Friday, December 26, 1986

Christmas Day, hung over, with a parrot, Mexico City


Burrrrro! Oh, burrrrro! Uh-oh! Aha! Anna? Anna! Yo quiero Coca-Cola.The parrot in the courtyard below keeps shouting and whistling TV slogans. He yells Burrrrro! and repeats his entire repetoire at the top of his lungs. I wonder where the burro is hiding. Inside my head. Oh!

John has gone exploring in Coyacán for breakfast. I'm translating Spanish from a parrot. Hola he says. I'm translating messages from the parrot world. Oh, hangover!

Pan dulce, papaya, jugo, we have breakfast at Jorge's. Every place is closed today, it's Christmas. Last night the entire city partied until dawn. No one told me that Christmas Eve, or La Posada, is an all night affair. 

Maria Gracia's family was wild. At 3 AM I was utterly exhausted, drunk, and the night was still young. Her husband Jorge, I liked very much. We spent the evening discussing the Rosetta Stone. I found out later he was an archaeologist. I wish I had known, I have so many burning questions. But oh, my head. 

Mexico journals

Mexico City fragments: Xochimilco


When I was a child, I fantasized about going to Mexico City. I read up on Tenochtitlán, and the canals of Xochimilco, the floating islands, caught my fancy. I wanted to visit the Museum of Anthropology too. Well I finally did get to Mexico City.

You still can see some of the canals and the standing patches of water, but most of the lakebed of Xochimilco is filled with cement. The temples have been torn down. I walked on paving stones that once were part of Tenochtitlan. The basilica of the church is made of ancient dressed stone. Tenochtitlán still lives in the hidden hearts of stone. 

The underground lake still lives beneath the city. You can see glimpses of it beneath the sewer grating on the streets. The ancient lake is hidden in those cavernous depths.


added, slightly rev. 9/17

from my Baja from the air journals, not sure of the date. I lumped it all together on one large lump of writing dated 1/7/87, but I think it was around Christmas 1986....I must've been writing on paper fragments then, transcribed them all later.


Thursday, December 25, 1986

Christmas en DF, Mexico City


December 25, Mexico City.

The transition from one culture to another still takes time. Absorbing this culture, I've been mute. John's friends here are all very special, an anchor I seem to need.

On Linea Dos, riding the tram into the Zócalo, the first day here was mas dificile para mi—for me. The first time I went to Baja, the same thing happened. I was overwhelmed by so many little things. But it is the people who have so little, begging for cambio, for change on every corner—the poverty is so deeply ingrained, it profoundly affects me. I am in tears.

On Linea Dos, a blind Indio with his family sang a beautiful haunting melody and people plinked pesos into his cup. Somehow, it was the timbre of his voice, that sobbing pathos one hears in a song, that brought me to tears. Welcome to DF (pronounced De Effe, for Districto Federal), the dark heart of Mexico City.


Tuesday, December 23, 1986

Winter solstice, Chichén Itzá

Winter Solstice, Chichén Itzá

I'm inside El Caracol, Chichén Itzá, at sunset. During the solstice, light neatly passes through one opening unscathed, with little shadow on the side walls.
Sunlight wraps around the walls, illuminating them. I go camera crazy. In the top chamber, I take photos of John with refracted light. 
You have to rock climb in order to get up inside El Caracol. The circular stairway ends 12 feet above the outside hall. A treetrunk been near the hole offers a way up. John enters the circular stairwell. I climb an outside wall. The reach from the beam to the hole is too far for me. I need to try another approach.

From the top of El Caracol, on the observatory, you can enter the stairwell but you must crawl because the stairs were not meant to be walked upon in the upright position. I scoot down the steps on my fanny, startling some Mexican boys on their way down, not many women come here. It's not an easy journey.

On the top of what's left of El Caracol, there are three slots on the roof, sight lines for star constellations, the moon and Venus. One wonders what other astronomical observations were made here. The guidebooks place an unusual emphasis on Venus. It seems that Venus is too well represented, or the guidebooks are all rather simple.

On top of the outer wall, sections of the roof had caved in, one looks down into the dark heart of El Caracol. We will never know what astronomical alignments they marked.

The Yucatán is basically a flat limestone terrace raised a few feet above sea level. To the south, a long line of hills breaks the view. these hills or pu'uc rise less than 360 feet above sea level along the rift that shoved them up. A string of cenotes, or sinkholes, are visible from the air. Round wells in various stages of collapse. Jade green water necklaces strung across the Yucatán.

There are fish in the sacred cenotes of Chichén Itzá, at least 100 miles from the sea, and there are no natural rivers here. How did the fish get here? By hurricane? By land, or see? Where they planted here by Toltecs, or by the Mayans? Or were they trapped here during a hurricane and evolved into freshwater fish?

We hiked to the profane cenote, secular is a more apt word, and the soil gives way. We careen down a steep slope and grab at some trees to stop us. The descent into the cenote is like falling into the jaws of an ant lion sand trap.

We find an overgrown water temple. The land is riddled with limestone arches and partial caves. Some looked painted. So little has been done here, there is still so much to discover—even at Chichén Itzá.

At Kabáh, we find the keystone arch, the gate to the city, 11 straight miles from Uxmal on a straight, raised Mayan road. There are no cenotes here, the Mayans are dependent upon the vagaries of rain, and the capriciousness of Chaac. Near the temple of the long nosed god, that is Chaac, or Tlaloc in Toltec, we eat bitter Mayan oranges from an orange tree growing in the rubble. Bitter orange, a cross of all the citrus flavors. The main ingredient in the chicken and the cochinita, or puerco pibil dishes indigenous to the region.

Each pueblo strung along the main highway that travels the length of the Yucatán peninsula is like a tiny jewel encapsulating several eras of history. The Na, or Mayan huts stand alongside colonial buildings with tall double doors with windows inside them that open out.

Speed bumps keep the cars at a reasonable pace. Mayan turkeys and pigs continually cross the road along with the ubiquitous chickens. A small Mayan dog, a delicate hound with soft ears, is seen slinking around nearly everywhere.

The diminutive, well-proportioned Mayans, readily smile at you. Women carry buckets of corn to the granary, and  bring buckets of cornmeal back home on their heads. More women weave white huipil shifts, long lace petticoats, and the skinny Mayan shawl that doubles as a head cushion for a heavy-headed load.

Men everywhere on bicycles carry large bundles of wood from the jungle. An older man carries wood on his back, anchored with a forehead strap, the bundle of wood nearly as big as he is. Coatimundis and longtailed blackbirds hide in the jungle, painted with the brilliant plumage of unnamed birds. Chuckwallas, temple guardians, enjoy their small spot in the sun.

I dreamed of feathers falling from the sky
and we raced after them, collecting their bounty.

12/23/1986
Chichén Itzá
added 9/17
minor revision


Friday, October 31, 1986

2 in class freewrites

I am the star of the sea
Among the waves of the ocean,
longest night,
more than the day,
only sorrow parts the waves.
I am never alone.
Who but I walks the planets.





Son which burns the fire.
Among the stars of the night,
lost in the battle of planets,
more than the breeze
which parts the fire.



In class freewrites found in a teaching folder, no idea as to when—ca. 1986-87. Probably from my CAC grant at Mark West School as that's when I developed the lesson. Around Halloween, as it was in the Song of Amergin folder. Or it could've been around St. Patrick's Day.

Since I'm short of work from 1986, I'll file it there.
added 10/16

Friday, October 10, 1986

Mexico City after the Quake


The weekend of October 10, John and I steal away from the arts meeting in Pasadena to hear Jack Grapes and Rubén Martínez read at Venice Sculpture Gardens.

Our host, Rubén is distracted, shaken by the earthquake. He withdraws his last $500 out of the bank to fly to El Salvador, the latest earthquake was M7.9. His family, his grandparents—still no word. His parents tell him it's useless to go. But tonight he will leave for Mexico City and then onto El Salvador. I tell him to record the event, to be a journalist as well as a worker and a poet.

I'm reading an article by Rubén in a Santa Cruz paper edited by poet Stephen Kessler, called The Sun. They are repairing the Hotel Monte Carlo where DH Lawrence once lived. We ascend the circular stairway and visit each room with its purity of plaster and dust and paint.

The old church, now a library, leans heavily on the Hotel Monte Carlo. The nine-story parking garage is reduced to three stories. A building across the street is being torn down. Most of the buildings are being repaired. It's harder to see the effects of the earthquake now.

There's a new Zócalo along La Avenida Reforma where a huge high-rise hotel once stood. On the way to the House of Cambio to change our dollars into pesos, we step over healed cracks in the pavement. In some places the earth rose up several several inches. Other places had lateral motion. The curb along the Reforma is displaced by several inches.

Jorge's third story flat has huge cracks running through it, the metal window frames no longer fit. So we tie them close. Life continues.

Earthquakes – Mexico City is still recovering from the September 1985 quake. One year later, it's harder to see the damage. Sometimes I look up and see the torn buildings and I begin to cry. So much gray cement. Where does it all go?

El Salvador. Rubén removes the cement. There will be bodies beneath those ruins. Impromtu tombstones. I'm afraid to leave this article about the earthquakes behind in Mexico City. As if that could remove the damage. Sympathetic magic. So I take the newspaper back to the states.

We live on the San Andreas Fault. When there are earthquakes in Mexico and in El Salvador, Americans say there was so much damage because of the way buildings were constructed there, and laugh with a superior attitude.

Magnitude 7.4 what buildings can withstand that shock? How will San Francisco do any better when the big quake comes? They have no idea how bad the damage can be. When it comes, who will dig them out? Who will bury them?

October 10, 1986
added 9/17

Thursday, August 7, 1986

RANDOM NOTES FOR A POEM

RANDOM NOTES FOR A POEM

We swam in the cenote,
liquid jade dripped from our lips,
slight salt tang, and tropical fish in the cistern.
A mouse was drawn to the dark chocolate,
could it be tamed? A kangaroo rat
ran over our bags, disturbing our dreams.
Only when we climbed the cliffs
did we find the petroglyphs.
Strange men with raised arms,
rams, and lightning. The sun swirling.

This morning, a raven in the oak tree
outside my window awakened me.
He had a lot to say. With a mixture of joy
and foreboding, I watched how the sun
glistened on his feathers, dark rainbows,
the comforting crock-crock sound
with a reverberation of death—
Those I have known. And the unknown.
Today I found out another friend died.
The eyes of the five kit raccoons
shone like embers as they observed me,
uneasily washing the cat kibble.
They were perplexed when the Frisky's Xes
melted in the water. Xes and Os. Tic-tac-toe.

I followed the tracks of a mountain lion
that circled us as we slept below Pyramid Peak.
The second confirmation in a year,
someone said. I don't know if I'm excited or scared.

I took John to the secret place above the garden
of my grandmothers house, that place I call home,
the resin odor of poison oak and fir greeted us
I showed him the place where a wounded cougar
once stalked my uncle until the report of a rifle
frightened it off.

I have nothing much to say really
just random notes, because it's been too long
since I've written a poem. Or written at all.
The salti-sweetness of milk distracted me,
like snow, or virgin's tears—lachrymosa,
and now I've gone and forgotten the true lines
I was going to write down when dawn broke.

8/7/1986
added 2/17
slight revision

Friday, August 1, 1986

LIGHTING THE ELECTRIC FIRE

       Runners dressed in skins carried embers
       in moss-lined pouches to the next hearth.

        —Jane Walsh Reilly, 1893—1987

In the dark-paneled hall
of my grandmother's house,
mother-of-pearl light switchesó
the kind you push in & out,
resounded like sprung mouse traps
& light flooded the room.
The moment after one pushed in the switch,
wires inside the light bulb glowed red
like embers from earlier fires
to keep back the wolves and the night.

It was the woman's job
to keep the hearth fires lit.
To let it go out was to let death
come into the house,
my grandmother said.

Inside the heart of the light bulb,
between horn-like filaments,
beside the finely-coiled spring,
a smoldering spark from the first hearth
is locked inside because all atoms
are recycled except the ones we've split.

The white hair of my grandmother
as she bends to read
throws off its own aura of light.


8/1986

1992 Green Fuse
        Apostrofe! (in Ukrainian)
1986-88 Falling to Sea Level
1987 Marin Poetry Review
1986 More Than Words, CPITS Anthology




An instant of reproof (garbled text)



An instant of reproof 
shines in his eyes 
as he takes in all the angles 
which made me show him
that more was possible. 
Mass extinctions, 
a sequence, I said.
I'd try you with some ashes 
taking penetrated                xxxxx
by the labyrinth of sea bears.

August 1986

date?




Tuesday, July 1, 1986

SAILING INTO DARKNESS, ll


SAILING INTO DARKNESS, ll

Maybe it's the way the San Andreas Fault grinds at the coast
or how ropes of sunlight fall on marine haze, or the wind.
Maybe it's the rancher's wife murdered by her husband
who comes to sit among these tombs sprouting small milk teeth
in crooked rows. I hear women whispering inside those trunks
of cypress growing from Manchester to Point Area.
They came here from Canada, Ireland, and Germany,
with high hopes but their dead built cities on this lonely coast.
The wind followed them across oceans, forests and prairies
to the edge of the continent. It licked beneath doors,
between cracks and floorboards, stirring lamp flames
and passion until the air was ablaze.

Like a rotted tooth, a charred headboard with no name
has lost its place in line. Monuments to young girls
spared the grief of motherhood. "Charity is beloved."
Her mother feeling the loss, climbed down to join her.
Piper's mother slipped into the same womb six years later.
Jennie McMullin's twins Paulie and Ellie born and died the same day.
I think, RH negative. Then all the miscarriages.
She quit naming them after that. What more did Samuel want?
At my age, she followed the sixth babe back into earth.
The graveyard dissolves into the silence of blackberries.
Lichen gains a toehold on carved letters.
Mother, beloved father. Infant, unnamed.
How many names for darkness?
The Bishop family, squeezed in four separate plots
between Clays, Munroes and McFarlins--
still search for kin among stones and roots.

If you lie down, snake-like, and listen with your ribs
you can almost hear the earth shift. I say almost--
the way a rattlesnake, blind in summer moult "hears"
with heat sensors and minute vibrations felt through the skin;
strikes blind at anything that comes too close.
Marsh grass whipped into a frenzy catches fire
as sun and sundog slide down the mandarin throat of ocean.
Brazen beauty mark of Venus. Shy, distant Regulus.
Yesterday, Suzanne, who told me the story of the rancher's wife
drove out to the beach. New moon in the old moon's arms.
They found her wearing her best clothes and jewelry--
Not even a note. None of us knew what troubled her.
Tongues of fog lick traces of blue from the sky.
No graves or names to mark the three babies I gave back.
Fingers of wind tangle my hair, invisible ropes tighten,
pulling me toward those gleaming cypress trunks
until the hands of men who planted them are all over me
and cacophony of wind pulls me down into pale earth;
this harvest I never asked for.


1986? or 1987
rev. 1988, 6/89, 6/91
Garcia River, Point Arena








SAILING INTO DARKNESS, II

Maybe it's the way the San Andreas Fault grinds at the coast
or how ropes of sunlight fall on marine haze, or the wind.
Maybe it's the rancher's wife, murdered by her husband
who comes to sit among these tombs sprouting small milk teeth
in crooked rows. Locked inside those trunks of cypressówhispering women
who came here from Canada, Ireland, and Germany, with such high hopes.
The wind followed them across oceans, forests, and prairies
to the edge of the continent. It licked beneath doors,
between cracks and floorboards, stirring lamp flames
and passion, until the air was ablaze, but it was their dead
who built the cities along this lonely coast.
Like a rotted tooth, a charred headboard with no name
has lost its place in line. Monuments to young girls
spared the grief of motherhood. Charity is beloved.
Her mother, feeling the loss, climbed down to join her.
Piper's mother slipped into the same womb six years later.
Jennie McMullin's twins, Paulie and Ellie, born and died the same day.
Something to do with the blood. Then, all the miscarriages.
She quit naming them after that. What more did Samuel want?
At the age I am now, she followed the sixth babe back into the earth.
Mother, beloved father. Infant, unnamed.
No graves or names to mark the three babies I gave back.
How many names for darkness? The Bishop family,
squeezed in four separate plots between Clays, Munroes, and McFarlins—
still search for kin among the stones and roots.
Lichen gains a toehold on carved letters.
The graveyard dissolves into the silence of blackberries.
Marsh grass whipped into a frenzy, catches fire
as sun and sundog slide down the mandarin throat of ocean.
Brazen beauty mark of Venus. Shy, distant Regulus.
If you lie down, snake-like, and listen with your ribs
you can almost hear the earth shift. I say almost—
the way a rattlesnake, blind in summer moult hears
with heat sensors and minute vibrations felt through the skin;
but strikes blindly at anything that comes too close,
because yesterday, Suzanne, who told me the story of the rancher's wife
drove out to the beach. New moon in the old moon's arms.
They found her wearing her best clothes and jewelry—
Not even a note. None of us knew what troubled her.
Tongues of fog lick traces of blue from the sky.
Fingers of wind tangle my hair, invisible ropes tighten,
pulling me toward those gleaming cypress trunks
until the hands of those men are all over me
and the cacophony of wind pulls me down into pale earth;
this harvest I never asked for.

86-88?




I have four versions of this. Clearly I have no idea how to revise it. Perhaps I should turn it into prose?





















Blue Horses in the Rain—after Franz Marc


BLUE HORSES IN THE RAIN

A child's watercolor set invited me to the breakfast table of a house perched on the crest of Mount Vider. The Napa Valley, shrouded in fog, barely visible caves, like puncture marks on the ridge opposite. I am a houseguest applying color to pale toast and blank paper. I fill the pages with color and think of Franz Marc's Blue Horses in the Rain. He died very close to Lascaux. Calligraphy of bison before the hunt. Ochre pigment. Hemitite. When a child found the painted caves, at first no one believed her stories of bison and horses running across rock ceiling. Not even her father. Especially her father.

As I paint, a woman silhouetted against the morning sun, comes over and asks me if I always awaken like this. We are both writers. A small flickering arrow in my stomach—and I wonder why I no longer wake with a brush in my hand, tracing a pale yellow wash across the white of morning. I cannot write, the blood clots my pen. The sunlight on her hair blinds me. My father, an absence of light, I am torn between the obsidian darkness of two worlds.

Yesterday, my notebook stumbled down a steep ravine and landed face-down on a branch of poison oak suspended above a creek. My writing saved by poison. On the way back up the ravine, the sound of an oncoming car hurried me and I tore my skirt. I though of the swaddled mummies of Nazca, and the cycle of earlier fires—tree carbon transformed to ink markings on the page. The land is the color of cinnibar and discarded shells.

I can’t shake this aftermath of sleep and the deaths I dream of: those I know, and those of strangers. The night is becoming too crowded. A friend blames the ghosts in my mirrors, there are too many of them. That’s why they come. I am shivering from what I have heard. Someone asks, Are you a mother? This paper becomes a rock wall. I hold my brush poised in the air waiting for the blue horses to come pouring down from the sky.


7/86 & 3/94

TO SLEEP ON THE WAY HOME

TO SLEEP ON THE WAY HOME

The blizzard enters into this room
making my bones white.
The door to the right hip bone
opens into a howling snowfield.

These spaces between teeth echo 
in dark corridors.
I climb the night sky
where the ice of Saturn circles
for millenia on end.
Chrysanthemums on dark velvet.
November running low on the eastern sky.
Loosened arrows 
invade the heart.
Torrent after torrent.
Rain on my roof.
I remember each dress my grandmother made me.
And this deep season
like buzzing of flies in late afternoon,
dry rattle of corn harvested in late fall.
Thinking of death.
When we rode the Clydesdales to the river
bareback, & without a bridle.

Date?
rev 7/7/94



TO SLEEP ON THE WAY HOME

The door to the right hip bone
opens into a howling snowfield.
The blizzard enters into this room
making my bones white.
These spaces between teeth
echo in dark corridors.
I climb the night sky
where the ice of Saturn circles
for millenia on end.
Chrysanthemums on dark velvet.
November running low on the eastern sky.

I subtract another year from my death date.
Loosened arrows invade the heart at any age.
Torrent after torrent.
Rain on my roof.
Deep under blankets
I remember each dress my grandmother made me.
And this deep season
like buzzing of flies in late afternoon,
dry rattle of corn harvested in late fall.
Thinking of death
when we rode the clydesdales to the river
bareback
& without a bridle.

Date?


written at end of Nov., what year? No later than 1987.
Written on the Typestar 6. Probably 86. But could be 85, or 87. In my Napa poetry folder.


Friday, June 27, 1986

WAITING FOR THE STORM



WAITING FOR THE STORM

When a fish swims on an inland sea 
we can go no farther than the nearest shore 
because there are no other shipwrecks 
other than the ones we are on. 
How many shells will it take to build up this reef?
How many palm leaves will it take to calm the wind?
Is there an edge to this wave?
In the rainy season fill all the bathtubs with gin
 and wait for the storm to pass. 

6/27/1986
added 2/17

Write a poem from a first line by another poet 
I chose Roethke's line: "in a bleak time when a week of rain is a year…"


Notes for SAILING INTO DARKNESS

Notes for SAILING INTO DARKNESS


In the fog, ropes of light
hang from the eucalyptus trees.
The story of the murdered wife 
haunts the cypresses.
The names McNeil, Monroe, 
Casey, the Bishops, the Clays. 
Our baby, unnamed, born 1832, died 1832.
McFarland, so many babies like him followed 
and slept beneath rough carved granite.
Charity is beloved. Mother and daughter 
share a tomb with an infant who came from Canada.
Then they were followed by Pauline and Ellie
and six more babies a year nine months apart.
McMillan, Samuel, and Jeanne, 
someone's daughter, age 10.
The mother slipped in six years later,
unable to withstaand the gulf 
of inconsolable distances.
One week old, another, stillborn.
The last one standing
buried them all.


6/27/1986?  
Point Arena
no date, Herb Kohl event?
added /rev. 2/17


OPHELIA'S REFLECTION

OPHELIA'S REFLECTION


She slipped beneath the wheel
as if a carnival of alley music
was captured in a childhood memory
and laundry flapped to the rhythm
of the unwashed years.
Do his blue eyes still reflect the sky?
Brilliant greens of the mallard
glisten in the sun as he dives for food.
Eye spots of sunfish stare up at me
through the murkiness. Intangible hordes.
The surface of the pond supports
the reflection of my weight.
The night green scent of the pond
seduces me in and under:
Ophelia's last dance.

6/27/1986
added 2/17




Write a poem from a first line by another poet
"his mind washed of the poems of the day…"
A poem by Claire Siegel

PORTRAITS

PORTRAITS


Their teeth aren't attached to their heads
They walk softly on wooden legs 
and kneel before each other on hollow knees
They dissolve each other's faces 
and hang them on meat hooks 
carefully saving the eyes for last 
so that they can polish them 
on their chests until they shine 
with malice.

6/27/1986
added 2/17










Write a poem from a first line by another poet
"Take no comfort from their sleazy smiles."
Wilma Elizabeth McDaniels

Thursday, June 26, 1986

FORGETFUL Rilke transliterations

        —after Rilke

I have been a fawn amid the ferns
I won't die when the wind comes
I see her wandering with the darkness
on such a night like this.
The turf is sleeping, saintlike,
and in the morning the road
is still the first pattern of the night
and the stream's answer is not there.
Then waking the storm to let the egrets fly
across the sea and I braid my eyes
so that they will fall like hair into yours
and from that we will drink
and gaze into the broken storm.

6/24/1986

Fragments

When I come to your command
and watch you rise up to meet me
like the boat of evening and we ride
each other's swell until your face
is like an empty mirrored sea
upon which the dragons of memory sleep.

To say come out of darkness for me
for three meals a day: one in heaven,
and two on earth. Bounty.
He wore a lion's helmet: one red as blood.
the other green as grass.

Until we reach four mountain passes
and have nothing but a point of light
to guide us from the darkness,
we will have no more handholds.
Be not afraid because the time that will come
is no different from that of the past.

In my wearied soul
drifting under an inflamed sky
the punishing slickness,
troubling for those among us
who are tired, and for those who follow me.
A fiery hand is goading me onward
under the weight of the nebulous sea.

6/24/1986
The damage was so extensive on the last stanza, I was only able to resurrect one word in five. added, rev. 9/17

Tuesday, June 24, 1986

CPITS retreat, Calistoga 2

CPITS retreat, Calistoga
6/24/1986 three words per line poem

Three virgin hills,
Islands arising from a deeper blue
where the sea and sky
confuse themselves
with circular distances
and the cloud formation
doesn't just happen to appear
on the horizon
like there was no tomorrow
because today my mind's, a fog,
it's fogged like those sea cliff arches
and no one even knows they're there
but still the wind moans through them
because it's not often one finds a mouth
in such a place as this.
So we go on as they say
this fog to will disappear
with enough heat and pressure
but who's counting keeping counting score?
The Giants won 18 to something
you said in the middle of a conversation.
I feel like leaping from cliff to cliff.
That's about as much logic as we can stand
in a place like this, falling, falling
like snow covered apples,
we tumble into the sea
and float to the horizon
where the sea is returned to blue sky.

6/24/1986
added 2/17

I'm not positive about these dates and this would be Monday/Tuesday vs weekend.



to do:
FORGETFUL
after Rilke

I've been with one fawn with terns




Monday, June 23, 1986

CPITS retreat, Calistoga 1



CPITS retreat, Calistoga
6/23/1986

Esperaba hasta que alguin pidiera bailar.
She waited for someone to ask her to dance.



The trick is to trap the wild laughter
of the ancestors beneath a fat hill

laughing like fat hills
wild ancestors
trap and trick us
into believing anything.

A stranger knows
how fast lightning
captures the spirit under glass
before we put out the flames.

The magician who travels
to the source knows
the bitter surrender
of the wave to the beach
is central to the struggle.

The resourceful magician who travels
to the center of the earth
will bitterly object
to surrendering
to sand on the beach.

6/23/1986
added 2/17
CPITS retreat, Calistoga, from wordcards?










When the greed of horses
strips the fossils of time
from the checkbook of skeletons,
then go to the carnival of books
where the clown of tears
wears a wedding band of fright
under his shawl of death.
There you will find the mask
of fluttering lies has fallen
from the face of the moon. 

6/23/1986
added 2/17





AFTER ROUSSEAU
Sleeping Gypsy
Ekphrastic poetry

Under a full desert moon
a lion stands guard 
over the sleeping man
dressed in a striped tunic
with a jug and a mandolin at his side

the green sky, like a lake
that feeds the mangrove swamps.

A cold Indian in ceremonial robes
floats on the cloud-studded horizon.

6/23/1986
added 2/17



FOWLISH BEHAVIOR

FOWLISH BEHAVIOR

Why do I say hair?
I say braids, plaited leaves.
Three geese stroll beneath the willow
like it was Sunday in the park.

The hair of the willow drinks from the pond.
Shadows of blackbirds weave and stitch
the clouds to the mirror of water.

The red claw of a dismembered crawdad
no longer pinches the sunlight.
What errant boy did this?
Ducks parade and commute from lawn
to pond and from pond back to the lawn.
Fowlishly nattering on all the while.


6/27/1986
added/rev. 2/17






Why do I say hair?
I say braids, plated leaves,.
Three Kise strolling under the willow
like it was Sunday in the park.

The hair of the willow drinks from the pond.
Shadows of blackbirds
weaving the clouds to the mirror.

The red claw of the dismembered crawdad
no longer pinches the sunlight.
What boy did this?
Ducks parapet commute from lawn
to pond and from pond to lawn.

6/27/1986
added 2/17

THE SLEEPING GYPSY, after Rousseau




The Sleeping Gypsy 1897, Henri Rousseau —Wiki

THE SLEEPING GYPSY
La Bohémienne endormie
—after Rousseau

Under a full desert moon
a lion stands guard 
over a sleeping woman
dressed in a striped tunic
with a jug of wine
and a mandolin at her side.

Her walking stick dreams of snakes.
The Big Dipper holds its water.
The green sky is a lake
feeding the mangrove swamps.

Tonight the lion isn't hungry
because the moonlight is a song 
dressed in ceremonial robes
floating on a star-studded horizon.

6/23/1986
added/rev. 2/17







Rousseau described his painting as follows: "A wandering Negress, a mandolin player, lies with her jar beside her (a vase with drinking water), overcome by fatigue in a deep sleep. A lion chances to pass by, picks up her scent yet does not devour her. There is a moonlight effect, very poetic."

Sunday, June 22, 1986

AntiChrist Comes in the Form of Invasion (Einstein Sleeps)

see
AT THE CENTER OF A BIRD'S BACK EINSTEIN SLEEPS

 





AT THE CENTER OF A BIRD'S BACK EINSTEIN SLEEPS




My aunt says the millennium is at hand.
She strokes my cheek, wants me to believe, be saved,
reunited "upstairs" when the time comes,
while on T.V., a modern-day Elmer Gantry preaches a concoction
   of science and myth—anthropomorphic bible-thumping.
It's the tenth anniversary of Jonestown, Greneda.
I have not received communion since the Vietnam war.
For this, I will spend an unspecified amount of time in purgatory,
my aunt says. But there are graver sins I have committed
which I tell no one. I watch re-runs of Kennedy shot over and over.
After 25 years, grief unfurls anew and I am ten years old again.

The sacred volcanos of Peru and Guatemala are littered with corpses.
In the Peten Itza jungle, near the sacred city of Tikal, saraguato monkeys howl,
making no distinction between exiled guerillas, and the invading army—
Uzis bought with U.S. dollars. AK-47's. In the jungle the Cold War continues.
In the ceiba trees scarlet macaws scream warning to thrumming insects.
Oblivious leaf-cutter ants carve low tunnels through the underbrush.
I never get used to the guns. In the highlands I never saw boys or men
only women and babies waiting under the volcanic shadows of Atitlán.
On a shining path deep in the Andes, friends carrying medical supplies
are stopped by leftist Sendero Luminoso terrorists on horseback
who let them go when they answer each question right.
Having passed the test, they feel reborn. Their path leads forward still.

Like with Kennedy, I cannot erase or help the blood
of lawyer Manuel Febres-Flores migrating to the sea.
My Peruvian friend said don't look, but it was too late
as we sped off through the Chorillos tunnel to safety.
The TV news fills in the details. He went to buy a newspaper.
His crime was that he was a good lawyer on the "wrong" side.
I have committed this to memory, and I have no words
for bearing witness to the casual departure of life.
There are no front lines in the jungle, the cordilleras, or here.

The Japanese woman warns me never to sleep
at the foot of the bed, or I will have terrible dreams.
During this harvest of apocryphal nights, I learn I have "thin boundaries"
because I dream of snipers in the jungle, and wake up on the floor
crawling toward the safety of closets. I worry about borderline
madness but there are those in power who don't dream. Ever.
Instead, they bring us nightmares. Names of horses.

Before the attack on Hiroshima, an ex-pilot boasted
how he dropped warning leaflets written in English.
He said they were like falling snow, or "window,"
the metal filaments they used to avoid electronic surveillance
while flying in enemy space. He said they named the bombs
and planes after children: Fat Man, Little  Boy, Enola Gay.
I wasn't born yet when this happened
but I keep making origami cranes to heal something in myself.
There are thin boundaries between water, air, and space.
Point in time. Crushed beneath the burden of air, fish drown.
On the swing set, I heard angels striking matches in dry summer grass.
The Hibakusha, the first to witness bright plasma clouds and shadow
are nearly all gone now. At the center of a bird's back Einstein sleeps.
Antichrist arrives in the form of invasion.
When the last condor dies, who will strip it clean of flesh
and make a quena flute from the feathers of its wings?

1986
rev. 1987 & 1989

first draft: Antichrist in the form of Invasion 1986

1990 Apostrofe!, and ROTOR, in Russian,  USSR
          Cherkassuy Krai/ Pravda  in Ukrainian, USSR
         




Saturday, June 21, 1986

LATE HOUSEWARMING POEM TO WM.T.WILEY


After you'd moved in, something new
glowed from the deadwood of the madrone—
Wedged between the cambian layer and heart,
a white torso startled my horse.

I don't know why, but I've always been afraid
of fallen trees in the forest at dusk—
a ghostly reflection of downed limbs.
Maybe it's because things unseen by the iris
come more clearly into focus: night vision.
These exponentials sharpen the artist's eye:
Andromeda, Orion's shoulder,
a Styrofoam torso, the half-life of memory,
branches learning to meet the ground.

The last time I rode past this house,
Mrs. Raynes choked on a piece of steak
at a dinner party; small white O’s
of the guests' mouths, as each searched
for an appropriate response—
and found themselves wanting.
I remember how her clipped voice resounded
like hooves churning up the steep driveway.
Flecks of foam & blood dappled his eager chest
the last time the horse carried her home.
Her husband and children moved back to Britain.

The light from the kitchen window
slaps against the corralled darkness,
antlers knocking on the garden fences
like the dead, my grandmother says—
Deer raise their heads as if in welcome,
to watch us pass.


1985/86/87/90 Solstice


HORSEFLESH

          —for John Oliver Simon

Sometimes as you sleep in my arms,
my hand strokes your face.
I imagine it to be nude of flesh
& bleached white by weather.
Then I can explore your eyes,
slide down the sweep of jawline,
walk through dark Bavarian forests
where horsetraders from Alsace
read the Torah by candle flame.
Somewhere near the browline,
the ancestors have marked you
in the wrinkled grey folds
where the past & future sleep.


Baja 1986


 1994 H.M. Judah L. Magnus Museum, 8th Annual Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award for Poetry on the Jewish Experience
1989 Creative Discourse
1986-88 Falling to Sea Level
1988 Poetry SF, 2nd Prize, National Poetry Association
         The Paper
1987 Marin Poetry Center


this version was published in the fall issue of Poet Magazine in 1991




Jorge Luján set this poem to music, so it's been sung a lot by him in Mexico and Latin America.. At one time I used to sing this at readings—but after a horrendous break-up with John, I never revisited ay work from that period for over 30 years—the pain was so great. Only now am I forgiving the past.  And I can no longer  remember the melody... 2/22/2014

Friday, June 20, 1986

Falling to Sea Level, Aldebaran Review (photo)


 
--> Falling to Sea Level, with John Oliver Simon,  (bilingual Spanish/English, Aldebaran Review/Russian River Writers' Guild 1986, fourth ed. 1988). 

Sunday, June 1, 1986

Nasturtiums (art)

I'm not sure of the date on this watercolor, circa the summer of 1986, or 1987. I had carefully trained these nasturtiums to cover an ugly concrete and rebar wall in John Oliver Simon's back yard. He, not seeing the beauty of my handiwork, tore them all out while he was readying the garden. I was heartbroken, I salvaged what blossoms I could and painted them. Watercolor and gouache.

Nasturtiums 9x12" watercolor & gouache.