Let Me Know if You Can Hear This

A girl cries into her mobile, bites 
the ends of her scarf. She says
her heart feels like it's going
to burst. Are you there?
Are you there? On an island
in Japan, or in a town I can't
remember, someone has put up
a booth from which to call
the dead. Hundreds have made
this pilgrimage to pick up
the receiver and speak into it
or sing, while crows roost on its
little roof, while rain or hail
drums on the glass. Do you
like flowers? There are flowers.
And a shot glass where someone
once poured a drink; a dog-eared
novel, an unused airline ticket.
A man sits on a bench under
the corner streetlight. He
is waiting for the bus, or
he will spend the night there
in his thin coat unless
the storekeeper and his wife
take him in. Does he ever feel
like his heart is going to burst?
Maybe his heart burst long ago.
Maybe there is only before
and after the heart burst.
Where it actually burst, a page
was added to the telephone
directory; a loaf of bread
disappeared from the shelf.


To bed at 2 or 3 in the morning and up again at 6 to go by appointment to my Lord Bellasses, but he out of town, which vexed me. So back and got Mr. Poynter to enter into my book while I read from my last night’s notes the letter, and that being done to writing it fair. At noon home to dinner, and then the boy and I to the office, and there he read while I writ it fair, which done I sent it to Sir W. Coventry to peruse and send to the fleete by the first opportunity; and so pretty betimes to bed. Much pleased to-day with thoughts of gilding the backs of all my books alike in my new presses.

asses enter my last night’s notes as esses

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 31 August 1666.


Up and all the morning at the office, dined at home, and in the afternoon, and at night till two in the morning, framing my great letter to Mr. Hayes about the victualling of the fleete, about which there has been so much ado and exceptions taken by the Generalls.

at Home
the great letter H
about which
there has been so much
exception taken
by G

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 30 August 1666.

Ten Parts of an Expedition

1. Some people joke about how immigrants can't tell the difference
between jokes and non-jokes.

2. They're always so serious, even when their co-workers
slap them on the shoulder and say I was only joking.

3. In our world we don't fool around with language; words
are like spells— once said, they cannot be unspoken.

4. According to one legend, the tree of heaven fell
into the earth; its branches, once heavy with sweet
oranges, snaked through rock as veins of gold.

5. A true map will show where hills have been leveled,
where plains are barren as sorrow; where soldiers
came with guns to finish off the livestock.

6. This is where ships with foreign flags first dropped
anchor in the bay; the shore, lined with rough grass,
was a mouth sealed shut, never speaking of El Dorado.

7. You probe through fissures in rock; as you go,
your body inching forward makes a tunnel.

8. The gods will not tell you if the roots of the tree
are in Kabayan or Kibungan.

9. One does not fool around with language; that
would be irresponsible. Listen instead for thunder.

10. You knew what was yours for as long as you can
remember; when someone takes your finger to make
a mark on paper, the taste of rusted metal
fixes in the air.


Up betimes, and there to fit some Tangier accounts, and then, by appointment, to my Lord Bellasses, but about Paul’s thought of the chant paper I should carry with me, and so fain to come back again, and did, and then met with Sir W. Pen, and with him to my Lord Bellasses, he sitting in the coach the while, while I up to my Lord and there offered him my account of the bills of exchange I had received and paid for him, wherein we agree all but one 200l. bill of Vernatty’s drawing, wherein I doubt he hath endeavoured to cheate my Lord; but that will soon appear. Thence took leave, and found Sir W. Pen talking to Orange Moll, of the King’s house, who, to our great comfort, told us that they begun to act on the 18th of this month. So on to St. James’s, in the way Sir W. Pen telling me that Mr. Norton, that married Sir J. Lawson’s daughter, is dead. She left 800l. a year jointure, a son to inherit the whole estate. She freed from her father-in-law’s tyranny, and is in condition to helpe her mother, who needs it; of which I am glad, the young lady being very pretty.
To St. James’s, and there Sir W. Coventry took Sir W. Pen and me apart, and read to us his answer to the Generalls’ letter to the King that he read last night; wherein he is very plain, and states the matter in full defence of himself and of me with him, which he could not avoid; which is a good comfort to me, that I happen to be involved with him in the same cause. And then, speaking of the supplies which have been made to this fleete, more than ever in all kinds to any, even that wherein the Duke of Yorke himself was, “Well,” says he, “if this will not do, I will say, as Sir J. Falstaffe did to the Prince, ‘Tell your father, that if he do not like this let him kill the next Piercy himself,’” and so we broke up, and to the Duke, and there did our usual business.
So I to the Parke and there met Creed, and he and I walked to Westminster to the Exchequer, and thence to White Hall talking of Tangier matters and Vernatty’s knavery, and so parted, and then I homeward and met Mr. Povy in Cheapside, and stopped and talked a good while upon the profits of the place which my Lord Bellasses hath made this last year, and what share we are to have of it, but of this all imperfect, and so parted, and I home, and there find Mrs. Mary Batelier, and she dined with us; and thence I took them to Islington, and there eat a custard; and so back to Moorfields, and shewed Batelier, with my wife, “Polichinello,” which I like the more I see it; and so home with great content, she being a mighty good-natured, pretty woman, and thence I to the Victualling office, and there with Mr. Lewes and Willson upon our Victualling matters till ten at night, and so I home and there late writing a letter to Sir W. Coventry, and so home to supper and to bed.
No newes where the Dutch are. We begin to think they will steale through the Channel to meet Beaufort. We think our fleete sayled yesterday, but we have no newes of it.

where we agree
heat will soon appear

the comfort I married
is dead

you and I part
and the void is like
a cheap custard
with a great channel in it

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 29 August 1666.

After the Storm, the Neighbors Do Yard Work

Here's the light back 
in the sky, with floodwaters
receded as if to say it isn't
time yet for the big obliteration.

Here are branches and other tree
debris thrown down by wind, all
the little nests remaindered
from spring or summer.

The sounds of leaf-blowers
rip through the quiet of morning;
rakes comb through lawns of green.
We are so eager to re-order our

small portion of this fading universe:
so eager to gather leaves for burning,
to plan next summer's holiday on
some island not yet under water.

Memory of Eating with Hands

We were taught to eat with 
our hands, the whole hand; to scoop

rice and fish with all the fingers
and not just miserly thumb and index,

scrawny bird beak pecking through
gravel for leavings. A person

who knows how to eat like this
must be generous and forgiving,

no? Not afraid to get sauce
and grease on their fingers,

not ashamed to show who's boss
of their own circumstance

and lick the last traces
of honey and salt or garlic

oil. When I was a child afflicted
with blisters and allergies,

my mothers took turns coaxing
me to eat a little more.

While distracting me with stories,
they'd shape small cubes and pyramids

out of sticky rice, hide bits of meat
or vegetable inside like treasures

buried with the Pharaoh, who was
sometimes though rarely a woman—

Like Hatshepsut, who despite a chronic
skin condition built temples and monuments,

brought wealth of ivory and gold
from other lands. Sometimes she wore

a fake beard and man's kilt just because
she could. After she died, it's said her

stepson tried to erase all official memory
of her: doesn't he sound like a hater?

Whereas she's someone I can imagine
tearing the meat of fowl from a joint,

relishing fruit, washing everything
down with a generous gulp of wine.

Kitchen confidential

Up, and in my new closet a good while doing business. Then called on Mrs. Martin and Burroughs of Westminster about business of the former’s husband. Which done, I to the office, where we sat all the morning. At noon I, with my wife and Mercer, to Philpott Lane, a great cook’s shop, to the wedding of Mr. Longracke, our purveyor, a good, sober, civil man, and hath married a sober, serious mayde. Here I met much ordinary company, I going thither at his great request; but there was Mr. Madden and his lady, a fine, noble, pretty lady, and he, and a fine gentleman seems to be. We four were most together; but the whole company was very simple and innocent. A good-dinner, and, what was best, good musique. After dinner the young women went to dance; among others Mr. Christopher Pett his daughter, who is a very pretty, modest girle, I am mightily taken with her; and that being done about five o’clock, home, very well pleased with the afternoon’s work. And so we broke up mightily civilly, the bride and bridegroom going to Greenwich (they keeping their dinner here only for my sake) to lie, and we home, where I to the office, and anon am on a sudden called to meet Sir W. Pen and Sir W. Coventry at the Victualling Office, which did put me out of order to be so surprised. But I went, and there Sir William Coventry did read me a letter from the Generalls to the King, a most scurvy letter, reflecting most upon Sir W. Coventry, and then upon me for my accounts (not that they are not true, but that we do not consider the expence of the fleete), and then of the whole office, in neglecting them and the King’s service, and this in very plain and sharp and menacing terms. I did give a good account of matters according to our computation of the expence of the fleete. I find Sir W. Coventry willing enough to accept of any thing to confront the Generalls. But a great supply must be made, and shall be in grace of God! But, however, our accounts here will be found the true ones. Having done here, and much work set me, I with greater content home than I thought I should have done, and so to the office a while, and then home, and a while in my new closet, which delights me every day more and more, and so late to bed.

the cook’s whole dance
is with her clock

and we go to dinner
in order to be surprised

we do not consider
who is fleet enough
to supply our delight

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 28 August 1666.

The Body Considers Again How Thoughts Are Things

Why is it so hard to empty oneself
of thoughts and things; to quiet

the foot that wants to tap all
throughout each TV commercial

or slow the hand that wants to dip
into the bowl until every single bit

of popcorn is gone? A girl in class
fingers the hem of her shirt, starting

from the front and going all around
to the back. At the grocery checkout

the man ahead in the line has lots
of beer and wine in his cart:

Hurricane supplies, he grins.
Which is sort of the same as your

pack of dumplings, can of wasabi
peas, boxes of Pocky. You remember

the last time this kind of thing
happened: they issued the evacuation

order, with no time to pack all but
a bag each. So much for your intention

to donate, downsize; then scan all
important documents. You put chairs

up on the dining table. You unplugged
appliances and touched your books.

You looked around, wondering what
would still be there on your return.


Up, and to my new closett, which pleases me mightily, and there did a little business. Then to break open a window, to the leads’ side in my old closett, which will enlighten the room mightily, and make it mighty pleasant. So to the office, and then home about one thing or other, about my new closet, for my mind is full of nothing but that. So at noon to dinner, mightily pleased with my wife’s picture that she is upon. Then to the office, and thither come and walked an hour with me Sir G. Carteret, who tells me what is done about my Lord’s pardon, and is not for letting the Duke of Yorke know any thing of it beforehand, but to carry it as speedily and quietly as we can. He seems to be very apprehensive that the Parliament will be troublesome and inquisitive into faults, but seems not to value them as to himself.
He gone, I to the Victualling Office, there with Lewes and Willson setting the business of the state of the fleete’s victualling even and plain, and that being done, and other good discourse about it over, Mr. Willson and I by water down the River for discourse only, about business of the office, and then back, and I home, and after a little at my office home to my new closet, and there did much business on my Tangier account and my Journall for three days. So to supper and to bed.
We are not sure that the Dutch fleete is out. I have another memento from Sir W. Coventry of the want of provisions in the fleete, which troubles me, though there is no reason for it; but will have the good effect of making me more wary. So, full of thoughts, to bed.

to break open a window
will enlighten no one

the quiet will be gone
in will be out

new visions will have the effect
of making more thoughts

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 27 August 1666.