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.

* * * *