Gun lovers

Sam Pepys and me

In the morning I went to Mr. Gunning’s, where he made an excellent sermon upon the 2d of the Galatians, about the difference that fell between St. Paul and St. Peter (the feast day of St. Paul being a day or two ago), whereby he did prove, that, contrary to the doctrine of the Roman Church, St. Paul did never own any dependance, or that he was inferior to St. Peter, but that they were equal, only one a particular charge of preaching to the Jews, and the other to the Gentiles.
Here I met with Mr. Moore, and went home with him to dinner to Mr. Crew’s, where Mr. Spurrier being in town did dine with us. From thence I went home and spent the afternoon in casting up my accounts, and do find myself to be worth 40l. and more, which I did not think, but am afraid that I have forgot something.
To my father’s to supper, where I heard by my brother Tom how W. Joyce would the other day have Mr. Pierce and his wife to the tavern after they were gone from my house, and that he had so little manners as to make Tom pay his share notwithstanding that he went upon his account, and by my father I understand that my uncle Fenner and my aunt were much pleased with our entertaining them.
After supper home without going to see Mrs. Turner.

the gun made a sermon
about the difference between us

do not think
but hear
how joy would pierce

one man standing
we understand

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 29 January 1659/60, a revision of the 2015 erasure.

The Idea of Wallace Stevens in Plummer’s Hollow

reading in the woods
book open to the sky

wandering snowflakes
vanish into the text

which is after all
mostly white space

something like a cloud
downloading more cloud

a woodpecker taps
a dead tree creaks in the wind

a hunter’s trail camera
wears a cap of snow

i practice solitude
one day at a time

for how in the holy
hell of other people

could grief still surface
its ancient ice

where in the limbo
of this floating world

could a bear blank as death
still find footing

how in god’s name
is anyone not yet numb

i close the book to preserve
its idea of order

from all these freelance
asterisks and daggers

untamed annotation leading
nowhere but here

Land lord

Sam Pepys and me

I went to Mr. Downing and carried him three characters, and then to my office and wrote another, while Mr. Frost staid telling money. And after I had done it Mr. Hawly came into the office and I left him and carried it to Mr. Downing, who then told me that he was resolved to be gone for Holland this morning. So I to my office again, and dispatch my business there, and came with Mr. Hawly to Mr. Downing’s lodging, and took Mr. Squib from White Hall in a coach thither with me, and there we waited in his chamber a great while, till he came in; and in the mean time, sent all his things to the barge that lay at Charing-Cross Stairs. Then came he in, and took a very civil leave of me, beyond my expectation, for I was afraid that he would have told me something of removing me from my office; but he did not, but that he would do me any service that lay in his power. So I went down and sent a porter to my house for my best fur cap, but he coming too late with it I did not present it to him. Thence I went to Westminster Hall, and bound up my cap at Mrs. Michell’s, who was much taken with my cap, and endeavoured to overtake the coach at the Exchange and to give it him there, but I met with one that told me that he was gone, and so I returned and went to Heaven, where Luellin and I dined on a breast of mutton all alone, discoursing of the changes that we have seen and the happiness of them that have estates of their own, and so parted, and I went by appointment to my office and paid young Mr. Walton 500l.; it being very dark he took 300l. by content. He gave me half a piece and carried me in his coach to St. Clement’s, from whence I went to Mr. Crew’s and made even with Mr. Andrews, and took in all my notes. and gave him one for all. Then to my Lady Wright and gave her my Lord’s letter which he bade me give her privately. So home and then to Will’s for a little news, then came home again and wrote to my Lord, and so to Whitehall and gave them to the post-boy. Back again home and to bed.

owning land is a sin
I am not present

at the heaven
I have seen in you

dark with the Lord’s
bad news

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 28 January 1659/60.

Enigma Machine

            In the quiet well of a Friday afternoon,
I carry laundry in my arms up the stairs.

            As long as the light falls without burning,
the plant by the bathroom window

           can lower its hands after a night
of praying. It takes a lifetime of work 

           to learn how to consume your portion,
and just as long to even begin to understand

           you are not what you choose to carry,
you can choose to set it down.


Sam Pepys and me

Going to my office I met with Tom Newton, my old comrade, and took him to the Crown in the Palace, and gave him his morning draft. And as he always did, did talk very high what he would do with the Parliament, that he would have what place he would, and that he might be one of the Clerks to the Council if he would. Here I staid talking with him till the offices were all shut, and then I looked in the Hall, and was told by my bookseller, Mrs. Michell, that Mr. G. Montagu had inquired there for me. So I went to his house, and was forced by him to dine with him, and had a plenteous brave dinner and the greatest civility that ever I had from any man. Thence home and so to Mrs. Jem, and played with her at cards, and coming home again my wife told me that Mr. Hawly had been there to speak with me, and seemed angry that I had not been at the office that day, and she told me she was afraid that Mr. Downing may have a mind to pick some hole in my coat. So I made haste to him, but found no such thing from him, but he sent me to Mr. Sherwin’s about getting Mr. Squib to come to him tomorrow, and I carried him an answer. So home and fell a writing the characters for Mr. Downing, and about nine at night Mr. Hawly came, and after he was gone I sat up till almost twelve writing, and — wrote two of them. In the morning up early and wrote another, my wife lying in bed and reading to me.

my comrade the crow
is always talking

I look in an old book
for my own mind

some hole in my coat has nothing
to answer the night

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 27 January 1659/60.

Because it is written

           "Because it is written, be ye holy, for I am holy." 
                                                   ~ 1 Peter 1: 15-16

Every letter is folded into a disguise— 

ships' billows across the water, a rose 
thorn scribbling a postscript on your hand. 

In the yard, the secretary spiders are still
working feverishly on their lines. 

What was it they were being punished for?

In the school play, the child says the one
line she has memorized: Fear not, for I 
bring you good news of great joy. 

We know 
what the angel must have said
because someone wrote it down. 

And someone entered your name on the birth 
record, though not the more homely name spun 
by your parents out of air: your secret.

Your mother's veins 
steeped in the scent of dry tobacco, spittle, 
and bitter gourds; your father's in the shape 
of a valley, church bells in a distant town. 

Your name bled from a rift 
in the clouds, where the ancestors 
dream of the last sweet they put in their mouths, 
the last book they read when they were alive.

What are we if not made of writing?*
What are we if not the conjurements 
we press upon time?

(*thanks to Mattie Britt from my Craft of Poetry class
for the line)


To my office for 20l. to carry to Mr. Downing, which I did and back again. Then came Mr. Frost to pay Mr. Downing his 500l., and I went to him for the warrant and brought it Mr. Frost. Called for some papers at Whitehall for Mr. Downing, one of which was an Order of the Council for 1800l. per annum, to be paid monthly; and the other two, Orders to the Commissioners of Customs, to let his goods pass free. Home from my office to my Lord’s lodgings where my wife had got ready a very fine dinner — viz. a dish of marrow bones; a leg of mutton; a loin of veal; a dish of fowl, three pullets, and two dozen of larks all in a dish; a great tart, a neat’s tongue, a dish of anchovies; a dish of prawns and cheese.
My company was my father, my uncle Fenner, his two sons, Mr. Pierce, and all their wives, and my brother Tom. We were as merry as I could frame myself to be in the company, W. Joyce talking after the old rate and drinking hard, vexed his father and mother and wife. And I did perceive that Mrs. Pierce her coming so gallant, that it put the two young women quite out of courage. When it became dark they all went away but Mr. Pierce, and W. Joyce, and their wives and Tom, and drank a bottle of wine afterwards, so that Will did heartily vex his father and mother by staying. At which I and my wife were much pleased. Then they all went and I fell to writing of two characters for Mr. Downing, and carried them to him at nine o’clock at night, and he did not like them but corrected them, so that to-morrow I am to do them anew.
To my Lord’s lodging again and sat by the great log, it being now a very good fire, with my wife, and ate a bit and so home.
The news this day is a letter that speaks absolutely Monk’s concurrence with this Parliament, and nothing else, which yet I hardly believe.
After dinner to-day my father showed me a letter from my Uncle Robert, in answer to my last, concerning my money which I would have out of my Coz. Beck’s hand, wherein Beck desires it four months longer, which I know not how to spare.

I went to war
and brought home
a dish of bones

and a tongue for the night
like a great fire

that speaks absolutely
nothing I believe

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 26 January 1659/60. See also the 2015 erasure, Skylark.

Hair’s Breadth

Do things get clearer 
as you close distance and approach?

An object in motion remains 
in constant motion.

The line it draws is straight
unless acted on by an unbalanced force.

When cause skews the light 
or the viewfinder 

or the usual schedule?
A boy struggles to disarm

the stranger bent on doing harm.
When you see the future 

it seems such an ordinary moment—
a man hesitates

at the loading platform,
a child's face presses against glass.

Doors whir close then
open, as though they chose 

who should get on,
who gets left behind.

Our Lady of the Alleghenies

so often the sky looks more
maternal than the earth

i am listening to the traffic
of wind through bare trees

snow on the cliffs growing
roots of ice

from the drained lake
a mechanical thumping

I recall a feeder stream
in lurid unrhyming orange

what’s behind the allegheny front
but played-out coal

the late afternoon light
gains a hint of sunset

warm air dancing with cold air
the clouds turn voluptuous

and the distance even bluer
my own mountain included

on the way home
the apparition of an old man

bent nearly double beside the road
dragging a full bin of trash

the next day snow falls
soft and heavy even in the valleys

with winds off the front
molehills become mountains again

trees are striped white
on the weather side

down in the hollow i spot
the first winter wren in weeks

bobbing with excitement
at the end of a snowy limb