We are building a box. A shed. A thing in which we might keep garden tools, and bags of soil or mulch, or sacks of grass seed, or boxes of old Christmas ornaments. To build a box we have to go down to the city hall to secure a permit to build a box. The permit is called a certificate. To be certified we have to hire the services of a surveyor. They have to come and eyeball your property then measure. I did the same thing beforehand with an extra ball of blue acrylic yarn from my stash. It measured up, except I wasn’t an official surveyor. The survey cost three hundred fifty dollars. I could have certified myself but I am not allowed. Once I gave my husband a haircut and his boss told him maybe his wife should stick to the things she knows best. Why does someone always know best? Good, better, best. In my book, you either know or you don’t know. But if you don’t, you can go looking for the answer. I don’t mean Google or Wikipedia: I mean go out and stand in the yard and look around, figure out things in relation to the pitch of the roof to the swoop of a bird, the angle of your shadow and how a person at the far end of the driveway can look like he’s standing on the palm of your open hand. Squint and move to the right or left until you get it right. Paint the roof that color.

They sayled from midnight, and come to Greenwich about 5 o’clock in the morning. I however lay till about 7 or 8, and so to my office, my head a little akeing, partly for want of natural rest, partly having so much business to do to-day, and partly from the newes I hear that one of the little boys at my lodging is not well; and they suspect, by their sending for plaister and fume, that it may be the plague; so I sent Mr. Hater and W. Hewer to speake with the mother; but they returned to me, satisfied that there is no hurt nor danger, but the boy is well, and offers to be searched, however, I was resolved myself to abstain coming thither for a while.
Sir W. Batten and myself at the office all the morning. At noon with him to dinner at Boreman’s, where Mr. Seymour with us, who is a most conceited fellow and not over much in him. Here Sir W. Batten told us (which I had not heard before) that the last sitting day his cloake was taken from Mingo he going home to dinner, and that he was beaten by the seamen and swears he will come to Greenwich, but no more to the office till he can sit safe. After dinner I to the office and there late, and much troubled to have 100 seamen all the afternoon there, swearing below and cursing us, and breaking the glasse windows, and swear they will pull the house down on Tuesday next. I sent word of this to Court, but nothing will helpe it but money and a rope. Late at night to Mr. Glanville’s there to lie for a night or two, and to bed.

midnight in my head aching
from the news of hate

a moth on his oak
beaten by the green afternoon

cursing the wind
of our nothing-but-money lie

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 4 November 1665.

How much truth in a joke, in any making-
light-of? The day before the midterms

we laughed and said heck why not eat
the chocolate, buy the expensive coat,

let the cutie kiss you. Maybe we’ll all
be dead after tomorrow. Or want to die.

If not this apocalypse, the one that’s sure
to come after. Only a matter of time. Fire

raging through the hills one day, a spray
of ammunition aimed at any gathering of soft

bodies. One of my students says she takes
dictation from angels: they watch her,

tell her what she should or shouldn’t
do (like, yes go to this party, not

to that one). I wonder what they look like—
I’d be disconcerted hearing only voices,

trying to sift them from my own, looping
through my brain especially at two

in the morning. I’d want to know what
the future holds even if I already know.

I’d ask for a few detail changes, better
scenery. In the yard I squint upward

through the branches of the tree— finally
it’s acknowledged the season is turning,

is letting handful after handful of leaves
furl to the ground. Letting anything go

is possible only with the acknowledgment
nothing’s truly lost: the way you hold

your breath then exhale, if only to see what
shape it makes in the cold air, leaving you.

Was called up about four o’clock and in the darke by lanthorne took boat and to the Ketch and set sayle, sleeping a little in the Cabbin till day and then up and fell to reading of Mr. Evelyn’s book about Paynting, which is a very pretty book. Carrying good victuals and Tom with me I to breakfast about 9 o’clock, and then to read again and come to the Fleete about twelve, where I found my Lord (the Prince being gone in) on board the Royall James, Sir Thomas Allen commander, and with my Lord an houre alone discoursing what was my chief and only errand about what was adviseable for his Lordship to do in this state of things, himself being under the Duke of Yorke’s and Mr. Coventry’s envy, and a great many more and likely never to do anything honourably but he shall be envied and the honour taken as much as can be from it. His absence lessens his interest at Court, and what is worst we never able to set out a fleete fit for him to command, or, if out, to keepe them out or fit them to do any great thing, or if that were so yet nobody at home minds him or his condition when he is abroad, and lastly the whole affairs of state looking as if they would all on a sudden break in pieces, and then what a sad thing it would be for him to be out of the way. My Lord did concur in every thing and thanked me infinitely for my visit and counsel, telling me that in every thing he concurs, but puts a query, what if the King will not think himself safe, if any man should go but him. How he should go off then? To that I had no answer ready, but the making the King see that he may be of as good use to him here while another goes forth. But for that I am not able to say much. We after this talked of some other little things and so to dinner, where my Lord infinitely kind to me, and after dinner I rose and left him with some Commanders at the table taking tobacco and I took the Bezan back with me, and with a brave gale and tide reached up that night to the Hope, taking great pleasure in learning the seamen’s manner of singing when they sound the depths, and then to supper and to sleep, which I did most excellently all night, it being a horrible foule night for wind and raine.

sleeping little I break
as anybody would
break in pieces
infinitely other
I am infinitely at sea
singing when they sound the depths

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 3 November 1665.

Ours not the fruit on the tree,
that long shimmer in the branches; waxed,
distrustful surface reflecting what else
might be known about the universe.
A man whips a striped tapis into a flag
between his hands, and dances with it.
In one story either a chicken
or a woman come into the yard
and follow him into the world. In one
story the man and the woman step
out of the bamboo’s heart.
They’ve heard the thunder made
by the bird as it breaks through
the border. If this is the beginning,
how does night translate? It’s not as if
all that came before can just be tucked
into an envelope and buried under
the mattress or dropped from the edge
of a cliff into the sea. That is,
I’m sure there is an edge, but that
can only mean there is also
a flatness preceding that. I’m sure
I heard the bird say gift. Or rift.

the next

Up, left my wife and to the office, and there to my great content Sir W. Warren come to me to settle the business of the Tangier boates, wherein I shall get above 100l., besides 100l. which he gives me in the paying for them out of his owne purse. He gone, I home to my lodgings to dinner, and there comes Captain Wagers newly returned from the Streights, who puts me in great fear for our last ships that went to Tangier with provisions, that they will be taken. A brave, stout fellow this Captain is, and I think very honest.
To the office again after dinner and there late writing letters, and then about 8 at night set out from my office and fitting myself at my lodgings intended to have gone this night in a Ketch down to the Fleete, but calling in my way at Sir J. Minnes’s, who is come up from Erith about something about the prizes, they persuaded me not to go till the morning, it being a horrible darke and a windy night.
So I back to my lodging and to bed.

left my wife
and off to war

I shall return with visions
that will nest in the night

calling me up from
a horrible dark bed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 2 November 1665.