Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush





For days unmentioned
I dreamt the speaking guitar.

Darkness poured forth
the physical radiation
of solemn hours,

the wild air, the last waltz,
the compass of words,

the utter simplicity
of attention.

–Erasure poem made from Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”


This is inspired by Dave Bonta’s erasure project based on Pepys’ Diary. He’s been at it for a while coming up with some interesting stuff, and so I figured I’d give it a go after rereading his post about his working method. I grabbed a Poe collection that was nearby, flipped to a page from “Usher,” made a copy and started working. I used a highlighter to find the words, typed the poem, played with line breaks, cut some things out and then crossed out everything that wasn’t used.

Later I tried this with one of my creative writing classes, and they really enjoyed it. It was the kind of thing that inspired a lot of gripes, complaints, and this is too hards, but by the end of the period most of them were surprised to have enjoyed it and more importantly surprised by what they found lurking in the pages of their books.

For my part, I enjoyed working within the rules and how it pulled me a bit away from my own head, words and thoughts. This might get addictive. Stay tuned.


  1. This is a terrific poem you’ve found in Poe. But I’m even more heartened to hear how well your students took to it. I think it’s a nifty tool for shaking us out of our linguistic habits and forcing us to do without most ready-made associations and phrases.

    • Thanks, Dave. I was surprised by the kids’ reactions as well. I’ve got one student who’s still working on revising it to get it just right. Very true too how it shakes us up. Working with Poe was especially interesting. I’m doing a few others based on Poe, probably to start going up next week.

  2. erasures always fascinate me. I like that you did poe.
    it’s interesting to see the difference between an erasure one can get from a poet’s works, compared to one from the writing of a more scientific mind. intentional poetry vs. the unintentional. one of these days, I’d like to experiment with that a little further.

    • I’m doing a few more with Poe whose prose is often so poetic sounding. It’s interesting too because I find myself trying to filter out many of those “50 dollar words” he used to great effect.

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