Saturday, November 30, 1985

Fragments (garbled text)

Missing text but something about Cabo San Lucas
plunges into the sea time 
Cabo San Lucass 
end we cry of the cliff 
rearranged himself slid into the ocean 
it was alive with blue and rose 
up and down the face of the cliffs 
like enormous breathing beast 
one could hear the soft shifting of the sea

November 30, 1985



Here, in La Paz, the wings of birds
puncture the skin of the sea.
The bite of oleander blossoms
along the malecón remind us of
the proverbs of men and women,
because the birds have nowhere else to go
except for places etched into the walls of caves.

To make the sea, first, one must paint it.

November 30, 1985
La Paz, Baja, Mexico

My lines from a pass around poem at La Perla Restaurant, La Paz, with John Oliver Simon and Julie from Cabo. Maybe someday I'll get around to adding their lines. Or not.

3 Poems at the Tropic of Cancer

John sits on the ground
confronts a large boulder
painted limestone white 
with a blue stripe on it
at the Tropic of Cancer 
and he writes a poem
to a manmade concept.

November 30, 1985
Baja, Mexico

Menus at restaurants
in both La Paz 
and Cabo San Lucas 
offered clamps and grabs 
and cramps and calms.
We couldn't stop laughing.

I want to live in a house
made of woven sticks
open to the wind and sky.

December 1, 1985
Baja, Mexico

Wednesday, November 27, 1985



From the guilt of eating turtle steak
we make wild love after dinner
and the snoring from the family next-door
ceases as we rise into reptilian splendor
under the full moon.

Picking my way back from the outhouse
I am startled by darkened eyes sockets
on this cold desert where a wild moon
bleaches bones and eats the night.

A young rooster cries out in a child's voice
for some light in this village.
A passing car toots its horns at shadows.
Beneath a satellite disc moon,
huge, faint shadows of tarpon stir in the river.
Before this road interrupted sleep,
palm trees kept secret dreams.

In sleep, you stir, pulling my hips towards yours.
Each day, from my turquoise necklace,
I give a piece of the sky back.
There is as much future in those stones
around the neck of a woman
as there is in the desert sand.
I cradle the dreams of my grandmother,
fragile as paper, as you gather me in.
Sand in the bed fills our eyes and mouths.

Baja, California

Sunday, November 24, 1985


At Camp Pendelton John stops to take a pis.
US govt. signs warn of eminent arrest 
for stopping or loitering here
& I imagine a military patrol in the bushes
waiting for the weak-bladdered.
We pass Ground Zero.
Truncated towers, multi-armed monsters
march east across 101 from San Onofre.
I try on the round sounds. Onofre. Laguna.
La paloma, pigeon/dove es la verdad.
In Spanish there is no distinction between the two.
Open chord progressions of birds 
sit in arpeggios upon the scored lines
leading from San Onofre to the heartland.
John says, “All across the country 
these reactors are dormant bombs 
waiting for a fuse."
Huge heart-shaped bells 
strung from the power lines
labor silently in the wind.
San Clemente



Hung over & 
headed for Mexico 
in a rented car,
we try and outrun the rain
& the bleary weight of ourselves,
alone, and with each other,
after the wedding.
Today, at the age of 33,
I’m as old as Christ, before he died.
John weaves turquoise stones,
flecks of a jealous sky, around my neck
and says, “In 50 years I’ll be an old man,
will you still want me then?”
I say: “I have trouble
separating myself from childhood,
and the child within asks,
”Where do the wild birds
go when it begins to rain?” 
I hide the blue stigmatas
burning on my palms.

slightly rev. 2/17
San Clemente

Saturday, November 23, 1985


—for Brian & Nancy, 11/23/85

Late afternoon wedding.
The courtyard of Mission San Juan Capistrano
harbors no swallows--only bleak mud nests.

On the bare tree, the one white pigeon stirs the flock
and like grey leaves bursting into flight, they circle and bank
as guests enter the narrow timbered adobe chapel,
whitewashed walls lean heavily toward the sea,
dim green light broken into patterns by the windows of saints.
A white satin carpet is unrolled for Brian & Nancy.
Behind a flurry of veils, the kiss, the rings we can’t see.

The guitar strings whisper, the mariachi band readies itself.
And the final words of the padre, “In 50 years
I will come to bless you again. Look for a small white bird.
All this recorded on video; seafoam and dark shadows.

As the last chord fades, we leave the church
barely able to look at each other
but our white-knuckled fingers and damp palms
reassure us of our existence.
John mimics my left-handed sign-of-the-cross
The nuns said it was the sign of the devil.

Our car horns stir the pigeon flock
into another cloud of frenzied flight.
We run the red lights. Cars at weddings
and funerals have right-of-way.

At the San Clemente Beach Club
the wedding party reconvenes.
In this bastion of America, pinstripe suits
mingle with down jackets and nikes.
I imagine behind each face, a mask,
behind each palm tree, a dark stranger.

Each day John pins to his breast
the lapis heart I gave him.
In ritual there is comfort.
But this makes me uneasy.
Someone sings Danny Boy
& Brian’s mother cries
the same way my aunt does.

The storm front pushes down on the sea
until the horizon is swallowed.
We take armfuls of red carnations out into the night
& slide drunkenly between Brian & Nancy’s sheets
as if this were our honeymoon instead.
Dark petals stain the sheets & the rain comes down.

11/24—Hung over & headed for Mexico in a rented car
we try to outrun the rain
& the sudden weight of ourselves.
Today, at the age of 33,
I’m almost as old as Christ before he died.
John strings turquoise stones,
flecks of the sky around my neck
and says, “In 50 years I’ll be an old man,
will you want me then?”
I tell him “I have trouble
separating myself from childhood,
and the child within me asks,
”where will the small flocks of wild birds
hide themselves when it begins to rain?”

At Camp Pendelton John stops to take a piss
US govt. signs warn of arrest for stopping or loitering
& I imagine cops in the bushes
waiting for the weak-bladdered.
We pass ground zero.
Truncated towers, multi-armed monsters
march east across 101 from San Onofre.
I try on the sound. Onofre. Laguna.
La paloma, pigeon/dove es la verdad.
In Spanish there is no distinction between the two.

Open chord progressions of birds sit upon scored lines
leading from San Onofre to the heartland.
John says, “All across the country these reactors
are dormant bombs waiting for the fuse.
Huge red bells strung from power lines
labor silently in the wind.

San Clemente

Friday, November 22, 1985



After running into Jim Duran at LAX,
we're surprised to find we both know him.
I know him as Seamus, and John, as Jaime.
We yelled out in unison Seamus/Jaime, to Jim,
and turned to each other and laughed.
We agree  to meet up later for dinner at Palo Verde,
and the reading at The Laguna Poets, followed by open mike.
Some of it was dark, dark and richly green, a la Roethke,
or James Wright. Terry Kennedy, Richard Weekley.
I said: Women can't get away with that kind of language,
it sounds too banal. We want something meatier with hips.
Another poet reads a diatribe about the IRA. I cringe.
John writes in my notebook, verde te quiero verde—Lorca
If she talks about horror, I'll scream, please don't say...
The horror, the horror—wrote Joseph Conrad.
See? Already the Belgian Congo is a cliché, said John.
Neo-colonialism and confessional poetry at its best / worst.
Speaking of darkness... We have no place to sleep.
I can't reach my cousin in Laguna Beach.
I ask John, Do we have a place to duerme?
He says not to worry. if nothing turns up.
we'll go to a motel and make like rabbits.

Voyager Inn, Laguna Beach
added/rev. 2/17

Laguna Poets reading (prose)
Remembering Jim Duran, (Séamas Ó Direáin)

Thursday, November 21, 1985

At Jack Grapes' Place, LA

At Jack Grapes Place, LA

Outside the window
a woman in a car checks her watch,
fixes a button, clasps a book to her bosom,
checks her hair, sets the book down,
gets out of the car, picks up the book…
As I stare out between window and screen,
feeling like I'm in a Truffaut movie,
the camera pans away from the car
to my face, the lower half hidden from view,
as John plays Handel on the recorder.

* * *
At sunset in a strange city
in a strange  house,
Jack and Lori asleep.
I'm shaking twilight from my bones
while John turns on
the garbage disposal unit,
looking for light

* * *
From under his fingertips
notes from Handel slip out
so achingly pure in my ears.

* * *
Distant crackle of newspaper from the kitchen
the sound of a memory being disturbed.


San Francisco to Baja (journal)

San Francisco to Baja, 11/21/1985

This earth's skin stretches along the fault from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas. We follow the San Andreas Fault across the brown reaches of wrinkled skin, from Point Reyes to LA. Stark silhouettes of hills, highlighted razorbacks, an early sun.

 White Sierra peaks compete with low valley clouds, for sky.

Fault lines below us, as if the land were formed by a giant finger, dipped in melted chocolate, then lifted up, leaving sharp ridges of serrated earth. In contrast to the checkerboard grid on Central Valley farms.

An occasional ridge of clouds like an errant river patterned after the ridges  it crosses, a bridge of clouds.

In the distance, Telescope Peak, the farthest ridge, the White Mountains, Death Valley and the white snow fields near Mount Whitney.

To the south called, where the Sierras ease westward to join the coastal mountains, isolated peaks float in a white sea, denser clouds shore up at the edges of the Tehachepes, A faint dusting of snow against the blueblack ridges.
From this height, most color is lost, drained of essence. Like a standing wave, a bank of clouds rolls back from the steep cliffs and mountains.

Clouds enhance their shapes. The snow gathers like herds of lost sheep on the north sides and at the crest.

We begin our descent. Trees become individual fly specks, no longer the dense mats of vegetation of  of the north.

Wave after wave of hills and dark silhouettes like the tracings of red mind on a gray sea, sediment in  tortured swirls. One can almost feel the tortured land screaming with adolescent growing pains.
A winding arroyo filled with boulders, and  Franciscan mud gullies washed out to the sea by infrequent rains.

Hills give way to the eroded faces, mostly to the south, where the sun soothes it out like smoke.

Smog mingles with errant clouds that cowl San Gregornio, San Joaquin, Mount Baldy.

Way off, a distant white peak somewhere in Nevada. Mt. Charleston?

LA sticks its dirty head through the clouds, herringbone grids of parked cars mesh on the flat desert sink.

The Pacific takes salty bites out of the saline desert. We fly through the vapor strung between clouds like laundry.

Above the bright turquoise sea, and below the gray washed business of cities, threaded by the complicated snakes of freeways.

John says the LA smog is nothing. When you fly into Mexico City, it's like you're flying into a bowl of soup.

John memorizes poems for tonight's meeting. I interrupt him again for verification of San Gregornio, brilliant, white, like a crack crack between worlds.

In this muted light, the LA River grid is a flat glistening aqueduct of concrete running due West, wide in places for the seasonal flash floods, otherwise a narrow river channel for the steadier flow, two rivers in one. Grid of main street and the irregular patterns of freeways, more like the path of the river and the river itself.

For one short block, besides each green postage-stamp lawn, liquid amber pushes its blaze of leaves toward the concept of fall.

In this city of deserts, metallic tweed of cars interspliced with grade wisps of rude and introduces the complexities of commerce to a place where creosote bushes once kept a generous living distance between each other each other.

A ragged line of trees, mostly eucalyptus, modestly covers a low-lying ridge near the airport. It reminds me of the banks along the Russian River or perhaps the Sacramento River. On those hot days of pavement, a distant memory of water wavers a mirage of mirrored oases.

Along this stretch, the land still remembers the shape of the inland sea.

added 2/17

Laguna Poets reading

Enroute to Cabo, we have a stopover in LA for a couple of readings.

11/21 Reading at the Cafe Cultural with John Oliver Simon and Rubén Martínez, then dinner with Lori and Jack Grapes, Rubén, and Sergio? We brainstorm CPITS and CAC residencies over meals.

It turned out John and I both knew Jim Duran separately. He called Jim Jaime whereas I called him Seamus. We once ran into each other in LAX enroute to Guatemala. John yelled Jaime while I yelled Jim, and Seamus simultaneously. We turned to each other and laughed.

On the even of JFKs assassination, we met up for dinner in Palo Verde, discussing linguistics and poetry, the origins of language and the uniqueness of  Irish language structure. We must've bought something expensive. Dinner was $34 plus tip.

Then we went to the Laguna Poets Reading Series. Terry Kennedy and Richard Weekly read. Then John and me. I also read some of my kid poems, distributed copies of ARC, and met the editor of Cal State Poetry Quarterly who wanted to publish some of my work. We set up another reading for next summer.

My cousin Eddie Walsh wasn't at home in Laguna Beach, a small hovel in the basement of an apartment complex (he must've been in Hawaii), so we rented a room at the Voyager Inn, and I bought Seamus Heaney's Sweeney Astray, reading about mad Sweeney over breakfast at Benny the Bum's Diner. Mad checkered tile floor and walls, like something from Nighthawks.

This is how I celebrated my birthday, among poets. We headed south to Solana Beach and crossed the border, headed for Cabo.

Added, rev. 9/17

Remembering Jim Duran, (Séamas Ó Direáin)