Preparation for the Impending

             A scritch in the eaves, in the dark
of earliest morning; the tumble of a soft
body I imagine has slipped from a tree—
Whatever it is bounds away across
our shingles. Though I strain to hear,
there don't seem to be any sounds
issuing from a throat, desperate
to loft signals for help into the air.
I tense for them, despite: signs
of a body already in transit, oblivious to light
lifting in the canopy. The bulb
of an ankle, purple-streaked, swelling
with fluid. Walls hardened around organs
that float, islands in a sea of carnelian flowers.
The crown of a weed is its own miniature
sun of reckoning. As for us, we're helpless, pinned
against the fabric, faces upturned. If only
we could hear the sound the soul makes escaping; where
it slips from this net into the unbroken.


Book lovers

Up, and to the office. This day I hear that Prince Rupert is to be trepanned. God give good issue to it. Sir W. Pen looks upon me, and I on him, and speak about business together at the table well enough, but no friendship or intimacy since our late difference about his closet, nor do I desire to have any. At noon dined well, and my brother and I to write over once more with my own hand my catalogue of books, while he reads to me. After something of that done, and dined, I to the office, where all the afternoon till night busy. At night, having done all my office matters, I home, and my brother and I to go on with my catalogue, and so to supper. Mrs. Turner come to me this night again to condole her condition and the ill usage she receives from my Lord Bruncker, which I could never have expected from him, and shall be a good caution to me while I live. She gone, I to supper, and then to read a little, and to bed. This night comes home my new silver snuffe-dish, which I do give myself for my closet, which is all I purpose to bestow in plate of myself, or shall need, many a day, if I can keep what I have. So to bed. I am very well pleased this night with reading a poem I brought home with me last night from Westminster Hall, of Dryden’s upon the present war; a very good poem.

this intimacy
is with books

I read to her
and she to me

she gone
I read to myself in bed

reading a poem
I brought home with me

last night
from the war


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 2 February 1667.

Inspiration

Up, and to the office, where I was all the morning doing business, at noon home to dinner, and after dinner down by water, though it was a thick misty and rainy day, and walked to Deptford from Redriffe, and there to Bagwell’s by appointment, where the moher erat within expecting mi venida. And did sensa alguna difficulty monter los degres and lie, comme jo desired it, upon lo lectum; and there I did la cosa con much voluptas. Je besa also her venter and cons and saw the poyle thereof. She would seem alguns veces very religious, but yet did permit me to hazer todo esto et quicquid amplius volebam. By and by ‘su marido’ come in, and there without any notice taken by him we discoursed of our business of getting him the new ship building by Mr. Deane, which I shall do for him. Thence by and by after a little talk I to the yard, and spoke with some of the officers, but staid but little, and the new clerk of the ‘Chequer, Fownes, did walk to Redriffe back with me. I perceive he is a very child, and is led by the nose by Cowly and his kinsman that was his clerk, but I did make him understand his duty, and put both understanding and spirit into him, so that I hope he will do well. Much surprised to hear this day at Deptford that Mrs. Batters is going already to be married to him, that is now the Captain of her husband’s ship. She seemed the most passionate mourner in the world. But I believe it cannot be true. Thence by water to Billingsgate; thence to the Old Swan, and there took boat, it being now night, to Westminster Hall, there to the Hall, and find Doll Lane, and ‘con elle’ I went to the Bell Taverne, and ‘ibi je’ did do what I would ‘con elle’ as well as I could, she ‘sedendo sobre’ thus far and making some little resistance. But all with much content, and ‘je tenai’ much pleasure ‘cum ista’. There parted, and I by coach home, and to the office, where pretty late doing business, and then home, and merry with my wife, and to supper. My brother and I did play with the base, and I upon my viallin, which I have not seen out of the case now I think these three years, or more, having lost the key, and now forced to find an expedient to open it. Then to bed.

thick mist and rain

a child is led by the owl-spirit
into the night to find
a lost key


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 1 February 1667.

Effort

How to bear the weight
of what we've passed through,

of what is still to come
whose shape we don't

yet know? We practice
every day: washing

the grime off socks
and underwear; trimming

the stalks, shearing the old
wood from the fence. The cost

of weather is the warping
of the frame. On good

days, screens filter
little pills of light.


Late riser

Up, and to the office, where we met and sat all the morning. At noon home to dinner, and by and by Mr. Osborne comes from Mr. Gawden, and takes money and notes for 4000l., and leaves me acknowledgment for 4000l. and odd; implying as if D. Gawden would give the 800l. between Povy and myself, but how he will divide it I know-not, till I speak with him, so that my content is not yet full in the business. In the evening stept out to Sir Robert Viner’s to get the money ready upon my notes to D. Gawden, and there hear that Mr. Temple is very ill. I met on the ‘Change with Captain Cocke, who tells me that he hears new certainty of the business of Madrid, how our Embassador and the French met, and says that two or three of my Lord’s men, and twenty one of the French men are killed, but nothing at Court of it. He fears the next year’s service through the badness of our counsels at White Hall, but that if they were wise, and the King would mind his business, he might do what he would yet. The Parliament is not yet up, being finishing some bills. So home and to the office, and late home to supper, and to talk with my wife, with pleasure, and to bed. I met this evening at Sir R. Viner’s our Mr. Turner, who I find in a melancholy condition about his being removed out of his house, but I find him so silly and so false that I dare not tell how to trust any advice to him, and therefore did speak only generally to him, but I doubt his condition is very miserable, and do pity his family. Thus the month ends: myself in very good health and content of mind in my family. All our heads full in the office at this dividing of the Comptroller’s duty, so that I am in some doubt how it may prove to intrench upon my benefits, but it cannot be much. The Parliament, upon breaking up, having given the King money with much ado, and great heats, and neither side pleased, neither King nor them. The imperfection of the Poll Bill, which must be mended before they rise, there being several horrible oversights to the prejudice of the King, is a certain sign of the care anybody hath of the King’s business. Prince Rupert very ill, and to be trepanned on Saturday next. Nobody knows who commands the fleete next year, or, indeed, whether we shall have a fleete or no. Great preparations in Holland and France, and the French have lately taken Antego from us, which vexes us. I am in a little care through my at last putting a great deal of money out of my hands again into the King’s upon tallies for Tangier, but the interest which I wholly lost while in my trunk is a temptation while things look safe, as they do in some measure for six months, I think, and I would venture but little longer.

a morning born in the evening
I am not yet up and out
of my mind I am in doubt
how to rise
in or over the body
of land I am lost in


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 31 January 1667.

Oshibana

The report reads: "moderate dehydration 
& malnutrition; hypoalbuminemia;
hypokalemia; degenerative osteoarthritis,
lumbar." Which means she'd gone
months without having enough to drink
or eat; not enough protein, only
rolls of bread she'd furtively stash
below the collar of her dress
in the thin, bowed cavity of her chest,
then take tiny bites from. This same
woman, whose idea of extravagance
was throwing a whole stick of butter
into the pasta sauce; buying two
pairs of shoes at once, or taking
her sweet time at the dressing table
while everyone else waited in the car.
And the people who lived with her
for more than three decades after
my father died: kin that fleeced and
deliberately took from her what's still
rightfully hers, draining the coffers.
She doesn't know they've occupied
her rooms, spirited away her marble
end-tables and who knows what other
bits of furniture and possessions.
It took her more than half
an hour to recognize who I was;
then, drifted in and out of small
lucidities followed by exclamations
and tears. I wrapped a woolen shawl
around her shoulders before I had
to leave again—I'm told even that
somehow disappeared. Now
she's in a home with others like her,
white hair blooming atop such slender
stalks. They wait for a nurse to feed
or bathe them, take them out into
the sunshine. You can see
something proud in her, still;
despite the broken record of speech.
She can hold her head in that old way
so her chin juts out, sharp
as in the days when time
had not yet pressed all of us
like creased flowers in its palm.

Forward planning

Fast-day for the King’s death. I all the morning at my chamber making up my month’s accounts, which I did before dinner to my thorough content, and find myself but a small gainer this month, having no manner of profits, but just my salary, but, blessed be God! that I am able to save out of that, living as I do. So to dinner, then to my chamber all the afternoon, and in the evening my wife and I and Mercer and Barker to little Michell’s, walked, with some neats’ tongues and cake and wine, and there sat with the little couple with great pleasure, and talked and eat and drank, and saw their little house, which is very pretty; and I much pleased therewith, and so walked home, about eight at night, it being a little moonshine and fair weather, and so into the garden, and, with Mercer, sang till my wife put me in mind of its being a fast day; and so I was sorry for it, and stopped, and home to cards awhile, and had opportunity ‘para baiser’ Mercer several times, and so to bed.

for death I am making
up my accounts

having just my little tongue
and a little talk

a little house very pretty
and a little moon

and in the cards
an opportunity to be


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 30 January 1667.

Loosening

In malls across the country,
stores have been closing
one by one, the air
thinning
out as if atoms were only
made by the number of people
breathing—
On the fringe
looking out at the bay, trees face
the wind to let
their hair ripple

Tributary

They come up to each car, press
their dusty faces against glass, palms
outstretched in the universal sign of
supplication. A girl no older than 10
carries a toddler astride one hip.
His belly hangs like a balloon
distended with water, over the edge
of a makeshift diaper. Her other hand offers
strings of rice seed and jasmine, cream
streaked with taint of sewer water. How
do such flowers grow and still flood
the air with unbearable fragrance?
The streets slice open, lane dividers
white as the fat quilting a pig's
stomach. It's here we press
ourselves into the seams of the machine,
here where we spill our guts daily, borne
by a tide that some of us will breach
and those of us lacking in strength
will go under, mouths open; and oil-
slicked waters conduct us from this world.

Divisiveness

Up to the office all the morning, where Sir W. Pen and I look much askewe one upon another, though afterward business made us speak friendly enough, but yet we hate one another. At noon home to dinner, and then to the office, where all the afternoon expecting Mr. Gawden to come for some money I am to pay him, but he comes not, which makes me think he is considering whether it be necessary to make the present he hath promised, it being possible this alteration in the Controller’s duty may make my place in the Victualling unnecessary, so that I am a little troubled at it. Busy till late at night at the office, and Sir W. Batten come to me, and tells me that there is newes upon the Exchange to-day, that my Lord Sandwich’s coach and the French Embassador’s at Madrid, meeting and contending for the way, they shot my Lord’s postilion and another man dead; and that we have killed 25 of theirs, and that my Lord is well. How true this is I cannot tell, there being no newes of it at all at Court, as I am told late by one come thence, so that I hope it is not so.
By and by comes Mrs. Turner to me, to make her complaint of her sad usage she receives from my Lord Bruncker, that he thinks much she hath not already got another house, though he himself hath employed her night and day ever since his first mention of the matter, to make part of her house ready for him, as he ordered, and promised she should stay till she had fitted herself; by which and what discourse I do remember he had of the business before Sir W. Coventry on Sunday last I perceive he is a rotten-hearted, false man as any else I know, even as Sir W. Pen himself, and, therefore, I must beware of him accordingly, and I hope I shall. I did pity the woman with all my heart, and gave her the best council I could; and so, falling to other discourse, I made her laugh and merry, as sad as she came to me; so that I perceive no passion in a woman can be lasting long; and so parted and I home, and there teaching my girle Barker part of my song “It is decreed,” which she will sing prettily, and so after supper to bed.

the morning askew
we hate one another
for being possible

in the news
they shot a dead man

and I must beware of falling
that lasting art


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 29 January 1667.