Here endeth, for now anyway, my small series of tributes to Louise Labé.

Up, and in Sir W. Batten’s coach to White Hall, but the Duke being gone forth, I to Westminster Hall, and there spent much time till towards noon to and fro with people. So by and by Mrs. Lane comes and plucks me by the cloak to speak to me, and I was fain to go to her shop, and pretending to buy some bands made her go home, and by and by followed her, and there did what I would with her, and so after many discourses and her intreating me to do something for her husband, which I promised to do, and buying a little band of her, which I intend to keep to, I took leave, there coming a couple of footboys to her with a coach to fetch her abroad I know not to whom. She is great with child, and she says I must be godfather, but I do not intend it. Thence by coach to the Old Exchange, and there hear that the Dutch are fitting their ships out again, which puts us to new discourse, and to alter our thoughts of the Dutch, as to their want of courage or force. Thence by appointment to the White Horse Taverne in Lumbard Streete, and there dined with my Lord Rutherford, Povy, Mr. Gauden, Creed, and others, and very merry, and after dinner among other things Povy and I withdrew, and I plainly told him that I was concerned in profit, but very justly, in this business of the Bill that I have been these two or three days about, and he consents to it, and it shall be paid.
He tells me how he believes, and in part knows, Creed to be worth 10,000l.; nay, that now and then he hath three or 4,000l. in his hands, for which he gives the interest that the King gives, which is ten per cent., and that Creed do come and demand it every three months the interest to be paid him, which Povy looks upon as a cunning and mean tricke of him; but for all that, he will do and is very rich. Thence to the office, where we sat and where Mr. Coventry came the first time after his return from sea, which I was glad of.
So after office to my office, and then home to supper, and to my office again, and then late home to bed.

a pluck by the cloak
and I was pretending to what
I would with her

a child must be
godfather to the old
fitting us to new
thoughts of consent

how hands demand rest
and to return from sea
to the office again

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 6 December 1664.

Infinite: in-finite, to dwell
inside what ends. On the other

hand, it’s endless, the falling
that never stops: leaves from

trees, hair from our heads, teeth
loosening throughout the terrible

funhouse interior of the mouth.
How to go on and say I go on,

how to keep coming back or
pressing re-start? Every day

I brush handfuls of dead
cells from the carpet. I look

briefly in the hallway mirror
each time I leave the house.


In response to Via Negativa: Yucca moth.

After Louise Labé, Sonnet XVII

etching by Paula Modersohn-Becker

So I’ve not been going into town or to church
or anywhere,
she says, where I might
run into him and let him soft-soap me
into giving it another go.

I’ve not been dancing, or to watch the game –
it’s no fun without him anyway. I’ve tried
everything to cool things down, stay away,
find new interests, even…

find myself a new man! I’ve been taking
long walks in the woods on my own, the lot,

she says, but now it dawns on her

he won’t be leaving their town any time soon –
she’s the one who’s got to get out of there,
out of her own head, start over.

Je fuis la vile, & temples, & tous lieus,
Esquels prenant plaisir à t’ouir pleindre,
Tu peus, & non sans force, me contreindre
De te donner ce qu’estimois le mieux.

Masques, tournois, jeus me sont ennuieus,
Et rien sans toy de beau ne me puis peindre:
Tant que tachant à ce desir esteindre,
Et un nouvel obget faire à mes yeus,

Et des pensers amoureus me distraire,
Des bois espais sui le plus solitaire:
Mais j’aperçoy, ayant erré maint tour,

Que si je veus de toy estre delivre,
Il me convient hors de moymesme vivre,
Ou fais encor que loin sois en sejour.


Image: etching by Paula Modersohn-Becker, c. 1900.

My other translations and versions of sonnets by Louise Labé are here.

Up, and to White Hall with Sir J. Minnes; and there, among an infinite crowd of great persons, did kiss the Duke’s hand; but had no time to discourse. Thence up and down the gallery, and got my Lord of Albemarle’s hand to my bill for Povy, but afterwards was asked some scurvy questions by Povy about my demands, which troubled [me], but will do no great hurt I think. Thence vexed home, and there by appointment comes my cozen Roger Pepys and Mrs. Turner, and dined with me, and very merry we were. They staid all the afternoon till night, and then after I had discoursed an hour with Sir W. Warren plainly declaring my resolution to desert him if he goes on to join with Castle, who and his family I, for great provocation, love not, which he takes with some trouble, but will concur in everything with me, he says. Now I am loth, I confess, to lose him, he having been the best friend I have had ever in this office. So he being gone, we all, it being night, in Madam Turner’s coach to her house, there to see, as she tells us, how fat Mrs. The. is grown, and so I find her, but not as I expected, but mightily pleased I am to hear the mother commend her daughter Betty that she is like to be a great beauty, and she sets much by her.
Thence I to White Hall, and there saw Mr. Coventry come to towne, and, with all my heart, am glad to see him, but could have no talke with him, he being but just come. Thence back and took up my wife, and home, where a while, and then home to supper and to bed.

infinite crow of time
night desert

if love takes every turn
to find a moth

then I with my heart
have just a while

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 5 December 1664.

The world’s markets are going
to ruin amid these newly imminent
threats of war. So we are reminded
art— words— must be the natural
beeswax wrap to keep all remaining
freshness in. Half a red watermelon
radish, last night’s squash, yesterday’s
forgotten sandwich. Danger and fear—
they always have a slick but clammy
texture. You wrap and rewrap the square
envelope, the long rectangle, the flat
disc. But let it not be said we were not
mindful of adding more waste to the already
denuded environment. Pressing carefully
around all the edges yields the proverbial
hermetic seal. How can the agitated
liquids inside the cup hear the splendid
carillons break open in the air? Bees
and locusts. Whales and cranes. Notched
wheels bearing powerful rain. All
the humid sounds on the outside,
like human breathing. That apple you
returned to the fridge after you bit
into it and then changed your mind.

(Lord’s day). Lay long in bed, and then up and to my office, there to dispatch a business in order to the getting something out of the Tangier business, wherein I have an opportunity to get myself paid upon the score of freight. I hope a good sum.
At noon home to dinner, and then in the afternoon to church. So home, and by and by comes Mr. Hill and Andrews, and sung together long and with great content. Then to supper and broke up. Pretty discourse, very pleasant and ingenious, and so to my office a little, and then home (after prayers) to bed.
This day I hear the Duke of Yorke is come to towne, though expected last night, as I observed, but by what hindrance stopped I can’t tell.

ice is at the core
of an afternoon church

I drew a sun with
as little a prayer as a top

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 4 December 1664.

While there is someone left
to remember, we can believe we exist—

What of the things we used to call
ours? do they continue to exist as long

as we can call them back to mind?
Those birds we kept in a wire cage

on the porch, pairs of white and dun
and dusky yellow: how they sang

as if they’d never known migration
nor seen widows walking down the road.