Geoffrey Nutter

samuel pepys

I was reading Samuel Pepys’s Diary
on the train, and as I read I noticed
something: that I was sleeping
when he was sleeping, and waking
when he woke. And then too I found
that I was garbed in richest
suit of pearl, like Samuel Pepys,
and furthermore I found that when
Samuel Pepys lay beside his wife
abed til late into the morning
I too lay beside my espoused.
With tailors at work on the quarter-deck
cutting yellow cloth into the fashion
of a crown, he is dining on a lobster,
on dozens of little oysters, and on
partridges and sparrows, and marrow
bones in a dish, a dish of prawns
and cheese, a loin of veal, two dozen
larks, anchovies and a neat’s tongue…
and so am I. He sends for a cup of tea,
he hears a sermon, gets news of traitors
being quartered; you have rued
sly with wonder and dejection these daily
entries. While he is being garbed in his suit
of lavender and pearl, like some beautiful
creature of the sea, the berry-sized samples
of a man’s small life are ripening:
presents, rich fur, carpets, cloths of tissue,
and sea-horse teeth, perforce what makes up day.
Divide it from its essence like a tissue
of sparks above the black plums of fire.
You must echo your sad, real experiences
somehow, shards of a large glass globe
in the brown and fallen leaves. Samuel Pepys,
I know that, someday soon, you will read
the story of my life, as I read yours,
immersed in details. Monuments will rise then
from amaranth and stand again, be reinhabited
by phantoms, the fragrant spired leaves
that are touched and touched again
later by the same hand.