Wednesday, December 31, 1980

Snail and carp drawings 1979 ot 80?




Whatever notebooks these drawings were from are long gone. These were bad xerox copies pasted onto my hand-calligraphed poetry folder. which held my "published" (keeper) work from 1978 to 1980. They could even be from 1978, or earlier.

 What you can't see from the greyed and worn xerox is that they were exquisitely rendered, almost 3-D. The coated paper still reeks of chemicals. I'm surprised they lasted this long.

The fish, probably borrowed from a Japanese woodblock, became a model for a raku fish I made in the mid 1970s. Or the raku fish I made in the 70s, inspired the drawing. Either way, I was intrigued by how the parts fit together so elegantly—especially the tail.

The snail was a garden culprit. I was drawing him as he was perched on my finger. I became enamored of the comic slobbery houndog quality of his jowls. After I was done admiring him, I let him go.

added 3/18

Monday, December 29, 1980

Monday, December 22, 1980

The Close of the Year (prose) Trailside Killer


The  Close  of the Year (prose)

Below me  a  fog lake slowly wells up aid roils  over like milk flowing  down  the  hillsides in a slow dance that bathes the trees with dew and moisture on the slopes  of Gilliam Ridge. The peaks  of the Cedars  and the  Red Slide jut out of angular winter shadow like pyramids catching the sun.

Below me, hikers climb out of the  ravines of Austin Creek, and a chainsaw buzzes, a woodpecker calls to her mate, and somewhere far off, an early lamb bleats for its mother. Somewhere to  the  south near Point Reyes a killer is stalking unwary hikers and the corpses are an unholy offering in a place such as this that cries "no more blood".

A bloodthirsty killer who  knows these woods, who somehow lures young women away from the relative safety of numbers, and places precise bullet holes in their heads. Why this? That these woods have come to harbor such evil? The sunshine is so warm. I take off my woolen clothing, my bare skin and feet are stroked by feeble winter sun. My eyes grow heavy with sleep. Should I also expect danger from that intruder this far north?

The body of fog roils toward me like spores furring on excrement and three ravens  cut across its surface making their own kind of offering to the land.

The sun in the southernmost position of the sky needs fire, not blood, no bone-fires  to bring it back from solstice. I hear the  ticking of the clock. The ticking of the clock... a line from one of my earlier poems.

I learn to settle down and rest comfortably like a cat among lines of my own choosing. I inherit them, I, who disavowed them, they keep coming back in all of their angular beauty—an untamed vision to haunt me—like those nameless faces of those murdered women of Point Reyes.

A roaring sound is heard. Does the fog roar through the trees as it passes through? or is the fog a lake, and do the the waves lapping up against the shore of the ridge roar? or is it the eyeless souls and mouthless tongues of all those murdered women of Point Reyes?

12/22/1980
added 7/17, minor revision
A reference to the Trailside Killer

THE CLOSE OF THE YEAR

THE CLOSE OF THE YEAR

Below us, the fog lake rises
on the slopes of Gilliam Ridge.
It wells up and boils over like milk
and flows down the sides in a slow dance,
bathing the trees with dew and moisture.
The peaks of the Cedars and  Red Slide
juts out of angular winter shadow
like pyramids catching the sun.

Below us, hikers climb out of the ravines
of Austin Creek Park
and a chainsaw buzzes.
a woodpecker calls to her mate,
and somewhere, far off, a lamb bleats for its mother.

Somewhere, to the south, near Point Reyes
a killer is stalking.
The sunshine is so warm.
we take off our woolen clothing.
Our bare skin and feet stroked by the glow
of winter sunlight.
Our eyes grow heavy with sleep.

The body of fog, like fur on dogshit, rolls towards us,
and three ravens slice across its surface
making their own kind of offering to the land.
The sun, in the southernmost acre of the sky,
needs no-blood, no bonfires
to bring it back from winter solstice.

I hear the ticking of the clock.
The ticking of the clock...
I repeat a line from one of my earlier poems.
I learn to settle down  like a cat among lines
of my own choosing.
They keep coming back to haunt me
like those nameless faces
of the murdered women of Point Reyes.

A roaring sound is heard.
Does the fog roar through trees as it passes through?

Winter Solstice
1980

One of the few poems of 1980 that I actually dated. There's also a reference to the Trailside Killer,  this is one version. I can't find a decent copy of the other version. Added 11/16 minor revisions & line breaks. There's also a prose version, probably a first draft for this poem, Winter Solstice, 1980.

Sunday, December 21, 1980

Winter Solstice, 1980


Our feet brush through the pine needles, one last time before they settle back to earth. In the sunlight we can't help but reach toward love. The blood roars like an ocean through your veins and a fog shrouds my belly. It sings through my veins as a fog enters my mouth and I feel your pulse against my lips as you come loose from your moorings. It's 5, no, 7 counts and you sink into oblivion. And the ethereal mist seep between my teeth and flows across the wilderness of our bodies. I think of those 5 or 7 million dead lying on my belly, and of those poor murdered women of Point Reyes, as soft grey brain matter sinks back into the earth. Our bodies warm to winter sunlight and we reach to hold each other as we celebrate the returning of the sun.

Winter Solstice 1980
Austin Creek Park
added 7/17, revised
*a reference to the Trailside Killer
THE CLOSE OF THE YEAR

Wednesday, December 3, 1980

The Lingual Arch of the River and the Sea (dream) (prose)


The Lingual Arch of the River and the Sea

River mouth bathers, I want to go in the water. There's a dock being built where the ocean meets the river. It's a dock with a wooden wall around it. There will be several doors and windows put in so the view won't be blocked. Someone will probably eat breakfast there during good weather. The people who live there are friends of mine, I don't know who they are. It's a dream. It's hot. I want to go swimming. I think I'll go thru the unfinished door porthole—it's a lot closer than going all the way around to the shore.

I spot a mighty wave building up out at sea. My God, it's another tidal wave like the one that reappears in this other recurring dream except in that dream the sea is always tropical and there are lots of islands. Hawaii maybe.

This ocean is definitely not tropical. It has that black-blue quality of brackish water. Bright sunshine and blue sky summer afternoons of intense summer heat. The beach is reddish crumbly granite. Lots of iron stains from the hills that tint the river red. Its probably the Russian River but I'm not sure.

The wave, as it collects on the far side of the horizon, exposes much of the
rocky beach. I grip the redwood 4x4 being used as a dock piling and I
wonder if I can hold on to it tightly enough during the tidal wave. I
probably will have thousands of splinters in my hands if I do. Better splinters than drowning I guess. My fingernails will probably break off at the quick from the intense pressure of fighting the wave.

The mighty wave crashes up against the dock and I am terrified that I will be swept away , but the dock takes up the shock of the wave and it protects me. The wave gently laps up through the doorway where I'm standing, and , as it passes through the doorway, I hear the ocean speak for the first time in my life.

It's probably the first time its been able to speak to anyone in god knows how long. How many incomplete doorways are built along the shore for an ocean to speak: through? I didn't know.

How could anyone know that the ocean needed a doorway to speak through, or that the ocean has just been dying to talk to anyone, anything—for centuries? We've all misunderstood the ocean. It speaks in a low breath, whispering profound truths of pure rhetoric. I am hearing it, and for the first time, my life makes complete sense to me. It all makes complete sense. We are all at home with it all.

I try to remember a sentence or two to quote from so I can plaijerise upon some of the ocean's many truths. People will think I am so wise, so zen. But just as it speaks, the words empty out of my ears as fast as they go in.

I can't remember one thing that the ocean told me. All I can remember is that the ocean needs a mouth to talk through, that the waves are tongues, that the river too is a tongue leading into the dark whispering ocean of many tongues, that the mouth of the river is interlocked in an embrace with one of the many mouths of the ocean, that the ocean is polygamous. It tongues rivers everywhere.

All those mouths exchange the souls of those who are indifferent to life, the dead who slip into the grey snags of willow growing along the river shore. They slide down through the roots of the willow and into the river to that long journey downward into the sea.

The river is a molten tongue carrying them downward into the sea. The words on the tongue of the river are words of all those who still wait to speak. The ocean is a tongue. The river is a tongue. They share the same mouth. To speak they each need separate mouths. Men have one mouth and two tongues. Women have two mouths and one tongue.

Mouths and tongues each need a place to lie in before they can speak. We need the lingual arch of the river and the sea.


Fall 1980? I revised this for ELizabeth Herron's prose fiction class. Poem was written in the summer of 1979. So, the origin of this could be 79.
added & slightly revised 7/17.

THE LINGUAL ARCH OF THE RIVER AND THE SEA 1979


Monday, December 1, 1980

In the Garden

In the Garden

She was at the bar ordering the Calistoga water when she saw him. It seems that their paths were always crossing these days. She suspected it was a mutual sabotage, neither one willing to let go of the other.

She knew he might be at Garbo's Niteclub but decided to go out anyway. She was tired of avoiding all the places he might have gone to. There weren't many places a single woman could go to have a quiet drink and dance off the day's tensions.

Besides, her friends were there. Should she give up her friendships just because he was there? It was a public place. He didn't have his name stamped in every corner the way a dog leaves his scent when staking out territory. She had just as much right to be there as he did.

She didn't want it to seem like she was avoiding him, even though she was. If she made it obvious, then he would think she was mad at him and then a confrontation would follow, and she would cry a little, making a firm resolution to never see him again. But she knew she could never keep that promise.

She had tried that one before, God knows she had tried. It was after she had lost the baby. It was probably for the best, but her arms ached to hold that baby. She wanted to put that baby in his arms and see his face often as he held his firstborn son. She often thought it was a son. She never knew. Didn't want to know. Somehow the guessing was always more satisfying.

They had tried to make a clean break of it, the moving on that would eventually need to happen, or so he said. What she hadn't counted on was falling in love with him. It was the last thing she needed. Her marriage of five years was breaking up. His being there to help her through the adjustment period, and surprise pregnancy on top of that, was more than she could handle.

No, she went into this relationship clear eyed, and in control of her feelings. Who knows why the blind Seraphim aims at random with his deadly arrows. Arrows to the heart. More like porcupine quill's. Can't pull them out. Not even with pliers. Sometimes they work their way out, emerging on the other side of pierced flesh.

When she knew she had been struck, she no longer resisted. She figured it was fate and she may as well just accept it. She certainly didn't want to be tied down just yet. She wanted to sample some freedom. All those men out there with extended cocks waiting to be tried. Nonetheless, it had happened.

Maybe she was a prime candidate not having been in love for a couple of years. Her husband and she lived together for reasons of convenience. They thought they were surviving in a tough world that require two people banded together against the common enemy.

And when there was a cease-fire, she popped her head out of the manhole and discovered there wasn't an enemy in sight. There was never an enemy out there
The enemy existed all right, it was right there in her bed, sleeping with her at night, feeding her by day. The common enemy raised its snake eye and hissed her name. She fled in terror, right into the open arms of this man sitting at the bar as she waited for her drink.

He walked over to where she was sitting. She could sense his presence and it excited her. She could feel the subtle variations in body heat the way a snake does when it is blind and in summer molt. The snake sheds his entire body including the eyes. That's why rattlesnakes are so deadly in summer. They can't see, and blindly striking anything warm.

The hostility rose up to her abdomen and lodged in her throat like a fish bone hastily swallowed – she tried to civilly answer his queries. How was she doing? And so on. She wanted him to go away, leave her alone. She knew there wasn't much chance of dancing with anyone else that night now that he had come over to her table.

Everyone always fled whenever they chanced to meet up like this. It wasn't just his physical size that made people avoid them, it was something else almost intangible, as if people sensed that that they had some unresolved business, and perhaps there was a presence of danger. Maybe they sensed the volatile nature of their relationship and thought it best to clear off.

It wasn't a case of the roving men realizing that they were no match for him, mutual friends were uncomfortable as well.

She got up to leave, and he walked her to her car. Once outside, they felt freer and breathed more easily. There wasn't that awkward sense of his hovering over her when they were inside. They walked close together, almost but not quite touching one another. They lingered at her car, talking of nothing to make time pass more slowly. Neither one was willing to say good night to the other.

He said, hey, you still owe me a massage, I'd like to collect it now if you're not too tired. Or, if you are, tomorrow morning would be fine too. She wondered did he really want to massage, or was this yet another clumsy attempt to reestablish contact? She was half angry half intrigued. It didn't occur to her to be upfront and asking precisely what he had in mind. Chances were, he would deny any interest in her, that all he wanted was a massage.

They had often spent the night together as friends. Was this the big showdown? Would you want to sleeping partner for the night, and then a quick goodbye, nice to see you in the morning? If that was the case, then he was in for a surprise because she was going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't want to fuck her.

If he laid one hand on her she was going to really let him know what a bastard he was and if he wanted to fuck her, then he was going to have to own up to the whole affair, that he did love her and if he wanted to sleep with her, then he damn well better marry her and be done with it.

She was tired of the cat and mouse roulette and she wasn't going to get sucked into making the first move because he was unable to make it himself.

Sex wasn't a deciding factor in their relationship. If it wasn't there, or so he thought, they weren't having a relationship – regardless of all the other aspects of their time spent together.

She slept in his arms, holding hands and thighs, they clung to each other the whole night long until dawn separated them from dreams and reality.

At breakfast he said, it's nice to know we can still innocently sleep together without the confusion over a relationship. She thought, yeah, we didn't fuck. Are we innocent? Who's garden are we in anyway? And who let the snake out?

No, we are not innocent, just blind and unable to help ourselves. And we keep on trying to reach each other in our own pathetic ways.

Fall 1980

Orange Cat


An orange cat ran across the road tonight. I tried to avoid him. The car stalled, a tuft of fur drifted up and caught in the light of the headlamp. Just a few days ago, I noticed the Cat Crossing sign as I drove to work, and, I thought I'd never be in a position of breach of faith. You said, "I hit an orange cat the other night too." And we talked about karma and abortion, as if the cat were the karma. Or the dogma. But we didn't really believe in that. So, tonight I hit my first cat. I felt so guilty and  sorry for the owner of that cat who would look in vain for her wayward tom. Then wondered about fate. Are we merely instrumental in the scheduled deaths of others whose time has come? Where are we in the right place at the right time for the accident to occur? Do any of us die before our time has come? What about all those people who try to ended it, and then live? Is it destined as to who will live and who will die? What about all the men and women who abort their young too soon? Is that karma of the unborn? Or are we all murderers whose time has come?

Fall 1980
added 10/16
slightly revised

Fiction class with Elizabeth Herron Fall 1980

Since I can't date most of my fiction and memoir, and it looks like I revisited some old pieces for this class, which, sadly, turned me off to fiction, I'll file them here, at the end of the year. I pretty much abandoned the prose process after taking this class and it wasn't until I established this blog that I was willing to revisit prose. 

I still have an aversion to fiction. I'm much more comfortable with memoir. I do like Elizabeth (as a poet), but I sure didn't like her class. I came away feeling like a complete failure in both poetry and prose. I'll own it, not blame others, it was all on me. My doors of perception, self-doubt, and vulnerability conspired against me. I wasn't very good at pleasing others with my work, which required a wrestling match before I got it down on paper (who knew I had dyslexia?). I guess I learned something from the class. But there's still a bitter taste in the back of the throat some 36 years later. 

The one good thing about the class was that I became fast friends with Ockly scientist/engineer Michael Fulton, who was working on a sci-fi novel. We saw each other for a few years, and kept in touch through the 1990s. Worth the price of admission. I've added most of this prose on 10/2016. It's hard not to resist fixing them.   Onward, as they say.


Monday, November 24, 1980

SALMON DANCE

SALMON DANCE


After the first push of autumn rain,
the sand bar melts and like a woman,
the river opens to the thrusting salmon.
Volcanic blood flushes the skin
of this false spring and
mountains press hard against the clouds
that suck and lick at them.
The sides of the salmon flash lava-red
as they swim upriver to spawn in shallow pools;
tails scooping out hollows in the sand
where red roe ignites the ancient fires
and the slow combustion begins.
Squadrons of pelicans dive in unison,
their beaks brimming with fish.
Seal pups along the mouth of the river
leave natal waters for their first ocean swim.
The darkness of the Farallon Islands laboriously
presses down on the meniscus of the ocean.
With the naked eye, one can't see
how the San Andreas Fault stretches
toward the Ring of Fire
where the oceanic trench cuts deep
into the earth and lava leaks from the wound.
(when the abortionist's job is done.)

11/24/1980
rev. 4/1986, 2008

1988 Catalyst


Monday, September 15, 1980

THE FERRYMAN

— from The Scream, by Edvard Munch

Ferry me across the water.
I am the madwoman,
the raftsman is asleep.
No, I am the raft,
madness is asleep.

The children who gather around me
have been here before,
their bruised eyes witness
the tedium of living.

Visions in the mind reflect
in the pool of the eye.
I fear their faces under my fingers.
They melt grotsesquely into the river
& the silent scream is on their lips.

These are the children of Munch
floating in their saline nursery.
It is the glance of the child
complete in my likeness
I will never see in the mirror.

I have only their eyes.
It is there too in memory.
Madness is complete.
I am Charon across the water.
The river is asleep.

1980
rev. 1988


Monday, July 28, 1980

MELANCHOLY

MELANCHOLY

the center of  a muskmelon 

with its lips full of seed
is the body of a woman  
in love 

 7/28/80

Tuesday, July 15, 1980

DOWN AMONG THE BONES


DOWN AMONG THE BONES

The slumbering giant,
I saw  his crematory eye
spark and ignite
the memory of the night hour
whose hour has come
before his red rimmed eye?

I pick myself up among the bones
You are the dreamer and you are the dream
You scatter rose petals into the sea
I separate the chaff from the grain

I am the gleaner, I am the dream
and the mud oozes over your dreams
What seed is this that sprouts
from the breast of the universe?

From the edge of night you look up
and you stare into that vacant sky
You look for the edge
The shaft of light penetrates
the eye of the dreamer
the womb of the universe
where the tidal forces of your life flows

It is the spine of the ridge
where the red wind blows
In the mud you find the edge
the edge is in the arms of the red wind.

1979, 1980
Another version was published in The Program, vol. 1, no.3, 1979

Monday, July 14, 1980

POEM FOR RUSTY NORTH'S HANDS


POEM FOR RUSTY NORTH'S HANDS

With its absent-minded stroke
upon the coarse woven skirt,
the knowing touch of an
arthritic hand, too old
for a middle-aged woman

The surety of her deft dressmaker's touch
reminds me of my grandmother's hands,
who made all my school clothes,
but this woman's other hand is missing

& I sense the presence of her twin limb
occupying space, still capable of feeling,
never aging, like the amputated limbs
of children.

As if in greeting and supplication,
her absent hand caresses this room
with the comfort and care of a hand
that lips of children dutifully brush.

Her daughters smooth their dresses
carefully over their thin knees.
I too remember how cruel the kids at school were
on the subject of home-made dresses.

7/1980
The Child in the Bell, CPITS Statewide Anthology, 1981-82

Sunday, July 13, 1980

THAT I AM COYOTE


THAT I AM COYOTE, ii

Coyote was my witness
howling at the doorstep.
Some say I was born in the crack
between the lintel and doorjam.

I've been the hooves of the centaur,
the ember sparking the crematory fire,
the grass on the sunken graves of Hittites.
I am the mist rising from hollow armors.

I've seen silvered hands of women
tattooed with indigo weaving the rug,
and the slaughtered fawn
run red synthesis upon the earth.

I am the song the edge of night sings
and dawn howls on street corners.
I was the essence that flew upward at creation
and out of it stars were made.

Nothing more than granite ground to flour by glaciers,
you race through streams to lie in the ocean.
I've divided air from water and fire from the horizon.
We are lines converging on the compass and the cross.

We are the first-born of Coyote.

1980

Thursday, July 10, 1980

Port Townsend Poetry Conference 1980 (photo)


Port Townsend Poetry Conference 1980. Either Sharon Doubiago or Tobey Kaplan took this photo. I don't think it was Leonard Cirino.  I don't think Linda Macalouso was there. I'm listening to Meridel LeSueur. Sitting on the floor at her feet, actually. We crashed the Centrum conference—they tried to bust us, and Meridel said, the California poets stay or I go. Sharon Doubiago read from her new manuscript, Hard Country. Meridel said,  This book needs to be published—and the rest is history.





Writing at Centrum
 Centrum’s literary program is a rigorous, craft-focused community for writers, editors, translators, and readers working in a variety of styles. It all began in 1974 with the founding of the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference by novelist Bill Ransom, who envisioned an egalitarian, non-hierarchical conference where the emphasis was on the craft of literary writing. Jim Heynen, Carol Jane Bangs, Sam Hamill, and many other writers continued the emphasis on the writing craft and the mid-July conference has become an annual pilgrimage for many.


1980 (I went to this one; I remember meeting Lisel Mueller, and Bill Knott as well as Donald Hall; I think this is the year I met Bill Root and Pan Uschek, and Rusty North.)

FACULTY: Galway Kinnell, Meridel LeSueur, Richard Shelton, Ann Standork, James Bertolino, Madeline DeFrees, Donald Hall, Sam Hamill, Bill Ransom, Lisel Mueller, Bill Knott.
 
1981 (I'm pretty certain I went to this one too as I have a journal entry on Jack Cady; and I spent time with Tree Swenson and Kathleene over at Copper Canyon Press. Kathleene West (what was her last name back then. I found out that Linnerson was her maiden name, she said she was always reinventing herself. Anyway, she got me to apply to teach poetry to kids in Montana.)

FACULTY: Margaret Atwood, Robert Haas, William Matthews, Sam Hamill, Tree Swenson, Leslie Marmon Silko, William Stafford, Jack Cady, Jane Yolen.
 
1982  (I know that I went to this one too, I remember singing and drinking with Tess and Ray (note to self: don't try to keep up with them drinking); I fell in love with Thomas McGrath. I remember his Imaginary Letters.)
FACULTY: Olga Broumas, Henry Carlile, Sandra McPherson, Carolyn Forché, Tess Gallagher, Sam Hamill, Paul Hansen, Jim Heynen, Thomas McGrath, Richard Shelton, James Laughlin, Raymond Carver, Gordon Lish.

 
added 2/2017

Tuesday, July 1, 1980

BUCKEYE


The blossoming candles of the buckeye
are pointing their way toward water.

7/1/1980

Wild Cherries


WILD CHERRIES
                   —for Robert Bruce Hamilton, wherever you are

The wild cherry trees of the Colombia River Gorge were covered with tight red fruit almost gone wasted because everybody drove up to Troutdale, near the slopes of Mt. Hood to get prized Bing cherries at a dollar a pound—dark luscious meaty fruit the size of your big toenail. Even the birds weren't allowed to nibble on them. Not that I could afford them either. I joined the birds in a more profitable hunt for the wild fruit that hung within reach of the river shore.

Volunteer trees that had escaped the hybrid yoke, were laden with tiny cherry pie cherries. I climbed up on the roof of the Volkswagon bus, and ate wild cherries as fast as I could pick them. I had stiff competition with the Clark's nuthatches who were quicker. They gulped the fruit down, seeds and all.

I began to savor the cherries as I satiated my desire for the first fresh fruit in season—after a penitential winter of dull canned goods. I ate them most delicately. I nibbled on their edges. I bit them in half, rolling them in my mouth, savoring the tart and sweet admixture— balancing them on the tip of my tongue. I admired their jeweled redness—like pomegranates

Then I saw something move inside one cherry—actually a part of something. A slender threadlike worm dangling off the other half of my cherry. I cautiously bit into another cherry hoping it was an accident. It too had a worm. And the next one, the one after that, and so on. Every cherry had its worm, and I had already eaten two pounds of cherries. I felt queasy and imagined minced worms stitching themselves back together—making a reverse journey back up my throat.

The only thing that saved me from myself was that I recalled hearing that Provencal cherries—unrivaled in flavor—each came with a resident worm. The payison of Provence swear that's the reason why their cherries taste divine. They eat their cherries with worms and all with a bon appétit. But I felt betrayed by all this bounteous nature.

I prefer my protein less lively—didn't I tell you I'm vegetarian?

ca 1980?  rev. 2014
An event with Sweet Old Bob, so the mid 70s, but when I wrote it, I'm not sure. Hindsight is a great tool for editing. I remember being overwhelmed by prose, so not my strong suit. So this piece lay fallow for ages. I rediscovered it while scanning old work. Dusted it off a bit.

Monday, June 2, 1980

CHANT FOR THE LINE OF COAST, Horicon School

CHANT FOR THE LINE OF COAST

blue green
heron
blue heron gliding
herron gliding
gliding blue green
river
shoreline
blue green
wonder
gliding heron blue green
river
fish leap
river green
blue river
water splash
blue green
river, sound

river path 
winding 
wind path 
river sound 
frog leap 
salmon dance 
river sound 
wind leap 
wind dance 
river dance

one river
three mountains going on forever
two blue herons
white wings outstretched
wind blowing on 10,000 pine needles
redwood forests
red pants
four geese
green shoes green shirt
15 blackbirds flying south along the Gualala river
one coastal highway
13 views of the coast
12 winnebagos heading north
ocean river going south
ocean going river
four more mountains
one peninsula migrating north two inches a year
the san andreas fault    *
12 winnebagos at fault
the point reyes coast
point arena
pointing west    
pointing north

June 1980   

Teaching at Horicon School in Annapolis, a one-room school house meant we had an unusual opportunity. Most of the students were Pomo, so we all moved outside for the poetry residency, and wrote about nature. This ditty was written inside a  hollow redwood tree stump, open to the ocean. I don't think it's great, but it is an artifact of the times.  I literally have not seen some of this work since 1980! An odd time capsule. Added 11/16.

Thursday, May 1, 1980

Big Russell Ranch, Yreka, Oral History

BIG RUSSEL RANCH

Edith Hazlan Howard remembers:

These hyacinths just keep growing but this ain't no lawn. Look at it all choked up with them damn hyacinths. I didn't know what I got into when I moved in here last July. 

See, I had my own ranch. Planted my own orchards. Took care of my own stock. Then I got too old. And lived with my daughter a while in Oregon. Then, when the cancer got too bad, I moved back to Yreka. The doc is real good here. 

I like to be out digging in the garden. I don't go to church much. Had to stay near the toilet night and day. It was something awful—my stomach. 

A young preacher man came by to visit me. He didn't mean no harm. I lived my life accordingly. 

Hey! You keep away from my flowers or you'll get my cane. That's my cat. They wouldn't let me keep a dog, I had a dog all my life. I grew up on Big Russel Ranch. You ever heard of it? 

You know, I raised six kids. My girl twins just turned 63. My boy built that church right over there—a lotta good it did him. His cancer got him in the end. I'm the last of nine kids. When my brothers all went away, we kids ran the ranch. Hell, we didn't have "women's" work—or "men's" work, for that matter. My mama told me what needed to be done an' we did it. 

I done lots o' work. I worked in the orchards, canneries—I even worked in a box factory once. During the war, I worked in a green chainsaw mill. I was the only woman there an' I got men's wages too. I still got my tin hat. you wanna see it? I put it on the other day, but the neighbors think I'm a crazy old woman. 

The old man down the street, he's 96. He comes over an' helps me dig the garden. I dig the ground with my big shovel. We planted some tomatoes last July and they was big as plates. 

I like to go huntin'. You hunt much? I got my last buck four years ago. I gutted it and did the whole thing but the kids took away my shotgun. Didn't trust me. My daughter's coming to take me up to the turkey shoot today up at the Klamath River. 

How I hate those damn cars driving back and forth, back and forth all day and all night blaring their music. I like Sundays cause there's less cars. 

Did you know the six planets are lining up? #t's the first time in our history. The weather turned bad two-three years ago. And it's gonna get worse. I don't think we seen nothin' yet. The Russians are probably in on it. 

You know that triangle where ships disappear? They always talk about it. You know, that big island. What's it? Sometimes I just forget things like the names of the planets and my pets dear to me. Bermuda! That's it! The Russians said they was in on it. I think they was just tryin' to scare folks, don't you? 

These hyacinths , they groew like weeds. You gotta pull' em with your hands. 'Course, my hands ain't what they used to be. Got no strength in 'em. Careful, now of these violets—I like their swweet smell. 

Some days I don't feel good. I don't get out much. Sometimes I visits my friends— they're all in rest homes. I don't mind going down to the senior center but I have a nervous stomach. I drink goat's milk. Cow's milk curds and sours in my stomch. 

I had my own goats but it was a waste to be milking ten-twelve goats every day an' pouring it out for the calves, so I trained the calves not to butt 'an put 'em right on the goats. 

I used to go down to the auction and get white-faced calves for 50 cents. Nowadays, they cost five dollars and fifty cents. The calves, its only natural for them to butt the goats but it hurt the goats. I had one goat gibe six-eight quarts of milk a day "and I didn't want her to get hurt. So I'd tie a rope around one of the calves necks and put on my logging boots. When he tried to butt, I'd kick him in the jaw and pick him up. They never kept it up for more'n a week. 

I broke my own horses. We had cattle mostly. We had working dogs on the ranch too. If I took you into the house, you'd see them boxes of tools. I got a buck saw and all knds of stuff. 

This house used to be a barn when I was a girl. You know this alley was named after my mother in law? Howard Alley. My momma almosat died in bed with having me and when I turned 16, I was two- hree weeks in bed with the baby myself. I didn't go to no doctor. No sir! 

My cousin had diphtheria. They locked her in a room before the baby was due and when the doc came back a half an hour later—well, she had the presence of mind to stick her finger way down her throat so she could breathe. 

I used to fix my own cats on the ranch. I got me a real sharp pair of scissors and make one little snip—like that. 'Course you had to be quick and get it just right. I always took the whole thing off. No time for a second chance, you know. 

Old homes—what they do to people. I heard they took new sheets, put 'em up over the bed and tie the old folks back up to keep 'em out of trouble. Hell, they wouldn't get near me— Not with my cane. I use it for more 'n just walkin'. 

I moved back in here last July just to see Dr. Leonard but I had to wait six months to see him because he had the cancer two times himself. But he's a good doc. I won't go near no hospital. I'll give 'em my cane first. I'm strong. If they ever did that to me I'd shred the the quilts. There wouldn't be nuthin' left when I got done with the place. 

I'm a mean one but I never beat my kids. 

Did you read in the Siskyou News about the woman who took a taxi down to the Klamath and just slipped in? I ast my kids to take me down to the Klamath—we used to play there as kids, you know. But they said, "We don't trust you, Mom." 

I said, "Right enough. There you have it." I talked to the taxi man about it. He came over afterwards. *Sometimes I wouldn't mind doing that too—call him up and go down to the Klamath and pull that quivering green quilt over me. But I wouldn't want anyone to feel guilty. There'e enough of that already. Then there's the taxi man to consider too. 

Sometimes, I just go for days. Don't see nobody but my pets. The old man down the street comes over an' my daughter checks on me too. That young preacher, he's a nice boy. He talked about this and that. Not much of anything attall but he was an interesting young feller.

Wait till you see the size of those tomatoes come summer. I'm gettin ready for them now—if the hyacinths don't keep spreadin' The cat, he likes it when I shovel. He helps me dig. Thinks it's his own private toilet. Then I have to get after him—it kills the plants. 

You know, I've gone out 2-3 times today to check the mail. I keep forgetting it's Sunday. Shoulda known . Not much traffic this morning up to the church either. Sleepy day, I guess. Don't get much mail anyway but there'e always hope. 

You know, I don't like Sundays 'cause there's no mail.


DATE? 1980? 

Ken Larsen of Rural Arts Services and I were in Yreka wandering around. Edith took a real shine to me. Her conversation was so amazing, I kept writing down what she said, verbatim, never once looking down at my paper, afraid I'd break her train of thought. Fascinating... The ascii version of this was a mess. All periods gone, and capital letters. I think I revised this later into a monologue.

I've found a hard copy which is pretty close to this one, I'm posting it right next door, in case it's different. I also found the first hand draft of poem version as well. But not the original notes.

Big Russel Ranch v.1. Edith Hazlet Howard, Yreka,

Big Russel Ranch v.1. Edith Hazlet Howard, Yreka, CA, 1979-80 from hard copy

Hyacinths

We met Edith Hazlet Howard in Howard Alley, on the back streets of Yreka, as she was readying her spring garden. It was a warm spring morning. With a scowl that would have frightened the devil himself, she attached to those pesky hyacinths with a vengeance, glaring at our unwelcome approach. I was startled by the presence of this formidable woman – she was the incarnation of Macbeth's witches in her baggy black overalls, gum boots, and shovel – I must've said something to break the ice because suddenly she burst into a big smile, as if we were long lost friends, and so, began her tale.

This documentary transcript which follows, is an attempt to capture edith's convoluted nonlinear style of speaking, which at first, made little sense, but as the story began to unwind, the connections between things became clearer. I've made no attempt to turn this into a traditional prose piece, which would be easier to read but it would also be watered-down and change by my own aesthetics of what writing should be. The connections she made were very much the stuff from which poetry is made. The metaphor of hyacinths and cancer, the living and the dying, and the daily survival of a fiercely independent pirate pioneer woman facing the ultimate challenge.

Edith Hazlet Howard remembers:

These hyacinths just keep growing but this ain't no lawn. Look at all of them, look at it all choked up with them damn things. I didn't know what I got into when I moved in here last July. See, I had my own ranch. Planted my own orchards. Took care of my own stock. Then I got too old and lived with my daughter a while in Oregon. Then, when the cancer got too bad., I moved back to Yreka. The doc here is real good.

I like to be out digging in the garden. I don't go to church much. Had to stay near the toilet night and day. It was something awful – my stomach. When it got real bad, a young preacher man came to visit me. He didn't mean no harm. I lived my life accordingly.

Hey you, keep away from my flowers or you'll get my cane. That's my cat. They wouldn't let me keep the dog. I had a dog all my life. I grew up on Big Russell Ranch. You ever heard of it?

 You know, I raise six kids. My girl twins just turned 63. My boy built that church right down over the right over there – a lot of good it did him. His cancer got him in the end. I am the last of nine kids. When my brothers all went away, we kids ran the ranch. Hell, we didn't have women's work, or men's work, for that matter. My mama told me what needed to be done and we did it.

I done lots of work. I worked in the orchards and canneries. I even worked in a box factory once. During the war, I worked in a green chainsaw mill. I was the only woman there and I got men's wages two. I still got my tin hat. You want to see it? I put it on the other day, but the neighbors think I'm a crazy old woman.

I like to go hunting. You hurt much? I got my last book 4 years ago. I gutted it end did the whole thing, but the kids took away my shotgun. Didn't trust me. My daughter's coming to take me up to the turkey shoot today at the Klamath River.

The old man down the street, he's 96. He comes over and help me dig the garden. I dig the ground with my big shovel. We planted some tomatoes last July and they was as big as plates.

How I hate those damn cars driving back-and-forth, back-and-forth all day and all night, blaring their music. I like Sundays because there's less cars.

Did you know the six planets are all lining up? It's the first time in our history. The weather turned bad 2–3 years ago, and it's going to get worse. I don't think we seen nothing yet. The Russians are probably in on it.

You know that triangle where the ships disappear? They always talk about it. You know, that big Island? What's it? Sometimes I just forget things, like the names of the planets, and my pets so dear to me. Bermuda! That's it! The Russians said they was in on it. I think they was just trying to scare folks, don't you?

These hyacinths, they grow like weeds. You gotta pull them up with your hands. 'Course, my hands ain't what they used to be. Got no strength in them. Careful, now of those violets – I like the sweet smell.

Some days I don't feel good. I don't get out much. Sometimes I visits my friends – they're all in rest homes. I don't mind going down to the senior center, but I have a nervous stomach. I drink goat's milk. Cow's milk curds and sours in my stomach.

I had my own goats once, but it was a waste of time to be milking 10–12 goats every day and pouring it out for the weaner calves, so I trained the calves not to butt and put them right on the goats.

I used to go down to the auction and get whiteface cabs for 50 cents. Nowadays they cost $5.50. The calves, it's only natural for them to butt, but it hurts the goats. I had one goat gives 6 to 8 quarts of milk a day and I didn't want her to get hurt. So I tied a rope around one of the calves' necks, and put ion my logging boots. And when he tried to but, I kicked him in the jaw and picked him up. They never kept it up for more 'n a week.

I broke my own horses. We had cattle mostly. We had working dogs on the ranch too. If I took you into the house, you'd see them boxes of tools. I got a bucksaw and all kinds of stuff. The house used to be a barn when I was a girl.

You know this alley was named after my mother-in-law? Howard Alley. My mama almost died in bed with having me, and when I turned 16, I was to three weeks in bed with the baby myself. I didn't go to no doctor. No sir!

My cousin had diphtheria. They locked her in the room before the baby was due, and when the doc came back 1/2 an hour late,r well, she had the presence of mind to sticker finger way down her throat so she could breathe.

I used to fix my own cats on the ranch. I got a real sharp pair of scissors and made one little slip – like that. 'Course, you had to be quick and get it just right. I always took the whole thing off. No time for second chance, you know.

Old homes – what they do to people. I heard they took new sheets, put them up over the bed, and tied to the old folks back up to keep them out of trouble. Hell, they wouldn't get near me – not with my cane. I use it for more than just walkin'.

I moved back in here last July just to see Dr. Leonard, but I had to wait six months to see him because he had cancer two times himself, but he's a good doc. I won't go near no hospital. I'lll give 'em my cane first. I'm strong. If they ever did that to me, I'd shred the quilts. There would be nothing left when I got done with the place. I'm a mean one, but I never beat my kids.

Did you read in the Siskiyou news about the woman who took a taxi down to the Klamath, and just slipped in? I asked my kids to take me down to the Klamath – we used to play there is kid you you know, but they said, we don't trust you mom. I said, right enough. There you have it.

I talked to the taxi man about it. He came over afterwords. Sometimes I wouldn't mind doing that too – call him up, and go down to the Klamath, and pull that quivering green quilt over me – but I wouldn't want anyone to feel guilty. There's enough of that already. Then, there's the taxi man to consider, too.

Sometimes, I just go for days. Don't see nobody but my pets. The old man down the street, he comes over, and my daughter checks in on me too. That young preacher, he's a nice boy, he talked about this and that – not much of anything at all, really, but he was an interesting young feller.

Wait till you see the size of those tomatoes, come summer. I'm getting ready for them now – if the hyacinths don't keep spreading. The cat, he likes it when I shovel. He helps me dig. Thinks it's his own private toilet. Then, I have to get after him – it kills the plants.

You know, I've gone out two – three times today to check the mail. I keep forgetting it's Sunday. Should've known. Not much traffic this morning up to the church either. Sleepy day, I guess. Don't get much mail anyway, but there's always hope. You know, I don't like Sundays because there's no mail.


With that she turned to go inside, the cat trailing behind her, twitching its tail and investigating the fresh clumps of dirt and wilting hyacinths in the sun.

Spring,1980?  83?
added 10/16


Friday, April 18, 1980

WOMAN IS OF THE OCEAN


WOMAN IS OF THE OCEAN

As the earth unleashes its hold upon spring,
bees brush morning with their wings.
The eye gathers in clouds of apple blossoms.
Is it a woman's desire to wait upon the land
with the sound of the ocean filling her
leaving only the fish to nourish her
during the long drought?
The whale returns to the north, toward home;
she returns south to mate, to give birth
and to feed upon the krill.
There is where home lies.
Man talks in symbols.
He spreads sperm in damp wings.
The labial fire burns and dies.
Veins carry in the eye of the storm
and the coastline of the mouth 
is treacherous.

4/18/1980
rev 7/1980


Thursday, March 20, 1980

Ghost trees, Michael Dow Workshop

During the winter it got dark early, we had double sessions at school and I got home after 5 PM. The cantilevered boughs of the trees reached across the long road that wove in and out of the trunks like a gray snake heading north. There were fallen trees decomposing along either side of the creek that ran alongside the road. My flashlight failed at the bridge. In the twilight, their light bark glowed faintly and they lay in waiting like great lumbering phosphor worms  and my fear rose up within me like a great black cape of smothering darkness.


3/20/1980 ?
added 5/3/2016
Michael Dow Workshop
freewrite

Sonnet Form Michael Dow Workshop

Sonnet Form

Mist morning when it is quiet
and the lips of fog kiss
the sky, beneath it, a riot
of flowers blossom in the dark abyss

The wind rustles the petals in the plum trees
bringing a snowstorm of blossoms in June
the vines are choking the bottom growth, and the peas
blossom—a late frost may strike and prune

the new buds with black tongue
before the growth's barely begun.

3/20/1980
 added 5/3/2016

Michael Dow Workshop

Monday, February 25, 1980

NEWSPAPER


The wind from a passing car
catches the edges of a newspaper
lying by the side of the road
and lifts it up like a startled cat.

Sunday, February 24, 1980

AT GOAT ROCK


Light drips from the sky
at Goat Rock, lips of dawn fog
gobble up the sky.

2/24/1980


Thursday, February 21, 1980

3 FRAGMENTS, CPITS freewrites


I am a plant walking
along the sunset
my leaves rain
clouds on the ocean

i send roots down
into rocks
they split apart
and I seek light

at the end of my roots
I feel light
it is soft and warm
like guava jelly

My tendrils pluck stars
from the sky
they ignite as I bring them in
closer

Meteor showers
bathe me
as stellar dust
settles in,

2/21/1980


I roll like a velvet green ocean
across the valleys and hills
the open spaces between fields
In the morning I am warmed by the east
at noon I grow toward the sub
as it shows me how
As the sun sets and the dew collects
on myt blades, sheep
graze on me, they pull
my edges up like a moveable feast.

2/21/1980



I wish I could show you
the beating of my heart
the stirring of breath
the pulsing of blood
through the capillaries
veins and arteries
Could you see the heat
rising from my body
and collecting into fog
and the rain coming down?

2/21/1980


CPITS workshops—freewrites (unedited)
Petaluma ES, with Will Staple
Cloverdale HS, with Lee Perron

Saturday, February 16, 1980

LOVE, ITSELF


LOVE, ITSELF

Love itself
has no season, no time
to turn the rhythm of our souls.
As if by convection our breath
is  snatched away and suspended
from mist particles along
the pounding shore

2/1980

Saturday, February 2, 1980

A POTTER'S FIELD—FOR BETTY WALL

A POTTER'S FIELD
    —for Betty Wall, Dec 25, 1918 to Jan 30,1980

Betty, today you lost your footing
and you fell like a stone into the void
You took in the amniotic ocean
you, who never learned to swim,
you, who loved the sea,

Today, only the ocean
carries the clay chill of death
Only the ocean
is the spawning ground of death
Only the ocean that spawned life,
today, took back a life.

We swim in seminal fluid
We bathe in an amniotic bath
We are born in it
We run rivers to the sea
on a rip tide that churns to land.

We threw your ashes to the wind
from a clay pot that you made
back to the forest. In spring,
rhododendrons will bloom,
and we will pick huckleberries
when you return home,


2/2/1980, rev. 2016
added 10/16
mostly reconstructed from my journal notes, I later found the typed version, below.


Tuesday, January 15, 1980

MOMENTS STRETCHED LIKE SPUN GLASS


MOMENTS STRETCHED LIKE SPUN GLASS

i want you to feel those moments
between waking and sleeping
when your hands mold mountains from my breasts
like the soft milky clay of china
when your teeth graze the transluscent flesh
of my thighs, my shoulders, my neck as you inhale my flesh
our mouths lose their way in dark forests
yours protecting mine from the darkness of sleep
i want your hands to cradle my hips like a bowl of ripe persimmons
glistening in winter sunlight, becoming sunlight

i want to feel your life bloom against the lining
of our bellies like the desert after the first spring rain
i want to wrap myself in a ceremonial feathered cloak
hear the cry of hawks echo from the snowy peaks of the Andes
and sink my teeth, like some wild animal from the steaming jungle
into your hand until it bleeds the color of my rage

i want your death to brush my cheek
like a cat rubbing against the leg of Captain Ahab
petit mort resting on your eyelashes
like fine ash cinders blurring our vision
or breath condensing on the mirror
your tongue curls snail-like
tracing patterns of seashells in my ear,
it trails along the ridge of my spine
it cleaves the bilateral symmetry of my back
and the front of my body, connecting my mouths
our pulses beating in unison, roaring in our ears
like rivers during spring flood
along such symmetry to the moist path
a sinewy rainforest of pollen, musk, honey
in our nostrils, in our mouths, as we flow to the sea,
our tongues, dolphins at play
bathing us in darkness and in light
this day, a moment stretched like spun glass
between waking and sleeping

but as you feed me this nectar of our bodies
it profanes the air we breathe for you withhold your heart
relenquishing our clear hold upon this day

1/15/1980

Pac's Field

Just past Pac's Field, where Russian wolfhounds test the boundaries of their domain, with the grace of deer, or rippling wind—is an island. No, it's more of a peninsula, where two watery divisions intersect. Nestled between the confluence of two creeks, is the remains of an old deer camp, abandoned a half-century ago, yet a presence is still held in the shadows of bay leaves cloaking the ground and filtering the sunlight.

Watchful leaves guard this place with cool breath, even in summer, when outside, the field grasses and crickets hiss and snap like embers from distant fires. From dry arroyos, comes a small chorus of creeks rippling on a thirsty earth. Leaves guard this place, elliptic sylvan tongues suckling and whispering imprinted in the language of trees; I can't tell if what I hear is the sound of water, or leaves.

Remains of a stone hearth, a rusted coffee can with a baling wire handle, rusted bed springs, a crushed hip flask. Someone called this place home. A rotting food-keeper—each night, generations of hopeful raccoons still probe the shelves with dark hands. Genetic memory is like that; persistent and unremarkable.

Chin-high in the crotch of an oak, a stiff leather strop hangs from a rusted nail, a straight-edge razor, fused shut, and an old shaving mirror—silver back peeling like orange fungus. A thinly veiled message of watery glass, reflects and separates the eye from what's real, as if to keep us from seeing through a jigsaw of red-ochre earth, and the secret history of trees, to the blue ache of summer sky. Nose buried in the sweeping wealth of Califia's tawny grasslands, my horse samples each mouthful as if it were her last.

Though wise in the way of fences, my horse still keeps a practiced eye on the relentless wolfhounds testing the fence. The age-old dance of hunter and prey, ever-present. In the pool, sunning turtles, sport red-stripes on their heads—as if someone took a razor to them. Red, only true color in a landscape awash with the brightness of summer.

More than a mile away from the nearest memory of railway lines, this hobo camp slumbers on an island in time. Steel tracks pulled up during the war years, another addendum to history. Fifty years, a half-life since this place was abandoned, yet a presence is still felt in the leaves, and I can't tell if what I hear is the sound of trees, or the sound of water.

1/15/1980
rev. 2007, 2014