Sunday, December 1, 1996

Letter to a bad tenant


Justine Onta, for you,
I cleaned my house,
and put new sheets on the bed,
I took care of all the details
to ensure your pleasant stay.
In return, you were to complete small tasks,
pick up the mail, post the bills, water the plants.
I even sent you a reminder cards,
and called you long distance.
I let you stay into August
through Labor Day, for nominal rent.

I arrived home to a dirty house and shower, 
filthy sheets—stained with candle wax, 
oil slicks and random bleach stains. 
All my plants, dead, my neighbors
tried to keep them alive when they realized 
my plants were dying.
If only you had told them,
they would’ve gladly done it for you.
For this favor, to you and your aunt Mimi
who assured me of your trustworthiness,
and responsibility, you ruined my credit rating,
penalties and late charges, more than the bill.

To add insult to injury, 
your one rent check bounced, with more penalties
you never paid the second month's rent check. 
The cable was cut off, the phone bill in arrears.
Contrary to your claims, I know you stayed 
at my house the entire time because you made 
many long-distance phone calls 
for which you never paid.
I would've gladly given you 
the last three weeks rent free
because you are a student.
Instead, your stay cost me money,
and my friendship with your aunt.
You left me bereft, out-of-pocket.
I accepted you in good faith 
and was treated with disrespect.
You also left your blue scarf and shampoo.
I will hold them hostage until you settle up.

No answer was the loud reply.

Dec. 1, 1996

Saturday, November 9, 1996

IN THE MIRROR


In the mirror, fish weave
in and out of light,
The gut-wrenching cry
of the war goddess,
the ancestor of kelp. A forest of death.
The Morrigan with the head of a crow
had a taste for men's eyes,
and my eyes become round stones
clacking on the shoreline.

What I remember
is my mother's hatred of her name.
I remember what she said,
the birthing pangs,
a generational inheritance,
this blood.
A cursory glance in the mirror,
my first gathering of words
on the lips: mama ma ma.

To see in the edge of the beveled mirror,
a nose or an eye strayed from symmetry,
or the long tang and surcease of the sea,
or renegade Picassos, mouths and breasts
migrating against ordinary reality.
The slow breathing of the long distance runner
asleep in the dream hills.
That's what poetry is.

Melish, the honeyed sweetness
of an ancestral language on the tongue.

As I drive down the road, I parse my face.
On the tip of the tongue
to see what mask it wears
all that remembrance
of blue verging on violet.
Why do I write? Because the mirrors
are infinitely larger than the fields.

Forgiveness, the color of mourning.
I need to see the mirror inside the mirror.
The accusing candle fingers of buckeyes
not just to touch its icy surface
but to taste the odor of other words,
and other worlds.
Flowers pointing up the dry creekbed
ask not what poetry can do for you,
they are lighting the solstice with their hue...

November 1996
National Poetry Week
North Beach Pasta Pomodoro

Wednesday, September 25, 1996

Letters to Frances Galloway

Frances Galloway/JLvan Schaik Publishers, S. Africa 9/25/96

Frances, I've an essay on Breyten Breytenbach & tr. (indepth w/ pix.) focus on ethics/general tr. issues & process. I just returned from A'dam—I still need to add quotes/examples on tr., or should I fax final draft ASAP? I think you'll like it.

Maureen Hurley

Frances, Did you ever receive my essay? I just got a card from Martin Mooij who received it. Said he was on his way to S. Africa. Ask him if he has any comments on my essay, or if it's ok.

I received replies from Miroslav Holub & Gert van Istendael—who offered two minor corrections: 

1. Fr Embassy in Belgium sponsored project. 
2. Breyten isn't a man w/o a country, but a French citizen. 

You may want to clarify. 

Maureen Hurley 2/5/97

Sunday, September 22, 1996

Seven Sisters


Flies pester the duckweed while the river converses with both shores at the same time. An ex-lover on the opposite bank, and the creek divides our past. A narrow tongue reaches to the bay where, as a child, I thought surely the gods must inhabit this place.

His eyes pester me like the river flies and midges and gadflies. A lizard does late-summer push-ups on a tree stump. Spring is over, lizard. No time to mate. But hope springs eternal.

First day of fall, the water holds the promise of the seasons. When John Oliver Simon vacates the opposite beach, I climb down to a rock in the river, bubbles and duckweed strike the submerged rock like migrating islands.

There was a time when I caught fish barehanded in these same tributaries. In the backwaters and eddies, bent light and dark oscillations fragment the surface. Stone pool and moss, miniature vortices, like lost conversations.

Below the rock, the crawdads wait for the dead. Water skeeters jet against the current, streaming bubbles of air. Migratory birds pester the alders for hidden seeds. Midges circle the palpable air, loose spiderwebs luff and stray.

Last night, we sat up late discussing the names of plants. The ridge, Wildcat Ridge, a watershed between my past, my childhood, and my present state. Cattails like young trees, guard the umbrella plants. I tell Arthur Dawson, they are related to papyrus. As we write.

Our eyes connect to where I come from and where I live. Scorpio and Sagittarius wheeling and rising in the sky. I relearn the names of stars under a full moon readying for the eclipse, September 26, the last eclipse of the century. Fin de sicle, how do we know where we're going with our art? Did the Impressionists and postimpressionist have foreknowledge?

Later, seven women will swim nude in the reservoir above the creek. And we will admire each other's bodies in the sunlight, breasts floating like lily pads, nipples beckoning. Someone says I want to suck them all. And this water within us is also part of the cycle. Who is peeing in the pond?

We are the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades, who don't want to rush back to the daily grind, not yet. Ruth Gendler dries off. She is meeting a friend for Yom Kippur, but the water draws her back again in one last time. A baptism of sorts.

Saturday, September 21, 1996

AN UNREASONABLE CONVERSATION IN TWO VOICES


Voice 1: Sometimes the sky reminds me
of the buckeye's leaf molt in summer,
when the sun burns like friendly fire.

It doesn't matter if logic
is a theory of structure,
or the color of a successful bombing.

No I won't, I mean I can't. It's too late.
It's not going to be all right
if Republican cross-dressers
take both sides of the argument.

Right brain, wrong brain,
like Army intelligence.
It's going to be all right, or all wrong,
depending upon which gutter.

Voice 2: It doesn't matter
if friendly fire burns
the leaves off trees,
or if our own smart bombs
can't tell whose side is whose.

Look all you gotta do is read a little song.
Say a little poem, speak a few reasonable words.
And all will be forgiven. Didacticism aside.

Relax, who's taking the right
angle approach?  Right angel?
Just tell the right brain to shut up,
turn it off. Turn it off, I say.
This isn't going to hurt at all, trust me.

Arm my intelligence?
I have seen the sky at sunset
seeking the sun as if all that fire
was a song for the eye's mind.
Right or left, it's you approach it.
Maybe reproach it.
Did the bomber feel remorse?
Now, there's an odd idea
of successful bombing.

Why take both sides of the argument?
It's too late for Kuwait.
If I was a duodong, the sea's betrayal of sky,
burning. Which side are you on?

Name rank and serial number
says God, who side are you on anyway?
Carpet bombing in Iraq.
We keep coming back to a gulf of words.

Voice 1: What's left at the end
will survive us.
That's the structural approach.
To broach the subject with reproach.
Take two step poems
and call me in the morning.

Why say it's going to be all right?
It's never too late to send the dumb bombs
to training camp so they'll know
which side they're on.

Don't you know. Might is right
with God on our side.
Tulip patterns in the Koran
a whirlpool of fire flowers
blossoming in the Gulf.

9/21 or 22/1996

EMPIRE OF LIGHT


I am the empire of light,
the blue square on the mosaic wall,
looking for the shadow behind the door.
I am the sound of a book opening,
the silken rustle of the casket,
the open window, the spiraling leaf,
the shine on your car hood,
the dust on your window blind,
the voice of the nameless cow on the hill,
the invisible footprints in the stream,
the lemon flavored sunlight on winter grass,
the high note of the soprano sax,
the painter inside the tube of paint,
the canvas inside the painter.

21 Sept 1996

River of words watersheds


Riding through the watersheds, be quiet, let the river come to you. Use nature and preserve it as a resource. The culture we live in affects the poetry of rivers. East west. Field guides become textbooks. Forgotten languages. Discover your life place at the river's edge. River patterns in the Bay Area, 16 rivers speaking in tongues through the mouth to the bay, it is an unparalleled language. Water thieves: Peripheral Canal, Owens Lake, the Cadillac desert, Mono Lake. Water wars and designer water. What about the underground rivers and the archaic aquifers? Who will speak for them?

REDTAIL HAWK, & SAND (2 poems)

REDTAIL HAWK

I am the redtail hawk of imagination
From the blood of my prey
I learned the persistence of red at sunset.
The sun taught me the importance of thermal updrafts.
My wings learned to trust the density of air.
My eyes gained the inside of distances
Desire learned to move like the sea
Inside inside the stormy halo of my cry. 

21 Sept 1996 
Walker Creek
SAND

I am the despair of sand
always searching for a lost home.
The wind drives me to a frenzy
It drives me from the crest of mountains
to the depths of the sea. 
Once I counted the breath of stars 
from the top of Everest to the Dead Sea. 
Then I found myself falling 
from subterranean cliffs 
to the dark crevasses of the earth.
I have measured time in faithful increments 
for those who needed that kind of solace.
I have scoured the faces of mountains 
until they forgot how to be jagged 
until they forgot how to cut the air
until they forgot how to stand tall as the sky. 

21 Sept 1996 
Walker Creek

Friday, September 20, 1996

LIVING IN A FOREIGN TONGUE


Half the American public cannot read.
I am functionally illiterate in an alien culture. 
I buy food by pictures & make educated guesses. 
I memorize foreign words by sight 
and guess at the deeper meaning
by repetition and predictable sight reading,
sometimes to hilarious or tragic results.

Recombinant writing ideas


Recombinant writing ideas

Combine writing elements making connections with disparate objects to shake us out of our established writing patterns. We're forced to create connections between things. Tobey Kaplan has us create odd lists by reading several poems.

The secret trying to grasp
with everyone witness
larger blue lettering
it involves a historical surface, a patina.
Musées de Orsay
the opera of silence
generations
a sliver of self
something they should have done
deer with antlers of fire
digestion
minimal
Baroque light seed
Lucid Astronaut
Pangea

The electric sanctuary,
unfurling currents of whistles,
the elegant launch.
Something like gardens,
along with lemon trees, gardenias,
pigeon blood rubies,
skillful detectives radiating out
on plateglass windows.
Mercury vapor, buy and sell
light dressed in crêpe de Chine
reflecting prerogatives of violet,
metallic pearls, crocodile lame,
new perfumed bills in his wallet.

The road rises, we climb and roar like voyages
a precipice moon rising.
How does God authorize this sun
precipitating, as far as we know,
simplicity taught us how to be free.
Dogs, horses, birds simple tales,
they are not afraid of talking,
they always know how to give their own smiles.
They may hate music, there are three of them.
Sovereign elegance, social rules,
black hummingbirds covered with flowers & moss,
the last swarm finding a balance
among the simplicity of life
while holding a riding crop.

not afraid of talking

With everyone unfurling current currents of light,
something like gardens arises in brothel doorways.
Skillful detectives in front of plateglass windows
witness the surface pattern of light
dressed in crêpe de Chine, and metallic pearls.
The perfume of newly minted bills.
There are crocodiles among the lemon trees
and gardenias, something like gardens.

The road rises as if trying to grasp
the precipice of the moon rising,
an offer of silence in Terra Lingua.
It involves a sovereign elegance.
We climb and roar like star voyagers
trying to grasp the social rules of space,
finding no balance among the generations
of blood pigeons, deer with antlers of fire
witness the digestion of stars.
Black hummingbirds covered with flowers,
they're not afraid of talking.

The electric sanctuary enters the past or the future,
but not both at once.
While a sliver of self is trying to grasp the secret
something they should have done a long time ago.
Historical silence follows covered with moss.
How does God authorize the Sun?
It's all done with smoke and mirrors.
Welcome home astronaut, welcome home.


Thursday, September 19, 1996

Journal fragments, Amsterdam, Brugge, Laon

Journal fragment: 19 Sept., 1996 (midnight insomnia)

Home, I am—and after a week of sunshine, I need dark glasses—unused as I am to so much concentrated light. The weather’s turning cold. Fingernail moon (and a total eclipse on the 26th—the last one of the millennium.)

Still suffering from acute jetlag & tunnel vision, disorientation by late afternoon is typical (6 PM is really 3 AM—and I wonder why I have no appetite for dinner!).

Driving is excruciating (asleep at the wheel is a reality). My cousin Dave’s having the same symptoms. We may have jumped into this culture/time zone but the bio-rhythms aren’t yet shifting. He said “I have to keep moving around, flapping my arms, just to keep awake at work.” I laughed at the idea of Dave flapping his wings in an airplane hangar with all those dismantled 747 planes.

At a lively Brazilian party in San Francisco, I made the mistake of sitting alone on the couch for a few minutes. My eyes may have been open, but that’s all. I couldn’t even speak, let alone understand the Brazilians’ Spanish (who speak with a Portuguese accent).

I drove Herman Berlandt & Verona home to Novato in Marin County, north of San Francisco, literally cross-eyed, thinking “I’ll never make it home” (an hour and a half’s drive) so I slept on their couch.

They say it takes a minimum of 1 day of suffering for each time zone. I remember how it took me weeks to recover from Russia. How long will I suffer this time? Someone said that in a Concorde jet, you travel so fast, you hypothetically arrive before you leave—earlier, that is, in New York than when one leaves Paris! Where’s Einstein when you need him?

In August, my cousin Dave Dinsmore came over to Amsterdam to visit me—he works for United Airlines—Dave, Charles McGeehan and his girlfriend Bertaijn and I went to France for a few days—

We took the coast route from Rotterdam to Zeeland islands—dunes marsh and grey sea—and the ferry at Vlissingen to Belgium. I saw the windmill and had that curious sensation of collapsed time, remembering our mad walk to the train station, wanting to visit Wim Hofman but we had so little time, having stopped overlong in Middleburg.

Dave was so amazed, we wound up staying overlong, and had to hurry to Brugge—which was even more amazing—we were so exhausted, we spent the night (in an inn) beneath the tower on the main square.

We got caught in horrible traffic in Lille—no road signs on the freeways, so we circled and circled the countryside for hours trying to avoid the toll roads and navigate our way east by following topographic clues and a certain slant of sunlight until dusk overtook us;

Lille, a real hellhole. Dunkirk ever to the west. The Battle of the Bulge was fought somewhere near here. You can still feel the ghostly reminder the blood-soaked fields at sunset when the light is right and the fog rises up like apparitions.

We wound up several times in a village where Reblais was born, Proust too. Closet hysteric Charles McGeehan forgot his passport (and his epilepsy pills) so we didn’t want to get caught up in a immigration control lines.

Dave and I, having no French money, didn’t want to take the toll roads. Asking a Frenchman directions in a village square was a farce worthy of a Monty Python comedy sketch. Only Bertaijn spoke French.

A 6-hour trip from Amsterdam to Laon took us nearly three days. Kafavy said the journey, not the destination, matters. On the way back, we stopped off in Antwerp; sat in the afternoon sun in front of that glorious Gothic cathedral quaffing strong Belgian beer. We earned the sight of spires piercing the blueness of sky.

Odd, Laon’s hill fortress Gothic cathedral has no spires, just stumps.

I was able to spend some time at a friend’s dilapidated country house in France, in a tiny hamlet of Rogny on the Abbey Road (founded by Irish monks in the Dark Ages) between Marle & Laon, in Picardy, Ainse.

Charles (Bert Schierbeek’s translator) McGeehan’s exwife/girlfriend, Bertaijn’s farmhouse needs so much work, I’d love to stay there next summer in exchange for working on it—it reminds me of my grandmother’s house where I grew up in Forest Knolls.

A certain angle of light, red roses splayed against a wall, farm machinery from another era strewn in every nook and cranny. Triggerpoints of memory.

Charles is an interesting character, a GI stationed in Germany in the late ’60s, on furlough, who never left Holland; he’d met a Dutch girl on a train: Bertaijn. Now he’s 60 years old, an expatriate, neither wholly Dutch nor American.

Bertaijn was Bert Schierbeek’s sister-in-law; we met at Bert’s funeral my first day in Holland in June. We were 500 strong, the coffin, a barge dressed in flowers and sheaves of poetry—including our own Mother Earth Journal. Bert used to spend time at Bertaijn’s farmhouse. My cousin Dave & I felt his presence there. . .


1 Dec. Sun. I’ve been reading up on my ancestors, the Celts—I discovered that Laon (where I was in France) was an Irish monastery until ca. 1500 to 1700 AD.

My favorite mystery scholar whom I know little about, a founder of many of the continental universities, was Johannes Scottus Eriugena (or John, the Irishman b. 810).

He taught 25 years at Laon and at the Paris Court School for Charles the Bald (when he wasn’t being accused of heresy—which was often—for his radical doctrine preached the concept of free will. Note: this was long before Luther was a gleam in his great-grandparents’ eyes).

Here’s a little story about Eriugena: An emperor (Charles the Bald?) made a playful pun on two similar sounding words in Latin: sottum and scottum, and asked John what’s the difference between a fool and a Scot (Irishman) to which John replied, “Only the table.” (In Latin, of course: Quid distat inter sottum et scottum?). The king must’ve been seated across from the Irishman. I bet he was flabbergasted by the answer—talk about turned tables!

But then it is said in our myths, satire was the first art form invented in Ireland. I found this gem in my friend Vinz’s flat: Adversus stultitiam pugnare nil est laboriusius nulla enim auctonate vinci fatetur nulla ratione suddetor. Which goes something like: nothing is more laborious than to fight against stupidity for it won’t bend to any authority and it won’t be convinced by any reason. He must have had some very challenging students at Laon University!

I’m in the process of applying for an Irish passport (my grandparents left before Ireland became a republic, so I’m the last generation allowed to apply for a passport.) My uncle John was in Dublin this summer and got his inside of two weeks.

The passport allows us to work in the European Community, an important consideration. I guess I’m tired of having to always struggle to find work each year, with no future, retirement, or security—nothing at all, for this is the life of an “independent contractor,” outside the system, so to speak.

This is life in America for the struggling artist. Brains and talent account for little in the land where the greenback dollar is God. I think I’d like to work at one of the American schools in Europe—Poetry, English & Art. I want a life where I can spend time in Europe, as I am always unhappy to return to the states, where I need to earn money.

My 2nd night home, I was invited to a Sebastopol Arts Council meeting for the promotion of poetry in west Sonoma County, and I felt so jaded. “Been there, done that. Got the shirt. . .” Guess I should be glad poetry is so “in” but it just makes me bad-tempered and ornery—especially when they dream big, and haven’t a clue as to what goes on in putting on reading series and workshops, wanting more volunteer labor to make it happen. . .and I’ve got that shirt too—in several sizes. (And it’s got bloody holes in it by now!).

It feels a bit like a mausoleum here, in this poetry mecca of the world (and in my cabin too). I know I’ll grow used to it soon enough. I saw a bizarre English movie, The Draughtsman’s Contract, by Peter Greenaway, the director of The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover. At the end there were all these Dutch references—someone speaking Dutch which I could almost understand. It had the peculiar effect of making me homesick for the wrong country.

They say you always leave a part of yourself behind when you travel. Does that mean there’s less of me returning home each time I go away? (Hemingway said: Travel broadens the mind. Writing broadens the ass. I write standing up.)

Before I left Amsterdam, I got into a bicycle accident. As I was returning home to Oetgenstraat from Westerpark, some idiot took a curved wrought-iron flower trellis (the arch that goes over a gate) out of the back of his double-parked car on Prinsengracht (near Utrechtstraat), and swung it in front of me, cutting my right hand.

I tried to protect my face but smashed into a parked car, bruising my left wrist when I hit the back windshield. It was either smash into a parked car or fly into the canal—which to choose? The bike’s brakes were no good on wet cobblestone & brick.

I’ve been ignoring my wrist for the past 2 months—until it hurt so badly (I was smashing a clove of garlic with the flat of a knife; the little bones in my wrist made a crunching sound like potato crisps!).

I went to the doctor who put it into a splint to rest it—a bad sprain with injury to the ulnar nerve. I’m a slow typist wearing a wrist brace which looks (& is beginning to smell) like an old gym shoe, and as winter’s chill creeps in, my bones ache; injuries don’t heal quite as fast as they used to.

Sunday, September 15, 1996

COLLAGE POEM


Make no bones about it,
said the dice player, as he
slammed down another cup. 
Blood is thicker than water. 
The last straw that breaks the camel's back 
is a big needle in a small haystack.

Too many irons in the fire? 
Well then, skip the ironing. 
I'll trust him no farther than I can fling him,
she said. 
An omlette run afowl, is a lot of broken eggs.

Keep your eyes on the stars,
and your feet on the ground, 
said Teddy Roosevelt. 
The moon comes up 15 minutes later 
than it did the day before, you can count on it. 
Only 4% of a light bulb's energy is light, 
all the rest is heat. 
Politicians shed no light whatsoever.
It's all hot air.

A Russian saying: he's looking for the horse 
he is riding, means he is absent-minded.
No computer can translate idioms. 
In Swedish: Who stole the cash box?
means how are you? Program that one in. 

There is no word for problem in Quechua. 
Dust devils are called mothers-in-law by the Navajos. 
To take a walk in the Malay, is to eat the wind. 
He went to see a man about a dog.

The Germans are called German 
because their ancient forefathers 
hollered and screamed in battle,
so the Gauls called them Germani 
from a Celtic word, meaning to shout. 
Julius Caesar was credited with Juvernia 
which became Hibernia, which is Ireland.
A 9th-century Irish saying:
love is a drowning in floodwaters. 
Terra Nullis: No man's land.

The Arabs said, One is the first number 
in a series of endless numbers. 

Rosebush, in the Warm Springs Pomo language
translates as the mean old lady who sticks you. 
Tell that to William Randolph Hearst. 
Rosebud. Citizen rose Kane with thorns.

A gray whale weighs a ton at birth. 
A blue whale's tongue weighs as much as an elephant.
Its heart, the size of a car, the aorta is big enough
for a child to crawl through.
The octopus hunts only at night. 
The blue of icebergs is not a reflection 
of water or sky but of old compressed ice 
where all air has been squeezed out.

One tear met another tear floating down the river. 
Said the first tear, I am the tear of the woman 
who lost her love. The other tear replied,
And I am the tear of the woman who got him.
An old Chinese saying proves 
that some things never change.

I have written only one masterpiece, 
said Ravel, it is called Bolero. 
Unfortunately it contains no music. 

Spider silk is so light that an ounce 
would stretch a thin strand 2000 miles. 
There are those who weave garments 
from the webs of spiders, that glisten like gold.

Scientist queried: why do snakes have forked tongues? 
An Italian naturalist said the forked tongues 
were used for picking the dirt out of their noses.  
The better to tell lies about the Garden of Eden.
Aristotle thought it gave snakes savory pleasure,
their gustatory sensation doubled. A good thing 
he didn't know about the opossums' double penis.

They say pleasure is plural and pain is singular. 

Nothing is more laborious 
than to fight against stupidity 
for it won't be any connected to reason. 
When we ask for advice 
we are looking for an accomplice. 
Paul Gauguin said, life, being what it is, 
one dreams of revenge. 

To compat the dust storms of the Gobi Desert 
the Chinese planted 300 million elm trees 
parallel to the Great Wall of China.

It is said that those who can't read,
sing the songs in the streets of South America
about the characters in A Hundred Years of Solitude.
You have to begin to lose your memory, 
if only in bits and pieces, if only 
to realize that memory is what makes our lives,
said Luis Buñuel.

Storm petrels trotting across the water 
were named after St. Peter, the Apostle 
who walked on water. Peter means rock.
Hummingbirds can fly upside down. 
What god were they named after?
Huitzilopochtli the god of war.
Warriors slain in battle
returned as hummingbirds.
Stone sink to the depths of the river.

rearranged & revised 11/17

Saturday, August 24, 1996

CPITS journal, Walker Creek


After the California Poets in the Schools conference, the letdown, the long, slow goodbyes, this is my family of poets. All of this wonderfully crazy. During the closing ceremony, of course, through the process of elimination, I was standing next to John Oliver Simon.

It was so strange to be holding his hand again after all these years. I'd forgotten how strong and warm they were, and that false sense of security they gave me. And I was uncomfortable with him around, but not majorly so. More like an awareness and a pattern of avoidance long-established.

Terri Marquis asked him if he was uncomfortable around me, and he answered, no, but he was aware of my discomfort, putting it all upon me. And taking his cue from that. She said, I couldn't help but think of you last night, up there, reading. You were so beautiful, and his eyes were all over you. He must've felt some regret.

Funny, the poem I chose to read was in the anthology, Poem for Sarah, had buckeye images in it,. Arthur read a new poem about the old man and buckeyes. This morning he commented upon it and said a lot of our poem are dialogs to others. He said he had heard me read that poem several times. Acknowledgment and the dialogue continuing beyond the poem.

Last night as Arthur and I were dancing, we were spiraling towards each other. I was relieved when Luis asked me to dance. We clowned around and danced absurd tangos, and deliberately fell flat on the floor at the end of the song like exhausted dancers. How wonderfully absurd, a flirtation and parody. People laughed and clapped.

Arthur and I danced some swing. We danced foursomes interacting with others or merely doing exercises. I don't think there's another group of people I'd rather dance with. There is a special comraderie in knowing everyone for 10 to 15 years, makes this an extraordinary group of people.

It was brave of Luis Kong to come to the conference. He had to leave behind the past, and several people had problems with his heavy-handedness when he was Executive Director. No way to heal, if you can't forgive. How can you forgive if you never faced? An extraordinary conference. We're not falling apart contrary to popular belief.

Luis shocked me by commenting about my dancing with Arthur, reminding me that  Arthur was a married man. I retorted, Why, does it look like it? I am not doing anything with Arthur. We are circumspect. Luis said, I'm just teasing. But he scored a bull's-eye on that one and he knew it.

Yes I will admit there is an incredible attraction, but I flirted more heavily with Luis who is also married man, because it was safe. I'm a wild flirtatious dancer.



Arthur and I hiked up the ridge
a 15-minute moonlight walk that lasted hours
I was bearing small bits of my soul to him
as we stood on the ridge overlooking the valleys
where harsh shadows conjoined in the canyons.
We alighted on the grass, watched the constellations
wheel across the sky, with the Arabic names of stars
etched on our tongues.

rev 12/17

need date 1996

Thursday, August 22, 1996

HOMESICK


I'm mulling Bert Schierbeek's words 
in Een Plek, in Tirade, vol. 32,
an essay on homesickness
and of lost youth, circa 1988,
in translation. What is lost?
Besides the words themselves?
But I don't understand Dutch
so this is all supposition.
What is homesickness?
You left that place armed
with a wooden sword
and a flask of cold tea.
Armed unto the road,
you were, it was not negotiable.
You had to fight for it. The distance.
A boy running away from home.
This place was never the place,
but places where the heart wanders off to.
The house of language
is the same everywhere,

said Faulkner. A prison
of hypnotic rhythms, and cadence.
I would tell you more, Dear Reader,
but I am not authorized, and
I can't tell you where Bert's words
leave off, and mine begin. it's like that.
There are so few gods left to contend with.
Think of transposition. Bert said:
The Beat Generation had to leave,
they had to go on the open road
looking for a piece of lost America.

A downtrodden culture.
Looking for their own roots
with their heads in the clouds
,
they were homesick for a place
they made it for us, said Miller, in Paris.
Hell, and the front door of paradise opened.
America is a dream of displaced Europeans,
and a rather curious vagueness
of the literature of place.
What is home, asked the traveler.
I am always stranded—no matter where I go.
I am homesick on both sides of the world.
It's an equal-opportunuty thing.

22 Aug., 1996? some time before Aug 24.
slightly rev. 10/28/2015

‘Bert Schierbeek Een plek’ In: Tirade. Jaargang 32

Thursday, August 15, 1996

STORM

STORM

Persistent whispering of cottonwoods 
praying for rain in the desert, 
trick the air into believing 
the deluge has come.
This far below sea level, 
the clouds dump torrents upon us. 
The street becomes rivulets 
weeping into the River Amstel.
The cottonwoods' promise 
is answered a hundredfold 
and in biblical proportions.
But this is an alien land, 
no sundance for the tree of life 
this far north from the plains 
of the Lakota Sioux.
No sun, for that matter.

Everyone complains 
that God has stolen summer.
Perhaps it's because on this continent,
they've forgotten how to dance to the sun. 
I read that Baal was the god of rain.
I thought he was the sun god.
I am reminded that Mesopotamia
wasn't always a desert.
But something is brewing.
The dust devils are restless.
The dry wadis channel flash floods
into standing waves, cresting at 6 feet,
sweeping entire villages out to sea. 
The streets are flooded in Amsterdam,
but I am safe here, below sea level,
in the canals of Amsterdam.
I am dancing in the rain,
dancing for the sun.

15 August 1996
Amsterdam
transcribed and slightly edited 24 Oct., 2015

YABYUM BORDELLO


While looking in his wife's mirror
I admire myself, in his eyes? Or mine?
He is a photographer who tries to capture
the intangible soul behind the eyes,
but never will. He lives in a flat
that was once a bank vault, 
with thick impenetrable walls.
It's appropriate that he lives

next door to the YabYum Bordello
I'm just a housesitter with benefits.
There must be something in the air,
for tonight, even the luna moths circle 

the light leaking from the YabYum Bordello.
I'm watching Vanya on 42nd St., again,
suffering from an acute lack of sleep,
age is a creeping mirror in the darkness.
Under the cover of night, men queue up, 

the neon sign flashes, in red and gold,
a door slams, they enter slowly
and push back the thought 
of encroaching old age, 
threading denial with their cocks. 
A momentary respite. While I
live like a nun above the rooftops,
the vault of sky, my witness.
Sometimes it seems the gables 
shift and sway liike tall ships.
Any port in a storm, says
the lonely cry of a seagull.
who patrols the YabYum sign,
with folded wings so like a wimple.

15 August 1996
Amsterdam
transcribed and edited 24 Oct., 2015

Wednesday, July 24, 1996

RED POPPIES


RED POPPIES
                   for Dave Hanson, painter

The cats lick red currant jam
from a Delft garden of breakfast plates,
bright poppies bleed beneath tulip tongues.

Seeking freedom of the street, silly creatures                 
lavish more lives off balconies—fallen angels
catapulting toward a dazzling span of birds.

Sentenced behind white walls, I am jailer & judge.
Imprisoned by the small accusations of rain,
they’re galloping nightmares in search of wings.

On a rumpled spine and ridge of rug, damp offering
underfoot—leaf litter dragged in by the tail—
I erode their landscape with a compulsion for order.

Alít retrieves crumpled paper, playing catch
and mouse with words I cannot return to, nor answer
her queries so carefully uttered in the tongue of cat.

Worn to a shadow scrutinizing closet corners,
Isis prowls the darkness for the lost pieces of Osiris,
meows at the door, knows the missing piece is in the street.

Alít curls, comma-hard, to sleep harder still
into the action of verb, as if shelter of rib and arm
held a consummate clause of breath and repose.

Clasping paws to head in a Gordian knot,
she’s a glottal stop at the end of a sentence,
purring a closed “O” to the sins of the street

Where fragile poppies bleed into canals reflecting
a veneration of church spires injecting
a venial anodyne well below waterline.

24 July 1996
Amsterdam
rev. 2/2001

Sunday, July 21, 1996

Memory: Robin Williams


I'm sitting on a couch in Amsterdam watching David Letterman's guest, a former love of mine, not a lover. That came later. How I loved him, still seeing him at age 19, love without words, without conversation.

At a party in Tiburon, he sat alone by the fireplace. The others all cozied up for the night. A cast party for Twelfth Night, I believe. I was the wardrobe mistress.

Just to be close to him, I toiled over the sewing machine to make costumes. They were so good that they went on to Scotland that summer for the Shakespeare Festival in Edinburgh.

Ah, Robin, that Malvolio of crossed garters. My young love, whom I followed across the campus as you did your silly walks, wearing little more than a green gym shorts and a woman's bathing cap with a strap dangling like a limp worm.

Ah Robin, once I knew you well, and I can't help but look at your face on the telly, those lips I once wanted to kiss, what but was too shy to let you know. And you wanted me too. We circled each other like moths to the flame, singeing our wings, and retreating off into the night. The danger, too present.

Once we met years later, you took me into your arms, sweating after performance at the Greek Theater, thousands of screaming fans. And held me close until I nearly suffocated. I lost your address on purpose. I couldn't reconcile the idol you had become with the young love.

Now at age 43, I contemplate my lost youth. For what it's worth. Wondering where you are, where you've gone off to, behind that mask. So strange to be thinking of you while sitting on a couch in Amsterdam. So far from home. So far from me.

7/21/1996
added 10/2015


Tuesday, July 16, 1996

HERONS AT HOTEL HEMONYHOF


HERONS AT HOTEL HEMONYHOF
                                                                                                           
   I am architect: I am prophet: . . I am the cell. . .the opening chasm…
   And  my original country is the region of the summer stars….
                                       Taliesin of the Radiant Brow
                                                      —for Paul Evans

A lone heron stands vigil before the blind eyes
of windows, seeking the other trapped behind glass:
approaches the front steps in that leggy stance,
cranes his neck as if to see around the facade,

confronts stubborn brick and marble, the oblivious guest,
returns to his post—though the mating season has passed.
The sun slips behind a cloud, the other fades as if obscured by mist.
The fisher king sees through the camera lens, strides to the street,

impervious to the leaf clutter of courting pigeons beneath his feet,
he looks back a thousand years to when the Amstel held a consummate
knotted fist of migration. Geis: a bird from the left—bad omen—
still I touch him. He preens and bows so that the dance may begin.

Centuries from home, we wheel and circle these same canals;
mirrored in our eyes, ancestral fires take flight. In exile,
we each lean toward the other, as if having caught ourselves
’scryed in the veiled windows of the otherworld.

16/7/96
Amsterdam

geis/gessa: a spell, or taboo
scry: to fortell, or see the future

Monday, July 15, 1996

Amsterdam Journal: Vins & Joos 7/15


5 PM I'm on my way to Vins's flat to be checked out by his lady. Paul asks you haven't met her yet? I say, It's somewhat strange to me too, but Vins was an old friend long before we became lovers. I just never thought I'd be riding a tram to see my ex-lover and his woman some three years later. It takes some getting used to. Being on the outs like this.

Odder yet, since I saw Jan Bogaerts yesterday, meeting with him at the Winston Kingdom a couple of hours before I was to see Paul, the widening gyre of three men, are ripping apart the very fabric of my life.

Jan ambushed me in the alley near Winston Kingdom with his Leica. I usually avoid the camera lens. I hopped off the metro and ran through the alleyways from Niewemarkt, amazed that the map actually worked. My relationship with maps is suspicious at best, I am always the most surprised when I get to my intended destination.

15 July

Sunday, July 14, 1996

Amsterdam Journal: dinner & gin

14 Sunday 1 AM

I'm back home from Paul's house. And now I'm really confused. Is it me, or him? Both of us? Is there something going on, or is it all in my head? Diffuse sexual buzz, versus pals? Or is it that men just can't help themselves? I can't tell whether he was considering seducing me or not, we were pretty cozy on the couch after dinner. And if he was truly wishing to keep his distance, he wouldn't have sat next to me like that.

I knew he was still feeling a bit addled from his wisdom teeth, no pain pills today, so he could drink wine. I keep thinking, what does he want from me? I use stories to keep our distance, to cover the questioning looks. I said I need to know how late the ferries run. Offering him a way out, and he responded by saying, If we leave now, then you can catch the last tram home. Which I did.

He rode me down to the ferry on the back of his bike, this was forgivable contact, my arms around his waist and my boobs brushing his buttocks as he pumped the petals down the streets. The stars were out, he yelled over his shoulder, It's so beautiful, and I answered, It's the first time that I've seen the stars in Amsterdam. It's so beautiful, I think I'll just ride the ferry back-and-forth all night long.

I did hug him goodbye at the ferry, because the lack of contact between us is so obvious. Everyone else is three-kissing me right left and center, but we've never so much as touched. Is it because it's a loaded issue, or is he undemonstrative like the English? Afraid I might get the wrong idea? The not-touching makes it more obvious. I keep reminding myself that each thing takes its own time wrapping its own gift. Be patient. I'm observing him, learning his patterns. Like a game of cards.

He sometimes dismisses or underplays things, so I have ask him again to see how he answers on the second or third round, and from that I learned some semblance of accuracy. For example, I asked if he understood Welsh words, and could he read a sentence? He answered, yes, after telling me he didn't know Welsh. When I questioned him he said I wasn't being precise enough. Oh?

I asked if he was using the Shell Oil building as his guide to the ferry terminal, he answered, The Galaxy Hotel. I was proposed to once in the Hotel Cosmos, I replied. What did he say? asked Paul. I said, I don't know, it was in Russian. Obviously I refused, I said, As you can plainly see.

For dinner I had brought wine and flowers from the red light district. I'd gotten them earlier with Jan Bogaerts, who met me at the Winston Kingdom. We shared oude jenevers (ancestor of gin), in tiny tulip-shaped glass filled to the brim, at Amsterdam's oldest jenever shop, Van Wees and Wynand Fockink. It tasted like I was felling a juniper tree and breathing in the sawdust. We wandered down the streets catching up with old times. I hope I'll have some time to write about him tomorrow.

Saturday, July 13, 1996

Amsterdam Journal: not enough sleep 7/13

13 Saturday

I'm to have dinner with Paul tonight, and another dinner tomorrow night with Vins and Joos. She is Vince's childhood friend whom he married after I left him three years ago. I slept until 11:30 as I got home quite late. The stop-trein took forever, I traveled from 10:15 to 1:30 AM, more than three hours getting home, and it took 2 1/2 hours on the intercity train. Then I had to walk home in the dark, following the number four tracks up Rockin, Rembrandt's Plein and Utrechtstraat, then Frederiks Plein, and across the Amstel River. I now have getting home down to a science, walking in the bikepath, the wrong direction. But what else is new?

Friday, July 12, 1996

In Wim Hofman's garden, Vlissingen

I'm painting an India ink scratchboard of Wim Hofman's garden, in Vlissingen, right after the summer solstice. Wim handed me a white gessoed scratchboard, and a bottle of india ink. It was revolutionary to work with a white surface and add shadow and wash. Completely changed my relationship to the medium.

Wim, A circle of time.
It was 1996, the great California floods were 1996-97. Ashablift Wim.

Wim Hofman  I shall try to find it out. I have photo albums and also some copies of letters ( may be). But those things are in cupboards and albums upstairs (somewhere). Or my son knows it perhaps.  
And with Frederik from Sweden and and Monica from the U.S.A. Photograph taken by Maarten Hofman. (Who now works at Google.)

 
Wim Hofman's Garden, Vlissingen, Nederlands 1996. Approx 6 x 12" India ink on scratchboard.

from a Facebook memory, added 4/2016

Amsterdam Journal: Vlissingen


There were at least 10 stops on the Brussels-Amsterdam train to Vlissingen> Being late, because I had forgotten my rail card, I had to take the slow stoptrein from Berkoff to Rosendahl and thought I would never arrive. The difference that one hour makes is cumulative, when it's the stoptrein vs. the express train.

I'm in Zeeland, at last, the houses and steeples are more like Noord-Brabant, gorgeous Flemish architecture. And Vlissingen. Happy I was to see the sun in Vlissingen, when Wim Hofman and I walked along the shore, looking into Belgium, and following the path of World War II, the places where the Germans bombed the dunes.

My Noord-Brabant impressions were not that far off. Wim's wife, Toka, is from Noord-Brabant, Wim's parents are from there also, their accent is soft and comforting. I felt so at home, as both my friends, Vins van Neerven and Jan Bogaerts, are also from there. Their daughter Magreet and I hit it right off, sometimes even shouting the same things in unison. Whether in Spanish, or in English, we were like a house afire.

Their house, The Wereld, the world, is truly the center of the world with a beautiful paved garden straight out of Provence. The house, with its three stories, is built like an old sailing ship with curved handcarved oak beams. 

The Netherlands lost most, or all of its oaks during the 18th-century for the tall ships. Wim's house, despite its venerable age, it dates back to the 1500s, has light, airy rooms, spare furniture, good rugs, cool slate floors that begged for a child's chalk drawings. .

As we walked through the town, I pointed out to Wim the red currants in the market, saying how much I loved them. Dinner consisted of pork, very long green beans, salad, potatoes, and a kind of seaweed. Toka said it was a Vlissingen specialty. It was salty but very tasty. And the red currants for dessert. I was honored.

As it turned out, they were expecting me for the weekend, but I had already bought a round-trip ticket, and I couldn't change it. We could've stayed and explored Middleburg in the morning, said Wim. I was devastated as I so wanted to explore the towns.

The light stays until 10:30 in the evening, even this far south in the Netherlands. Because of the light I was also loath to leave, and I finally felt comfortable because I was out of the city. I kept sighing to relieve the stress. I am truly happiest far from the city center, night the night life is not for me.

As it turns out Wim is fairly famous as a children's book author and illustrator with some 22 books to his credit, and he has won many prizes, etc. I feel honored to meet him, and have my art upon his wall. It turns out he also uses scratchboard for illustration. No wonder he is so interested in my work, we have parallel lives. He wrote his first book at 18th and was published by 21, a career that has never stopped. 

I like his acrylics they are full of interesting shapes and textures. I liked what I saw. Like Paul Klee, I tell him. Most of his work was in Belgium, he said. He uses to tagbard scraps from museums, like me. He prefers to recycle. 

Wim is part of a writers cooperative where, for 400 guilders, they produce a book and distribution is included—some 20 bookstores. Maybe my chapbook, Evidence of Light, would have a market that way. First, I'd have to produce a manuscript in Dutch. It's worth checking into; I'll have to tell Vins about it. 

On the boardwalk, "it isn't much, but this is where it all started. Wim points to a house of a famous writer: Hugo Verhas. I don't recognize the name.

We gazed across the river mouth into Belgium, and then walked west along the coast to the North Sea, watching the Dutch and Belgian pilot boats churn across the straits, delivering their top brass cargo to shore.

We climbed the old flour mill tower, still in use, with its quintessential Don Quixote sails, spinning like enormous gull wings, reflected in the narrow canal, a step back in time. Several steps back in time. Such stories to tell.

Amsterdam journal: train to Vlissingen 7/12


12 July

Finally I am on the 11 AM slow train to Vlissingen. I missed the 10 AM express train because my rail active pass fell out of my pocket. I had already taking the tram to the train station and then had to walk back, retracing my steps. The rail pass was in the toilet, having fallen out of my pocket. I knew it couldn't be in the street. Small grace.

But I'm terribly grumpy having missed the 10 AM train. Now I'll get into Vlissingen around 1:30 PM. I'm annoyed because the Vlissingen train ticket is 40 guilders. And I've wasted several hours already. I was planning to stay half the day at Wim Hofman”s, but luckily, during the height of summer, daylight lasts until 10:30 PM at night.

A business man in the next seat is permanently attached to his cell phone. I'm having visions of snatching it from him and stomping on it after he receives his fourth call in as many minutes. I can't blame my period for my vexation, perhaps I can blame my circadian rhythms. I was up until 6:30 AM the day before, and then sleeping until 1 PM, and then I was up at 8 AM today. Certainly, I'm a bit out of sorts.

Unfortunately I know what the problem is, I'm preoccupied with a certain Welsh poet who is 13 years my junior, and I'm trying to hold onto my attachment to Waldo, to keep from getting involved. If I'm this preoccupied, is he? Is this a mutual attraction? Or I am I completely out of my mind?

How come I never fall madly in love in the states and only on the road? Aside from the obvious usual fear of commitment, what else is different about me that I attract men outside of my own world? Also, poetry is my world, whether I'm in the Netherlands, or in California. I'm also uneasy about the fact that I seem to fall only for poets. Of course, I only hang out with poets, so that could explain some of it.

Amsterdam Journal: wrong dream 7/12


Being attracted to both Chilean poet Waldo Rojas and to Welsh poet Paul Evans is not a mutually exclusive process. I'm just not used to it. No sooner did I say goodbye to Waldo, did I meet Paul, with only two days respite in between. I met Paul at my reading at the Hotel Winston on Monday, the 24th. Charles McGeehan knows him, and I wouldn't even have come across his work, had I not gone to the reading, even though I”m collecting poems for the Mother Earth News issue.

But to meet the man first had a significant impact upon me. Each time I see Paul, it gets harder and harder to put him out of my mind. There is a moment frozen in memory where as he drank the orange juice offered, the long summer light illuminating his face, and we really looked into each other's eyes for an unguarded moment. I remember the green flecks among the brown, and his eyes, so like my own.

And I began to realize as we talked, he too was in my dreams before I came to the Netherlands. Only I mistook him for my brother. I kept thinking it was odd that my brother had a full head of hair and that there was such a sexual undercurrent. Not very comfortable. Ewww. I never been interested in my brother ever. And I couldn't seem to banish that element from the dream.

There's just enough age difference between Paul and I to keep a safe distance, to borrow a term, we”re good mates. My brother and I are closer in age, growing up. I put the man in the dream to be about age 28 and Paul is 30.

It was at the Hotel Winston Kingdom last Monday night, that the pieces began to fall into place. Our host and emcee Jacek Nichs introduced us. I need to look up the dream now but I do remember having a row with him in the dream about love, and he was chewing me out because I turned him down. And I was confused and devastated thinking it was my brother which didn't help I'm sure.

But then I wondered how does the identity process come upon in the waking world? What made me decide he was my brother in the dream? The way he looked? During the dream who was he? Did I use brother as a placeholder for whom I didn't know?

When I told Paul that he was in my dreams before I had met him, he didn't seem particularly alarmed saying that his mother and sisters were into the occult. He grew up with an Ouija board and séances.

I said this had nothing to do with the occult, I dream of the future. Precognition. It's an Irish trait, I don't particularly like it, it makes me uneasy, but that doesn't stop the dreams from happening. I told him I also dream of catastrophic events before they happen. The Challenger explosion, the Bijlmer plane wreck etc.

He laughed and said just don't tell me that I'm going to die, or something awful like that. I replied, no it has nothing it was nothing awful. I just don't remember the details. Now I'll have to look up the dream. Not wanting to give away anything in case I might sway or force the dream, I let it play out.

As he reached for his bag and leather jacket hanging from the closet door I passed close by him, marveling at his height. I never realized it before. That growing awareness of the other. Didn't give him ideas sitting on my bed like that? I was trying to act nonchalant sitting cross-legged as we typed up poems.

With both Paul and Waldo I am so at ease. Why can't I find someone like that in the states? I know that both are observing me constantly but I don't mind. Paul comments again that I'm hyperactive. I say coffee makes me even more so, I'm self-conscious about it, saying I'm trying to control it. I wonder what poems will come of it? If any?

Thursday, July 11, 1996

Amsterdam Journal: La Diaspora poets

La Diaspora poets and exiled expatriates.

Today I met with Colombian poet, Annabel Torres at the Café Français. I am collecting poems in translation for our Poets in Exile issue for Herman Berlandt.

I had trouble with waking up as Vins came over about 12 AM and didn't leave until 6 AM. Earlier I had fixed dinner for Paul Evans and had some wine. And he's on painkillers for an extracted wisdom teeth and can't drink. He did have one small glass however.

With Vins drinking coffee, I decided on some wine, but it wasn't until the last glass, that he joined me, and we got pretty snookered talking of philosophy and dialectical models. If a butterfly flapping its wings over Mexico causes a storm in China, you damn well better kill the butterfly, glibs Vins.

We tease and punt, catching up on three years, a long absence. It's odd how we can't stop talking. Beneath it all, we are truly friends. I propose to him that we make a bilingual poetry book to use his translations.

Annabel Torres says that translators get paid 80 guilders an hour, and they're only allowed to work 40 minutes at a time. And she said the simultaneous translation with two other people is the hardest kind of translation to do. And I thought of my stint translating for Waldo and Robert, I thought my head was going to explode.

People say Vins' translations of my poems are very good and this pleases him. He gets little feedback from the world. Especially with these translations. Sometimes I think he would like to do more of it. We got in a good visit. Cause and effect equals synthesis. And something on dialectics.

Earlier I was floating on air, grinning away because of Waldo's postcard, running errands because Paul was going to be here at 6 PM. Paul brought a huge whipped cream cake with fruit. I don't think anyone's ever done that for me, brought me a cake. And we had dinner, salad, couscous and steak. Moving the table around until it suited us. I think we're looking more and more into each other's eyes, and I find his presence hard to shake after he leaves.

Unfortunately I have no control when I dream of him, and here I am trying to be like an older sister, because he's only 30, and I'm 43. I think nothing of being a man 13 years my senior. But the other way around is a whole 'nother paradigm. It's a bit more ticklish and we're such an ageist society. I keep telling myself there's nothing going on, like with Waldo. Yeah, right. Or, I'm just imagining things. A fertile, overactive imagination.

Come to find out it wasn't quite so. There's a bit of a titillation going on. I'm feeling torn, entertaining two men in rapid succession like that, but Waldo's married, and gone, so the letters and flirtation are for the long-term memory banks. We will see where it goes, if anywhere. We're mates, Paul calls me a good bloke, I call him dude.

And with Paul, ach! the model is similar. We see each other every two or three days. I'm to go to his place on Saturday. Nothing untoward happens, or will it. We went for a long walk after dinner to Ouderkirk aan de Amstel, a village tower on the Amstel River, near Amstelveen, talking about everything under the sun. Especially the Celtic stuff.

Paul tells me how to pronounce Welsh words, and reads me his poem in a low voice, lounging on the bed. We are frozen in time. I just wanted to lie down with him, so easily seduced by love poems.

I typed up one poem on the computer for the upcoming exile issue. And he had to go to Jacek Nichs's birthday party at 10, but stayed until 11 PM anyway. I suppose I could've gone with him, but I really wasn't up for it, and didn't know if that would be pushing my luck. Sleep is not overrated.

Amsterdam Journal: postcard from Waldo 7/11

July 11 

Finally I received a card from Waldo and it takes some time for me to decode the written Spanish. He wrote (in Spanish):

I was very happy to receive your letter. You need time to consult the dictionary, but now with the visual contact of your writing, the magic of the words, the written words exist. I was glad to know you and I can figure it out. The moments we had together, they were few, but very intense. I will write more later, but for now, a large kiss from Paris.

Tenderly,

Waldo

I have never been to Paris. Perhaps this is as close as I'll ever get to the City of Light.

Waldo Rojas-Serrano (drawing)

Wednesday, July 10, 1996

Amsterdam Journal: time slips away, Charles McGeehan's flat 7/10

10 July

How time slips away from me. I'm feeling guilty because there is always so much to do, and I'm not trying to accomplish it. Yesterday, I stayed at home, nursing my period. Such bad cramps. I had to soak in the tub at 3 AM to relieve the pain. My cousin Sinead called from Petaluma, she has an international line at work. She said to go out on the day trips and don't let the time fritter away.

I've been in Holland nearly a month now, and I have done very little by way of touristing. And I was so busy with Poetry International the first two weeks, I was truly exhausted by the time I got to Charles McGeehan's flat.

Charles is Bert Schierbeek's official translator. And then not having a physical space to sleep, was truly distressing. Charles lives in complete and utter chaos. Every room in the house is filled with paper, and there are tiny rabbit warrens where you can move from room to room. A lot of my time was spent in making his place habitable. Herman was right at home here. Neither have any domestic skills.

But I have limits. I literally slept mid-book stacks and made my bed with blankets on top of boxes of poetry. I was pretty busy during the first week at Charles's flat making some semblance of order out of decades of chaos. If we weren't on the ground floor, we'd be in danger of capsizing. Perhaps because Charles has had brain surgery, is why he's so chaotic. But Herman has no excuse.

Moving here was the first respite I've had in months and months. What did you do when you are truly tired, and need a rest? And too tired to rest? Fill it with things to occupy your time? Or catch up? My heavy periods didn't help. You're supposed to do things on vacation. I'm merely existing, living Dutch, as I always have, whenever I come here. My morning ritual of Dowe Egberts espresso, and wafer-thin slices of ouda Amsterdam cheese on dark bread toast sustains me.

Still so much to do. Visit Wim Hofman in Vlissingen, Maya/Maija in Almeer, and Jan Bogaerts in Liessel. I'm still not sure if we're going to France with Bertaijn, Bert's sister, and Charles' ex-wife, next weekend. A part of me is waiting for Waldo to call, dammit.

I still want to go museum-ing here and in Rotterdam. I gravitate towards museums the way others visit pubs or clubs. I still want to visit Leiden and Utrecht and Gouda. Groeningen is out as Maria van Daalen is teaching in Iowa.

I need to finish my translation article on Breyten Breytenbach and I need to find an Afrikaans dictionary in order to finish my translations of Breytenbach's work. I am writing an article on Poetry International for Poetry Flash, perhaps interview Martin Mooij and Jules Deelder, the Night Mayor of Rotterdam, for it truly is the end of an era.

I'm hurt because Vins hasn't called me, or Marcel Koops, or Jan Bogaerts—for that matter so much for old friends.

Tuesday, July 9, 1996

Amsterdam journal: dream sequence 7/9


At 1AM, it was a mad run down the streets after a guzzling a second Guinness bought by a friend of Paul's, whose boyfriend and translator David, read a short story. Her name was Josie or Yoski, as she said it, an ex-potter

I now know who Paul is, that dream in which I mistook my brother for him, so he's on my path too. The relationship I have with Paul is very much like the dream, he somewhat resembles my brother, except for the hair, so that”s why I assumed it was my brother, a long time ago. I didn't realize that it wasn't my brother. I just thought he was had a full head of hair because it was a dream.

When Paul tilts his head down, it's scary how much he looks like my brother, not so much full on, but the brow is the same.

Ever the gentleman, Paul bought me a Guinness when I joined him. How simple. This is what I need, friends who will take me by the hand. He brought me a poetry book from England, Poetry Review, lots of articles about the Irish poets and I am in hog heaven. There is a wonderful comfort sitting next to him, nothing untoward, mind you. His role in my life will be revealed in time.

I invited him over for dinner, or for tea if he preferred. If you would like… Yes he said, double-checking that I had his number. Last time we met, I was 25 minutes late. He said Next time it's my turn to be late. Ouch!