Friday, February 27, 2004

You'll Always Have Parrots

You'll always have parrots, he said in a white room filled with raucous laughter. You know, the deep kind where you laugh from the belly, from the spleen, and all is forgiven. I can just see Bogey on the runway, the fog closing in, and Ingrid's eyes, luminous with something other than hope. it was a time of noble deeds, a time when sacrifice meant something. Sure, there was a war, life was short, and uncertain, but there was a nobility built into the psyche—even the most jaded of men could do something noble—even Rick's piano music in the distance was liberating notes, and Sam at the keys, whispering them home, until they flew off the keyboard like flocks of parrots, in black-and-white. This was before color films encircled the dreamless, and snared those trapped in waiting rooms between worlds, homeless, without a country, allegiance. Notes circling in a room seductive with smoke, wheeling banking, landing in the nascent shell of the ear. The shore and the sea were one thing—like horizon and fog. Yesterday it hailed so hard that Oakland was covered in a blanket of white. I stood under a tree and let the hail pound me, I was raucous with laughter, filled with the delirium of a child waiting to witness nature up close. in the swirling eddies I gathered up hail like handfuls of peas, and lobbed them at passing cars. The freeway came to a standstill, you could hear the sounds that the city usually swallows, unbelievable. I could hear the neighbor's parrot having a laugh after all. Parrots in the rain on a Thursday, in the rain. Aguacero, a real downpour. I am reminded of César Vallejo's Paris in the Rain. Did we ever have Paris? A parrot is speaking poetry to the rain, flocks of escaped parrots in the eucalyptus trees are dancing on the branches, gaudy fruit. I'm thinking of Dante and Beatrice, and Bogey and Ingrid laughing raucously, because they could.

St. Daffyd's Dafodils


What makes us come to attention suddenly for a brief moment, like the sun channeled through a magnifying lens? Then, as if a cloud crossed the sun's gaze, nothing, we are left withn othing but shadow and amnesia? We could call it indifference. If the shoe fits. Or temporary amnesia.

My gaze shifted, blurred, focused, and it was as if I were seeing the daffodils for the first time. Saint Daffyd's bells. Sunlight dancing in the meadow on the cusp of spring, when sap and hope rise eternal. 

These moments recollected in tranquility that Keats was so fond of, honing words until they shone bright as the sun, burning a path to the brain.

Someone once said that nature is indifferent, we bestow it with grandeur, and benevolence, because it is our nature to give relevance to arbitrary events. Because we can't bear the thought of all that aloneness, without pattern. 

We are all smithys at the forge, hammer and tonging out patterns or paths for others to follow. What about that moment when the universe was formed when angels danced on a pinhead? Call that momentary silence before the Big Bang, a ditte.

Crystalline structure, the music of dancing mathematics, and fractals make the up the matter of the universe. It goes on with, or without us—only we can't bear the thought, it's too deep to hold onto for very long. And so we rise up momentarily, with a glimpse into something we can't quite get a hold of. Can't quite remember. And are left wanting. 

And suddenly, daffodils are nodding their heads in the sunlight. We come to, we come to for a moment, and pay attention. Then the clouds cover the sun, laden with rain. 

We planted daffodils by the side of the road for cancer victims, for those already dead. After 9/11, we planted a daffodil for each victim. Now there are thousands of daffodils nodding their heads in the churchyard.

2/27/2004



I said arbitrary indifference, to see if there were a distinction between the two words, and I played with the paying and then the not paying of attention. Arbitrary. Indifference. The Arbitrary Indifference of Trapped Sunlight.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Letter to Whitman McGowan, Math Rant Night Before the CBEST Test

Letter to Whitman McGowan: a Math Rant, Night Before the CBEST Test


Hey Blue Dawgge,

As ever I am amazed by your steadfastness....bravo on CD & all the gigs...

I really wish I could see youse all tonight at Cafe Amsterdam. I was also invited to see a play, Helen of Troy...but alas I have a CBEST test in the morning (math which I've already failed once; I aced the writing section...me, a dyslexic writer, I coulda passed the whole test on my writing ability alone but Noooo, I need to pass each section) the test which tests my anxiety over math, not my ability. 

It's not about logic. They're nuts asking stupid, illogical questions...splitting hairs or maybe atoms. They're the ones inventing the next wave of dumbass teachers and we wonder why our schools are so bad? If you pass the CBEST, congratulations, you're teacher material or maybe even George Bush material. And you know where that leads to. So I keep failing the practice test by a few points...

I even went to a tutor and made amazing inroads, I learned several years' worth of math literally in days, with a 95% accuracy rate—circumference, volume, equations, you name it...I even taught myself beginning algebra. My head hurts constantly: geometry hurts above the ears, algebra at the back of the head, and volume/area, the top of the head...I should be in a MRI scanner while doing math, my head is melting, no, exploding.

I have been doing math 6 hours a day for a week, I dream in mathematical symbols & equations. I even took the 12th grade math exit exam...& passed w/ flying colors (w/ exception of higher algebra which I got 100% wrong). It's all about decoding language. I haven't yet found the key, the Rosetta Stone.

I've studied dead languages. I can translate from the archaic Irish. I can tell you of the battles of Fergus and Cu Chullain, the Hound of Ulster and of Medbh's arrogant pride. Or of Pryderi's follies, the one who knew for naught, in medieval Welsh.

But I can't pass the fucking CBEST so I can't substitute teach in the schools...and artist in residency programs are up shytecreek, thanks to Bush & team. In other words, I'm broke, outa work for way too long (any leads?) first time in 20 years, and I'd really rather come hang with youse guys but am feeling positively homicidal (a side effect of doing math—why the fuck they want to test us with dumbass trick questions, they don't even want the answers...the most senseless hurdlejumping I have ever done, otherwise why would I be doing this to myself in the first place, worse than Soviet bureaucracy and I speak from personal experience there too...)

So I'm wondering what patron saints to invoke tomorrow morning, maybe you, maybe Helen of Troy, I mean I can't take this too seriously, right? You guys are the doctors of irreverence. And then I thought of my second cousin, Marie Walsh, the one who died of cancer, right? I mean, she qualifies.

I come from a family of geniuses. OK, so they're all whacked, eccentric. But brilliant. My mother's ghosts: her father taught himself algebra, read at the speed of sight. He left her with other genes more insidious, the random Foresight upsetting the linear logic of the present. I can even tell you the words for it in several dead Celtic languages.

And her cousin, Marie, the math genius, was whisked away out of high school, she had the highest math scores in the state of Nevada, my family didn't know where she was but she had all these weird addresses: Los Alamos, Alamagordo, White Sands, Oak RIdge. We never saw her, only occasional post cards. 

My grandmother said as a child she was like a little angel, always worried someone was going to blame her. Saying I'm a good girl. I'm a good girl. Really I am. Maybe it was the Foresight having its way with her. They say Julia, her eedjit cousin, still haunts the International Cafe in Austin. She makes coffee for the unexpected travelers from the other side.

Wooden horses aside, ask Helen about those names. Helen was my mother's middle name. That expains a lot. Ask her why my cousin lived so long in secret in the desert heart of New Mexico and we had to wait until her death to find out the code names. 

Say it: Manhattan Project. Say it: the Age of Light. Say it: fusion/fission. Say it. Fat Man, Little Boy. Big Bertha. Mea maxima culpea. 

She died for it, she died for it, the equations glowing in the dark like star patterns in the geometric vortex of the sky. The dark cancer growing in exponentials, growing toward the light. The white desert sands of Alamagordo melting into kryptonite at her feet. Emerald green like her lost homeland, her lost blessed isle of green. No Superman to save her. Just her fate. All the pure numbers and equations dancing in her head.

Just let me pass the fucking test!

maureen

PS Tell Gary I miss him...how long is he here for?

(And so I did).



Dear Hurley,

Yeow, I am way behind in some emails!  I'm sorry, you asked me at the bottom how long Gary was around and I didn't read that in time before he left for San Jose or something.

I hope things are turning better for you, I really do.  Have ye a paddle at least by now?  Are you clinging to a branch about to go over the falls?  I hope not.  C'mon you genius descended of geniuses, you will think of something.

I've got a buddhist name now so I can probably burn the candles of least three religions for you now: Christian, heathen or buddhist. First I was an alter boy, then a born again nutter, then I went in a couple of other directions. I was made an honorary Druid the day I met your Mom and now I am Trungpa Bumbleshe, according to my minister friend, as of yesterday!  Now all we need is a power outage.  I forgot to tell you I'm part Scottish?

You missed a rather poor showing by moi in Marin. Gary and Margery were good, but I am not a great team poet, and the group presentation has a different set of problems than a solo set.  I guess I wasn't as into it as I should have been and I didn't like being a part of a sideshow of a three ring circus.  The rest of the show was pretty good, a jazz band and a human beat box, not to mention a balloon lady, a magician and a poetry slam, which was kinda of cool, kind of lame.  But it took forever and the service sucked.

If I owned Cafe Amsterdam I would hire some extra help and sell a thousand drinks. Nobody came to our table for two hours. It was kind of stressful, not knowing why I was waiting to be told to cut our set short, playing the poetry fool, paying for my dinner and dying of thirst at the same time.Had a couple of real good session since then, so I'm over it now. But enuf about me!

Are you okay?  Are you dancing barefoot because you passed the test?  Are you cutting yourself because your cousin helped blow up some atoms?  Your mind, is it still full?  Your body, is it all systems go, in harmony with itself, healing you?  You were going a mile a minute when crammed full of info for the test; do you have a brain chock full to the brim with something tonight?

I think I may take a bubble bath now, and I suggest you do the same.

Whitnaked "T.B." McGod, Doctor of Irreverence





Dr. EyeReverence,

Well burning candles at both ends leads to a hot arse, but at three ends? What does that lead to, Trungpa Bumpershoot? T.B.rolly in the bath with bubbles? How does that affect the outcome of luck, good, or otherwise?

I already knew about the Scottish bits...probably one of the first things out of your mouth when I first met you... It was the blue woad thang.... I'm trying to remember when/were that was? Do you? Was it thru Gary at that place on Roblar Road in Cotati-Petaluma? I remember later, being surprised that you knew my ma. She moved in exquisite, if torturous circles.

I haven't much felt like performing ever since the car accident with fucking Verona Seiter nearly 7 years ago!!! I think I tried to perform too soon after, I remember gettting sick, throwing up, the shakes, my pain threshold overmaxed and absolutely no reserves. My candle at both ends was very nearly snuffed out, now it's only lit at one end these days...yo pienso que si pero...

I still get back spasm from stupid stuff, probably from sleeping wrong, spent Mon/ Tues (last fortnight) in amped pain module trying to break spasm with Flexeril. Genius? stupid as a fish comes to mind.

Cafe A'dam sounds like a 3-ring poetry-circus.  And a dry one at that.

May 9 I'm off to Miami to perform with world-class pianist duo Kirk Whipple & Marilyn Morales, from the Unconservatory. I wrote a suite of poems as Kirk was composing them: 12 nocturnes, Elemental Portraits of Sonoma Co. musicians. 

I used to lay under the piano and freewrite as he tried out riffs, read from his dreambook, etc, then wrote, and then I interviewed the people. Wove the story around them. We were going on the road when the accident happened, with a punctured lung, I literally had no breath by which to read.... 

They moved to Miami (bigfish/mudpuddle syndrome; Mari's family is Cuban--she missed them) and enroute, they got sorta famous. Played at the Kennedy Center. So, we're resurrecting the old show (vs saw?) for da SnowBirds and Republican JebBush supporters. Oughta be real interesting.

And yes, I passed the effing CBEST math test with 18 points to spare (55 out of a total of 80; 37 was passing) and no, I can't remember much of what I learned other than E=mc2 but I already knew that fission/fusion thang. We're having a rare Walsh clan gathering in Santa Rosa June 27. Home Ranch & Marie Walsh will be invoked at one point or another.

I got a few CPITS gigs in Fremont, Healdsburg, and a YABA gig in Clayton so I'm spread pretty thin, I'm working but earning diddlysquat and resenting the shit outa the govt thang, etc...fuck taxes, the irs, etc....

Other than that, all quiet on the western front. We're still on spring break. More like broken spring for me with the rental manager hanging me up for days on end while fixing the sink (it was literally falling thru the counter) and he took apart every faucet in the house, while painting the closets with sealer as the roof leaked, and ALL my clothes & things are mouldy. 

I won't mention the mondo moth attack. Well, I needed to downsize and get rid of sweaters (the past) anyway. I had to wash every stitch of clothing and the dryer isn't working right. Talk about being the Irish washerwoman! I've wet clothes everywhere.

And last week, the ONE day I left my silk painting manuscripts out of the portfolio, leaning against the piano bench--as I was scanning them--and I wanted to redo them--I went off to teach a class in Healdsburg and when I came back they were all wet!!! The ceiling had to leak in that one spot in the whole house. Luckily, they're covered with visquine but the mats got wet and I was afraid of migration...not one color shift. I must've used fixer in the dye with them, thank gawdess!! I had to spread them out all through the house to dry.

I'm borrowing a digital camera (from my aunt) and I'm having a blast taking pix of flowers, cats, etc. I was worried about not having the software, drivers, etc., for it, and of course, I couldn't find Toshiba drivers for it, but it showed up anyway on my elder Mac's (8.6) USB card, like a little itty-bitty hard drive. I was so thrilled! Now I can document my art work after all these years.

Neil returned home Friday from Scotland last night reeking of cigarette smoke, (his mum is a chimney) and I'm so allergic it's not funny, so now his clothes are all outside as well...what a time for the dryer to break!

About the Scots, to avoid Longshanks (Braveheart comment), Neil got inducted into the Caledonian Club...they put on the Highland Games, oldest in the nation I think...you gotta be Scots born AND male!!! we went to the Tartan Ball...I just don't DO that sort of thing...like put on a dress, nylons (hose) I refused at that...let the men do that, skirts, I mean, not hose unless they really want to.... Anyway, they were toasting this and that...And I about gargled when they toasted "our dear President Bush," the office, yes, but NOT the man. Needless to say, the mayor of Pleasanton (where the Games are held), my tablemate and  I abstained from toasting.

I thought I was in for a right torturous dour evening, until about the 10th toast, when they shed their wee dour selves and the party began!!! ... isn't there something, say, a nice medium between dour and stroppy/ lunatics? Anyway, it really did take them the entire evening to warm their cockles, the real party or should I say, ceildhe, began in someone's hotel room after midnight, with Neil on the guitar and all these drunken Scots caber-catching themselves in kilts...mine wasn't the only stray hand feeling the underside pleat job. And hotel security (Airport Hilton) coming in to join the fun or to shush us up...was it the snare drums or the pipes someone had the audacity to complain about???

Hmm, forget the bubblebath, the sun's out. I must flog my man around the lake (Merritt) if he's to shift his circadian clock from Scottish time...

Moski

PS I sent rhiannon your Colorado gigs, you may want to follow up.

4.21.04

Friday, February 13, 2004

86ed


86: iIt's a number we're clean out of at the end of night, and we are we forever out of ideas, 86ing them, hold the Mayo? Waitress slang for You're shit out of luck, buddy. Only no one wants to say it as if there was a taboo to say:  I'm sorry we are out. It's a placeholder of sympathetic magic. Sort of like saying The Scottish Play for Macbeth. 

I mean someone has two to say it eventually, can't leave the customer (who is always right) in the dark. Maybe the crab nebula is 86ed. No more half-crab salad with starfish for the blackholes lining their noses up at the infinity line. What's it called? Event horizon. The place where time stops. 

That's because eight keeps on going around i little infinity circles, endlessly repeating itself, chasing its own tail. So the six is left with the job of telling the customer: I'm sorry we are all out.

But six longs for nine, its mirror opposite. So it can snuggle up head to comma, and get on with the business of zodiacal equations. So it crabbily stumps out and tells the customer the bad news. 

Someone pulls a gun, shoots six in the belly. Stars and plasma leak out. Six is dismayed. Eight is now laying on its side busily trying to turn itself inside out, or  into a Mobius strip. Running time backwards and forwards and simultaneously. 

Six leaks out, becomes bowed, wonders about becoming a zero chasing its tail. And now this tale now has to end.

2/13/04

finding the quotient by the side of the road

finding the quotient by the side of the road

Diana and Patty talk of taking power trash walks after eating too many just desserts. The waistline, unforgiving, ever expanding like the universe. Power trash? I'm flummoxed by the image of power trash>

They explain: we pick up trash and you be amazed by what we find by the side of the road. Maybe we should write about it, says Diana. 

The thought leaves me shuttering all. All day long I've been doing math and thinking symbolically. Nothing symbolic about used rubbers and other detritus by the side of the road. 

Was it divisible in the night? Once we were all young, reckless, eager to get on with it no thoughts of expanding waistlines. Catholic, or otherwise… 

The road is indeed long, only we've shortened it by walking down it from this end. We can see the end approaching and suddenly all that glitter distracts us and we are yet for its lost treasure, for lost youth, isn't divisible by time. 

What was the answer?

2/13/2004 

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Seeking Dreams

Seeking Dreams
(Teaching notes form Alexander Valley School.)

Against afternoon sun, the mountain rising and cerulean sky breathing an impossible blue. I am speechless as if the sky sucked all breath from me, covetous of its kin.

The children decide whether they are mind poets or space poets, each writing a poem to one of the elements. In this way Aristotle's is invoked. He walks among us as we write.

As I explain the pattern. Justin, the disturbed child, cottons on to me. Says he's both a space and a mind poet. I laugh, saying, you got it! He is pleased with his newfound power of the word manifesting itself on the page. 

They are wise beyond their eight years, collectively. I think 8×20. There are 160 years old! And writing well beyond their years. 

Hank goes deep, plays with the mind. He says: seeking the dream, I am space, I am mind, I am God.  We read each other like maps.

Garett writes how the stars prickle his back for he is the night sky speaking in rhythm. In this way, quintessence is evoked, the fifth element. We are word scientists unearthing the fire within, watching it take flight, become the tears of stars.

We each learn something new about the other. Space, mind, mind, space. When you know how to listen for the secret code, all is revealed and we write our way into the heart of things.

2/12/1004

MOCKINGBIRD ENVY

MOCKINGBIRD ENVY

The Italian opera singer, 
la Toscana, whose voice 
was so like a pearl 
in the highest reaches,
make a mockingbird 
fall off his perch 
on the TV antenna, 
thinking that the biggest 
canary in the world 
had moved in on his turf.

2/2004

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

AT THAT TIME BETWEEN DAY AND NIGHT



At that time between day and night
when everything is crepscular in notion,
and the Cole Porter violin cresendo swells,
opens the doors between worlds,
is where the limnal and the real world collide,
where we dream, where we drift,
where you’re not sure where you’re going
or where you’ve been,
living both lives simultaneously.
Meanwhile a petty dictator 
gets in the way of truth.

2/4/04
rev 2/4/06


inside the eye of night 
a primeval ligature of well-muscled sky 
against the unseen void
enter a smoky tunnel
and when you get to the root of it,
how we associate life, 
and pooled water with all that blue.

all root and nerve,
the crack between worlds
where rogue planets coalesce,
burn an afterimage on the retina
leaving the optic nerve hungry 
for more mirror images.
no to mention the blind spot
or the mind playing tricks.

tracings of veins, 
shadows against the back wall of the eye
dendritic highways
ghost image and counter image
that feeling of not alone
as if someone else in an empty room
the almost as if seen
what constitutes reality
scripted or unscripted?
foreshadow and aftershadow
rods and cones
intimate not greens and not reds

to which point do the bird’s thoughts retract?

descending into a smoky tunnel
background noise bricking up a pristine silence

At that time between day and night 
when everything is crepscular in notion, 
and the Cole Porter violin cresendo swells,
opens the doors between worlds, 
is where the limnal and the real world collide, 
where we dream, where we drift, 
where you’re not sure where you’re going 
or where you’ve been, 
living both lives simultaneously.
Meanwhile, a petty dictator gets in the way of truth.

2/2004

BLUE COYOTE, 2/4/04




Have you ever seen a bluebird? I mean a real one? I remember seeing them lots as a kid. I always thought they were a blue version of the robin red-breasts that were really cold. Or maybe they were boy robins, because they were blue and everybody knows that blue is for boys. I hate pink. But, then the bluebirds disappeared one silent spring and I forgot about them. I thought maybe I had made them all up in my imagination.



It was 20 years before I saw a blue fleck swoop down the sky out by Goat Rock, at the mouth of the Russian River. Even though by that time I was a dolt. I mean an adult, though sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the two. I was so happy. I saw my first real bluebird. They existed—not just in my imagination. It was like a gift that had fallen from the sky.  

There’s a saying: “May the bluebird of happiness fly up your nose.” Ever heard of that one? No? Maybe she’s looking for your nose to fly up, so be sure to keep your finger out of it. Okay? But this is a story about Coyote and Bluebird. Not your nose. There even might be some luck in it. We’ll see.

When we were little kids, on full moonlit nights, we used to love to listen to the coyotes singing in the hills too. But we never understood why they were always so mournful. We’d stand in the lower meadow and howl back, but one time a neighbor mistook us for the real thing and took a pot-shot at us. So we quit our Coyote songs.


Did you know coyotes are always sticking their noses into trouble? They're worse than raccoons or foxes. They always get blamed for all kinds of coyote mischief—especially at the  All-You-Can-Eat Smorgie-buffet on garbage nights. Coyotes don’t wait around for food or luck to find them. No siree! They sniff it out. ’Cuz coyotes always like to be at the center of things. 

Now, if there was a storytelling circle, well then, to be sure, Coyote was smack dab in the middle of things. If there was a secret hideout, you could be sure Coyote would have a baby-blue eye peeled on the action. In fact, he was always in the middle of things, you could be sure he was right smack-dab in the middle of trouble too.

Sometimes there are noble stories of Coyote holding up the sky, or giving the moon its light, or catching on fire from the sun, or making meteors or eclipses. Things like that. Noble stories like he was some kind of god or something, like Zeus or Apollo. But Coyote was his own man, er, dog... 

I knew a mad poet once, Lewis MacAdams, who said he personally knew Coyote, and he told me Coyote had holes in his pockets, that's why he was always into mischief, 'coz he was always losing things. Hot on the trail.

Coyote often did mischievous things and meddled on a grand scale. He once fell in love with a shiny bright blue star way up in the middle of the sky, and when he fell off the mountain, trying to reach her, he made a big crater in the earth. He was always messing about with nature. He never could leave well enough alone. Sometimes, in his crazy meddling, he even changed the looks or the manners of entire species. 

One time because of Coyote’s meddling, the packrats sprouted tails from their foreheads dangling like wimpy unicorn horns, or wormy worms. Poor things, they kept running up their own tails, tripping and doing back-ass somersaults, confusing the heck out of the bobcats. They were absolute nervous wrecks. So were the puzzled bobcats.

Eventually the packrats' tails fell off like lizard tails and being practical packrats, they picked them up, dusted them off and stuck their tails right back on their rumps where they belonged. The bobcats and raccoons were happier too. That’s why rats and cats don’t like to leave their tails hanging out. Too risky. They say there’s still some tail-less rats left on Rat Island in the middle of Tomales Bay but I’ve never seen them.

Another time, Coyote was moving the moon around which affected the tides and these dinero clams snoozing in Bodega Bay mud found themselves dangling from a bay tree up on the top of a hill instead of in the mud where they properly belonged at low tide. 



Afraid to open their 32 blue eyes for fear of falling out of the trees (their eyes are on the edge of the clamshell), they clamped their shells down hard on the branches. And they were scared of heights too. Poor things. They had to wait for the next winter high tide flood to go home. But some didn’t ever get to go home and they wound up as old fossils on top of the hills to startle some grazing cows, and soured their milk.

Oftentimes trees and hills and rocks are located in odd places because of some foolish thing Coyote did, or did not do, that changed the flavor of the world forever. There’s a place out near Olema (that means the place of strange rocks) where Coyote got to moving some rocks around. Rocks sticking up every which way like lurching giants. 

You'd think Coyote was assembling an army of rocks. But he wasn't a very bright field marshall. The rocks wouldn't toe in line like good soldiers. Someone said he assembled that rock army because he saw great white ghost ships rising from the belly of the sea near Fort Ross. And he was right to be afraid of what was to come.

Coyote was so important an animal you’d think he’d already know how to behave, or could at least learn how to learn how to behave properly. He often set bad examples, and he rarely did anything nice, except for by accident. They say the reason when people are bad, and they steal, it’s because of some mischief Coyote did during the time when the world was still forming. And it irrevocably changed the way things were.

One day Coyote saw Bluebird down by the lake, and he was thinking of eating Bluebird for his dinner. She looked yummy but she was so small. But she was also so beautiful he decided then and there that he wanted to be blue as Bluebird, the most beautiful bird in the sky. And so he asked her why she was so blue, and he asked her if he could be blue too. 

Bluebird thought about it, and keeping a safe distance between them, she said, “Coyotes aren’t supposed to be blue. Coyotes are supposed to be green as the grass. And that’s just the way it is.” I know you all think coyotes are brown as the summer grass but that part of the story comes later.

But Coyote just couldn’t get that blue out of his head. With his stomach growling with hunger, he’d sneak up on Bluebird to admire her as she was bathing in the stilly lake at dawn. He'd feast his eyes upon her blue visage, and drool and slurp and cry coyote tears into the lake.

It was a special lake, Tolay Lake, nestled in a crack on Sonoma Mountain where a small winter stream sometimes ran in but it never ran out again unless there was a really big earthquake and the fault opened and swallowed everybody up. 

That really happened once to a cow in Bear Valley, the earth opened up like a giant tropical clam and she fell right in, until only her tail was sticking out. That's how they know about it. It was sticking up like a skinny fence post with a tassel on top. You can bet your bottom dollar she never stepped on a crack again.

And whenever Bluebird came out of the lake, Coyote asked: “Bluebird, what makes you so blue?” And Bluebird always said, “I wash in the lake every morning and I sing this song: ‘Bluu-hoo-oo, I am as blue as the waters... I am as blue as the skies. I am as blue as your eyes.’”

Coyote liked that song, he thought it sounded like proper Coyote talk like when the moon was full. In fact, somebody overheard it and wrote a hit song, "Blue Moon."

But Coyote was afraid of water, and instead of howling at the moon, he sobbed big blue coyote tears into the lake. He cried so much, the tears turned into tadpoles and wriggled away.

Coyote pestered Bluebird but she ignored him, and pointed to the lake. He tried to be brave, he tried to wade in, he tried to sneak up on the lake and stick a toe in, but it was too cold and he shrieked,
ayiii, ayiiii, ayiiii so loud, that a startled buejay took off from his branch so fast, he was buck-naked and clean forgot his feathers. And you know how hard it is to frighten a brassy bluejay. Coyote made a forlorn little fan out of Bluejay’s lost feathers but it only made him sadder.

Coyote even tried jumping off a cliff into the lake. But he knew the water was so cold, he managed to flap his fan a few feet over the water and skate across the surface and it wasn't even frozen over. One day he was walking along and he tripped over one of those big soldier rocks I was telling you about, and he accidentally fell into the stilly little lake with a big splash. Kerplunk!

Though it was cold, Coyote was determined to turn true blue. He scrubbed and he scrubbed and he sang terribly as he scrubbed and rub-a-dub-dubbed, he was so cold his teeth were chattering, but he was still not blue. He was still coyote-colored as the grass. 

“How come I’m not b-b-b-bb-blue?” he asked Bluebird. She warbled, “Are you singing the song right?” Coyote sang: “Bluu-hoo-oo-moon, I am as blue-ooo as the waterszzzz... I am as blue as the skieszzzz. I am as blue-ooo as your eye-yi-yi-yiizzzz.’” She chirped, ”Then, you must wash some more. You’re singing it all wrong, Don’t howl so much. Keep your teeth still. By the way, there’s no moon in it.” She muttered, “Crazy coyote can’t even carry a tune in a bucket.”

Coyote bathed two more times and still nothing happened even though he sang the song with no moon in it, and with less howl and with less teeth chatter. Coyote tried again, this time he sang with much less howl and much less chatter, though it was difficult. “Bluu-hoo-oo, I am as blue as the waters...I am as blue as the skies. I am as blue as your eyes." 

Well, eventually he got the song right and he turned bright blue and he was so proud of himself. “At last I’m blue.” he said, “I’m azure as the skies. That's for sure.”

“A good thing too, because your singing is so terrible, you cracked a hole in the sky, and now it's leaking,” said Bluebird.

Coyote was so proud of his new blue coat, he was positively insufferable. He said,” See how beautiful I am!” He said it to everyone he met: he said it to the rabbit, and to the deer and to the badger—who didn't give a fig because he was always bad-tempered. 

Coyote was so busy looking at himself he soon discovered his shadow was blue too. He fell absolutely head over heels in love with his own shadow, he followed it everywhere and one day while he was following it, he bumped into a big soldier rock. Coyote fell down in the dirt, and he lost all his blue. 

He was a real dirt-ball, he was so sad, he sobbed so hard, his tears nearly drowned the lizard who got blue streaks under his chin and down his sides. So did the skink who was running away as fast as he could to keep from drowning. 

(When we were kids, we used to turn lizards on their backs and hypnotize them by stroking their blue throats but the blue racing skinks couldn’t be tamed. They’d sooner leave their tails behind than get lulled to sleep, or death.)

Coyote asked Bluebird what should he do to get his blue back. “Just jump back in the lake and sing the blue song,” said Bluebird. “NO way,” said Coyote, “I don’t want to be wet or cold ever again,” ‘coz coyotes don’t like the cold. “A good thing too, your singing is terrible,” said Bluebird.

Coyote was so ashamed about looking like a dirt-ball, he whimpered, “it’s all Bluebird’s fault that coyotes are dirt-brown instead of blue.” And that's why coyotes are brown to this very day.

But sometimes you can still see a coyote, or his cousin, the dog, with a blue eye. Some say a bit of the lake stayed in his eye because it was closed when he fell into the dirt. Some say it's because he turned a blind eye to friendship and ate Bluebird all up in one gulp. 

But now you can bet that Coyote always watches his feet, with his nose to the ground, he always watches where he’s going. And if you look really carefully at shadows, sometimes you can see some blue. And sometimes when the moon is blue, Coyote sings to it hoping a little luck will come his way. Or maybe it's because he’s sad ‘coz he still misses Bluebird.



© Maureen Hurley
2/4/04; 2/4/09

This piece came as a surprise gift after two simultaneous events collided like rutting rams: I had just finished telling a story, "La Llorona" for Oakland Unified School District's Family Reading Night, and I had a silk art square due the next day for a traveling hanging for a SPIN conference in Santa Fe. Well, the two events converged right in the middle of an improvisational story I'd made up on the spot because we had some extra time left over. Coyote just crawled out of my head begging to be born or hatched or whatever it is Trickster Coyotes do. Kids loved it so much so I wrote it down. My silk square was a coyote against a backdrop of Mt. St. Helena, all in blue, of course.


Tuesday, February 3, 2004

MY HANDS, DYED WOAD

My hands, dyed woad from today’s art
would be the same equation as darkness.
I am mesmerized by color, traffic lights amaze me,
the green but not really green, it’s teal blue,
the color of epaulets on wild ducks
and the red verging on magenta,
veneous blood from the inside of the wrist.
And the yellow of the sun trapped behind glass.

These colors we use to invoke all other colors,
to call them forth. Light, prisms,
the edge of a broken bottle behind the hospital
casting rainbows on the far wall.


3/12/04






BLOOMSDAY BLUE


Thalatta, thalatta, the sea, the sea…
& Ulysses asleep, as I write with a pen, blue as thalassa. 
Thalatta, old sea, thalassa, new sea, both wine-dark. 
A drunken boat rocking, rocking, that slap and thunk.
As if a fist against a slab of meat… Industrious measuring, 
the blue eye on the prow plumbing the depths for signs of danger, for luck…
it’s all the same thing in the end. What sailors, what shore?

I write with a blue disco pen shedding blue light, 
a gift so beautiful I can hardly bear to write with it, 
I can barely contain myself. Homer was blind. 
What would purlblind Joyce have done with this distraction? 
The novelty of a pen lighting my words in the darkness…
I can’t wait to turn off the lights and see if my words, 
written in darkness, in knower’s ink, 
shed a different light when written thusly, 
will I find new metaphors at the end of the sentence?

And her lost sandal greeting the lip of Venus in the rosy-fingered dawn…

My hands, dyed woad from today’s art 
would be the same equation as darkness. 
I am mesmerized by color, traffic light amaze me, 
the green but not really green, teal blue, 
the color of epaulets of wild ducks 
and the red verging on magenta, 
venous blood from the inside of the wrist. 
And the yellow of the sun trapped behind glass.

These colors we use to invoke all other colors, 
to call them forth. Light, prisms, 
the edge of a broken bottle behind the hospital 
casting rainbows on the far wall.

Newton was right, light so amazing 
that he theosophized eloquent and the poets, 
when the saw what was possible, 
abandoned their dreary palette of words, 
drab browns and greys, and invoked color, 
pure prismatic color in their verse, 
liberating it from the mundane 
so that I may write this nonsense 
about the sea, the sea, 

all that blue uinleashed in this pen, 
it was a business gift from
one Japanese business man 
to another, to curry favor…

And Ulysses still sailing home 
heroically after all these years, 
Stephen Daedalus trading in his oars 
for tt’s taken from thalatta, for thalassa, 
having arrived in the 21st century 
a hundred years hence, the sea, 
Demotic Greek, the Olympiads 
returning home to Athens in time for the Games. 
Sea, sea and sky are one thing on the horizon. 
Look how Bloomsday approaches 
at the speed of sight.

3/12/04

(I know this says March but I suspect it was written in June, Bloomsday. Rescuing old bit of writing —1/2/2014)

I COME FROM

I come from the place where real and imaginary ancestors
dance under the rainbow’s arch
I was the one who dreamed
of the small fists of flowers thrumming the moon
The land from where I rose from was like light in my veins
Often I dream of a fictional place deep in the mind
A place more real than what is real
Often I am called to a place
where the cabin grows wings and stories
Leaving me lonely for the laughter-filled place
where the living and the dead
Sit around the dinner table,
leaning back on their chairs after the feast
Where the echo of thunder repeats the dream of the wind
Why does the storm speak of blue desires
Deep in the metal of starsleep
exploding into pure crystalline structure


2/3/04

THE SOUND OF CLAWS


The sound of claws ticking across the kitchen floor.
Almost imperceptible. Time to trim the cat’s toes.
She, Lila, weaves in and out of our legs as we sit entranced,
caught by the timer ticking off the seconds like a metronome.
What do they call this state in catspeak? Heightened napping?
The hiss of the heater in winter, warmth against the eye of night,
first celebration of the New Year.

The cat named after the night or Delilah cutting Samson’s locks,
it is strength we need to meet the coming of the year. No respite.
The slings and arrows of misfortune—
who uses slings these days anyway, or arrows for that matter?
Other than Cupid and he’s way off his mark these days
judging by personal and public polls.

I have long since left the cat in the kitchen
and don’t know how I’ll retrieve it back into this writing.
Poor thing wants out anyway, in more ways than one.
We’re all writing about her and she can’t take the scrutiny.
All these alien bodies in her space. And death won't come.
So much for run of house…and now I’m stuck, stuck, stuck…
Write your way out and surprise yourself.

Can’t write my way out of a paper bag, let alone a cliché.
Has anyone ever tried to write their way out of a paper bag. Preposterous.
A cat, maybe. But the cat loves the world from inside a paper bag
swatting at the world from inside the safety of a paper house.


2/3/04

Sunday, February 1, 2004

BLUE FREEWRITE



inside the eye                                                                        
a primeval ligature of well-muscled sky
against the unseen void
enter a smoky tunnel
and when you get to the root of it,
how we associate life,
and pooled water with all that blue.

all root and nerve,
the crack between worlds
where rogue planets coalesce,
burn an afterimage on the retina
leaving the optic nerve hungry
for more mirror images.
no to mention the blind spot
or the mind playing tricks.

tracings of veins,
shadows against the back wall of the eye
dendritic highways
ghost image and counter image
that feeling of not alone
as if someone else in an empty room
the almost as if seen
what constitutes reality
scripted or unscripted?
foreshadow and aftershadow
rods and cones
intimate not greens and not reds

to which point do the bird’s thoughts retract?

descending into a smoky tunnel
background noise bricking up a pristine silence

At that time between day and night
when everything is crepscular in notion,
and the Cole Porter violin cresendo swells,
opens the doors between worlds,
is where the limnal and the real world collide,
where we dream, where we drift,
where you’re not sure where you’re going
or where you’ve been,
living both lives simultaneously.
Meanwhile, a petty dictator gets in the way of truth.

2/2004