Friday, November 24, 1995

Folklore: Bernard Reilly vs the City of San Francisco; Seamus Mooney case

Sinead was talking to a Marin County sheriff the other day, and they got into some genealogy. He perked up at the mention of grandpa's name, saying that all officers had to learn about that case in police Academy, for he was the first to successfully sue his city and win.

My grandfather was the undersheriff of San Francisco County and he was the next in line to be promoted to high sheriff. But he was passed over due to political reasons. Someone said he was too well-liked. And so he sued for backpay, representing himself. And when he finally won the settlement, he was on his way to UC Medical Center with cancer. So it was a merely a matter of time before he died.

That case nearly broke my grandfather and made him bitter.

And aunt remarks about how Mrs. Mooney gave us the orange tablecloth after Grandpa had worked on the famous case of Seamus Mooney, who was held responsible for the death during a Longshoremen's riot. Seamus/James was convicted of murder during that labor strike and it too is a famous case taught in law school.

I'll have to dig out those letters from Mooney to my grandfather at one point. Some of this information should be available to the public, the Bancroft Library, but first it has to be put into some sort of historical context or framework.

Sinead and I seem to have the passion and interest to collect family stories, but unless we write it down, it too will dissipate. Facts will muddle even more than they already are. No one else seems to be interested.

Thursday, November 23, 1995

On the eve of my 43rd birthday I get a call

I get a surprise phone call from Sean Kilty who informs me that he's separated from his wife after all these years. Am I surprised? No. And now he's calling me. He lives in Castroville, near my cousins. We'll try to connect this weekend. Tomorrow I'll be 43. 

And I keep thinking, now there's an opening on his dance card, do I want to check it out? Like with poor Hanafi who visited on Sunday, we went for a hike in the Palisades, he's smitten, but I'm ambivalent. Not worth the bother.

I've been Sean's casual lover for years. Very sporadically I might add. Once every other year for nearly a decade—we've kept it hidden from his friends. That's not enough to base a relationship on, and now I have to look at him in a whole new light. I need to find out about what exactly is going on with this separation. Do I even want to? Sideways opportunity.

He has three small kids, so the rest of his life will be tied up with her and with them for at least for the next 15 to 20 years. I would need to follow him. Do we have enough in common to make something actually work? He's tied to a middle-class existence. And here I am conjecturing, and I haven't even talked to him yet, nor have I seen him in over a year. 

Once Sean and I fell madly in love in an instant, but his sin was ambivalence. He was afraid to act and when his friends stopped us at the door as we were about to run away together going to Mexico. He gave me up—just like that. I never quite forgave Michael Larrain, Luke Breit, nor Patrick Grizell for their intervention. It wasn't divine intervention, that's for sure. What was so wrong with me to be rejected by a committee of his friends like that? 

Within that same week he met his future wife. Also a Maureen—Michael Larrain's sister. That love and passion Sean and I shared was a long time ago, and certainly I have a fondness in my heart for him, and the lust that comes and goes, is a bonus. But whether there's a grand passion there remains to be seen. 

Handsome Sean, who looks a lot like Anthony Quinn, is easy on the eyes. Then, there's the problem of his size, he's enormous all over. As in girth. I've been completely inactive for most of the year, so sleeping with him is bound to hurt. Hopefully our bodies adjust to such things. 

Then there is the desire for a child that I haven't quite gotten out of my system. He's had a vasectomy, no, make that two vasectomies, the first one didn't take. At least one kid is a post-vasectomy child. 

I let things resolve themselves via the law of entropy. I don't return the call. Tomorrow I'll be 43. 

November 23, 1995

Wednesday, November 22, 1995

Dream Journal, Shroud of Turin, Ken Bullock at the Mayflower

I kept dreaming I was lying next to someone who was wrapped in shroud, someone I knew. Perhaps they were alive, perhaps dead. I wasn't scared or grossed out by it. Mimi the cat sleeps on my right side these nights. And I have to fight for covers sometimes. 

There was another similar shroud, but I wasn't sleeping next to it. I kept waking up and it was still there, and I dreamed about it some more. This went on all night. I petted the cat, who was snoring, for reassurance. I was swaddled in bedcovers, sleeping like the dead. Then I woke myself up snoring. Cat on my chest.

I had another dream where Ken Bullock and I were on the at the old Mayflower pub on 4th St. in San Rafael, drinking whiskey to the dead lovers and relations. My cousin Sinead was there too. We drank whiskey out of an odd assortment of bowls and cast-iron frying pans, like cats. Toast and after toast. So many dead. I was worried about driving home because we had at least two more toasts to go.

Kelly Slattery was there too, along with all the Woodacre drunks: Ken's father Keith Bullock, Cal Davis, Old Man Slattery and Sinead's father, Bill Dinsmore—they all drank together at that tiny corner bar on Railroad in Woodacre. Did Kelly's father die too?

It was busy at the bar. So many dead. So many toasts. Where did my dead father fit into this dream memory, except as a young man? Did we remember to toast JFK?

In the third dream, Ken and I take a little red wagon out for a spin down the steep Lagunitas roads. We nearly get hit by cars while towing the wagon up to the top of the hill. Each time we felt a little braver, and we took the wagon a little further up the top of the steep hill, then rode it down like bats out of hell. Seeking a thrill ride with death.

November 22

Thursday, November 16, 1995

My Thoughts Aren't Birds

My thoughts aren't birds learning flight, they are the feathers on the wings of time, drifting downward into the darkness of the soul. My past always threatens to abscond with memory, as if it were long buried pirate treasure, the moon's fish seeking the pocket of the sky.

My life always snakes forth like runnels of erratic water in the dry acrid dust of Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, a solid thought holding up the blueness of sky. 

And when I wake, dreams take on the flight of words, seeking the stillness of the pond in late afternoon light—not a reflection, but real words frosting the cake.

Whose fear finds me fighting for words in the stillness of the afternoon. Why all this preoccupation with waning light, why not the cover of darkness, or the last thoughts of the waning moon? 

I want to find the or origins of rivers between the corners of my eyes that hunger for the thirsty land, a mirage oases, so I can appreciate the sundance at the bottom of the well. 

November 16, 1995 
Higham Family School

Wednesday, November 8, 1995

Letter to Carol Cullar, Editor, Maverick Press/Terrapin

Maverick Press/Terrapin
Carol Cullar, Editor,
Rt. 2, Box 4915
Eagle Pass, TX 78852
Nov. 8, 1995

Dear Carol,

I’m deeply honored to be included in another issue of Maverick/Terrapin. On the latest flyer, a stamped note, “need bio for upcoming issue”   had me scrambling through my notes as to what poem, “Feeding the Minotaur”; during the interim, I’ve made some small word changes which I’ve highlighted, but I suspect you’ve already gone to press, since it’s already November. No matter. !No te preocupes!

I’m slowly crawling out of the morass of two year’s worth of significant deaths—my parents & an uncle—all within a year’s span (not to mention a bad relationship), has left me virtually speechless/wordless. . . so this publication means more to me than you can imagine. It reminds me of my duty: I am still  writer despite all my stripped down illusions.

The Mother Earth Journal: Latin American issue came out in a slightly different format—I was too busy grieving to do layout, so Herman Berlandt finished it (to the best of his abilities). I’m very attached to good layout, etc., so I’m not happy with it visually. He used several of your woodcarvings. They look great. Did he send you a copy?

I loved the poems you sent me, I’d love to see more. . . are you a sister voice in the dark? I often feel my personal obsession as materia prima isn’t currently popular or acceptable in the publishing world, but it’s the angst/grist for my mill/who I am. If I’d a listened tae my teachers, my vision/voice wouldn’t exist. If only I could get a book published. . . I keep sending my MS out to contests, often placing as a runner up, to no avail. Still no book in sight. It makes me doubt my work. Your continued support of my writing (and a “Pushcart” nomination!) gives me reason/courage to submit/publish.


Maureen Hurley

BIO: Maureen Hurley lives in Forestville, near the redwoods along the Russian River, in northern California. Her poems have appeared in Maverick Press’s Paisano, Culebra! and numerous journals and anthologies including Atomic Ghost, & Hermit Kingdom. Poetry awards include Negative Capability, Chester H. Jones, Kalliopea, National Writers’ Union, National Federation of State Poetry Societies, and two regional NEA fellowships. “Feeding the Minotaur” grapples with the unconscious dendritic history buried within her personal mythopoetics.

Monday, November 6, 1995

Kizer, O'Hehir reading at Mudd's

I'm emceeing at Mudd's Cafe tonight with Carolyn Kizer and Diana O'Hehir. Carolyn arrives dressed to the nines in heels and a mink coat. The audience is almost non-existent so we have a small, intimate reading. I hate the industrial cavernous space of Mudd's, in Santa Rosa, but beggars can't be choosers. 

Diana reads about living on the earthquake fault. She said that poems fall into categories: children, parents, relationships. I don't believe in God but I'll try anyway, and then she writes a poem about salvation. Poetry of loss and of separation from the mother.

I said my mother's ashes gather dust on the bureau in my brother's room where the forgotten pieces of the discarded past seek eternal rest. A dog chewed on the crucifix, it's a secret hiding place of Sacrament, amid the tarnished golf clubs. Diana tells me to write of an apple and then relate it to my mother. I think the last known wild aurochs died in Poland in 1627, when did the last word bison die?

Sunday, November 5, 1995

On the Red Road: sweat lodge


In the sweat lodge at Westerbeck Ranch, 
the lava rocks glowed red, 
the cedar offerings ignited like stars. 
I prayed for Nathan, that he would find his teachers, 
that I would be worthy of teaching him, 
for the good Red Road is not my path, 
though I am of it. 
I prayed for the release of my parents. 
I prayed for the release of Sinead's father. 
I prayed for my cousins who wanted us to sell the land, 
to understand that land is more important 
than just money.
I thanked Jim for bringing us here, 
I thanked the land we met on etc.,
Lakota Sioux chants to offer us up.

He said there would be some discomfort, yes, my muscles ached, was all this from playing pool the night before? I don't think so. I was in a vulnerable position several times because of my whiplash, and I began to hurt. I didn't accomplish much yesterday so couldn't have been food that made me so violently ill. The night before, I have a hamburger and a half a Newcastle on draught. 

Uneasy sweat rolled off of me. If I had toxins, they were plentiful. By around three PM, my outer layer of skin began to itch, and I thought of how like a snake shedding its skin it was. We shed the old, burdensome layers, and emerge with new skins. I washed under the nearly full hunter's moon, my breasts like answering orbs. 

I thought I wasn't going to make it to the last sweat round. I was dizzy. Jim Byrd talked about the lodge being the womb, and here we were,10 people in a tiny space filled with hot glowing rocks. I did not feel well, and my dizziness increased, my headache became a migraine. It was the carbon dioxide and smoke.

I resorted to Advil after the sweat, to relieve the blinding headache, but my stomach had other plans, and it was a battle just to keep it down to drive home. My mouth was foaming, preparing to upchuck. I wondered what if I'd have to pull over, and the drive home was long. Many close calls. I was tortured beyond belief  but soda crackers and bread relieved some of the symptoms and Pepto-Bismol took care of the rest, but it took some time. 

It was good to see Jim and Nancy. They seem to have healed the rift between them, and all was as it was last year, before he left her. He left on the red road, only to find it led right back to her door. Family. Roots. Right in his own backyard.

(11/4) excerpt 

Saturday, November 4, 1995


Inside the microwave oven, 
my note, with "I'm sorry" 
scrawled in large purple letters,
the color of forgiveness, 
returned as if to say, shove it.
And take your oven back too.
These words were seeking forgiveness, 
they were seeking the heart line,
the calmness of gray skies.
Instead, I find them returned, 
unspent words. Still trying to apologize,
how to soothe the raging heart of anger.
A song that haunted me in Holland,
I never knew the name, says it all: 
the Gypsy Kings sing Amor Amargo. 
Bitter love, just my luck.

11 November 1995
rev. 11/4/2015

After the poetry reading: all roads lead to Moscow

Last night, after the poetry reading, we discussed a mutual friend, Christine Gonzalez Larson. I said she went to Russia. Also, a translation company called asking for Oleg Atbashian, wanting something translated from the Ukrainian. 

Last night I wrapped myself in my Russian shawl and all the images have little to do with Moscow. In St. Petersburg, Oleg in the Ukraine, my shawl and me in California. 

But Moscow is the capital, all roads lead to Moscow, like with Mexico City, it is the collective unconscious of Russia. It is the mother of cities, the umbilicus. 

Friday, November 3, 1995


I awoke reciting these lines:
There was a woman of the state 
centuries of snowflakes 
do not a necklace make.
A bone of light falls on her door,
a midwinter letter from the sun. 

dream image

Pool cues

After spending two and a half painful hours at Barnes & Noble, going over Armando's book manuscript, explaining my diacritical remarks, and getting nowhere, I found my cousin Dave in the reference section. We went out for a few beers and a game of pool. Dave was a good teacher, I sunk a few balls, even won a game or two. I learned a few new shots, spins, and more bad English. Wish my meeting with Armando, whose second language is English, went this smooth. Chalk it up to experience.

November 3, 1995

Boschka Layton on Glenn Gould

I remember Boschka Layton talking of Glenn Gould, she recalled the brilliance of his conversations. The way he played Bach. He must've been a family, or childhood friend, for when he died, she was devastated. 

I remember Boschka's poem for Glenn Gould. I wish I had a copy of it.

Her family was quite extraordinary to draw so many interesting people to its bosom, Leonard Cohen, Irving Layton, and of course, her half-brother, Donald Sutherland's fame comes from that same bosom as well. 

In the character who played Glenn Gould, I heard Donald Sutherland's accent, his voice trilled in the ear, but it was not him. It serve to spark this memory of Boschka, or Betty Sutherland, as she was known then, and Glenn Gould.

Funny how memory works like that, and I was wanting more information, but she is dead these past 14 years. She would've enjoyed this movie, and I watched it for her, remembering all the silly things we used to talk about.

Irving must've gotten ahold of some of my old letters to Boschka, or did they send her papers to him later? I recently received a form letter from McGill University wanting to put my letters to Boschka into Irving's archives, into his literary estate. I had to laugh. And I am such a very minor footnote.


Sometimes it feels like that,
the sound of footsteps receding in snow,
and one forgets the loneliness of leaves in autumn. 
My mother madly painted while I was in the womb, 
the colors permeated, and crossed the membrane, 
and later I would be nostalgic for places 
I had never been to before. 
What accounts for a life of miracles? 
Early memories, or of things yet to come? 
Stacking wood, I think of how art 
has always been present in my life. 
Coming up with answers was always harder. 
Poets are always on the verge of tears, 
we could fill lakes haunted by music. 
Voyager has left our solar system,
carrying a gold record of Bach,
with Glenn Gould at the keyboard,
crooning into the folds of deep space.

Nov 3, 1995
added 11/17 minor revisions

Thursday, November 2, 1995

Sonoma journal: war stories

After David Bromige and Gerry Haslam's reading, we all go to the Redwood Café and tell horror stories. David tells us of Jim McCreary's stint being William S. Burroughs' secretary.

Jane McPherson and I spin yarns about the guns we've met on the Gringo Trail. I tell Guatemala stories,  the war, the roadblocks, the Guatemalan army. Trying to find a decent place to sleep in Panajachel, it was either two dollar dives or three-star $40 digs, with nothing in between. Jane said she had a tantrum when she was traveling, her boyfriend traveled only on the cheap.

I tell Jayne of the Nazi place we stayed at in Panajachel, the bungalow was the only place available. But he gave us the creeps with his twin Doberman pinschers, his black leather boots, riding crop, and the eyepatch. We lasted one night as it was Gestapo Central.

Steve Tills is trying to write this piece entitled #69 and can't. And we become ribald. Maybe it's in context – the other pieces will support it as a title. As the complete poem. We segue off into personal tirades of bad relationships, love gone wrong in all the odd places. I don't mention how John liked his bondage. I can finally talk about Latin America without any mention of John at all.

I like Tom Kelly a lot, we have a lot in common. He's a married man with two kids. He tells Old Eureka stories, and we both went to church last Sunday—to our great surprise. Everyone turns to us and asks Together? We laugh and say, no we've only just met, no in different towns, Eureka and Nicasio.

Tom Kelly encourages me to write more of the old West Marin, saying he liked my Nicasio piece so much. I said I wasn't a writer back then, so I didn't hold onto the details in the same way. But here we are anyway, chronicling and channeling the past.

November 2, 1995 (excerpt)

Wednesday, November 1, 1995


Sometimes I worry about the time
I spend obsessing on journal writing.
I keep thinking there are better things to do.
Sometimes my dream journal remains
the only thread of sanity, or salvation.
Times when I'm overwhelmed by rawness,
but in the journal, I acknowledge them,
and let those feelings flow through me,
they come in and out like the tide,
like an oil spill going down the river—
a momentary patch of calmness,
and then the turbulence where it meets the sea.
But I am not the river flowing to the sea.
I am the riverbank monitoring the journey.
The river is the seat, the vessel of emotions,
and my feelings are as varied and rough
as the rocks in the riverbed.

November 1, 1995
added, rev. 11/17