Sunday, December 30, 1984

December 30, Dillon Beach; drawings (art)



Two cows weaving in the dunes at sunset, leave fine white crescents in the sharp sand. I gather crushed shells, sand dollars, and paper thin orange scallops. On the leeward side of a rock, a woman dandles a child.

Two girls run along the tops of the dunes, their screaming is like seagulls. Wind snatches a song from their mouths and pushes it back a hundred yards until they sound like they're coming from behind themselves, laughing so carelessly as if time itself stood still when the wind blew, and in that moment, an eternity. 

I survey this world of ageless youth, the same world as ours, but first it comes from the thighs, that inexorable gentle tug of the earth burdening me downwards with its weight, reminding me of my beginning and my end,

The slow tug of gravity, this slow death suckling on the toes, ankles, thighs. A clay chill carrying future memory. But I begin to run, to leap away from the quicksand time, I lift my feet off the earth, pump the blood. It keep my womb warm and ready. I'm not done yet. 

Geoff is on some warm shore. I dreamt of him last night. Donna said he sure showed a lot of pictures of me, but what about the one who had one almost ready for the oven? I said who? A dune slipped out from under my feet. 

I fell into the Roman baths at Bath. Warm water weighting me down. Rich suckle on my sheepskin vest I swim toward the edge, arms heavy with wet clothes, and I followed him with my eyes as he walked away with the group. 

He doesn't see me, though I call out to him, the wind pushes my voice a few yards back, and I realize I'm either a few days forward or a few days backward in another time. But dreams are like that.  

I'm looking at a movie or is he the one walking into my celluloid color dream splashing against the far wall?

Along the beach two spaniels run with their mirror image companions in an upside down world, until a wave breaks that image. Their barks are like pinpricks in the fluctuating surf. They trot in tandem, at play with the waves.

A couple strolling along the sand stop at a sand figure of a person reclining. The woman disengages herself from his clasp and goes back to the figure and stomps fully on the chest. I guess the boobs offended her. They are both wearing white sweaters. So out of place here. The sand woman has long hair made of seaweed and there is only the sound of the ocean.

Four men huddle between the bluffs, a blue screen of smoke designates a dimension between the cliffs. Carrying an ice chest and radio, they make to leave. 

Stephen says the game is over. I wonder who won? Further down the beach, the sand assumes a gray velvet look, where an impromptu game of football is in progress. An onlooker, someone's dog barks as if to announce the score. Or perhaps to punctuate a commercial at halftime.

The two spaniels resume their tandem dance with the sea, endlessly combing one section of the shore in a series of relays. 

The woman and her child leave the shelter of the cliff, she is carrying a bright red and orange plastic pail with a blue shovel. The child is bundled in florescent colors like the bucket. The navy blue of the woman's coat is like a black shadow trying to absorb all that unnatural color in all this gray sky.

The spaniels halfheartedly greet each group of people passing their sector of the beach, they're on a search for something familiar. As the groups leave, they resume their endless trotting and easy lope along the shore, and run parallel with the surf. 

Deeper into the dunes. the cows are grazing on saltgrass. I am reminded of the salt sheep of Camargue, an unexpected hunger arises. The wind erases their tracks in the sand. A jackrabbit exercises his options at dusk along a stretch between two dunes.

This soft sandbanks carved from the last storm, are impossible to climb. Donna's niece, Michelle, makes it to the top, but my weight crumbles the edge of it. My hands reach the top, but I am unable to ascend the bank, it is like a bad dream of pursuit and fear. Further down, a gully presents itself and I climb up. The sand is firmer more dense the inexorable weight of gravity less, age backs off a few years.


I think I have a bit more time to wait for Geoff.

The endless breathing of the sea, wave upon wave, like the sound of someone sleeping in the same room. As they shift into a deeper sleep, how it calms one and makes one sleepy too.

A wedge of shore shifts the mirrored weight of the spaniels as they gallops across the wet sand. The pressure of their weight pushes, and drives the water from the sand like a sponge wrung dry. 

No one disturbs the sandcastle, each one carefully walks around it. 

And when I write, time is suspended—the ocean, Stephan on the rock above me, the laughter of women, the football game, the incessant bark of the black lab—all this becomes timeless. If only I could suspend that moment and enter that world of half thoughts, and record it. 

It doesn't matter what I write as long as I try and define it with words, what I see and hear in the active definition. I am painting, honing my craft. Every experiment with sound and image is cumulative. 

I am preparing for the right moment. I don't know when it will come. I don't know what I'm preparing for. Like what Lee said, a startling enemy will appear. and you will both know what to do.

A synapse of mind, suddenly I'm jerked painfully back into time by some tangible form. My mind buzzes like a stretched rubber band, and I'm disturbed because I prefer the meltingly lost places of ceased time. 

But though I spend large sums of time in reality, and in that other world—the place between worlds—that fraction of a moment when the mind buzzes, hovering somewhere between the real world and the world of daydreaming. 

The spaniels have moved to another section of the beach. I am ready to move on, my mind spent, body numb. The sound of the ocean is fully inside my head like a seashell pressed to the ear. 

The spaniels return to the familiar place of the shore. Keep running into the surf. Sniffing the sand as if searching for a lost sense of something familiar, their mirrored shadows, keeping in perfect rhythm.

December 30, Dillon Beach

TWO COWS, DILLON BEACH


Two cows weave trails
through the dunes at sunset,
their hooves leave white crescents 
in the sharp sand and crushed shells.
I collect treasure: sand dollars the size of pearls,
rock oysters, and papery orange scallops.
By the lee of a rock, a woman cradles her child.
Two girls racing along the tops of the dunes
scream with laughter, so like a gull's. 
Wind snatches a song from their mouths 
and pushes it downstream until it sounds 
as if they're running behind themselves 
& they're laughing as if time itself stood still.
In that frozen moment, the wind 
consumes an eternity of ageless youth. 
I inhabit the same world as theirs, 
but the weight of it begins in the thighs, 
that inexorable gentle tug of gravity,
the earth's burden, that downward thrust, 
reminding me of my beginning 
and my end.

12/30/1984
rev. slightly 11.17.15

Tuesday, December 11, 1984

PERPETUAL MOTION freewrite


In the center of darkness
the red vibration of a rose.
Here, is the center of the universe.
Darkness lies between the crevices of fingers
molecular shadows in red and black
on the coffee table battery-operated toys
and gyrating gimbals churn
a perpetual kinetic dance
until the switch is thrown.
Electricity travels and dark tubes
on impulse the speed of light
across mountains, rivers, cities, continents
not heeding what was said
on a particular afternoon
before the toys stopped their dance.
Someone said there is too perpetual motion,
it's called life. Even in inanimate objects
we just can't see inside them
all those atoms bouncing
and dancing in darkness
inside each atom, a rose,
a template of the universe.

12/11/1984

Monday, December 10, 1984

BANK HOLIDAY, COUNTING BACKWARDS, 2 freewrites


Who said, take the deep
blue stars to the ball?
To get change,
one must carry shells to market,
to market, to buy a fat…
No more dinero. All this jive
the green ink odor
of lettuce on bread
gives me such a funny feeling.
Life, the best teacher,
kills all its pupils.
By the banks of the river
my love and I sat down
and I pulled out my fiddle
to watch the cash flow.
No clams on this muddy bank.
It doesn't know Sunday
from a blue Monday.

12/10/1985


Counting backwards,
I remember the halfway mark
and saying my alphabet bilaterally A2 B4
fish mirrors to catch a falling star
who never kissed the palm of my hand
who never told me how to hold a kiss
all through the night
and to never let go.
Take a fallen eyelash
Make a wish, blow on it
to the farthest fences of the world
to keep the bad dreams at bay.

12/10/1984

Thursday, December 6, 1984

FLOODWATERS


In silence you sit, your eyes,
like floodwater in the bayous
A map of sorrow, in your eyes
and the creatures crawl
out of the swamp at night.

Talking has a way of covering up
all the greens like when
you close your eyes in the sun.
Green, then red flashes across the lids.

All this red talk
like fire in the pineywoods.
Pale smoke rising,
or is it early morning mist?
Bruised water on the gulf
takes a beating after the storm.
Water rises to the doorjambs
of your father's house
and stops there.

Once, you said, your father
went out into a storm
to find the highest ground
upon which to a strong foundations.

Saltspray on the lips,
parched skin turns to brined wood
impervious to fire
Bly says rub a potato across your face
to absorb the salt.
It's hard to keep a shine on old leather.
But potatoes will do.

When you're one step ahead of the law
and one step behind in your head
it's harder yet to keep a shine on leather.

Like Noah, lost at sea,
all I ever wanted to do
was to wait for the storm to end
and to see the shape of the land  reemerge.
But 40 nights is a lot of darkness.
I can smell the floodwater's
metallic dank overture
like the rancid sweat of hands
on a nickel plated brass buckle
clenched in fear.

12/1984 (85?) from a Muriel Ruckeyser lesson on science, by Zara Altair. This was in my 1985 journal but I couldn't have written it with Zara as I was in Baja in Dec of 85.

Monday, December 3, 1984

Journal entry, many moons later

Journal entry, many moons later

So, I'm writing on random blank pages in this notebook. The last time I wrote in it, was in Hawaii. Other than rain damage, there was a reason for this abandonment. There's an open letter to Geoff, and to myself. And to Ed. I know, he's asleep in Hawaii at 6 PM, west coast time, and I thought of him. 

Tonight, after three days of migraines, I had a reading at Garbo's. At first, no one showed up. I took it personally. I felt especially bad for Michael Tuggle and Susan Kennedy who are two fine poets reading with me, but we also started early. The audience grew exponentially. We read sparingly and it was a lovely reading.

Also, most of the regulars were friends who didn't show up. And I thought oh I must be a bad poet, they're not here. It came down to overcommitment, but still, no one showed up. Not Lee, Sarah, Donna, Marianne, Eady & Jim Montrose. No one there. At least the Reverend showed up late.

I get that they've all heard it all before. So much for moral support. Well it could be the time of year as it is December 3 moving into Christmas. But they could've at least shown up for moral support. Lord knows, I've done it for them enough times.

But before me is a whole new audience. People who want to hear me read, a new, fresh audience. Yes. I hate what I've read, I'm going through I'm not a real poet phase. Phobias aside, V Weinberg liked my new Tocaloma poem, something I've never read in public before.

Afterwards, around drinks, we discussed the plight of Welsh coal miners in Pennsylvania. The Reverend Bob Jones is from there. We discussed East - West mysticism and narrative prose. From ego—to being fulfilled. He said I'm laying groundwork in those narrative pieces for novels or whatever. 

We both write long narrative poems, and I think too much. So much of what gets said while deep in the cups, disappears by morning. I can't record it all, but to write every morning, and to read every day, and to party every night... I'll not hold up if I party every night. The Reverend just wants to give it all up and become a writer. I know that obsession.

We talk about agents and networking and going after what we believe in. I say be careful of what you wish for, it becomes true. He said, I'm ready. We talk some more about East - West religions and the role of enlightenment. He says without darkness there wouldn't be light. And I say, in this world there is too much talk and not enough words.

Words are like vessels. The role of the poet is to give new meaning as in original meaning to words in order to shed light. Poetry is religion, I tell him. 

Bob talks about his latest manuscript and how he can't quit preaching because he has two daughters in college. I say, you don't owe them an education. It's nice, but parents don't owe their offspring this. Education's is something one has to desire and strive for. 

I say this because no one helped me, or perhaps it was because I found my own motivation. He's just pushing along, I'm pushing along. We are still writers in spite of it all. Determination factor. 

I comment on his need for closure with his congregation. What they need, he says, is a pastor who won't bore them or frustrate them by pushing them too hard. We are all lazy. Knowledge by blood. Limited by our friends. Can we help that? 

I say go for what you want again and believe in it. He agrees, says I've done it. I say, do it again. Rilke's sonnets to Orpheus, no matter who translates them  are magnificent, because what he writes about is magnificent. How can you go wrong in believing in what you believe in? Bob says, Amen to that!

December 3, 1984

Sunday, December 2, 1984

TODAY'S NEWS


A sunburst of red, yellow & orange
on the fold of pants where ass joins leg
mesmerizes me, it's like a friendly fire.
I drive to the post office, only to find it locked.
20 years ago, Maria Salvio spoke at Sproul Plaza.
Reagan and Gromako cautiously talk 
of improving US-USSR relations.
At least there was no bloodshed, or shoes thrown.
Jerry Brown and Jane Fonda make the news.
Russia think-tanks, fire in the hole.
A Scottish-Polish American soldier, 
Wladyslaw Stanislawski, awarded citizenship 
posthumously, for dying in Vietnam.
But he's already dead, I think to myself.
Berkeley Mayor Gus Newport declares 
Monday as Free Speech Day, I was there,
I didn't know the significance, I was young. 
And Chris Foley, a high school student,
receives microfiche from Russia 
on US classified missile plans.
it's a long chain of events,
today, getting the news. 

12/2/1984
rev. 17/11/15

Saturday, December 1, 1984

Obligatory Hug, Dec. 1984, Russian River Writers' Guild







NIGHT VISION

NIGHT VISION

Caught in my headlights,
eyes of young bucks
not leaving the dead body
of their mother.

12/84

Postcard collage poem to Jim Bird


There is some scientific thought
that rhinoceroses and armadillos are related.
Since last March, African black rhinoceroses
have been contemplated grazing on
on two ranches in Texas.
Rhinos are browsers like the relations,
the zebra and the horse.
They fit in very well in Texas, someone says.
Ecologically, there is little doubt
that rhinos will thrive in Texas.
Texas is perfect, he explained.
How do you move a rhino against his will?
The armadillos have not been consulted.

December, 1984
added, rev. 9/17

CPITS lesson with Zara Altair


Zara Altair said: Write about the first time you knew you were best friends, describe what was happening. What were you feeling. Intuition, understanding it. Emotionally but not logically.

Juan Felipe Hererra talks about community. He says we make up a community, a system. Notes, structure human or otherwise. Think of yourself as a member of this community, who are you? What your job, etc. What is your life function?

Why would a poet use repetition? Make a list of the feelings you have while spending time with a friend, make both a real list and also make an imaginary list.

"A poem is of necessary length." Imagination/dreams. What is an image? A dream? Dream poems have clues in them. They can help you to solve problems. Ask what's next?

Zara Altair brought out a ceramic sculpture by Michael González. She said: we have to mine our own images from art. Look at the sculpture: what dreams, or common images come to mind? Let Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird be your guide—with multiple takes. Artists are magicians, they make something out of nothing.

If you get stuck, lead the imagination use the nonsensical questioning process from Rose, Where did you get that Red? this is what yesterday's volcano looks like and then I rode in on silence, your eyes are like water, so biased. Being the voice of now is harder than you suppose.

We did a five-minute freewrite. Ben Hyatt talks of old wounds. CB Davis's grandmother poem and the James Broughton poem from Paul Mariah's This Light Will Spread, are good examples.

How are they alike? when you read Ben Hyatt's poem, what do you know about his father? What was the scariest thing? His heart.

CB Davis wrote of a boy who falls asleep in his grandmother's lap. Where do they live? What happens when he wakes up?

And in all three of these poems the poet is writing about something very important in their lives.

In your poem use two images and the five senses, and one strong emotion.
Use very clear statements about your emotions.

The poems I wrote are about the water in the bayous, I am poem and like no I lost it, see you later. All I wanted to do was wait for the storm and the salt spray on the lips. Emulate a new image
Time silence and darkness.

Meriel Ruckheiser said the universe is made of stories, not atoms. History these hours the throat of darkness what does it mean?

Think of the throat of the shower is happening to you right now. In darkness and in silence you were going to tell the rest of the world what's happening in your life. Focus on what's important to you. What do you think the world needs to know?

Holding up the world globelike I might now come up and tell the world your poem.

Silence darkness one minute of silence 20 seconds of darkness the speed of darkness the universes the palm is yet on board and then it was darkness at the end of the universe rubs like salt silk velvet each time somebody die someone dies death, not contain slowly and just like darkness travels the speed of light. Nor is it contained solely in light it travels toward sorrow, toward hatred and fear. Sacred rocks we scattered the stars and pierce holes in the velvet mantle. A viscous smile of light spreading from ear to ear. No showers persevere. No enemy arrows of mercury. The war gods consume their own sorrow. Venus. Mars. Velvet throat of these hours before dawn.

December 1984 next bonfire how does it make you feel feeling an image fire feeling image
Devorah major talks about aloneness and solitude one image and then silence I am essence of Rose solitude write a persona palm poem to stairsteps of navy blue nights. Details of pictures
Called dead music makers.

The music doesn't die solitude free right for two minutes don't let your mind get in the way now don't read what you've written and go on and then write your poem and what I wrote was that words words words typed and then just sleep on the way home with the two poems I wrote from Deforrest and so I think I put those in. Lots was stirred up, but not poems were born, Athena-like, fully fledged from the brow of Zeus. Too many cooks in the kitchen, too many open-ended prompts.

not sure of the date, dec 84? or June 1985? CPITS conference

Friday, November 16, 1984

ZENIA as prose poem (corrupt text)

Hmmm, found this in a prose folder. Didn't realize it was prose first, or maybe I converted it. It seems to follow the poem pretty closely. It needs cleaning up.

HORSES RUNNING THROUGH THE STREETS OF ZENIA AT NIGHT
Each particular erases from the clarity of a general idea.
--Robert Hass Meditation at Lagunitas


PART I 

 Like an Ache Out of Childhood

1. The road through narrow valley of Hayfork unravels lengths of poplar and alder trees, shaking sunlight from the sky. In the fields, a neighbor stops haying, wipes his brow, and waves. I still can't get used to the idea of snow. You say it gets old fast. We don't know this is our last time together but the silver twigs and trunks etched against grey sky are familiar like an ache out of childhood.

It is difficult to find the beginning of a poem or anything, for that matter. An abandoned grape arbor shades the once-tiled floor of what we called Lew Welch's cabin. Lew, who walked off into the forest with a pistol never returned, and so, captured our imaginations. We were sure he traveled north.

And you came here in the footsteps of a myth. In the mail today, a photo of Hayfork suspension bridge arrives holding up the sky. In photographs, friends appear as strangers frozen on film. If only we could get to the other side of the mirror in order to capture a portion of the sequence of infinite regression instead.

You write about the fish inside your heart. I remember a boy who grappled the bellies of steelhead resting on the banks of Papermill Creek. The fish no longer return. The once clear pools filled with debris. Do you remember how the fish slipped up the ladders with a motion almost quicker than the eye can see? I can still see you walking along the creek, green as cat's eyes.

2. What is better: fucking on the river rocks in the hot sun or minutely examining the wanderings of dung beetles for some revelatory cipher or glyph? After photocopying Lew's book I wrote a poem to all those whose hands that book had passed through.

To Whom it May (or May Not) Concern: This illegal version of On Out was photocopied during work hours on their machine when no one was looking.

I got the original from you who got it from Chuck (Charlene) Sutton who was, at the time seeing the book critic, Grover Sales (to whom the book is signed-- For Grover-- "If you can't kill it, shoot it." Lew 8/19/66 )

who was seeing another woman, whose roommate was seeing your brother (I think) and you who are seeing me still, so I can't steal the original yet.

This thief hopes that Lew, wherever he may be, will appreciate the spirit in which this book (and everyone else) was taken.

What grey kinship of brain, black squiggles, dunghill beetles, Cartouche of pharaohs? This writing. Who measures the sanity of psychologists or poets? One person in five is clinically insane. These dreams scare me. We need 'something to take with us before we go.

3. Our childhood friend, (I think it's Michael, not Mark) Mark De Rutte opened his door one night and the Zebra Killer pulled the trigger. As an altar boy, he served us communion. To this day, I awaken, screaming and choking with a black weight upon my chest and I see the phosphor green edges of ghosts even when the light is on. A friend blames the mirrors in my house for letting all the ghosts out and burns sage to banish them. It works for a while. Then they're back.

I dreamed my grandmother had fallen and a weight had dropped. Her lips were blue. During the night, a slag of iron pierced the sagging dewlap of her arm. I held her in my arms, as she must have held her own children and later, me.

The seals came upriver to sing memory to sleep. Father Connery died. And Marie Rexroth. As kids we thought they'd be around forever. Grandma used to point her out in church and tell us of the hikes into Devil's Gulch to visit the Rexroths. Grandma religiously clipped Kenneth Rexroth's weekly columns in the News Call Bulletin.

In old age, Marie's husband was gruff, cantankerous. He didn't remember who I was. They say Marie never got over his death and she let the cancer grow. Even after all those years of separation, and his other wives, she missed him. I remember stopping by her house in Lagunitas but there was nowhere to tie up the horse. I wanted to say to her, "bless me Marie, for I have sinned. I am a poet."

Mark De Rutte's youngest brother was convicted of raping someone's grandmother who drowned in the bathtub. Mrs. De Rutte testifies, "he was an angel. Wouldn't hurt a fly." She continued,"That old commie woman had bags of dope under her house. It was her fault."

We relived the details of Mark's death. I have friends on both sides of the courtroom. The darkness descends upon us and the dreams begin again in all their green clarity. We held no wake for my grandmother, but at the funeral, Mrs. De Rutte, armored in hot pink, paid her last respects. That beveled and clouded mirror I sent you was hers. All those dead trapped behind glass.


PART II

 "The post is the consolation of life." --Voltaire

Definition in Ten Parts for DNA

I dream a river of blood runs from my left ear. A tunnel distills the familiar world into a thin passage. I feel a little lost. Am I dreaming and the rain coming down? Definitions of love, like a moibeus strip. Occupational love, love of apples, or the way sun touches woodsmoke. The way your hand tangles in my hair. Reptile love. Mammalian love.

The acorns I gathered sprouted and died. The nights are cold and getting longer. Our bodies keep us honest if nothing else will. Without definition, I felt luminous at the sight of you. They've been reading our mail. Nothing is sacred. What makes a gambler's blood stir? The word is like time standing still or a river rushing on.

Dioxyribonucleic Acid. DNA. Taken one syllable at a time, it becomes a simple ladder. Double Helix. Specific pairing. A psychiatrist tells me craziness is not inherited but when the dreams come, I don't believe him either.

Red roe floats in the silt of Papermill Creek. Life takes strange twists and turns "until we come back to what we are. You ask who I am. At four a.m., I am not "I," but a dream, as I pour your coffee. Write me a poem about the fine line between earth and space and I will dream for you. If you return before the apples drop, it will be soon, for they are picking them now. When I come north, we'll plant trees.

Believing in myths, I fed you pomegranates to bring you back, but your yard is littered with carcases of beer cans and I have seen my aunt's face after her husband beat her during a drunk.

The story goes, "When God loves a mortal woman, pfffft! She goes up in smoke when he touches her," said the monk.

Winter is coming like a cat hunkered up on a porch rail. Every season is the mating season. After the storm, I rock back on my heels, Indian fashion, and watch the biological clock of the moon pull on my blood until I am dizzy. I don't know if I'll ever sew patches,buttons and wounds or dry apples, dishes and babies for anyone-- not even for myself.

A friend confided to me, "after the kid was born I couldn't write unless I locked him in the closet." I am afraid of what I might become. The last Wintu shaman, Tying With the Left Hand told his son he must always live right and that hell was on earth.

Lew said, "Poetry out to be as vigorous and useful as natural speech." Shall I write, sins upon the possum eating apples on the doorstep? Throw him out of the garden? That's for dreams. Take root in the garden.

Did you know Daphne's toes took root and laurel burst from her fingers and thighs as the hunter approached?

Tendrils, vines and seeds find their way into my bed. There is no separation from earth. Toes, having taken root converse in the language of trees, rock and stone while we foolishly dance with our heads in the clouds thinking we can peek into the next world. Not entirely a waste, it seeds the clouds and brings more rain. '

Tell me about the horses running through the streets of Zenia at night, their hooves shooting sparks where iron strikes stone. Tell me why you no longer bend hot iron from the forge. Was it you I fell in love with for one moment at the crest of a hill? I have a vast fear of what might have been.

Tonight I thought of Eric Satie, the composer who ate only what was white. White sugar, cauliflower, wine. Things are not as they seem. This poem, familiar, out of childhood. And Lew walking off into the forest. We hold each other up like mirrors and send occasional postcards. I am sleeping under the stories that are all true. Not true. Only fiction. The fact is, that we lie.


HORSES RUNNING THROUGH THE STREETS OF ZENIA AT NIGHT

HORSES RUNNING THROUGH THE STREETS OF ZENIA AT NIGHT
"The post is the consolation of life."
            —Voltaire

PART I

The road into Hayfork winds along a narrow valley.
In the fields, a man stops, wipes his brow and waves as we pass.
The alders and poplars shake yellow sunlight out of the sky.
I still can't get used to the idea of snow.
You say it gets old fast.
The silver twigs and trunks etched against grey sky
are familiar like an ache out of childhood.

It is difficult to start a poem
or to find the beginning of anything.
An abandoned grape arbor shades the once-tiled floor
of what we called Lew's cabin--
I can still see you along the river, green as cat's eyes.
In photographs, we are all strangers frozen on film
but in the mirror we recognize ourselves.
If only we could get to the other side of the mirror.

* * * *

In Lagunitas, Father Connery died
and so did Marie Rexroth.
As kids we thought they'd be around forever.
Grandma used to point them out in church
and tell us of the hikes into Devil's Gulch.
In old age, he was a gruff, cantankerous poet.
He didn't remember me--
a thin child on a bony bay nag.

They say Marie never got over his death
even after all those years of separation
and his other wives. She did nothing,
just let the cancer grow,
and kept his poetry dusted, waiting.
I remember stopping by her house
but there was nowhere to tie the horse.
I wanted to say to her:
bless me Marie, for I have sinned.
I am a poet.

* * * *

The De Rutte boy opened his door one night
and the Zebra Killer pulled the trigger.
As an altar boy, he served me communion.
His youngest brother was convicted
of raping and drowning an old woman in her bathtub.
His mother testifies, "He was an angel.
Wouldn't hurt a fly." She said,
"That old commie woman had bags of dope
under her house. It was her fault."
We relived the details of Mark's death.
I have friends on both sides of the courtroom.

To this day, I awaken screaming and choking
with a black weight upon my chest
and I see the edges of ghosts
even when the light is on.
A friend blames the mirrors in my house
for letting all the ghosts out
and burns sage to banish them.
It works for a while. Then they're back.
My landlady asked me to tell her father-in-law
"We love you. You have another fine grandson.
You can rest now," the next time he comes
in the night to fix my leaky faucets.

* * * *

I dreamed my grandmother had fallen
and a weight had dropped.
Her lips were blue.
During the night, a slag of iron
pierced the sagging dewlap of her arm.
I held her in my arms, thus,
as she must have held her own children
and later, me. Hallowe'en she slipped quietly off
to the other side talking of those hedgehogs
loose in the livingroom again
leaving me to face this world alone.
At night she keeps telling me they've made a mistake.
She's not dead and shakes her white head, no—
when I tell her it's true. Is it an accident
both she and Joseph Campbell chose the same day to
travel the road to Tír nan-Óg?

I dream of calling her long distance
but I haven't got the number.
In the mountains I gathered stones for her.
Jasper, obsidian, quartz. I left her food, water,
and my hair so she'd find it. Genetic code.

* * * *

In the mail today, a photo of Hayfork
suspension bridge arrives holding up the sky.
I remember a boy who grappled the bellies of steelhead
resting on the banks of Papermill Creek.
Do you remember how the fish slipped up the ladders
with a motion almost quicker than the eye can see?
The fish no longer return.

* * * *

What is better: fucking on the river rocks
in the hot sun or minutely examining
the wanderings of dung beetles
for some revelatory cipher or glyph?
After photocopying Lew's book I wrote a poem
to all those whose hands that book had passed through.
All, part of our childhood.

* * * *

To Whom it May (or May Not) Concern:

This illegal version of On Out
was photocopied during work hours
on their machine when no one was looking.
I got the original from Geoff
who got it from Chuck Sutton
who was, at the time seeing Grover Sales
(to whom this book is signed—

For Grover—
"If you can't kill it,
shoot it."

Lew
8/19/66 )

who was seeing another woman
whose room mate was seeing Geoff's brother
(I think) and Geoff who is seeing me still
so I can't steal the original yet.
This thief hopes that Lew, wherever he may be
will appreciate the spirit in which this book
(and everyone else) was taken.

* * * *
PART II
"Each particular erases from the clarity of a general idea."
—Robert Hass, "Meditation at Lagunitas"


Definition in Ten Parts for DNA

*

You ask who I am.
At four a.m., I am not "I"
but a dream as I pour your coffee.
Write me a poem about the fine line
between earth and space
and I will dream a river of blood for you.
If you return before the apples drop
it will be soon for they are picking them now.
When I come north, we'll plant trees.

*

Without definition
I feel luminous at the sight of you.
Our bodies keep us honest
if nothing else will.
They've been reading our mail.
Nothing is confidential.

*

A tunnel distills the familiar world
into a thin passage. I feel a little lost.
Am I dreaming and the rain coming down?

*

I fed you pomegranates to bring you back.
But your yard is littered with cases of beer cans
and I have seen my aunt's face
after her husband beat her during a drunk.

*

The story goes, "When God loves a mortal woman, pfffft!
She goes up in smoke when he touches her," said the monk.
Winter is coming like a cat hunkered up on a porch rail.
I rock back on my heels, Indian fashion
and weather the storm.

*

Lew said, "Poetry out to be as vigorous
and useful as natural speech."
I have no words for the loaves of craziness,
my mother—likening it to love—fed me.
I learn the inside of every hospital ward is the same green.
No one wears shoes and pens are lethal weapons.
Ring of bone. Each suicide, an attempt at life.

*

Dioxyribonucleic Acid. DNA.
Taken one syllable at a time
it becomes a simple ladder.
Double helix. Specific pairing.
Suddenly it's no longer a game.
Then the long silence.

*

A psychiatrist tells me craziness is not inherited.
Red roe floats in the silt of Papermill Creek.
Life takes strange twists and turns
until we come back to what we are.

*

I spend another season alone
and watch the moon pull on my blood.
In a Garberville motel, Suzie Campbell and Paul Turner
likening it to love, made a pact and took dead aim.
Did they make a ritual as they loaded each bullet?
Warhol's soup can; target practice with grace notes.

*

What grey kinship of brain,
black squiggles, dunghill beetles,
cartouche of phaoahs? This writing.
Who measures the sanity of psychologists or poets?
One person in five is clinically insane.
We need something to take with us before we go.

* * * *

PART III

At Hoaglin-Zenia--a one room school I teach poetry.
The soccer ball becomes a metaphor for the moon.
At lunch we talk of incest—
the 8th grader who couldn't take any more
shot her mother after graduation.
Such a fine hair trigger.

The toy uzi at your house brings it back home--
living on the mountain in the middle of nowhere
where the smallest coin is a $50 bill.
But the same attraction pulls at us, your arms
like a massive bear hold me with the weight of the life
I might have lived. The children we might have had.
And you say the postmistress still reads the mail
from the front porch of the farmhouse-cum-post office/general store.
You say hang onto those negatives because Blanche and Hank
are going down for the count.

Tonight I thought of Eric Satie, the composer
who ate only what was white.
White sugar, cauliflower, wine.
Things are not what they seem.
This poem, familiar, out of childhood.
We hold each other up like mirrors
and send occasional postcards.
I am sleeping under the stories that are all true.
Not true. Only fiction.
The fact is, that we lie.

There are no streets in Zenia.
There is no town. I made it all up.
But when the bars close in Garberville and Alderpoint
you still call me from only phone booth for miles
with the best view of Longridge and along the Eel River,
xenoliths, strange rocks that grow nowhere else in the world,
seeth and twist. In fall, the blanket of snow tucks
itself right up to the glass walls.
The last toll station in California is mechanized.
No more listening in on the line.
And Lew, with a gun to his head
walked into the forest because there was no way left
to remind the planet of its gentleness.
Hayfork is miles from Zenia or Lagunitas
and we are a half a day's journey from anywhere.

* * * *

Wednesday, October 17, 1984

Jim Dodge lecture at College of Marin

Jim Dodge at College of Marin, October 17, 1984


Jim read my favorite poem about his freerange chicken outracing the Fulton processing plant workers which made me laugh. He read many social political poems and elegies and love poems. He said they were tough subjects. I particularly liked his elegy for Jack Spicer.

He said thought Robin Blake's intro to Jack Spicer's book by Black Sparrow Press should be scrapped. He said the book the poem ends when the feeling comes. Like the darkness comes for your bones…where language is not enough…

Jim read a poem that was a letter to the editor about his dog name Homer, the audience was laughing hysterically. He said his love poems included his grandmother. Mahogany China. He said some poems you hear, and you know where credit is due. 

He read poems about magic, of how Houdini did his tricks off the barge in the Mississippi. The kiss is where the key was swapped. 

"The ferocity of obsession has obsessed me for a long time."

The conceit of the poem is that that the writer has been through past lives. I don't believe in it. I'm part Cherokee, everybody is, why not me? 

He likes Frank O'Hara's poems. And did a riff on Frank. People think I like to torture the reader I think it's just pivotal playfulness. I invented the crow to torment my dog.

He read a poem on gambling: We were living on $35 a month, I was learning cards and I had an opal ring I lost. it's a good thing about being a poet because I gave her this poem instead of the opal. Instead, I presented myself.

There are dominant and recessive traits in bad humor. Take donkeys and onions. What happens when you cross a donkey with an onion? You get an onion with big ears. He said that's the playfulness of language, you get a piece of ass that brings tears to your eyes.

People flood Jim with myriad questions and he said, I'm in a situation right now where I don't know anything, I can only ask small questions. He elaborated; the love we imagine against loneliness lost by imagining what we cannot know and knowing what we cannot have we are left even wanting more.

Question on Jim's love of gambling. Jim says: I had no money for food, there was no money to publish Fup. The first piece of prose I'd written was put up for auction, it's owned by City Miner books, which means I can't change anything.

I'm a gambling man and I live in an isolated rural environment. Gambling is for real, it's not glamorous. I grew up with a brother who was a good cardplayer and I learned out of the backseat of a car. We worked hard for money. I worked seven hours a night for 50 bucks. Maybe get a thousand a week if I was lucky.

Someone asks what Jims working on next and Jim turns the tables, saying, what's working on me? Another novel, probably a successor to Fup. I have to pursue that pressure I've imposed on myself. Some of this latest book is full of lies. 

It's a novella set in the 50s, and uses that as a structure or vehicle of being on the road—it's about a tow truck driver. About a guy who stole a car, as a gift to the Big Bopper. Someone who heard Chantilly Lace on the radio. He steals a car in hopes of meeting the Big Bopper one day. It's based on the idea, that the day music died, in Clearlake Idaho in a plane crash with Buddy Holly. 

Jim asks the audience; Does anybody know where the Big Bopper is buried? Then said, the problem with the book is, that the epigraph is better than the book.

Rock 'n' roll changed, it got wilder, then in 1965, all hell broke loose with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, so the book is about the years '59 to '65. I was a bomb baby born in 1945, so it's my era. 

Someone asks if Jim had been to Cholame, where James Dean died. Jim said the protagonist, my tow truck driver has. I take a certain latitude of invention, delivering this stolen card to the Big Bopper's grave. I'm all for the mirror of invention. There's a lot of 60s dynamic in the story. This book is an homage to poets to everyone, and the dream emerges, a marvelous eruption of human experience.

I don't think of evil but of oppression. It's up to us to change the perspective, we don't have. I'm proud of my generation. We stopped the war. When has a whole generation set up like that? I was brainwashed into thinking America was just, and moral. Nam was an idealist revolt. My peers, don't be disillusioned just because we are yuppies, and eat a lot of gelato.

It's been confusing with fame, it's been abstract, and it's been fun keeping up. I went through puberty in Labrado. Where I grew up there were four girls within 1000 miles of me, they were interested in the team players and I hated the stars. They robbed you of possibilities. Fame distorts who you are.

Novels require a lot of research. I've spent $1000 just on phone calls. Writing is a business, you'll just get ripped off if you don't pay attention, so you better know what it's about. I used to spit on lawyers and now I chew on them in poetry. With Fup came the film rights, and world rights, and universal rights, so you have to pay attention to where the royalties are going.

Someone asks do you believe in karma? Jim said his notion of karma was a direct result of human action. Predestined karma doesn't excite him very much. His uncle said You deserve the consequences you get but you don't have to like it. He turned the question back to the audience: I collect consequence does anybody else here know?

Jim Dodge: Stone Junction: An Alchemical Potboiler
Jim Dodge, Stone Junction, The Paper, Sept 27, 1990
James Dean Memorial on Highway 46

added, rev. 9/17

Friday, October 12, 1984

SHEPHERD'S SLEEP

SHEPHERD'S SLEEP

Sometimes when shadows are right
my hand traces along some curve,
something of the animal stirs
& I am savage for your flesh.
I see you dressed in leather & we talk
of buffalo & the streets of Paris.

Your cock curls down to fill a lost place
beneath the gibbous moon.
I check the wideness of my hips
& darkened aurioles.
Like betrayal, my breasts rise
when I hear my name called
& I am calling out yours in the same breath.

As we slip into the silvered orchards of sleep
we are nameless after all.
We need a buffalo robe under us
as an offering for the seed
we farm in the night.
Who is taking all the dreams
wrapped in brown silk bags?
What shepherds gather sleep?

10/12/84
radical editing job

Friday, October 5, 1984

CLARIBEL AND MUNCH BEFORE THE VOLCANO

CLARIBEL AND MUNCH BEFORE THE VOLCANO
      Dream segment involving Claribel Alegria's Flowers From the Volcano
        For Julian Beck

Edvard Munch dreams of iron beds dotting the landscape
and outside, a woman screams in the night.   
Light catches the dull gleam of your eye                           
as you are torn from sleep                             
and I feel the coolness of these bars,
cool as rainwater in this torrid place,
he said, and he listens to her vanishing in the dark.                     
Your breathing is like footsteps, like cool air. In what country?
The waters of the trench surround this bed.
This heat. I cannot swim. Will I never see home?

A faint light catches the dull gold on her hand.
In this marriage of darkness and sleep,
the iron bars of the beds grasped
during orgasm, abortion and death
keeps us anchored to the land, Claribel said,
There is no time for children.
It's all the same thing in the end.

The whiteness of her hand clutches the bars like a silent scream.
No one has ever let go of the hand holding the dream.
And we dream of our homeland, a place where we've never been.
Ashes of Izalco in my mouth. My eyes are dreaming.
Fitful sleep ties us to this bed like incomparable ropes.

He said, We breathe beside each other, 
   almost, but not quite touching.
In this conspiracy of sleep we have committed the crime
of breathing together. When they arrest us,
they will bind our hands and feet to the iron bars of this bed.
And we will be lost but they are afraid of what we are.
What remembered countries, 
iron bars placed there for you to hold?
What white doves on smooth painted iron?
I'm afraid for you. Will you never stop?

She said, They are stealing our land from us as we sleep.
Bars of the bed grasped by a woman who dreams of love or prisons—
it is the same thing. In my country, my remembered country
ashes fall like rain. Yes, they will bind us
and death keeps one anchored to the land.

Each of us sleeps alone—
especially when we sleep together, said Munch.
All that we remember sleeps with us
on the bed where the sheets bind us
like long winters of my northland.


She said, We, on this bed form new islands.
We, on these islands, form a plan of escape.
The bridge between our continents is a kiss.
The iron bars on this bed are a kiss.
The screams in the night—our hands do not touch.
Our breath like footsteps running through the dark streets,
like a woman pursued, whose scream 
       hangs like a thread across the abyss.
Why are we tied to this? Edvard, I am brushed by my own silences
and even your strong arms cannot contain the screams of a woman
We keep our ashes inside the volcano of Izalco.
Pale ashes bloom in the country of the dead, said Claribel.

Are we silently mouthing this with slack codfish jaws,
our hanging lips opening and closing like doors
where pools of sleep gush in at high tide?
There is nothing to be said, he said.
We are marooned, stranded on the rocks of this island
and the chasm keeps us from wandering in this country.
I can no longer paint, he said.

She said, The only thing tangible—
the only thing we hold, we need to let go of.
and in the letting go, we hold what we need.
We hold our need.





10/5/84
San Francisco Art Institute
Julian Beck Benefit

Wednesday, September 26, 1984

MONET AT DUSK

MONET AT DUSK
‘An artist!’ replied the man, ‘How I have captured you
galloping across the bridge like a wild pony.’
—from THE LOST PONY
—for Duane BigEagle

In a book I found a photograph of a small child—
Was it you? Beyond the edge of the page,
horses dragged wet wings across the night sky,
in search of other continents, with you hidden in their folds—
as color from a tube, as a brush to canvas—like a Monet at dusk.
Beneath our hooves, the grey cobblestone clattered;
the streets of Paris glistened with rain
as we scattered buildings reflected in puddles.

Last time I saw you, you were painting the Seine.
I remember how the color blue
slowly became the most important thing in the room
when she asked who you were sleeping with.
We balanced on the worn enamel tub;
the incessant dripping of water wore us down.

Sometimes I dream of another country,
I was homesick—the barking dogs reminded me of home.
I was homesick for my native tongue.
Do you remember the clouds?
You rode across my body;
I thought of the chipped porcelain of her breasts.
All this longing for home.
What of the mother of your son?

Once our ponies stamped a platform in the snow;
their frozen breath rang like small bells
falling in the fragile air.
On the Oklahoma plain,
the dark comma of a buffalo in snow
hyphenates death in winter,
and abbreviates the distance
of lean bellies toward spring.
I’ve kept a lock of hair all these winters
in case you needed strength,
but you were gone like a wild pony.

I remember the places we’ve never been,
and the vastness of the prairie, because Paris
opened up its sky, lost snow turned to rain—
the puddles captured and reflected buildings
scattering like horses rising on the wing.

9/26/84
Petaluma

Friday, August 17, 1984

Mt Veder 1


I awaken to the conversations of two women. The finches under the bedsheet beeped and nibbled upon its edges. The women were silhouetted against the window in the morning sun* I couldn't hear what they were saying. 

I dreampt my grandmother had fallen and the weight had dropped. Her lips were blue. A piece of iron had pierced the sagging flesh of her right elbow during the night. I hold her in my arms, thus, as she held me. I can't hear what she is saying. A woman comes in as we write, apologizing because she interrupts us, and then she leaves before she tells us anything. 

Driving down Mt. Veder, the mountains before me seem like cardboard cutouts against the solid sky. A balloon having more dimension than the mountains drifts like some great beast against the sky. Hot air rises. It is a given fact. I can't shake this sleep and the deaths I dream of—deaths of those I know and the deaths of those who are strangers. There is rust everywhere. A child's water-color set is on the table. I apply shapes of color. Soon I am carefully filling pages with color and I think of Franz Mark's blue horses in the rain and Bob was saying how close to Lascaux he died.   

Our alphabet comes from the caves of Lascaux. The calligraphy of bison before the hunt. Ochre pigment. A child finding the cave. The woman asks if I always waken like thus, and I say no, and leave, wondering why is it that I don't waken like this—the brush tracking pale yellow across the white of morning. 

My notebook tumbles down a steep embankment and lands face-down on a small overhanging branch suspended six inches above the water. Carolyn says, I'm surrounded by mothers. Are you a mother? 

I take off my kimono and thongs. I place my bare feet on the lateral earth. Poison oak lovingly strokes my ankle. I hear a car coming. As I ascend the ravine, I grab my pillows, sleeping bag, kimono and shoes. I step on my white skirt and the sound of stitches giving way like rotted flesh, or like the feeling of a job well done and I think of what we do to protect this writing. 

There is so much to write about—war, phlegm on the streets, someone wretching in the next room. I think of Lebanon, the way we ignore those in pain, the aged, death. I am shivering from what I have heard. How can I write of this? I have nothing poetic to say. 

This becomes a letter to an imaginary reader and what I really want to say is locked deep in some crevass waiting for the morning sun to melt the ice. It turns to water and disappears, turns to air before I have time to drink. I hold the brush in the air, waiting for paper.

Maureen Hurley  

Napa

Wednesday, August 15, 1984

NOT THINGS THEMSELVES

NOT THINGS THEMSELVES
To Pele, the Woman of Fire
& Amuan U, Diety of Cloud & Rain
who stood on the rim to offer love.  

Mist clings to ohias & tree ferns
The lips of the crater demark
a fine line between water & fire.
In the form of ferns
is he walking before me in the mist?
Her hot breath at my heels.
Succulent juice from berries
trickles into my mouth ­
& I take in a part of her house
in the form of fire
that surrounds his body.
Indistinct from the fog, this language
is a fine slurry of saliva & stone.
We mouth words
and wait to see who will enter  

   E Pele E
   Koahi Oa Lo
   lili aina
   E Pele E   

Over black lava, a rainbow forms
an immutable arc because love is infinite.
His body becomes her house,
her house, his body—
not things themselves
but temples shedding the same skin
where orchids bloom in their wake.   

7/84?    Volcano HI
But it looks like the first prose was written 8/9-10/84, so I'm moving it to August 15. I must've worked on it at Napa, then put down the wrong date. If I extensively revised a poem, sometimes the creation date suffered. But this seems pretty straightforward.

see prose Kamapua'a and Pele on Kilauea