Thursday, September 10, 1998

Ego dancing


Down at the lake my equilibrium is restored by watching the wild geese swim towards the sunset. Preternatural fall is in the air. The geese fly back towards the darkness that is east. I am drunk on light, or is it the glass of wine? I've packed all my things, I'm ready to go. I need to finish up with a few household chores, defrost the fridge, back up my email. I fix the hem on his new pants, iron the tux shirt, take a shower. It feels good to wrap up the loose ends. Drawing the runes gives me courage... He's late, home from school, and I'm down at the lake avoiding him. How our egos dance!

Thursday, August 20, 1998

OMAGH BOMBING

OMAGH BOMBING

Am I a traitor to my race,
I drink Scots whisky.
and contemplate the half-life of The Troubles 
when the Plantation of Ulster's shame grew.

And the bones in that rough field 
sprouted another generation of hatred. 
We read about Omah in the papers
how the bombs dissected limbs of the innocent
and rearranged them into Daliesque clocks 
dripping from hedgerows and curbs. 

The Afghans have a saying:
I have never known sorrow, 
no it is a field I have inherited,
and I till it anew.

Meanwhile the disappeared in Africa 
have settled home into the earth's bosom,
without a trace. No witnesses. Meanwhile,
in the Gulf, we retaliate, I learn from the news,
a new word, preemptive, as in preemptive strike.
Death is death is death. Are we at war again?

And Omagh. Neil frets, his cousins 
will surely know some of the dead. 
I went to buy film at that shopping center, he said. 
This man who shares my food 
broke down and cried. As I held him, 
I told him tonight that I loved him. 
And already he's making plans of escape, 
as if love were a grenade 
waiting to rearrange the heart.

Today is my grandmother's birthday. 
She, who kept alive the fire within me,
Kindled the holy flame within me 
so that I would bear witness. 
The grand design continues to work
through you, she said.

I grab a book from the shelf, 
John Montague's Rough Field 
because I like the title and it reminds me 
of Seamus Heaney's collection, The Field. 
A good Irish read, I thought. That's the ticket.
Except Omagh crept from the pages.
After near nearly 30 years, we are 
recycling the violence that is Ulster.
She who kept the flame alive within me, 
a decade gone, to Tír na nÓg, or Hy Breasil,
or whereever the dead go to congregate. 
Ulster, the amber coating my glass, uisge beatha,
a Kabbalah of whispered secrets & peat fires. 

Neil, fresh back from the Highlands, 
bade me to promise that if he died soon,
to carry his ashes to Iona, Columcille
Columba, no doves rested in his breast.
Neil's namesake. Middle name 
that which spans the fathers, 
and the clan name. 
Neil's name repeats itself, 
a stutter in history, a chieftain's son, 
born in Scotland, because Columba 
turned his back on Ireland. But Neil's father
worked the land of his ancestors, 
with plough and turf shovel in Omah, Tyrone.
Where does one pain begin and another and?
Neil chastises me for not writing this past year. 
How I've been in purgatory for loving an O'Neill?
But as Montague says, one must begin at home.
Violence blossoms in Africa, in Ireland,
and now the Sudan. And then Afghanistan.
What fields have we inherited
beneath this vast bloodless sky?

The worst bombing in 30 years, someone said.
Kate Perry emails us a chain letter from Dublin
condemning the violence. What can we do,
so far from home. The garden of mankind.

A friend once misheard the word violence
and thought of violins playing.
But even violins aren't enough
to soothe us. No, our music is
missiles whistling a seamless melody
as they zero in on the target
with such ease. Preemptive strike.
Pogo was right, we were the enemy.
Ourselves, alone.

20 August 1998 
my grandmother's birthday

Omagh Bombing (prose) part 2


While Irish minds marvel over the Celtic inferiority complex. How much longer must we suffer? I think of Tocharian mummies 4000 years dead, in their plaids and sun tattoos, faces as familiar as kin, guarding the Silk Road.

Lately the news has been ladened with images of Ulster men and references to World War I, the Battle of the Somme. Or am I newly sensitized, how do I desensitize myself to it for the cosmic links and the laws of averages.

But the words Colrane, and the Foyle have a different attack on my psyche.

Neil is playing the Protestant priest in Frank McGuinnes's play, Behold the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme. He is playing against type.

At the end they all put on their orange sashes, I didn't know what it signified, but it made me shudder anyway. O'Donnell Abu was the name of the song, we never called it the Old Orange Flute. It wasn't until I stood in Leiden looking upon the statue of King Billy, or William of Orange, that the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place.

In late spring we used to suck on the oat grass joints, sweet with sap, piggyback thistles and oats from Europe, Spain and Scotland, non-native species. Always I've lived a life of identifying what belongs where, acutely aware that I'm a long way from the land of my ancestors.

I am Irish when it pleases them, or I am American when it pleases them. No one asks what pleases me. The blood of my ancestors, or the land of my birth, as if one annotated the other.

So what of those who came to Ulster? Are they Scots or Irish? Where does bloodline leave off, and nationality begin? And why is it so horrific? 

Neil chastises me for drinking his whisky, is if I'd asked for something unattainable, like his heart. The thornless magenta rose I planted is about to bloom and already he is asking me to leave. The potatoes have yet to be harvested, and he is asking me to leave because I might get too close.

Tobar is Irish for the well, the sacred spring. I drink sacred water uisce beatha. In every language, it is the water of life. Mea maxima culpa.

The summer fog lifts long enough to reveal the turquoise jewel of the bay and it resonates against the flame trees on Bay Street, and the rust red of the Golden Gate Bridge. The straits of Chrysopylae shimmer like molten gold.

Yes, this city is the city of judgment, the judgment of Paris, an apple in the lap of California on this 150th anniversary of the Gold Rush. Gold flakes in a bottle, a souvenir from the feather River, where I toiled for pieces of the sun. And put them in the vial.

Omagh Bombing (prose) part 1

Omagh Bombing

20 August, my grandmother's birthday.

As if a traitor to my race, I drink scotch whisky, the half-life of the Troubles, when the Plantation, and Ulster's shame, grew restive, and the bones sewn in that rough field, sprouted another generation of hatred.

As we read about Omagh and how the bombs dissected the limits of innocent children into Daliesque clocks dripping from hedgerows and curbs. The Afghans have a saying: I have never known so much sorrow. Now it is a field I have inherited, and I till it.

Meanwhile the bodies of the dead in Africa settled home into the earth's bosom. We retaliate. I learn from the news the meaning of pre-emptive strike. Are we at war again?

 And Omagh. Neil frets. His cousins surely know some of the dead. I went to buy film at that shopping center, one survivor said. This O'Neill who shares my food, I told him tonight that I love him and already he is making plans of escape, as if love were a grenade, ready to rearrange the heart.

Today is my grandmother's birthday. She, who kept alive the fire in me, kindled like the holy flame of Rome within me so that I would bear witness.

The grand design continues to work through me, and at random, I grab a book from the shelf, John Montegue's Rough Field, because I liked the title and it reminded me of Seamus Heaney's The Field. A good Irish read, I thought, except Omagh crept in from the pages anew after 30 years, recycling the violence that is Ulster.

She, who kept the flame alive within me, a decade gone, Tír na nÓg, or to Hy Breasil, or whatever the place where the dead congregate.

The amber coating of uisce beatha and the whispering secrets of extinguish peat fires. Neil is fresh back from the Highlands, but he bade me promise that if he died soon, to carry his ashes to Iona, Colum Cille's Isle.

Neil's middle name is Columba, but no doves rested on his breast, Neil's namesake. A name that spans the father's and the clan's name. Neil's name repeats itself, a starter in history, a chieftain son, born in Scotland because St. Columba turned his back on Ireland.

Neil's father worked the land of his ancestors, Tír Eoghan, Tyrone, Omagh and Strabawn. Where does one poem get begin and another in? Neil chastises me for not writing. This past year have I been in purgatory for loving an O'Neill? But as Montague says, one must begin at home.

Violence blossoms in Africa, and Ireland, and now the Sudan and Afghanistan. What fields have we inherited beneath this vast sky? The worst bombing in 30 years. Kate Perry email us a chain letter condemning the violence.

A friend once misheard the word violence and thought of violins playing. I saw gangsters toting violin cases.

The Rough Field, an garbh achaidh. Should I be drinking Bushmills? A Protestant whiskey? Hugh O'Neill sleep sound in his bed.

Lamb dearg abu, the knife slipped and my left hand, red with the blood. The Red Hand of Ulster? I crossed myself, out of habit and think of the poetry plumping in the garden end Tyge buried in John's name. The Catholic slur. I learned well at my grandmother's knee. She gave me the Cailleach's skeleton one Halloween, Samhain and burned the candles.

My grandmother dabbing uisce beatha behind her ears like a rare Arabian perfume.

Will you dance with O'Neil
in an Irish battlefield?

But we chose the vast plains of the grafted tongue, and the only real famine in our lives is the lack of love. Did I have the music? Was it within me? It was attached to the words of an alien tongue nesting in my mouth. Wild Gaelic vowels, unbidden like feral cats beneath the sodium lamp, that darker permanence of ancient stones formed in the mouth.

As a child, I dressed my fingers and foxgloves, fairy bells, my grandmother said. Digitalis, pointing to her heart. Mo chroidhe, she said. I cannot separate the heart from the small trumpets that dressed my fingers in the medicine of the heart.

And thus, I learned about poison and trespassing, as if happiness was meant solely for others. I learned how to say the words for love, heart, and blood in several languages.

As if to draw on the fire. Who do I celebrate? My grandmother who suffered the tongues of Americans—WASPs stinging her with words as she boarded the cable car in her third trimester. My mother stirring crazily in the womb.

Mount Tamalpais rises up, a sleeping maiden against a flawless August sky. How many can claim such a place as their beginning? For, I began there, was it beneath an oak tree growing out of the dolmen at sunset, or was it in the backseat of an old Chevy or Ford? No matter, I exist. Anyway. The twin deaths of my parents, long-divorced, a cosmic joke.

The pain gathering in my mother's nervous hands fed her, until her breasts glowed. Light leaking into the cellular darkness. The idea populates my mind, the generational pool towards a further light, the identity we run from, or try to deny it like St. Paul.

The odor of my grandmother's white hair nested on Neil's head. And I caress the confusion of his hair that is also my grandmother's hair, I have no desire to delineate the vagaries of the heart.

Is it so hard to look into the eyes of the living? My mother's eyes, long dead before the final curtain. The pale, exquisite beauty, as she stood in the floodlights. Limelight, once the brightest of lights, beckoned, and the wild applause. Later, she couldn't distinguish between the audience of the stage and the audience of the streets. Ministering angel of the marginalized, no angels came to her rescue in the end.

Lately the earth's been trembling through no fault of her own. And the rational ones begin to discuss earthquakes, weather, and the Richter Scale. The house moans in your absence, as if keening for you, as you deliberate between the land of your birth, and the land of your life, the family closing in.

What if what you desire is also what you abhor? A hollow note from the next offering, that was your youth, you confess your frozen heart is irrepairablly damaged. You ask me not to get attached to outcomes, or have expectations, s if you owned the patent on loneliness, that blind animal rising from the abbeys of shunted desire and pain, towards nothingness.

The siren replaces the banshee's wail in this swollen city of crack and the timetable of the net high metered out. The landlord says you can time the arrival of the welfare checks by the speed of the dealers driving on the shoulders of the freeway. The iceplant, punished for the burning flame in the veins of those who've assembled at the altar of misconceptions.

I remember the nuns telling us not to chew the wafer, to let it melt on our tongues, but they also told us the rain was God's tears. I knew I wasn't that bad though my mother caught me scolding myself as a child, saying: Bad girl! Bad girl! A mantra to carry me forth. It was then that I knew God was peeing on us. Clear, and simple. We were shyte.

And the old women, dressed in mourning black, believed, believed, like my aunt who pleaded with me to believe so that I would be saved when the time came, for the Man Upstairs.

The Bread God obviously never stood in the bread lines of Russia, as I did, in the bitter cold of winter, in Leningrad, only to arrive empty-handed. Body of Christ.

And my Soviet boyfriend, a fanatic believing every word to be true. Darwin is dead. My cousin teaches a dead language to the young who have no fear of dying.

Bog Latin commemorates the hedge schools where we cobbled together bits of history that will scar us into the next generation.



Sunday, August 9, 1998

Pat Wall, Modern Art Dealer: 3 Henry Miller and the Avant Guardians (journal)



Amazing to spend the morning reading about the Pat Wall Art Gallery and its wild guests, then to look around Micaela's room and see the very art mentioned in the reviews. The Avant Guardians are watching over me as I sleep.

I'm looking at Henry Miller's self-portrait with its red and green five sided frame, the brushstrokes are deft. Henry, supposedly in his 50s, stared back at me across the years, a young man with sallow skin and Prussian blue ears and nose. 

You painted what you liked, Henry. I hope you died happy. Henry looks a bit like Oleg Atbashian, which puts me off a bit. Self-absorbed men. Was it the talent that made them so self-absorbed, or was it the rank self-absorbtion that allowed them to become so talented?

I recognize so many of the paintings: McClatchy's Door. Several Graham paintings: Lament, and The Beginning of War. Other unnamed pieces. When Graham and Miller became rather famous, things changed. 

In the early 1970s, I remember traveling to someone's house under the Bixby Bridge to see Henry Miller's watercolors. I was not duly impressed. But I dutifully read everything that Miller ever wrote, so I felt compelled to witness the paintings too. I think I was reading Nexus at the time.

I think the owner was rather hoping that we'd buy a painting, but we were as penniless as Miller was when he moved to Big Sur. Micaela has more articles on Henry Miller's watercolors. Wish I had time to read them all.

Henry moved to Big Sur in 1943 and lived in a tent alongside the highway, he was already living the life of Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, it was a cult of sex and anarchy on the coast. He said, "I'm not perverse, but the idea of looking through a keyhole fascinates me."

A keyhole in a tent? I asked myself. And thought of camera obscurae.

April 14, 1947: Henry Miller talked about how his paintings morphed from landscape into fish. I wonder if that's a reference to his Red Fish? 

Said Miller, "When I paint I have a lot of fun but I feel I'm on a tight rope. I'm jittery sometimes when I start out to do a landscape I end up with a fish I worried about this until the other painter said they do the same thing."

I had to laugh, Mike Goldberg's painting, Sardines, came to mind. See, Frank O'Hara's poem Why I Am Not a Painter sums it up nicely.
....I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.
Pat Wall's art gallery became the focal point in a Harpers article on the new west coast cult of "sex and anarchy." A Times reporter descended, to buy a Miller painting, then left for the East Coast, calling it Paris of the West. Miller was a Paris expat, so he had several threads going. The race was on.

About the same time, the restless New Mexico contingencies (Wilfred Lang and Co.), were experiencing hot flashes, the Age of Light was born. (My grandmother's niece was working on the Manhattan project).

And somehow the role of art went from the cultured confines of the City of Light to the Age of Light. Miller detonated a moral code in Big Sur. The world fell apart, the center did not hold.

Henry must've loved exhibiting his thermonuclear watercolors next to the surrealist nudes of Dutch oil painter, Cock van Gent (a she!), and Edward Weston's extreme close-up photos of bell pepper buttocks.

The Grahams, Toni & Ed Ricketts, James Broughton, Virginia Varda, Dr. Rodin, Henry Miller's physician, and someone named Brewsie were among those attending. Everyone signed the register as Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so, as if that slender slice of decorum could contain the avant guardians.

I assume that Micaela's mother, Rosalind Sharpe, a Bixby Canyon girl, was not yet part of the wild art scene at Pat's Monterey gallery on Olivier Street. Where does painter Bright Bonnier fit in? And whatever happened to Sue's daughter Hyale (sp)? Who was her father?

Speaking of brewsies, Pat Wall said that for the openings, he provided a large punchbowl filled with tea with lemons, laced with a bottle of cooking sherry. Guests were expected to provide the booze—it all went into the punchbowl, indiscriminately. That was the price of admission. And well doctored, they all were until dawn.

I remember Miller's Red Fish, one of the paintings in the controversial show at Pat's gallery. Love the price list ranging from $5 to $400 (Graham). One could pick up a Varda from $25 to $175. (Varda had to bolt his paintings to the walls of the Charles van Damme to keep people form stealing them. I loved admiring my ten-year-old fragmented self in his mirrored mosaics painted in cobalt and crimson.)

Of course, Pat sold next to nothing. Nobody who attended had any money to buy art.  He squandered his inheritance on a dream of art. But because of his vision, the art world imploded on itself, and was forever changed. Art dealers looked to the West for inspiration.

rev. 6/17

Part 1 & 2

Pat Wall, Modern Art Dealer: 2 Betty Wall (journal)

Pat & Betty Wall, me, Arthur Boericke, Fort Bragg 1971

One of Pat Wall's gallery artists, Joseph Albers, a Bauhaus student and teacher, painter and poet, taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina with Jean Varda. Varda I remember from the Sausalito houseboat days when I used to stay at Pat and Betty Wall's house. Micaela, Chris and I often played on the Charles van Damme ferryboat.

I knew Walter Gropius's name would eventually crop up in this crowd. Too bad the Hexagon House in Guerneville burned down. We used to go to tea dances there in the early 1980s. I remember sitting on a tall stool admiring that open beam work.


Another clipping on top of the scanner: thieves broke into Picasso's home, took his clothes, took his money a radio, but left the art. Thieves also broke into a Berkeley woman's house to steal a painting by Dan Harris. Who is Dan Harris?

Names from my childhood kept cropping up. Sue Wall dressed as a girl sucking on a lollypop, a painting by by Dan Harris. Pat's other wives: Rosalind Sharp, Mrs. Margaret Lane. Did those women have any idea what was in store for them? Still in their separate identities. 

Pat would later divorce Sue and marry Rosalind and have two children, Micaela and Chris. Meanwhile Mrs. Lang and Wilfred Lang separated… Which one? My God is that a reference to Betty Wall, Micaela's stepmother and Pat's third wife? 

So, who was married to Wilfred at the time? I can't imagine Betty as the "other' woman. But they all were "other" women, one way or another. Betty was more of a mother to me than anyone else in my life, certainly my own mother—besides my grandmother that is… The other women who raised us. Art was also the other woman.

Aug 9, 1998
added 6/17 slight revisions

Banana

Pat Wall, Modern Art Dealer: Ellwood Graham (journal)



When I was a child, my eyes feasted on the paintings collected by my best friend's father, Pat Wall, when he was an art dealer in Monterey during the 1940s. Pat's gallery was on Olivier Street, we never did collect his oral history, so this is a placeholder for what we collectively remember. We also didn't realize that Pat singlehandedly changed the face of West Coast art with his unorthodox exhibits.

Pat, who was from Jersey, the Channel Islands, UK, came to California with his inheritance and a dream of art. He took a chance on the local "moderns" and this is how I got to know the work of Ellwood Graham who "painted out loud" with lots of hot colors. His abstract portrait of John Steinbeck was controversial at the time—circa the 1940s.

What I loved were how Graham's personal hieroglyphics, or pictogram paintings which were almost quilt-like in nature, I loved the way the heavy dark colors were a combination of thick impasto, a drawing, and transparent glaze. A doodle, a half a whale (the tail end) captivated my attention. He compared his work to a composer working on a "musical canvas." Graham painted an egg tempera mural in the Ventura Post Office. Is it still there?

So much history attached to those paintings of Pat's. There was John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts, known as Doc Ricketts— they too were juxtaposed in Graham's work. It was John Steinbeck who told the artist to paint out loud imagine that—paint out loud. Graham moved to Monterey because of John Steinbeck.
Steinbeck also created in Graham's [Monterey] studio. He wrote Sea of Cortez while Graham rendered his portrait. Of course he sold the painting to Steinbeck, but "I kept some studies and sketches." 'Where is that portrait now? "People have been calling me for years... I don't know." he says, "I haven't seen it in over 50 years."

Then he adds, "That portrait was very good... I hear it was bought by Burgess Meredith but I also heard it belonged to John Huston. —from Alta Vista Magazine, 1992 "Ellwood Graham: Never Say Die," Susan Lea Hubbard (see bottom of this post for more stories).
In Micaela's room is the Graham painting her father left her. I am transported back in time to our childhood. We practically lived together. We were inseparable as children. Like Samese twins joined at the hip.

It wasn't until adolescence that we drifted. Micaela was lured into the world of music and drugs. It was the Summer of Love, a watershed year for many of us. She was too young for sex and drugs but not for rock 'n' roll. An overbearing father pushed her out the door too soon.

It took Micaela an half a lifetime to come back home to herself. So when I look at the paintings on her walls, pieces of those worlds not only decorate the walls of her house, but her inner house as well.

I realize that's what Graham was doing compressing a personal archaeology into a rectangle of color and geometric form.


Scattered amid xeroxes of my own work and her fiber art, and recent pastels, a  checkerboard history on the walls.

On top of the scanner I find an article about Graham called The Gift of Love. It was comprised of section notes that he took as he cared for his dying wife. Her face emerges from the grid, ghostlike, for she is dead. As his he. But not the memory.

For a long time I quit being an artist, thinking what's the use? I was bored with the photographic approach most artist were embracing at the time. This was during the heyday of my former art teacher, Bob Bechtel, whose work I absolutely could not stand. The camera could do it, so why should I spend hours laboring on something that could be captured in the fraction of a second? I switched mediums I ran from Art I got my degrees but I left town.

For a long time, I measured minute increments of time, my shutter slicing off random bits of shadow and light. I wanted color for my palette. I wanted light and shadow—and that became my medium.

Then I read this article on Elwood Graham who compared most paintings to creative photography. He said that singularity is the is the rarest ability and any artform. This is why our way of saying that a work of art should have the impact of the artist. This was from a man who painted Robinson Jeffers' twins: one extrovert, the other an introvert. He said they later grew up that way too.

I read through other memorabilia of Pat Wall's gallery. I remember sitting in the shadowed stairwell one summer afternoon as Micaela told me of her father's gallery, and of his first wife, Susan.

Bob and I later went to the place where Pat's gallery once stood. What was I looking for? By that time I knew the the names: Henry Miller Jean Varda, Andre Moreau, Pablo Picasso, and Wilfred Lang. Now I could put it all together in retrospect. But when I was young, they were a litany of mysterious names.

July 15, 1947 the Wall Gallery shows the work of Joseph Albers, who later went on to Black Mountain College. And I thought how intertwined the world of poetry and art really was. I thought of Charles Olsen's Call Me Ishmael. Am I not an artist, or am I a half-artist when I don't practice? Am I Ishmail because my pen has been so silent?

9/8/1998
added, somewhat revised 6/17. This is probably a much bigger assignment than what I originally signed up for. So I broke it into sections. But that also requires revision and I'm trying to fill in old work, not recreate it.


Bohemian Housewarming Party

Tuesday, July 28, 1998

Saltspring Island (placenames) (Journal entry)


I awoke thinking of Salt Spring Island. Phrases we once said: We're going to Ganges for some Labatt's Blue. We're going up Mount Vesuvius and Mount Maxwell. Salt Point, Long Harbor, Indian Wells. So many orphan names attached to memory. Now mere fragments.

This place is the haven of wildlife artist Robert Bateman, and of movie stars: Al Pacino Patrick Stewart, Robin Williams. We never saw any.

But I do remember all the nesting eagles at Beaver Point. Like Christmas tree ornaments. The pictogram that I carved into living rock. A Kwakiutl sun face design for the solstice.

I remember naming the deer. We camped at Henry Ruckle's farmstead at Beaver Point, Now Ruckle Provincial Park.

And the odd bits: the first to arrive were nine slaves in 1857. They landed in Vesuvius Bay, the northwest corner of the island. Refugees from California. Last time I was on  Salt Spring Island, it was a refuge for draft dodgers, from the Vietnam war. Bob was thinking of defecting. We were looking for a place to call home.

A cultural crossroads on the Gulf islands. The Hawaiians, the Kanakas (Polynesian for human beings) whose descendants still live here. We visited the Hawaiian graves at Fulford Harbour, at St. Paul's Church, some dating back to 1885. No markers for the First Peoples, the Salishan and Saanich.

7/28/1998
rev. 6/17

Friday, July 24, 1998

Dream: Robin Williams


7/24: Last night I dreamt I was hanging out with Robin Williams, and it seems so real. I was amazed that he remembered me after all these years. After all, I haven't seen him since 1983. And despite all those years since College of Marin, (1970-1973), I was surprised to discover that a part of me still loves him. 

I awoke with a sensation that one doesn't ever really fall out of love, it just moves over for another person, like a lazy dog at the hearth. And so, I chose Bob Hamilton, or should I say, he chose me, because I was too shy to pursue Robin, and he was too shy to pursue me. I was left standing in the field.

 Imagine how different my life would've been if. If we had managed to handle the mating dance? But now, more years than I care to imagine, have passed. What is the half-life of a first love? If requited, or not? 

I dreamed we'd absolved all that self-confessed shyness. I regret all the lost years. I said, too bad we weren't in touch when you did Moscow on the Hudson. We could've practice our Russian. Yours was pretty good, I said. But mine's better.

There wasn't a romantic twist to the dream. We were just glad to see each other after all these years. But our lives, once intertwined, were interrupted, and I lost sight of him, both literally and figuratively. And the world claimed him, as he lost sight of himself.

7/24/1998

Thursday, July 23, 1998

Remembering Lloyd Bridges



On March 10, 1998, Lloyd Bridges died. I remembered him when I was a child, How he held me on his knee, threw me into the air until I screamed with delight, and he gave me a crystal star necklace. He said he had a daughter just like me. Lindy. He was like a father to me that summer in Sacramento .where my mother designed costumes for a live TV program, a weekly series, Music Circus.

I remember Lloyd on stage as Sky Masterson, sitting at the table pounding his fists, in Guys and Dolls. And there was also a ballet dream sequence. The set was draped in purple tulle netting. The magic of theater had me hooked. I later dressed up in those scraps of purple tulle pretending I was a ballerina. Twirling in the basement. 

The crystal star, it slipped behind the backseat of our neighbor Agnes's Pontiac. I remember frantically searching for it, heartbroken. But she was too drunk to care, or to help me find it. Can't stand the odor of Bourbon to this day.

Now I hang crystals in my windows to catch and spin light, just like that crystal star Lloyd gave me. I watched that man on TV religiously every week. Sea Hunt would eventually lead me to the sea. I can't get enough of that underwater realm.  Magic.

It was like swimming inside a crystal, mirrored endless light. I gazed at it that summer in Sacramento, dangled it in the motel pool, playing my own game of Sea Hunt. But Jeff and Beau wouldn't play with me. They knew their father wasn't Captain Mike.

I have a vague recollection of them, two blonde boys in the deep end of the pool. But I was too shy, and only six. But I adored Lloyd. I was too young to care about things like autographs or photos. 

As I watch the biography of Lloyd on TV, a floodgate of memory opens up. And yes, I was really there. I remember fragments of my childhood and maybe someday I'll write about it.


7/23/1998

Tuesday, July 21, 1998

Intruders of Imagination


I've been cleaning, marveling that I can even do such simple work. I'm patching the tiles of the kitchen floor with acrylic paint and Fixall. I realize I've already dreamed of doing this before, a déjà vu moment, and I say to myself, Neil will call today, and so he does. I'm depressed, it's 4 AM for him in Scotland. I told him I had night terrors when he left. I was screaming at shadows, intruders of the imagination waiting at the door.

7/21
added, rev slightly 6/17

Sunday, June 28, 1998

Catering to the Catered (journal entry)


I'm waiting for the Boyd people to show up. It's 7:50 AM. I could've had another cup of tea. I rode in on BART, everything still new, but it's not as overwhelming as before. I'm sitting in the hall of the SF Mart, an orphan in service black and whites.  I could have used that last cup of tea, I'll be upset if they don't arrive by 8 AM as I struggled to get here on time. I'm early again because I don't know the ropes. How close to shave it in terms of time?

What was I dreaming? Evaporated, the alarm jostled me back to this world, and for some reason, I have such strong memories of Leningrad and Amsterdam whenever I ride BART or the metro. That link with Europe via the underground railway. It's the odor, and I think how an entire culture exists underground, even if it's only transitory. Not just the vendors, or the homeless, but those enroute, as well as those who are always caught between worlds, never arriving.

7/28/1998
added 6/17

Sunday, June 21, 1998

Catering the US Open Golf Tournament


21 June, 1998, the longest day of the year, and the last day of the US Open golf tournament at the Olympic Club where we're working. The caterers Ridgewell's, the sixth largest catering company in the United States, also caters White House events. They give us many rules. We are an invisible tuxedoed army.

This is how we celebrated the first anniversary of our car accident, and Neil's 44th birthday. As penguins in cumberbuns and bowties.

It's been interesting working the event. We're stationed in the Bayer Aspirin cabana. I now have catering experience under my belt. A new skill. Light bartender, server, sous chef, even busboy experience, all in one job. I was having to fluff out my résumé. I didn't expect to do it at the Olympic Club.

We had ringside seats at the Bayer cabana. The Bayer representatives take pity on me and offer me some aspirin. When Tiger Woods stepped up to put, you could hear the reverence roll like a wave over the links. It was a holiness of sorts. Everyone was dressed in woolen kneepants and Argyle socks, as if they stepped out of the 19th century. I looked for Model T cars on the horizon. Mostly Caddies in the parking lot. Even a Rolls Royce or two. It's that kind of crowd.

I learn words like birdie and mulligan and wondered about the backstory, what Irishman did what to get that one named after him.

We were hired through a connection of Neil's, a Marin caterer, Fred Martin. It's sporadic money at best, I needed to earn something anyway. We've been so exhausted each evening, so it's a training ground, or a battlefield where we attempt to prove our mettle.

added, revised 6/17

Saturday, June 20, 1998

Asleep in the bath


I'm mad at Neil for hogging the tub. I asked him not to stay in the bath until 2 AM, so he lumbered out at 1:30 AM. Meanwhile, I fell asleep on the couch, exhausted. And then it was too late to take a shower or so I thought. But then, because I needed a bath, I couldn't sleep. So, I crawled off to sleep in the bath, Norwegian Wood style. Every muscle aching. But the water was too cold. More grueling punishment tomorrow at the US Open to watch Tiger Woods rack it in.

Saturday, May 9, 1998

Full Moon Over Lake Merritt


Saturday's full moon over Lake Merritt. I found in the mud, a horse jawbone, encrusted with barnacles and tube worm casings. Blackened as if it had been burned. I took it home and bleached and cleaned it. I always wanted a horse jaw, or skull. So, I didn't get the whole thing. Still, I am pleased for the horse is the totemic animal of my dreams, of creativity. The horse, the archer, first full moon in May, magic is afoot.

We walked around the lake, a long line of goslings came tumbling down the hill to the safety of water. The super flock had grown up, teenagers now. We counted 36 goslings. A few domineering mothers had kidnapped, goose-napped all the others babies. As someone said, you can't get much cuter than that. As they waddled up the embankment to splash about and drink from a mud puddle, and to nibble on the grass, they were a superfamily: brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles and relatives by proximity. What could top that?


May 1998
Lake Merritt, Oakland



Sunday, May 3, 1998

Home alone on a Saturday night


Yesterday I was miffed at Neil for not showing up for dinner at six, he had gone to see Vito. Well, an evening transpired, he had his guitar with him, and the women of the sangam were there. He eventually called near 8 PM. I went out for a walk around the lake and he still hadn't returned, so I did some errands, arriving home after 10 PM.

I was talking with my cousin when he finally came in, and I was bugged because I was in the hurry up and wait mode all that time, and I had already fix dinner by the time he had called. Sinead calm me down as I tend to take off when my mind gets going. But I was the one home alone on a Saturday night while he was out playing.

Mauve is a color


We're in the emergency room at Highland Hospital. Neil's bleeding again. Frank blood. Stretchers coming in right and left with the crazies seeking shelter for the night.

A woman, whose contractions are coming in three minute intervals, tells me the pain is bad it is unbearable. She doesn't know the English for midwife, and I don't know the Spanish. We chitchat. Some women have been here for over five hours. I'm beginning to feel faint. Some are screaming, others are moaning hopelessly.

Neil wrote his will while waiting. We ran his lines for Malvolio. I am an executrix of his will along with Allison. He bequeaths his Ovation guitar to me. I don't want it.

Some of the paramedics are as crazy as the crazies. One explains to the other that mauve is a color, like lavender, only different, as a crazy accuses another of being gay.

Neil says, be warned that someone could pull a gun. He is called into a waiting room. The crazy says all the homosexuals run the mental institutions. You know like Cuckoo's Nest. They wheel in a big jovial Indian man dressed in mauve, with swollen crippled feet, his toes have all curled underneath with ingrown nails. He will never walk again.

Neil comes back to say it'll be a while, six people in front of him it's been crazy back there as well. He looks particularly handsome tonight though he's been bleeding on the inside. He reads to me from the yoga journal about love, the heart, and relationships Aha! he exclaims, always looking for exterior signs, that's about us. Lately he's been questioning why we're still together, I think. Mauve is a color, only different, I tell him.

Sunday, April 26, 1998

DIVIDING MORNINGS BY AFTERNOONS

DIVIDING MORNINGS BY AFTERNOONS

All this new math asks the impossible:
I divide morning by afternoon
to arrive at a total bird count.
Let me go, like the water iris 

fisting its way towards death,
for I have seen the day lose its breath
 as the sky blanched and contracted.
 Another crisis averted, a dress rehearsal

converted into an equation for living
one's life the appropriate length of time.
 Or is it a case of X plus integers?
If only the problem were that simple,

like laying out a sonnet rhyme scheme
and then filling it with wild birds.

4/26/1998
added 9/2016
minor revision

The Higher Functions of Lower Math (Archie Williams)


I have spent the morning weeping over the higher functions of lower math while the medical student Tom, a doctor in waiting, sleeps in the other room. He is neither doctor nor student, yet he would have no trouble passing the math test. He could pass it in his sleep. Maybe I should ask him while he sleeps.

Neil attempted to show me the simple algebraic equations that poor Archie Williams tried to teach me some 25 years ago. He may have been the first black man to win a gold medal for running, but he couldn't teach me the higher functions of simple math.

I admired that golden disk within its five interlocking rings. And the heft of Archie's Olympic medal. Nouns Berlin and Hitler were stored in memory to be extracted at a later date when the larger picture would reveal itself some some 20 years later— when I fell asleep in front of the TV.

Hearing Archie's name mentioned on the TV, I pieced together a string of names that were attached to the story of Berlin, 1936, Jesse Owens and Archie Williams—the underprivileged, the those censored by race and by creed. Under a Nazi Germany, was it Nuremberg? The story took years to piece together. Before internet.

I struggled to become a teacher like Archie, but I failed a practice CBEST test. A test a sixth grader could ace. I couldn't piece together the parts of the whole in order to pass the practice test. I'm failing the higher functions of lower math.



see more on Archie Williams
"Olympic Pride, American Prejudice" documentary includes Archie WIlliams
RIP Harry Roche
Segregation Games (Archie Williams)

Monday, April 13, 1998

COLLECTING STONES

COLLECTING STONES

Turquoise protects against catastrophe.
Amethyst promotes mild misunderstanding.
Citrine is an agent between the lower
and the higher self.
I am advised to follow my vision.
Keep my intentions honest 
and make sure my motives are pure.
I'm told to develop objectivity 
and stand back to observe the self.
Try to be more forgiving 
and less possessive, the oracle says.
What a bunch of crock.
I am no Brandenburg Concerto
or a mad minuet of the butterfly in flight.
I am the brash opening of Beethoven's Fifth.
What did I expect seeking advice 
from clattering stones?

April 13, 1998
10/15/2015

Sunday, March 15, 1998

TEACHING STONES TO SPEAK, i


TEACHING STONES TO SPEAK, i

They say silence is golden but
King Midas and the alchemists
eventually learned it was leaden.

Perhaps seeking the gift of eloquence,
I climbed the grey tower to the rampart,
bent over backwards to kiss a stone
beneath an impossibly blue sky,
became the curve of an unstrung bow,
my lips brushing cold, mossy stone,
above the rusted bars dripping with dew
through which the dizzying ground
and nervous grass rushed up to meet me,
as if afraid of losing contact with the birds
and long-lost kin from across the sea.
Like the priest at mass as we kissed Jesus’s feet,
the keeper wiped the stone with a white kerchief.
Trees murmured and the stream sang of ancestors.

They say Cormac McCarty (a distant relation),
 who had a way with words, persuaded the Queen
to keep his castle lands.
She thought his blarney an Irish treasure.
They say the stone was Jacob’s Dream,
or a fragment of the Lía Fail, that screamed
when the rightful king touched it,
or the Stone of Scone beneath her throne.

For the chieftain’s son I made a cape of finest silk
wrought with rainbow hues and golden knotwork.
The bowstring, an aeolian harp on these distant shores
west of Tír na n-Óg, the land of youth,
where I tended his wounds on the battlefield,
The Golden Gate cradled us, we were rich
but barbed arrows pierced us with sharper words.

Like the Queen, I prefer the chatter of silvered tongues
to that of silence; ours’ grow tarnished with disuse.
But no matter how far I bend to break this impasse
his silence speaks more than words ever could.



Ides of March 1998


different poem, same title—not sure which came first




variant

TEACHING STONES TO SPEAK, ii
—For Neil O’Neill. 
Queen Medbh said to Cú Chullain: 
Each one of us will die naked and alone, 
on a battlefield not of our own choosing.

Seeking the end of eloquence,
I climbed the grey tower to lie on the rampart.
Canted back, I was the sinewy curve of a longbow 
hemmed by iron bars dripping with dew,
my hips arched to the sky’s sublime mouth—
The dizzying ground and nervous grasses flew 
up to greet me, as if afraid of losing contact with birds
and other long-lost kin from across the sea— 
Trees and stream murmured to cloud ascendancy
as the world spun topsy-turvy past my crown.
Five hundred years of lips brushing stone and air!
They say the McCarthy, who had his way with words,
wooed the First Elizabeth to keep his castle lands. 
She proclaimed his tongue a treasure, and wishing favor, 
others made pilgrimage to kiss the stone for luck.
They say his ancestor saved a bean sídhe from drowning.
She cast a spell of the honeyed tongue upon the stone.
They say it was a fragment of the ancient Lía Fáil, 
they say it was the very pillow of Jacob’s Dream,
they say it was the Stone of Destiny that roared with ecstasy 
when Érin’s true kings were crowned at Hy Tara.
Some say it’s the same Stone of Scone beneath her throne, 
but it fell silent, a thousand years in enemy hands.
Like an alterboy at the mass where we kissed Christ’s feet,
the footman wiped the stone as if linen could cleanse 
the rock wearied by five centuries of lips’ mute testament.

For the chieftain’s son I conceived a cloak of finest silk,
a crest wrought with golden knotwork and rainbow strands:
below three stars, the severed hand of the ancestor
who won a kingdom in a race by throwing his limb to shore. 
Not content with Érin, Niáll’s scion sent the Stone to Alba,
to crown a brother, but his tongue bested him: a cleft truce sworn 
on Patrick’s staff: trapped in a pyre, he drowned in a vat of ale.
Destiny found us on more distant shores west of Tír Eoghain,
in Tír Tairngire, the Promised Land of Brendan the Navigator, 
where the salmon of wisdom swam wild in the Golden Gate,
where I tended the Uí Niáll’s wounds on new battlefields, 
where I fed this son of Ulster champion tales of Cú Chulainn, 
claimed by both sides, who died chained to that dolmen, 
and how it wept when Tír na n-Óg took him in.
Born with a gilded tongue, my chieftain’s son 
had no need of kissing stones. He made a nest in my ear, 
charmed my soul, then flew off with the wild geese—
red-handed fear reigned inside a heart of stone—
leaving a hunger of words to hatch in my mouth.
Like the alien Queen, I prefer silvered-tongued chatter 
to tacit silence: our tongues grow tarnished, no matter 
how far back I bend to kiss that stone, his silence 
drowns more than this battlefield of words. 

Ides of March - St. Patrick’s Day, 1998


this seems to be the final version

TEACHING STONES TO SPEAK, iii

                            —For Neil O’Neill
Queen Medbh said to Cú Chullain: 
Each one of us will die naked and alone, 
on a battlefield not of our own choosing.


Seeking the end of eloquence,
I climbed the grey tower to lie on the rampart.
Canted back, I was the sinewy curve of a longbow
hemmed by iron bars dripping with dew,
my hips arched to the sky’s sublime mouth—
The dizzying ground and nervous grasses flew
up to greet me, as if afraid of losing contact with birds
and other long-lost kin from across the sea—
Trees and stream murmured to cloud ascendancy
as the world spun topsy-turvy past my crown.
Five hundred years of lips brushing stone and air!
They say the McCarthy, who had his way with words,
wooed the First Elizabeth to keep his castle lands.
She proclaimed his tongue a treasure, and wishing favor,
others made pilgrimage to kiss the stone for luck.
They say his ancestor saved a bean sídhe from drowning.
She cast a spell of the honeyed tongue upon the stone.
They say it was a fragment of the ancient Lía Fáil,
they say it was the very pillow of Jacob’s Dream,
they say it was the Stone of Destiny that roared with ecstasy
when Érin’s true kings were crowned at Hy Tara.
Some say it’s the same Stone of Scone beneath her throne,
but it fell silent, a thousand years in enemy hands.
Like an alterboy at the mass where we kissed Christ’s feet,
the footman wiped the stone as if linen could cleanse
the rock wearied by five centuries of lips’ mute testament.

Ides of March - St. Patrick’s Day, 1998

TEACHING STONES TO SPEAK, iii



TEACHING STONES TO SPEAK

                            —For Neil O’Neill
Queen Medbh said to Cú Chullain: 
Each one of us will die naked and alone, 
on a battlefield not of our own choosing.


Seeking the end of eloquence,
I climbed the grey tower to lie on the rampart.
Canted back, I was the sinewy curve of a longbow
hemmed by iron bars dripping with dew,
my hips arched to the sky’s sublime mouth—
The dizzying ground and nervous grasses flew
up to greet me, as if afraid of losing contact with birds
and other long-lost kin from across the sea—
Trees and stream murmured to cloud ascendancy
as the world spun topsy-turvy past my crown.
Five hundred years of lips brushing stone and air!
They say the McCarthy, who had his way with words,
wooed the First Elizabeth to keep his castle lands.
She proclaimed his tongue a treasure, and wishing favor,
others made pilgrimage to kiss the stone for luck.
They say his ancestor saved a bean sídhe from drowning.
She cast a spell of the honeyed tongue upon the stone.
They say it was a fragment of the ancient Lía Fáil,
they say it was the very pillow of Jacob’s Dream,
they say it was the Stone of Destiny that roared with ecstasy
when Érin’s true kings were crowned at Hy Tara.
Some say it’s the same Stone of Scone beneath her throne,
but it fell silent, a thousand years in enemy hands.
Like an alterboy at the mass where we kissed Christ’s feet,
the footman wiped the stone as if linen could cleanse
the rock wearied by five centuries of lips’ mute testament.


Ides of March - St. Patrick’s Day, 1998



variant 1

TEACHING STONES TO SPEAK, i
—For Neil O’Neill. 
Queen Medbh said to Cú Chullain: 
Each one of us will die naked and alone, 
on a battlefield not of our own choosing.

Seeking the end of eloquence,
I climbed the grey tower to lie on the rampart.
Canted back, I was the sinewy curve of a longbow 
hemmed by iron bars dripping with dew,
my hips arched to the sky’s sublime mouth—
The dizzying ground and nervous grasses flew 
up to greet me, as if afraid of losing contact with birds
and other long-lost kin from across the sea— 
Trees and stream murmured to cloud ascendancy
as the world spun topsy-turvy past my crown.
Five hundred years of lips brushing stone and air!
They say the McCarthy, who had his way with words,
wooed the First Elizabeth to keep his castle lands. 
She proclaimed his tongue a treasure, and wishing favor, 
others made pilgrimage to kiss the stone for luck.
They say his ancestor saved a bean sídhe from drowning.
She cast a spell of the honeyed tongue upon the stone.
They say it was a fragment of the ancient Lía Fáil, 
they say it was the very pillow of Jacob’s Dream,
they say it was the Stone of Destiny that roared with ecstasy 
when Érin’s true kings were crowned at Hy Tara.
Some say it’s the same Stone of Scone beneath her throne, 
but it fell silent, a thousand years in enemy hands.
Like an alterboy at the mass where we kissed Christ’s feet,
the footman wiped the stone as if linen could cleanse 
the rock wearied by five centuries of lips’ mute testament.

For the chieftain’s son I conceived a cloak of finest silk,
a crest wrought with golden knotwork and rainbow strands:
below three stars, the severed hand of the ancestor
who won a kingdom in a race by throwing his limb to shore. 
Not content with Érin, Niáll’s scion sent the Stone to Alba,
to crown a brother, but his tongue bested him: a cleft truce sworn 
on Patrick’s staff: trapped in a pyre, he drowned in a vat of ale.
Destiny found us on more distant shores west of Tír Eoghain,
in Tír Tairngire, the Promised Land of Brendan the Navigator, 
where the salmon of wisdom swam wild in the Golden Gate,
where I tended the Uí Niáll’s wounds on new battlefields, 
where I fed this son of Ulster champion tales of Cú Chulainn, 
claimed by both sides, who died chained to that dolmen, 
and how it wept when Tír na n-Óg took him in.
Born with a gilded tongue, my chieftain’s son 
had no need of kissing stones. He made a nest in my ear, 
charmed my soul, then flew off with the wild geese—
red-handed fear reigned inside a heart of stone—
leaving a hunger of words to hatch in my mouth.
Like the alien Queen, I prefer silvered-tongued chatter 
to tacit silence: our tongues grow tarnished, no matter 
how far back I bend to kiss that stone, his silence 
drowns more than this battlefield of words. 

Ides of March - St. Patrick’s Day, 1998



different poem, same title—not sure which came first



They say silence is golden but
King Midas and the alchemists
eventually learned it was leaden.

Perhaps seeking the gift of eloquence,
I climbed the grey tower to the rampart,
bent over backwards to kiss a stone
beneath an impossibly blue sky,
became the curve of an unstrung bow,
my lips brushing cold, mossy stone,
above the rusted bars dripping with dew
through which the dizzying ground
and nervous grass rushed up to meet me,
as if afraid of losing contact with the birds
and long-lost kin from across the sea.
Like the priest at mass as we kissed Jesus’s feet,
the keeper wiped the stone with a white kerchief.
Trees murmured and the stream sang of ancestors.

They say Cormac McCarty (a distant relation),
 who had a way with words, persuaded the Queen
to keep his castle lands.
She thought his blarney an Irish treasure.
They say the stone was Jacob’s Dream,
or a fragment of the Lía Fail, that screamed
when the rightful king touched it,
or the Stone of Scone beneath her throne.

For the chieftain’s son I made a cape of finest silk
wrought with rainbow hues and golden knotwork.
The bowstring, an aeolian harp on these distant shores
west of Tír na n-Óg, the land of youth,
where I tended his wounds on the battlefield,
The Golden Gate cradled us, we were rich
but barbed arrows pierced us with sharper words.

Like the Queen, I prefer the chatter of silvered tongues
to that of silence; ours’ grow tarnished with disuse.
But no matter how far I bend to break this impasse
his silence speaks more than words ever could.

Ides of March 1998