Saturday, December 31, 1983

Richard Salzman (drawing, 1983)

I was trying to get rid of the lined paper. Didn't succeed.

Photocopy of Richard Salzman drawing, 1983

Duane BigEagle (drawing ca 1983)

Not sure when this drawing was made. 83? 84? I'm surprised I didn't destroy it. He was such a dishonest shit at the end. Breaking up with me at a CPITS conference. I was humiliated. I had no idea he was playing the field. We'd been seeing each other for at least a year.

Four sketches (art)

four quick in-class contour line drawings (not sure of the year)

Oral history collected in Windsor, 1983

In the 1880s, 5 acres of prunes would support a family. In the days before refrigeration, they were a valuable crop. The Russians grew root vegetables in Sebastopol for Fort Ross. All those people in Alaska needed vitamins.

Villa Chanticleer was built by bootleggers. There were cars with false bottoms. Rum runners. Grappa was made north of Santa Rosa. My grandfather worked at night. He didn’t speak much about it. There was machine gun fire every Friday night. The Coast Guard. As kids we’d get red lights and run along the beach so the Coast Guard would come, with lights flashing.

People came out west for gold, and to work on the railroad. Everyone had a garden. And everyone was building something. We worked 18 hours a day in May. The barley crops grew in six weeks. There are 55 minorities in China. They were a landless people. It’s like El Salvador today.

It is strange to be a minority and one’s own country. In 1856 to 1858, the people refused to pay taxes, and all the land was foreclosed. Every country I’ve been in has a minority. If it’s not race, it’s color if it’s not color, it’s skin.

During the Civil War, Santa Rosa and Petaluma raised an army. Thats why there’s the Shiloh cemetery in Windsor—it was made during the Civil War. (There are McClellans buried there—as in the General George McClellan who was pro-Confederacy. Both sides of the equation were represented in Sonoma County—the pro-Union Yankee Petaluma Guard and Emmet Rifles in suppressed a secessionist skirmish in Healdsburg. The Battle of Washoe House, is perhaps, the most comical, if apocryphal Civil War story. The story goes, Petaluma raised a militia and marched north on Confederate Santa Rosa, but the day was hot, and they got no further than the roadhouse, where they drowned their fury in suds.)

My grandmother used to tell me of the General Slocum disaster of the 1860s. New York. It was a school outing. It was a paddlewheeler steamer. My mother couldn’t go because she was from the wrong church. (Lutherans from Little Germany. Few of the women and children survived. After the disaster, the community dissolved). That’s why I’m here. My father was a tailor from Paris. And here we were in Windsor picking prunes to survive.

Anonymous, Oral history collected in Windsor, 1983.
But I didn’t name my informant. He sounds like he could be Chinese, or more likely German. I was probably going to turn it into a poem and never did. I was also doing a lot of Elderhostel teaching in those days, and people would tell me stories so it could’ve come from a workshop. Parentheses are mine, to make some sense of the story. Added 2020

Poets of the Vineyard award, First Place, Free Verse (for what poem?)

Poets of the Vineyard award, First Place, Free Verse
(not sure for what poem, I've a note that it's for FEAST OR FAMINE, but I think that isn't right. They didn't list the poem on the certificate. I never thought to write the info on the back...)
Sonoma County Chapter, California Federation of Chaparral Poets
Winnie Fitzpatrick, President

Sunday, December 25, 1983

TENDING THE GARDEN (Merry Christmas Boschka)


My grandmother sends her love
She says you should try more carrot juice
made fresh. 30 carats a day.
Sounds excessive to me
but then grandmothers usually are.
That's why we love them so.
Their wisdom, prairie flowers of thought.
The buffalo robe is spread
on the ample laps of grandmothers.
This robe is your robe, my robe, our laps part.
She wants to know
how the gooseberry bush is doing,
do you need another?
She tends the garden like a robe
The garden is spread before us
like a lamb of hope, of love.
You're the mother-friend I never had
You are the love of grandmothers,
of mothers, of daughters.
Merry Christmas Boschka,
I love you.

She tends to the garden
she tends the garden
she tends the garden.

added 11/16

Friday, December 9, 1983

Dream journal

Jim Byrd was steering for me as I read directions from the map. The wheels caught on the lip of the road, nearly plunging us off the edge. Laughing, we pulled into the train station. Near the depot, a group waited in the warm sun, shelter from the brisk winter wind.

An old couple stood in front of a bench. He stumbled, and fell face up, his cane pointed up accusingly at the sky. He said, help me. I can’t breathe, as he slipped away. I watched, frozen to the spot. My God, A man is dying in a crowd of strangers who don’t even notice his passing. I stood rooted to the spot, seconds pass in what seemed like an eternity.

Someone jumped out of the crowd as I cried for help. Ambulance! No time to ask questions. She administers mouth to mouth, but it is too late. What is it like to pressure lips against the lips of the dead? Is it like a dog licking your lips?

And ambulance siren cuts the distance in half.

On the banister, fastened by red sealing wax, snapshots of the old man. His wife says we only just returned from a pottery workshop. One photo shows him intently working at the potters wheel. The clay slop has murdered his clothes.

To have lived such a full life. Dying seems less threatening, is if anything could be anything other than dying, if one lives a life to its fullest.

Are my assumptions naïve? From the banister, I gather up a checkered cloth filled with reptiles— lizards, geckos and two napping mantled ground squirrels the size of cats.

One sleepy rodent yawns luxuriously like a cat, and stretches. His mouth closes down on my index finger, and I feel the gentle strength of a sense of his incisors. I am afraid he will draw blood. Slowly I remove my finger from his mouth. They curl up tightly together, and go to sleep.

The lizard to go wild. Bluebellies, alligators, geckos, iguanas—all dashing after each other in a mad frenzy Mr. snapping their jaws and maiming each other. I am startled and frightened by all of this. One iguana grinds his jaw sideways instead of laterally and the inside of his mouth is lavender, his skin is forest green and he snaps to kill, I am glad they run in the direction they do, and not towards me.

Boys Hot Springs 12/9/83 dream journal