Sunday, August 29, 1982

Napa Poetry Conference poems 1982

After a Galway Kinnell reading

The stillness of time, bones, 
hands filled by the harvest of want
There is time, still time for one 
who can groan, who can sing 
for one to be healed.

August 1982
Galway Kinnell workshop


Bone-kelp fingers of the dead
clutching at my ankles
slip off, harmless and beckon
to the breeze, lifting the clouds 
over the mountains. 

August 1982
Alan Soldofsky workshop

When writing, you are balancing language and experience. It's a balance between experience and metaphor there is little reward in poetry except a sense of posterity. Why do this? To try and write great art is to put everything into the line, and give up everything else.

August 1982
Alan Soldofsky workshop

Every bed is a mouth
That's what poetry is.

August 1982
Alan Soldofsky workshop

In the blue regions of afternoon
there is but one desire, for a boat,
a red reflection plays off the water
And it is a slow levitation of joy.

A bowl of dead bees covered with rose petals 
a green dream emerges from the rind 
of a cantaloupe and everything seems possible 

There is no need for narration in the poem 
the ravens will keep us awake
Only the force of brushstrokes
keep lilacs from the pathos

Lilacs against white houses
You can hear pain singing, it is not a song
it is hard to let go of summer 
remembering, then forgetting loss.
launched a lunch of raw butterflies

Bob Hass workshop Bantu Rhythms
August 1982 (also 85)

added 9/2016
I need to edit them

Friday, August 13, 1982

Orphan Calf

Today, I rubbed the face of a young steer. His horns were erupting under the furry pole. His long forelock covering the bulge. It was like teething. A young orphan calf, reassured by the steer's presence, sidled up to suckle upon my outstretched finger, he tasted the saltiness of the steer. Spat it out. His lower teeth were perfectly flush with the gums, like the toenails of elephants. I walked over the hills covered with Diogenes' lanterns and Ithuriel's spears. And wild lillies—tulips called pussy's  ears. Lavender hair on the triangle that joins the ovum. Thought of the calf's disappointment of finger. The illusion of mother. The breast.

added 10/16



I am trying 
hard not to 
think of our 
water contaminated by 
pollutants. As I raise a glass 
to my lips and drink, 
I discover the 
throat has 

added 10/16
first draft



They say beauty is only skin deep
Imagine the snowy skin of mountains 
able to transform the bleakest mountain 
into a thing of beauty. 
But without bone structure 
that skin of snow would not be seen. 
It's the bones of the mountain 
which lend the snow its beauty.

added 10/16

Mr. Abatni of Avelar Road

There's a man from my dreams, whose name is Mr. Abatni. He's a smallish, balding man who lives on Avelar Road. I don't know much about him except it's been over a year now, and still his name randomly crops up like a mantra.

It's like the two are intertwined Avelar Road and Mr. Abatni. I have no idea why. Maybe it's the way the two words sound so close together that haunts me each time I pass the road. Maybe Mr. Abatni doesn't even exist, except in my own mind. Even so, he's clamoring to get out and I keep stuffing him back in. Because I don't know what the story is. What if there is no story?

But you see, I've been so busy dreaming lately and it seems that I just don't have the time to write about him. I resent the way he keeps introducing himself and intruding upon my life. Especially since he's a fictional character. Especially when I'm feeling depressed. Especially when I dream.

I like to hide out at home and make plans on catching up with myself. Put away my clothes that are still draped all over the bathroom since the last time I went away, how many months ago? Do my laundry properly, not this wash the underwear, and the white dress I've gotten so fond of, in the sink.

Actually, I've quit wearing underwear because I hate to wash them. It doesn't really matter when I wear a dress anyway. No one is looking. Who has the time for a born-again virgin in a white dress?  The best part about hiding out from the world is that you can break all those plans you made.

Sometimes I don't answer the phone, especially when it's Lee on the other line. I always know when he's there. I always know when he's calling. He has a way of calling whenever I think about him—which is the most of the time. It drives me mad.

At least, when we're fighting, he won't call. Sometimes the fugue state can last for weeks. That gives me plenty of time to catch up with myself—except, then I'm so preoccupied with rewording and analyzing what I should've said, could have said, that I sit in a stupor. There goes the laundry.

That's when the story of Mr. Abatni crawls out from under the pillow I'm sitting on. Sometimes I think I'd like to banish him from my memory banks forever, but he's like a bad tune that gets stuck in your ear, and plays over and over until you want to punch your own ears out. Even now he is haunting me, and yes, I still can't seem to write about him. Because I don't know who he is. Or what he wants. So this non-story will have to do.

Ah, the sound of Avelar, like the halls of Avalon. It jogs the memory like a fairytale, or a novel that one becomes so absorbed in, that reality seems less likely than the story.

The dreaming at night gives birth to the credence of the tale. Enter into that landscape of far distant pavilions. Avalon, huge halls where knights still dwell. King Arthur, in my dreams, yes, Avalon. Avelar. Echoing through the cavernous depths of my brain.

But I detract from my story, that's the way he is. Puts a fog over my brain. Doesn't want to get born. I guess. I heard  rumor that he and the missus ran Casini's Campground in Duncan's Mills for a while. That was before she got religion. It seems she didn't want to live with him anymore after that.

So he moved over to a small cabin on Avelar Road. He didn't have a whole lot to look forward to. No job. No missus. The TV was the only saving grace, I guess, or maybe fishing. He used to tell stories about the one who got away. I was never sure who is getting away with what, the fish, or Mr. Abatni.

The choppy sound of Abatni. Short, rotund, and balding—like the man. He drove a little sky-blue car, a Toyota, the valve rings were so bad that that little circles of black smoke drifted out from the exhaust pipes like twin fumes of dragons.

Who says dragons aren't real? They've just been reincarnated. Get it? The pun: inCARnated. It could be worse, dragons mating with cars. In this advanced technological age, anything is possible.

Grendel really does live in the bottom of the mirror. That's why I avoid the looking glass. Beowulf was right, you know. But it's too late to do anything about that. The treasure's long gone. A mere reflection of itself.

Abatni. There is no Mr. Abatni. It's a name my dream made up. It's a bit hard of hearing. Oh, I get it: abat ni—it's all about me, or not—with a headcold. Or I'm dreaming in Church Latin again. Or is it Provençal? It happens. Pay no heed. Carry on. Abat means blind. and clearly I am blind. Or not. Said the knights of Ni. Nay. Ave Maria. And avalar is to to endorse. Endorse nothing.

The ducks bobbing along the coast of Santa Barbara are nursing black milk from the mother. Long live Beowulf. He slew the wrong enemy. Grendel and his dam were not the enemy, Herrot, the meeting hall, and civilization—were.

Blame is due, where credit is given. And when I walked along the shore, my feet were covered with black milk, black gold. How crude. Oil companies insists the crude comes from a natural seep at Coal Tar Point. What a wonderful way of covering it all up. The not me syndrome. Do they think we are blind? Where is the dragon when you need him?

The oil companies feed the nursing public a cockamamie story and they all swallow it. Blind endorsement. Good milk. Black milk. Milk drips like honey from the open sores along the coast of Southern California. SoCal, lo-cal. Calories from the black mother. Feed the children. Nursing. Weanling. The great teat. And there's rumor that they want to drill off our northern coast too? I think not.

May all the oil companies get udderitis.

August 1982? Other poems bundled on the same paper, on 8/13. Friday the 13th! It fits.
added 10/16.
Minor changes and connections to make the story work. I still don't get it, but it wanted to be written, so, I indulged.

Sunday, August 1, 1982



As I gain elevation leaving the valley floor
Water drips from the rocks
And collects in pools
And ripples along sandy, pathways
Light juts out from behind a cliff
and penetrates the valley floor

My vibram soles cup soft
Against the rocks. 
Rain turns to snow

Moss needs little light 
My pack weighs too much. 
My shoulders are familiar 
As the backs of horses

August 1982



In these unadorned camelid hills, ancient 
clam beds seek absolution from baked adobe 
while unseasonable green fountains of corn 
suck water from this desert oasis. 
Sacrament. This morning, the priest wore 
an alb and the purple robes of penitence,
as he offered up the blood of the earth,
the palms give voice to parched santana winds. 
Grapes from Chile at two dollars a pound; 
the price of water from Chilean earth 
3,000 miles south of this desert where 
campesinos struggle for the dailiness of bread.
And in the north, an ancient lake 
 is dying of thirst so a garden may grow. 
What is the color of forgiveness 
when mirages of real water slick the surface?

Easter 1983?  It may be 82
1984 Napa Poetry Review
         Poets of the Vineyard, First Honorable Mention