holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

At it again in the morning, and then to the Office, where till noon, and I do see great whispering among my brethren about their replies to the Duke of York, which vexed me, though I know no reason for it; for I have no manner of ground to fear them. At noon home to dinner, and, after dinner, to work all the afternoon again. At home late, and so to bed.

whispering their lies to the ground
after work

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 12 September 1668

Canal walk

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Busy all the morning at the office. So home to dinner, where Mercer, and there comes Mr. Swan, my old acquaintance, and dines with me, and tells me, for a certainty, that Creed is to marry Betty Pickering, and that the thing is concluded, which I wonder at, and am vexed for. So he gone I with my wife and two girls to the King’s house, and saw “The Mad Couple,” a mean play altogether, and thence to Hyde Parke, where but few coaches, and so to the New Exchange, and thence by water home, with much pleasure, and then to sing in the garden, and so home to bed, my eyes for these four days being my trouble, and my heart thereby mighty sad.

morning swan
my old acquaintance
vexed at me

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 29 July 1668


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to the office, where sat all the morning, and after noon to the office again till night, mighty busy getting Mr. Fist to come and help me, my own clerks all busy, and so in the evening to ease my eyes, and with my wife and Deb. and Betty Turner, by coach to Unthanke’s and back again, and then to supper and to bed.

noon fist
busy as a wit
my back up

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 9 July 1668


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Called up by a letter from W. Coventry telling me that the Commissioners of Accounts intend to summons me about Sir W. Warren’s Hamburg contract, and so I up and to W. Coventry’s (he and G. Carteret being the party concerned in it), and after conference with him about it to satisfaction I home again to the office. At noon home to dinner, and then all the afternoon busy to prepare an answer to this demand of the Commissioners of Accounts, and did discourse with Sir W. Warren about it, and so in the evening with my wife and Deb. by coach to take ayre to Mile-end, and so home and I to bed, vexed to be put to this frequent trouble in things we deserve best in.

a letter from the war

I try being the ice
in our bed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 2 July 1668


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and Creed and Colonell Atkins come to me about sending coals to Tangier: and upon that most of the morning. Thence Creed and I to Alderman Backewell’s about Tangier business of money, and thence I by water (calling and drinking, but not baisado, at Michell’s) to Westminster, but it being holyday did no business, only to Martin’s, and there yo did hazer la cosa con her; and so home again by water, and busy till dinner, and then with wife, Mercer, Deb., and W. Hewer to the Duke of York’s playhouse, and there saw “The Impertinents,” a pretty good play; and so by water to Spring Garden, and there supped, and so home, not very merry, only when we come home, Mercer and I sat and sung in the garden a good while, and so to bed.

only to the haze
sun in the garden

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 24 June 1668


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Lord’s day). I up, at between two and three in the morning, and, calling up my boy, and father’s boy, we set out by three o’clock, it being high day; and so through the water with very good success, though very deep almost all the way, and got to Brampton, where most of them in bed, and so I weary up to my wife’s chamber, whom I find in bed, and pretended a little not well, and indeed she hath those upon her, but fell to talk and mightily pleased both of us, and upgot the rest, Betty Turner and Willet and Jane, all whom I was glad to see, and very merry, and got me ready in my new stuff clothes that I send down before me, and so my wife and they got ready too, while I to my father, poor man, and walked with him up and down the house — it raining a little, and the waters all over Portholme and the meadows, so as no pleasure abroad. Here I saw my brothers and sister Jackson, she growing fat, and, since being married, I think looks comelier than before: but a mighty pert woman she is, and I think proud, he keeping her mighty handsome, and they say mighty fond, and are going shortly to live at Ellington of themselves, and will keep malting, and grazing of cattle. At noon comes Mr. Phillips and dines with us, and a pretty odd-humoured man he seems to be; but good withal, but of mighty great methods in his eating and drinking, and will not kiss a woman since his wife’s death. After dinner my Lady Sandwich sending to see whether I was come, I presently took horse, and find her and her family at chapel; and thither I went in to them, and sat out the sermon, where I heard Jervas Fullwood, now their chaplain, preach a very good and seraphic kind of sermon, too good for an ordinary congregation. After sermon, I with my Lady, and my Lady Hinchingbroke, and Paulina, and Lord Hinchingbroke, to the dining-room, saluting none of them, and there sat and talked an hour or two, with great pleasure and satisfaction, to my Lady, about my Lord’s matters; but I think not with that satisfaction to her, or me, that otherwise would, she knowing that she did design tomorrow, and I remaining all the while in fear, of being asked to lend her some money, as I was afterward, when I had taken leave of her, by Mr. Shepley, 100l., which I will not deny my Lady, and am willing to be found when my Lord comes home to have done something of that kind for them, and so he riding to Brampton and supping there with me he did desire it of me from my Lady, and I promised it, though much against my will, for I fear it is as good as lost. After supper, where very merry, we to bed, myself very weary and to sleep all night.

high meadow
the grazing of a kiss
lost to sleep

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 24 May 1668


holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and all the morning at the office busy. At noon home with my people to dinner, where good discourse and merry. After dinner comes Mr. Martin, the purser, and brings me his wife’s starling, which was formerly the King’s bird, that do speak and whistle finely, which I am mighty proud of and shall take pleasure in it. Thence to the Duke of York’s house to a play, and saw Sir Martin Marr-all, where the house is full; and though I have seen it, I think, ten times, yet the pleasure I have is yet as great as ever, and is undoubtedly the best comedy ever was wrote. Thence to my tailor’s and a mercer’s for patterns to carry my wife of cloth and silk for a bed, which I think will please her and me, and so home, and fitted myself for my journey to-morrow, which I fear will not be pleasant, because of the wet weather, it raining very hard all this day; but the less it troubles me because the King and Duke of York and Court are at this day at Newmarket, at a great horse-race, and proposed great pleasure for two or three days, but are in the same wet. So from the office home to supper, and betimes to bed.

morning star

a bird whistle
I shall have in my ear
all day

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 22 May 1668

Such sweet sorrow

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to the office, where all the morning. At noon home to dinner, and thither I sent for Mercer to dine with me, and after dinner she and I called Mrs. Turner, and I carried them to the Duke of York’s house, and there saw “The Man’s the Master,” which proves, upon my seeing it again, a very good play. Thence called Knepp from the King’s house, where going in for her, the play being done, I did see Beck Marshall come dressed, off of the stage, and looks mighty fine, and pretty, and noble: and also Nell, in her boy’s clothes, mighty pretty. But, Lord! their confidence! and how many men do hover about them as soon as they come off the stage, and how confident they are in their talk! Here I did kiss the pretty woman newly come, called Pegg, that was Sir Charles Sidly’s mistress, a mighty pretty woman, and seems, but is not, modest. Here took up Knepp into our coach, and all of us with her to her lodgings, and thither comes Bannister with a song of hers, that he hath set in Sir Charles Sidly’s play for her, which is, I think, but very meanly set; but this he did, before us, teach her, and it being but a slight, silly, short ayre, she learnt it presently. But I did get him to prick me down the notes of the Echo in “The Tempest,” which pleases me mightily. Here was also Haynes, the incomparable dancer of the King’s house, and a seeming civil man, and sings pretty well, and they gone, we abroad to Marrowbone, and there walked in the garden, the first time I ever was there; and a pretty place it is, and here we eat and drank and stayed till 9 at night, and so home by moonshine, I all the way having mi mano abaxo la jupe de Knepp com much placer and freedom; but endeavoring afterward to tocar her con mi cosa, ella did strive against that, but yet I do not think that she did find much fault with it, but I was a little moved at my offering it and not having it. And so set Mrs. Knepp at her lodging, and so the rest, and I home talking with a great deal of pleasure, and so home to bed.

seeing her off
over the kiss the light
of the bone moon

Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 7 May 1668

Song Dogs

white blossoms of blavk locust floating on a stream
This entry is part 39 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year


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It’s not that you’re chasing a white moth through the forest; it’s just that she happens to be flying ahead of you, right? It’s just that things come to you when you’re walking. And you to them.

An ephemeral forest pool, fed by spring rains. Here at the top of the watershed the rain doesn’t quite know where to go, so it sits for a while. Ripples on the surface show how any point can be the center of an expanding universe. I love watching them intersect and cancel each other out.

song dogs
on the trail of some
ripe panic

Night from the inside (6)

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Night from the Inside


Living here for 50 years in a bend of the railroad’s main line through Pennsylvania, I couldn’t help but become an aficionado of train horns. As they age they grow in dissonance, till they’re making chords straight out of Schoenberg.


cold twilight
of a distant ball game


night valley
the unadorned darkness
of Amish farms


What I thought at first were stars reflected in the forest pool’s nearly still surface turn out, when I look up, to be satellites — a long line of them, easily visible through the half-grown leaves as they file soundlessly overhead. This has the name, I recall, of an almost bird: Starlink. Creepy and unnerving as hell. I guess we should be grateful they don’t spell out DRINK COKE or something, but the long-term plan is even worse: to outnumber the visible stars in the night sky. All so one multinational corporation, SpaceX, can have a monopoly on rural broadband service. I’m reminded of Robinson Jeffers’ misanthropic quote: “Man would shit on the morning star if he could reach it.”


I love the startled barks of raccoons. Even when my presence is the occasion for it.


A small outbreak of fireworks down the valley: a local clusterfuck.


Out in the woods at night, it’s hard to shake the impression that I’m surrounded by tribespeople — I mean the trees. They act as if they own the place. You can see it in their posture, their habit of rarely bowing, their standoffishness. However often we cut them down they keep coming back, as best they can, to this same backward place, clannish, profligate. Prone to annual revivals that quickly devolve into orgies, pollen flying everywhere. Full of exotic music from all the nomads they take in.


My brother Mark’s nocturnal audio recordings show that field sparrows, a supposedly diurnal species, are the most regular nighttime songsters. I wonder if being a light sleeper confers evolutionary advantage to a dweller in open spaces? Mark wrote,

A field sparrow or field sparrows called 42 times on the night of May 14-15, after dusk and dawn choruses were over, over the course of 7hr45min. So that works out to about once every 11 min. I believe it was more than one bird, given the differing volumes–assuming they weren’t flying around.

Other diurnal birds singing at night I’ve encountered so far are the [yellow-billed and black-billed] cuckoos, an apparent chipping sparrow, catbird, and a common yellowthroat.


I’m sitting in the ridgetop forest listening to a dog or coyote in the valley, yipping and howling to the accompaniment of the high school marching band.

The howls are getting closer, the band more distant.

It is almost fully dark, I’m a mile from home, and I’ve just had my second Covid shot.

OK, no, I must be listening to an outdoor rock or country concert. The howls aren’t canine but human, sounding multi vocal when the audience joins in. I can almost make out the melody line.

It’s like I’m in the world’s darkest, deadest bar with a dying jukebox just out of sight around the corner.

But doubtless this is something the town leaders have dreamed up to get people outside and lift their spirits. I’m glad.

And I’m glad that it’s now over, climaxing in a frenzy of colored spotlights. Silence and darkness descend like benedictions from the great velvet Elvis above the bar.

without my glasses
the shapeliness
of night


A genuinely blood-curdling cry from the other side of the spruce grove. It spooked a couple of deer, who just ran past me.


s t r e t c h i n g
into the woods


The crescent moon is the best moon: more stylish than the full moon, and available for moongazers and performers of dark rites twice a month rather than just once. Plus it doesn’t nearly eradicate the darkness as the full moon does.


In one dream I am hunted — or haunted? — by the Polaroid of a fish.


moonlit forest
the sudden crack and roar
of a falling tree

the mouse keeps on
nosing about

Fifteen minutes later, another tree crashes down, twice as close. I take the hint and get out.


first field cricket
through the open window
half a moon


Fifteen minutes past sunset, coyotes strike up a chorus not far from where I sit, on the appropriately named Coyote Bench. They start out sounding plausibly dog-like, but the yipping and wolf-like howling quickly give them away. Like all music that resonates down deep, this is part moan, part jubilation. Closing in on prey, and close to prayer:


First firefly blinking through the half-grown black walnut leaves, all alone going here… here… here…

Rainbow colors in the clouds around the moon — a reminder that even on a sultry evening, ice is less than ten miles away.