Friday, December 13, 1985

Poets, musicans lend voices for ‘Nica Noel’

Poets, musicans lend voices for ‘Nica Noel’

A score of Sonoma County poets and musicians will lend their voices to help send local people to work in the Nicaraguan harvest. The event will begin at 7 p.m. tonight (Friday) at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, 550 Mendocino Ave., across from the Unemployment Office in downtown Santa Rosa. A $5 contribution includes, refreshments and one free glass of wine or apple juice. Music will be provided by the Sonoma County Peace Chorus, Michael Gillotti and Steve "Piano Doctor" Pryputniewicz. Poets include Lisa Christensen, Elizabeth Herron, Maureen Hurley, Robert Jones, Johnathan London, Suzanne Maxson, John Oliver Simon and Eve Simpson. Also featured will be a display of Central American posters. Co-sponsored by People for Peace in Central America and the Russian River Writers' Guild, the evening will benefit the Nicaraguan Harvest Brigades Scholarship Fund which enables local citizens to participate in three-week work tours to pick coffee in Nicaragua. Over 1,000 U.S. citizens and thousands from other nations have joined the volunteer program over the last two years. About a dozen Sonoma Countly residents have been a part of this program. This is the first year that a scholarship fund for needy volunteers has been established. People who wish to contribute to the fund can receive a tax deduction for a contribution of $5O or more, made out to 1.F.C.0. and sent to Brigades, 540 Pacific Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95404. For more information on the 'Nica Noel' poetry reading, the brigades program or the scholarship fund, call Eric at 823-8154 or 526-7220

Dream Journal, animal dreams, my mother's cancer, 12/13-16/1985

I am no longer writing down the dreams, they come in a series, hard and fast— nightly, and always the animals. Someone senselessly killed all the foxes. And I found dry desiccated corpses in various stages of death strewn in the grass what a horrid waste of fox fur, I thought, and collected the dried foxes in hopes that someone would know how to skin them though they were no longer fresh. That it would be a total waste if something could be salvage from all those poor shriveled bodies.


I was leaning out of my grandmother's bedroom window. It overhung a cliff taller than I remembered. A gray weathered scaffolding surrounded it. At the next story level, a ground squirrel had several small sections of corn on cactus and was hauling it into his burrow below the window.

I wanted to know what the special adaptations this creature had to have to be able to gnaw on cactus and not get thorned. I asked my mom who was combing her hair by the mirror and she gave some non-plausible explanation which meant it wasn't important. And she hauled her her half exposed body back in the window.

Below the ground squirrel, a gray and white creature, like a cross between a guinea pig and a collie, was borrowing a pale gray brick red and gray partridge hawk. I thought: a new species?

I climbed out my grandmother's window. My mother keeps dragging me back in because she thinks I'm getting excited over nothing. She said her pap smear came back positive and there was a lump—it could be scar tissue or anything or yet another confirmation she said she said.


We were in an old whole hotel boardinghouse, I don't remember most of the dream, but something was troubling the pale woman with a long dark hair. And she said the halls were entirely paved in apple jade tiles—including the circular stairway.

I was sewing something. The black and silver shears with the nonsymmetrical handles were in my hands. It was a time to run. I don't remember what the reason was. My running steps resounded in the green spiral staircase as I headed down down down. Tthere was a shower at the bottom, no door. And the following footsteps got closer and closer. I held the scissors up. I couldn't remember if I was going to kill myself, or the intruder.

The intruder said (me): I followed the pale woman down the stairs knowing she meant to harm herself. I was afraid I was going to be too late and redoubled my speed. She seemed to go faster and faster down those dizzying green stairs. I had trouble getting traction. And the tiles were slippery. When I got to the lower landing, there was no door, only an open shower stall, and a pale frightened woman holding those scissors up ready to strike herself or me.

I wasn't sure which. She said:: how did you know about this? And I said earlier in the day I was looking out over the pond from the veranda and everyone was picnicking on the grass and only you were missing.

From somewhere deep, a muffled explosion shook the house. Small clouds of silk roiled from the underwater mine entrance in the reservoir. The other entrances in the basement house so I know you had to be connected with it


Thursday, December 12, 1985

RESPITE, 3 takes on a salmon sky

This salmon and turquoise band
brushed against the sky
holds the crack
between the edge of night
and silhouetted mountains
open a little while longer.
Light bulbs aren't enough
to bring back the day.
Twilight like a second childhood
the most immortal time
between night and day.

December 1985

The time before nightfall
the turquoise and salmon sky
holds open a crack between
the feathered edge of night
and the silhouette of mountains
keeping darkness in check
like a second childhood.


The turquoise and salmon
of the sky at dusk
wedged a open crack
between the jeweled edge of night
and the silhouetted mountains
like a second childhood
for a short time it comes to remind us
that the light will return again.

Where one can gaze on the light
and remember how the sun looks
just like the way the old experience
a second childhood so foolishly.

an attempt to resurrect a lost poem

beyond the silent valley
a river and green ocean of grass
a cornfield where no one stands

Tuesday, December 10, 1985


These silver fish in my pocket
sing for their supper
sing for flies and oranges
under a full moon.
At Cabo San Lucas,
the wind through the arch
is like the sighing of empty vaults.
The fishing banks are open for commerce.
"Silver sinkers from old dimes
make the best lures,"
an old Indian said.
The mines are empty.
The mines are empty.
Let's lift the moratorium.
We need silver to seed the clouds;
to line the sow's ear.
The gypsy's fortune speaks in tongues
when the fish won't bite.

1989 Poetry SF Quarterly, Honorable Mention, spring issue, 
1987 Sculpture Gardens Review
         Marin Poetry Review
1986-88 Falling to Sea Level


Aquellos peces de plata en mi bolsillo
cantan para comer
cantan para moscas y naranjas
bajo de la luna llena.
En Cabo San Lucas,
el viento por el arco
susurra como bovedas vacias.
Los bancos de las pescas
se abren para negocios.
"Los plomos de plata
de las viejas monedas
de diez centavos
son los mejores cebos,"
decia el indio viejo.
Las minas estan vacias.
Las minas estan vacias.
Levantemos el moratorio.
Necesitamos la plata para sembrar
las nubes;
para forrar la oreja la cerda.
La suerte del gitano habla en lenguas
cuando no muerden los peces.

tr. John Oliver Simon y Juvenal Acosta
needs correction accents

Monday, December 9, 1985

Dream Journal

We were waiting for the wedding. Next day after traveling many miles. The house was on the ocean and the backyard was a tidal lagoon where one could snorkel—like the lagoon at the Kona Hotel in Hawaii, at the royal summer palace.

But this place was more like an apartment duplex. Batlike creatures and frigatebirds with human faces circled in the thick air near the ceilings. One had to be careful of their bite.

I found John dressed in black, floating up right near the ceiling, asleep. He hadn't turned into a bat yet, but he was the most powerful. and perhaps the most dangerous. It was merely a matter of time. His eyes were pale blue because he was asleep.

I'm not even sure if it was John but it was a recognizable likeness. Always the death mask. The waves buffeted the sides of the house and the timbers shook. Saltspray drifted in the open windows and it was as if the house were breathing on its own, a living entity,


Thursday, December 5, 1985

Prewrite for TENGO DINERO

This becomes fodder for the poem for Tengo Dinero

Oh say can you see
green sheep grazing
on newly minted grass?
On the banks of rivers
silvered with the coinage of fish

Who can ask the gypsies
how to line the edges of the moon?
Who sobs for untold fortunes
and greased lightning
to increase the weight of the moon
and the sky where dreams crackle
and rustle like freshly minted bills
hot off the press
and spread thin across the night.

4/21/ 1986
added 2/17

date is wrong.

Benefit reading Nicaraguan Harvest Brigade, Santa Rosa, Mo Hurley reading/photo

Baja journal: Writing in arrears, spider dream 12/5/85

it is ironic that I begin to do most of my writing in arrears. In retrospect, while traveling, it was difficult to take it all in. I did a few watercolors, but not enough, and no poems came. I am gathering new material I keep telling myself. John writes many poems that captured the moment. And I have nothing more to add. So I write very little in my own notebooks.

However, we did do several collaborations in English and in Spanish in his notebooks. Sometimes I dictated to him in my simple Spanish. All in present tense of course. I will need to get copies of them and put them into my own journal at one point.

Rereading my notes from Thanksgiving Day I realize I've come full circle from the disillusionment of Tijuana to the tropical ease of La Páz and Cabo San Lucas. It took a long time to process the Third World shock. Nothing can prepare you for it. My second day in La Páz restored my equilibrium.

We stayed at the Hotel La Perla, right on the waterfront on the malecón, facing west over the harbor. Hotel la Perla is a Mexican middle-class hotel and there were very few gringos staying there, El Arco took that crowd in, at considerably more pesos per day. The Hotel La Perla was about nine dollars US, per night.

It is hard to remember not to drink the water here, especially when they bring you ice drinks on a hot day. Brushing the teeth with tapwater is one of those automatic responses, like opening your mouth in the shower both are no-nos. I began to brush my teeth with a hot top tapwater at Hotel La Perla, and to drink some things with ice. Even a lettuce leaf or two.

Everything was suspect and I became rabid for the taste of fruit, anything fresh. Mexican fare begin to tax on my system. I thought if I saw another huevos for breakfast that I'd absolutely die.

I reread all those poems you wrote me: odes to orchards, satellite discs, drunks in a one-hearse town. You wrote enough poetry to paper a wall, and, there's more to come. The last man to write me poetry got bitter and vindictive when I said no to him, and after that I never could read his poems. I've been saving them for old-age.

When romance becomes a dim habit, I can burrow through the mountains of paper and old love letters and say yes I was loved. Yes I was wanted once. Men found me desirable.

Your stack of poems keeps growing—some of them good, and it doesn't seem like we're looking for it to end. Last night you told me that in the last 40 nights we've only spent eight of them apart. And here we are living in separate houses trying to live together at the same time. You say you want us to live together and I say that we already are


One night I dream of entering my front door but across the opening, spiders have done their work. This web cloying thick and sticky— only the web of a black widow spider is like that. Soon there are hundreds of shiny black bodies dancing on the snowy white web, like cloth draped over me. I am killing spiders right and left. And I can't get rid of the web. Their bodies are shiny and tough, and they make such a cracking sound as I squash them but there's too many of them and no matter how fast I swat them. Some will survive and it's only a matter of time before one bites.


Baja Journal, San Diego to Oakland, air 12/5/1985

San Diego to Oakland

Flying north at 26,000 feet one can see the slipstream of boats as if the ocean were sky. The afternoon sun's reflection races across the ocean, and the dark webbing of calm water weaves a net of waves, broken in concentric rooms by Santa Catalina Island.

A sudden reflection of light leaps the boundaries of the ocean to strike the land and finds arroyos flooded by rain, silver threads of rivers, swimming pools, lagoons, and it makes a grid of light and shadow. Even the cars and windows join in.

The captain of the airplane announces that the space shuttle just passed directly over us.

We enter a cloudbank a weather front...
A sundog of light
like a satellite follows us
the sun's reflection refracts
making a small silver patch of light
against the dull gray clouds
following us like a small satellite

We return home, keeping well to the edge of this continent. We are shaking granite sand from the last mountain and the last beach of where California disappears into the sea for the last time. We feel as if we are weightless, as if gravity also left the ends of the earth, and the sea continues to cradle us. After so long at sea, we must learn how to walk again.

Date I don't know it's after December 5, 1985

AT 26,000 FEET

Flying at 26,000 feet
80 miles to the right of us
the space shuttle passes overhead
as the reflection of the sun
races across the ocean,
a silver needle making a grid of light
across swimming pools and cars
As we enter a cloudbank
a sundog of light follows us.
The sun's reflection refracts
making small silver patches of light
against the dull gray clouds
following us like a small satellite.


Wednesday, December 4, 1985

Baja Journal, dreams of terror, 11/4 1985

Yellow light, fear of the light, no images. Two nights ago, I dreamt that John was floating on a red bed of light surrounded by purple and blue tendrils of darkness.

Each time the fear, the terror resurfacing in primal colors. He asks me for an image. And I say the red turned sideways like paper, it was two-dimensional, and then it disappeared with the image of John on it. Such terror. Whose death?

What is this thing in the night that comes bathed in pure light and wants to consume me? What is this thing that comes in the night, and what does it mean? The colors, not painted on paper but air bathed in light, all colors of the spectrum.

John asks me of the details of my birth, coming out of the swaddling sheets of darkness, into the world of pain and light.

I remember odd things: when the doctor hovered over me, how enormous his green eyes were behind his glasses as he looked down my throat. The silver mirror of light on his forehead, held by a band, he said breathe, and the darkness that followed. I woke up in a hospital ward, black-and-white with ceramic tiles. The white tiles yellowed and riddled with age, reminded me of teeth. The tiles ones with stripes of green, reflected on the wall.

The hospital beds folded like pieces of white bread. And my gown was backless and my ass exposed and my throat hurt. I failed to see any connection between  exposed ass and sore throat. I felt violated. The world had no logic. I was four. What were tonsils?

The black toilet seat was like a strange horseshoe open-armed to let me fall through to the swirling water beneath where darkness lived, gurgling in those depths.

I remember falling down the circular flight of stairs at my grandmother's house, the horizon of darkness and light shifting into jagged carousels as my head thudded and jarred on each step, to turning my world topsy-turvy. I was four. What did I know?

I remember looking at a three-story building, a long squat brown horizontal band of compressed windows. I had to give it height when I understood that it occupied space. From a bug's eyeview, buildings must be seen tilting our way, out of the horizon of sight.

When my new eyeteeth were uncovered from my palate, I slipped into darkness and the cinnamon odor of ether, my head pulled backwards into an orbit, into something like water but less tangible. Constellations of stars I'd never before seen, surrounded me and, like glittering eyes, the stars shone from the their dark bed of deepest midnight blue.

The roaring in my ears was like the ocean waves breaking on the rocks.

When I snorkel, I am in love with the blueness beyond the shallow sea floor and the rocks. We entered a small fringe of ocean and the fish were like wild bouquets of the sea drifting and floating amid the rocks. It is a privilege to look out across the blueness of the sea from below the silvery liquid mantle that separates air from sky, and sky from sea.

The blueness is so compelling, urging me to go deeper into the harbor, and into the bay, and down into the depths of the fathomless sea. I am Ophelia, I know the dangers of sharks, and the urge to go out, is so strong that I seek the rocks and the safety of the littoral zone like a frightened fish. The part of me that wants to abandon itself and slip fully into the blueness of itself. This is what the last thing a drowning man sees before the darkness robs color from the eye.

John's eyes are the color of the sea, bits of sky broken off, and I am afraid of that blueness and of those dark pools. The pool of the eye is like a black hole in space, as we enter the drowning sea.

The parrots' orange eyes have the same dark pools where we could drown if we looked into them too long. The darkness taking us into their limpid pools, not opaque with age, because age brings knowledge and this the sadistic tendency of nature.

A young rabbit runs towards the safety of the cat, a familiar shape that says mother, and the cat  nuzzled it and licked it lovingly before giving it the final blow. In this way, they young rabbit iscovered that all things were not its mother.

The innocence of the young, how nature, and the world shaped it, how the pools of eyes continually restore their liquid depths through love, pain, humanity – the journey of life.

In this, I begin to understand why the Indians, or the Indios have placed blue beads on the rearview mirrors of their cars to ward off the evil eye. They come to touch my turquoise necklace, to celebrate luck.

The dark holes of the eye, is the sadistic tendency of nature, the desire to hurt without malice, without cause.

I am reminded of the Irish saying: Love is a drowning in floodwaters.

I had 10/4/85 in my journal, but that cannot be the right date. I'm guessing that it's 12/4/85? It could also not be part of my Baja journal sequence, I found poems out of sequence in it.
added 2/18

Tuesday, December 3, 1985

Baja Journal, Snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez at Cabo San Lucas, 12/4-5/1985

Sea of Cortez at Cabo San Lucas

At Playa del Amor, a beach that goes through the peninsula on the west, the Pacific scoops huge crescents of coarse granite sand on the beach. Light passes through the curl of a wave, an indescribable turquoise.

On the Sea of Cortez side of Cabo, the calm water is a little greener, more aquamarine. And we snorkel amid the rocks and drift over the great depths, following the fish. This was John's third dive, the first one at Mulegé wasn't spectacular, but he learned the basic principles. I was a cautious teacher, as John was not a confident swimmer, whereas I was like a dolphin. We didn't go out past the edge of the reef, as it was very shallow and murky do this due to the suspended coral bloom so there were no colorful fish to tantalize the eye.

On our second dive at the wreck of the tuna boat in the harbor, John was still far too nervous to go out more than a few feet, so I explored the boat alone. The rocks and submerged islands offered a wealth of fish and he was hooked on snorkeling.

The fish were the wildflowers of the sea, blooming from rock to rock, capricious flores. The dive at Playa del Amor was like less spectacular in terms of fish, through the fish that were present, were much larger. I was too tired to go out around the point and I had no flippers so I didn't get a chance to see that if there was any better snorkeling. Later, there many divers were in the area.

I think the tuna boat wreck in the harbor had much better diving. Our last day at Cabo, we went back to the tuna wreck and John explored the rocks and the boat. Not as many fish at the boat as compared to yesterday.

I caught the tail of a porcupine puffer fish between my toes after a short chase, and gently tugged on him to make him inflate. He was a slow swimmer and was not used to being molested. Because of his thorny body, I'm sure few creatures find him appetizing.

By comparison, Caribbean pufferfish have iridescent peacock blue eyes. This one had brownish eyes. The little blimp eyed me remorsefully!

I point out a yellow and white and black angelfish, not a Moorish idol, and colorful groupers, and rust-brown gobies with those ridiculous eyes on the tops of their heads, clinging to the sides of the boat like limpets. They watched us pass baleful stares, their little fins like hands, on the rocks.

We are surrounded by many types of butterfly fish, one needlenosed yellow and black one. And schools of surgeonfish. Blues and yellows, striped schools of silvery cowfish along th esandy bottom. I point out grunts, boxfish, neons, tetras, wrasse, pipefish, trumpetfish, parrotfish, a unicornfish and barbed bass.

A pair of pale blue fish, like jacks or mackerels with long dorsal fins, looking very much like angelfish cruise me. A surprisingly orange fish, similar to a butterfly fish, but larger, with its fins outlined in neon blue, carefully checks me out. A garibaldi of sorts?

A school of tiny neon blue and black fish like a cloud of dust motes. A colorful male boxfish sculls with his drab black-and-white mate. They have transparent fins that look like twirling shawls of flamenco dancers, to propel themselves forward, which makes them look a little like hovering gnats, or helicopters.

Schools of pale green coronet fish or pipefish hover at the surface and trumpetfish with blue plaid coats and spatula mouths rest on the bottom. Both species have long mouths and thin bodies, with eyes an somewhere forward of the middle, and they're funny looking like cartoons. The pipefish with its slender narrow mouth and teeth, is like a beak of a hummingbird.

And there are as many varieties of fish in the sea as there are birds in the air
Try and describe the differences between an ostrich, a kiwi, a parrot, a swallow, a hummingbird or a penguin to someone who is blind. This is what it was like to describe the fish of the sea to someone who has never before snorkeled, to see them in books, or in aquariums is not enough. John is amazed. He had no idea such richness lay beneath the skin of the sea.

People tend not to see the creatures, and even dismiss them when they're in a man-made environment. When you're swimming among the fish, as guests in their world, you gain a whole new perspective of them.

It seems I can never get enough of seeing them. I no sooner memorize shapes and colors of one species, and another equally interesting one comes along and I've totally forgotten what markings and what fish I was memorizing the details of. Multiply this by 20 to 30 species and the results is chaos, pure chaos, a glut of color and shape and form.

There are very few books with decent pictures of tropical fish—most are downright lousy.
I'd like to see a delux coffee-table book of tropical fish in natural clusters because the different species cohabitate together in riotous color.

Most photos are taken with flash which changes the colors of the fish. And many fish also change colors at night too. Or when they're frightened. Or according to mood. Like the poor dorado, or dolphinfish that flashed all the colors of the rainbow and the northern lights as he was strung up by the tail on the dock hoist for the obligatory big game photo.

Cabo San Lucas, Baja

Monday, December 2, 1985

Baja Journal, Sea of Cortez at Playa del Amor, 12/2/1985

The launch circled the sea stacks by the arch at cabo San Lucas, where California plunges into the sea one last time. At Playa del Amor, a wave mounted and crested at the arch and the sun slipped off to the west. We rounded an outer sea stack, admired the frigatebirds, on the ledge, a napping seal rearranged himself and scratched his side, so human. And stopped to watch us pass. The Pacific Ocean was an ethereal blue within blueness, as if lit from within, and it rose up and down the face of the cliff like an enormous breathing beast. One could hear the soft exhaling of the sea. Feel its beating heart.

Cabo San Lucas
added, rev. 2/18

Baja Journal, Land's End, Cabo San Lucas, 12/4/1985

Approaching Land's End. We rounded the cape where large granite mountains, the last spine of the Sierras, fall off into the Sea of Cortez, it took my breath away. We were greeted by the Pacific where the mountain, sea and ocean meet one final time. So sublime, one could almost touch the intangible. It truly was a holy place. It was like the gates of heaven, or the garden of the Hesperides, in evening light.

The Greek stories came alive, it was as if we were between Scylla and Charybdis, the devil and the deep blue sea, but this wasn't the right continent, nor the right ocean. The mainland of Mexico across the sea of Cortez, more than 100 miles and the mainland wasn't even visible. No place for Jason to set sail.

If one were an ocean voyager, the end of this peninsula would seem like an island. The Spaniards named the island Califia, after a warrior goddess. I gazed into the water from the side of the boat, though we were in shadows, and  was dusk, the sea seemed lit from underneath and the intensity of blue of blueness was electric.

At the top of the cliff, frigatebirds wheeled and nested. Slim cantilevered wings and scissored-tails silhouetted against the appled sky. With a wingspan of 8 feet, they were like that out of the albatross that circled with them, but the albatross with light undersides had less articulate sculpturing of wings, but were no less impressive.

One male frigatebird nesting on the top of the cliff had his red pouch inflated, and that splash of red against the ochre-stained granite cliff, was a minute flash of color. There was continual motion in the sky as the birds wheeled and cried cried, the pelicans, once considered enormous to my way of thinking, seems suddenly so small by comparison.

Cabo San Lucas, Baja



A frazzled white-haired woman
with a scrawny black kitten
flattened against her red coat 
boards the crowded bus.
She speaks only English,
and the driver lets her aboard
for the 500 pesos she offers,
though it isn't enough to cover her fare.
Her red lacquered nails match her jacket
and on her right arm, she wears a cast,
someone once cared about her.
There's nowhere to sit, she's so old.
Then a young Mexican boy stands up,
smiles, and offers her his red stool.
Abuela, please sit, he said.

December 2, 1985
rev. slightly 18 Nov 2015
Baja, Mexico

Sunday, December 1, 1985



Tired, I exclaimed to John,
Look, an echinoderm forest,
pointing to the blooming yucca trees
when I meant euphorbia.

December 2, 1985
Baja, Mexico

On the Outskirts of Cabo San Lucas

On the outskirts of Cabo San Lucas,  
a bare yard fenced with branches and barbwire,
guards a souped-up yellow race car, a mustang.
Someone's prized possession, an anomaly in the desert.
An attempt at beauty, three newly planted fan palms,
raggedly applaud the wind. Chickens patrol the yard.
A cinderblock home, barely large enough 
to hold the car, how many people live inside? 
Not like the nightmare houses on the outskirts
of Tijuana, made of cardboard, plastic and paper  
amid piles of concrete rubble and rebar.

December 1, 1985
rev. 11/17/15
Baja, Mexico

I tell John
I want to live in a house 
made of woven sticks 
open to the wind and sky.

Saturday, November 30, 1985

Fragments (garbled text)

This is what happens when ASCII  goes bad
I doubt that I will find the original text.

Missing text but something about Cabo San Lucas
plunges into the sea time 
Cabo San Lucass 
end we cry of the cliff 
rearranged himself slid into the ocean 
it was alive with blue and rose 
up and down the face of the cliffs 
like enormous breathing beast 
one could hear the soft shifting of the sea

November 30, 1985

LA PÁZ (Photos)


Here, in La Páz, the wings of birds
puncture the skin of the sea.
The bite of oleander blossoms
along the malecón remind us of
the proverbs of men and women,
because the birds have nowhere else to go
except for places etched into the walls of caves.

To make the sea, first, one must paint it.

November 30, 1985
La Páz, Baja, Mexico

My lines from a pass around poem at La Perla Restaurant, La Páz, with John Oliver Simon and Julie from Cabo. Maybe someday I'll get around to adding their lines. Or, not.

Baja Journal, La Páz to Cabo 11/30/1985 (photos)

From La Páz to Cabo we travel with Julie and her boyfriend Guillermo in the luxury of her car. No more Tres Estrellas buses with urine rivers from the bathroom running down the aisle.

We stop off at El Truinfo, a small mining town. This place was the original treasure of the Sierra Madre. It's hard to believe that this ghost town was once the largest pueblo in Baja California Sur. French cannons were placed at the base of a goldmine in the 1880s. When the French left, they left the cannons, the pianos, and the tall smokestack designed by Eiffel.

Blue morning glory against the sky, like pale stars. Opuntia, chollas, and giant cardón cactus in bloom—even though December approaches. A cactus with spent blossoms like draped sea anenomes. Strange cirios, or boojum trees twist and writhe every which way, remind me of mad, upside-down carrots. A kind of ocotillo, they're the only member of their genus.

We stop to stretch our legs. Julie says Hello crow, hola cuervo! He observes us with glinty eyes. Cardinals and bluejays: azul y rojo in this stern landscape. To see a cardinal here in the desert is like the shock of seeing the blood- blooming opuntia. This feathered flower flies from bush to bush, an odd ritual of spring on the wing in midwinter. I make a quick drawing of a crested cactus hawk standing sentinel on a large cardón. He has white circles on his underwings, and a banded tail.

We pass skinny cows and talk of tequila. Agave swords. Vultures stand on a dead cow seem to be congratulating each other on finding such superior roadkill.

The next two days are hazy. I am unable to write, but my Spanish comprehension improves in leaps and bounds. I lose my fluency in English. I become non-lingual and write nearly nothing. But I dream in Spanish.

We had a good giggle over the poorly translated menus and La Páz  and Cabo, for example: grabs and clamps crabs and clams. We passed a house made of woven sticks, like a basket, open to the sky. I tell John I want to live there.

At the Tropic of Cancer, near Todos Santos, John sits on top of the big boulder painted white with a blue stripe, to write a poem about an idea in the wilderness but this artificial boundary is a manmade concept. We are here at the wrong time of year to see the sun stand still, directly overhead at its zenith. Tropic means to turn back. The sun is no longer in the constellation of Cancer, but, Taurus. And there he sits on his cement boulder, the bull. No turning back now.

added, rev. 2/18
first two photo scans were from slides, and I thought they were bad. The color negative film, last photo, fared even worse.

Short takes from the Tropic of Cancer

On the autobus, a child in the rearview mirror
looks forward along a paved stretch of desert road,
the mirror always looking backwards
down that long road to the future.

La Páz, Baja, Mexico

The taxi driver who drove us
to Bahia del Coyote
told her young son to be good
or she'd put him out on the highway at night
to let the owls eat him.

Mulegé, Baja, Mexico

At dinner we shared tortuga steak
and picked green seeds from the tree
El Árbol de Fortuna, which is fortune itself,
neither good nor bad.
Under the full moon I saw a man
hanging by the foot
like the fool in the tarot deck.

Mulegé 11/26/85
Baja, Mexico

John sits on the ground
confronts a large boulder
painted limestone white 
with a blue stripe on it
at the Tropic of Cancer 
and he writes a poem
to a manmade concept.

Baja, Mexico

Menus at restaurants
in both La Páz
and Cabo San Lucas 
offered clamps and grabs 
and cramps and calms.
We couldn't stop laughing.

Baja, Mexico

The vulture airs his wings on the cardon cactus
because his ancestors had scales instead of feathers
and the cactus remembers when it was grass.

December 1, 1985
Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico

I want to live in a house
made of woven sticks
open to the wind and sky.

December 1, 1985
Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico


At the gringo bar in Cabo,
I entered, bundled up to my eyes,
in a red Mexican blanket
and black '50s sunglasses.
The gringos all turned to stare.
And when I dropped the disguise,
someone whispered, Oh, she's a gringa!
As if that explained anything.
And they fell back into their beer.

December 2, 1985
La Páz, Baja, Mexico

Thursday, November 28, 1985

Baja Journal, Autobús, Mulegé - Loreto 1125/1985

The old road was made by hand
The cow sleeps under the mesquite
What are you waiting for?
That the ripples of the sea
should weave us a blanket,
a net for our dreams?
At night, the snails compile slow mathematics.
The starfish creep through the twilight.
We're content.
The wind spells itself forward.
The owls sleep in the sun
and devours the darkness.
But there are paths in the water.
The saguaro points to the sky.
The guidebooks didn't show us this,
so let's go, carrying sea turtle shells
on our shoulders.
What more are you waiting for?

Autobús, Mulegé - Loreto 11/28/1985
translated from a collaborative poem written in Spanish with John Oliver Simon and me

Azul del sol
mangroves egrets
el agua se calle
El Viento no sigue
La tortuga no mira
las montañas secas
azlan el viejo
El camino no se llama
por el nombre
las montañas de la muerte
y ellas de la vida
bailan con el autobús
Porque? Preguntalo
al chofer. Las islas
flotan en el aire azul
con las nubes.

Blue sun
mangroves egrets
the water is so silent
the wind follows the sun
the turtle watches
as the dry mountains take flight
and the road calls us by name
the mountains of death
the mountains of life
dancing with the bus
why asks the driver
islands floating in the blue air
with the clouds.

11/25? 29? 1985
I wrote in spanish then translated it.

walking along the malecón at La Páz at sunset

Baja Journal, fire dream, 11/28/1985

Last night I dreamed that there were two worlds. One world for artists and poets and for dark-haired people, and another world for those who ran commerce and were light haired.

We were riding in a bus singing in our dark world. I was with old school friends. One of us realize the driver had abandoned the bus or the trolley and that we were being sent in, a frame up to our deaths. I presume. The situation wasn't much different than that of Nazi Germany.

We jumped out of the moving bus and headed for the creek. Soon, they were searching the woods for us. And one by one, they caught us. I almost escaped detection by hiding behind a waterfall, but one of my friends hidden too near me, gave the hiding place away.

They took us to the summer camp at the Barbano's on Arroyo Rd. in Forest Knolls. I often visit these places of childhood in dreams. And though I tried to keep the secret of being an artist from them—the Nazis? They decided we were expendable after, all and killed us one by one. I was the last artist, and they burned me by fire.

But I was a messenger and we needed to leave some code for those who will come after us. And when the scouts from my world, the dark world, came, they looked through my ashes and found an inscribed Chinese symbol similar to the character for big man.

The secret letter was an ygriega, the Greek Y, or double ll in Spanish. I think it was a symbol of something larger, as a message was carved into the sides of the letter. I know the symbol got into the right hands. I know this because I was there and I saw the carrier exclaim with joy and carry that character back to the other world.

Such strange dreams the world is made of.


Baja Journal, Mulegé, 11/28/85 (photo)

Thanksgiving Day, La Páz, Baja

Well, the best thing to do is to begin writing since little has inspired me since the bus from Tijuana was three hours late. We waited by the the busy roadside in Mulegé, in the predawn light. The moon, it was full enough to burst last night. And so strangely blue. Veinious.

How cold the desert was last night. Across the road, a red truck, the kind used for cattle or for fodder, was parked facing north. Beneath its long body, a roll of plaid blankets. As we approached, the blankets began to shift as arms surfaced from sleep. It was easier to make out the triangular box shape of feet.

Some people were asleep on top of the loaded truck, some were inside. More and more men begin to stir and cough and fart from beneath blankets, draped like serapes. And as it is in the world of men everywhere, they begin unzipping and urinating as the second major act of the day.

The nearly full moon held a frosty circle around it, and our breath made clouds around our faces.

Dawn came like an open gate, rushing across the sky. And stars sunk like lights into the bright azúl sky. The oasis began to take on a distinctive shape as the goats stirred, and the roosters' call became more certain. The hunched cats began to take notice of small pebbles and oddly shaped stones.
One could hear in the distance trucks winding up and down their gear gearboxes. Schoolchildren passed by us, shyly eyeing the exotic gringos. The girls were wearing pale blue and pink skirts with white kneesocks.

The morning wind travels up the valley and rattles the palm leaves in dry arroyos. A muted layer of fog hangs over the river, obscuring the trunks of the palm trees. Their leaves are like crumpled hair above a blank face.

Not knowing the customs of the land, I overpaid the café man for my coffee. He crossed himself and began to exclaim to all the saints, looking incredulously at the two 50-peso pieces. I was startled because he began praying to the electric wires coming out of the wall. It was then I realized that maybe I had overpaid him.

Many of the townspeople passed by us as we waited for the bus to La Páz. The men with the blankets, unloaded several more, and began to neatly fold them into stacks, then placed each stack over a shoulder and walked into town to sell their wares.

I began to paint a watercolor of some palm fan palms. To properly paint this place, one must not exclude the human touch; a parked car, hand-painted sign, etc. That's all part of the scenery here. It takes some getting used to, as so much trash and 20th-century debris is everywhere.

Slowly I begin to realize that most things are indeed recycled, though the road goes through the end of Baja, everything is far enough away from everything else that the average tourist never gets this far.

My Spanish, which was previously nonexistent, except for a couple of years in school, with lessons at less than rewarding results, is improving by the hour.

I switch from English to Spanish and back again and I'm and I'm learning to ask simple questions, and how to pay for things.

The first night, when we arrived in Tijuana what can I say? To have a negative experience in Mexico, a la Tijuana, was a realized nightmare. Squalor, poverty etc. The road from San Diego to Tijuana is a cultural shock I will always remember.

Never having been to Mexico, I have no idea how the money works, and John is less than helpful, being in his own world. So when I went to the bathroom, the matron demanded money of me. First, I couldn't understand what she said, nor how much was needed, and John didn't see it fit to give me any money at all. Things went from bad to worse.

I was miserable on the bus ride to Ensenada, feeling much very alienated and disliking what I saw of Mexico.

After Ensenada, the second bus ride down to the end of Baja, on Tres Estrellas,  restored my sense of adventure, though we pulled into many dismal tiny hamlets after dark, where there was nothing more than a restaurant specially opened for the bus crowd.

Bologna sandwiches, tortillas, carne—the fare of the day. You eat what is presented. No exceptions. The baños have no seats and were little better than pigsties. As we headed south, they improve slightly. I tried not to focus on what was objectionable because one could certainly find enough to get queasy over.

And when we stumbled into Mulegé after a  tedious all-night bus ride, at 6:30 AM, the rare rain had turned the streets into slop that stuck to our feet. And when we pulled into our hospidaje, it felt like I had arrived to the best place on earth. Squashed cockroaches in the bathroom did nothing to improve the outlook.

Our gritty room held three sagging twin beds, with sheets of questionable character. After a much-needed sleep and shower and desayuno—breakfast, things didn't look quite as bad. A broom workover, and by rearranging of furniture I managed to transform this place. The cobalt blue table and chair framed against the coral pink stucco and a nice wooden door livened the place up.

After a walk around the town and the necessary mental adjustment to a lifestyle south of the border, I realized our place was actually pretty clean. The yard was carefully raked. And the cages of songbirds held such sweet music. Canaries and parrots and wild birds. Fincehs gathered around the wild birdcage as if in solidarity. And the cage birds attracted the finches who hopped on the dry mesquite and fan palm fronds.

While the mesquite for the shower heated up the boiler, John, desirous of a cup of coffee, stood on the wet cement and plugged in his immersion heater and proceeded to electrocute himself—not once, but twice—in front of the entire family who observed this transaction stony faced. I couldn't stop laughing.

Last night the lock on the door broke with us inside. John climbed out the window and down the drain pipe. Everyone was gathered around the door conversing excitedly as they tried to undo the lock with a machete. I managed to get the entire door handle off from the inside, but the bolt wouldn't budge. Until they seriously worked it over. No way to lock the door now!

By the time we had left Mulegé, I'm sure they remembered us, and would remember us if we ever passed through here and again in the future.

Wednesday, November 27, 1985



From the guilt of eating turtle steak
we make wild love after dinner
and the snoring from the family next-door
ceases as we rise into reptilian splendor
under the full moon.

Picking my way back from the outhouse
I am startled by darkened eyes sockets
on this cold desert where a wild moon
bleaches bones and eats the night.

A young rooster cries out in a child's voice
for some light in this village.
A passing car toots its horns at shadows.
Beneath a satellite disc moon,
huge, faint shadows of tarpon stir in the river.
Before this road interrupted sleep,
palm trees kept secret dreams.

In sleep, you stir, pulling my hips towards yours.
Each day, from my turquoise necklace,
I give a piece of the sky back.
There is as much future in those stones
around the neck of a woman
as there is in the desert sand.
I cradle the dreams of my grandmother,
fragile as paper, as you gather me in.
Sand in the bed fills our eyes and mouths.

Mulegé, Baja, California

Baja Journal, Horseflesh prose, dream images,11/27/1985

Sometimes when you asleep in my arms, my hand strokes your face. I imagine it to be denuded of flesh and bleached white by weather. My fingers explore your eyesockets, and draw the vague hollows of your skull, rejoice in the alabaster sculpture of jawline where your mustache crawling across teeth is a more recent dream.

I imagine the Bavarian forests and Alsatian horse traders to explain the color of your eyes. I wonder if traces of the Neanderthal could be found hidden in that Cro-Magnon suture of your skull. Somewhere near the brown line which an ancestor gave you, your eyebrows, the traces of hair on your ears, along with the drum of your skull or the wrinkle gray folds of matter, the future and the past lie hidden.

At dinner we share tortuga steak and pick seeds from the tree of fortune—after a fight. Only later, do I realize vagaries of the free of fortune, el Árbol de la Fortuna offers both good and bad luck.

Last night under the nearly full moon, in the small village, we passed a hanged man, or, a replica of a hanged man. I assume it was from the tree of life? Surely not the real thing. And I think of not of death, or the thievery of a murder, but of the fool—as in the tarot cards, the fool hanging by one foot.

We make wild love after dinner, perhaps it's from the guilt of eating turtle steak. Or our first fight under the full moon. The family next-door ceases their snoring, as we rise and fall in reptilian splendor into the night, under that full moon.

Making my way to the bathroom, I was startled by the faces of the family next-door. Their eyes were dark without sight.

This cold dust bleaches the bones. This wild moon eats the night. A quivering child's voice begging, drowning his baby sorrow in tears, he weeps for the return of the sun.

A lone car honks its horn. This village had never heard such things a decade ago, before there was a road here. Mulegé kept to itself. And now it's modern with satellite discs, and hot water showers or heated by ocotillo and mesquite. A prison, and tourists.

The transplanted tongue of Spanish begins to slip in and undermine the native tongues. I wonder what languages were once spoken at this oasis? The old mission is more like a stone-age castle than a church.

At the plaza where we sleep, there are sand drifts, like water currents on the thick floor, the Mexican tourist blankets are thick with soap. This is a land of precious water—even at the oasis. A school of tarpon, or tortora, swim in the dammed river, huge faint shadows of green beneath the pools.

The unlucky cockroaches are squashed by guests visiting el baño, the bathroom. The rest of the tribe are hidden within the plumbing. It's utter squalor. But after a day of touring the streets of Mulegé, it seems like home.

I begin to notice different things: how this yard is cleaner than the others, and how the earth is so close to us here. The sand in our bed is waiting to fill our eyes while we sleep. Who's to say the sandman isn't Father Death after all?

You turn towards me in sleep and pull my hips toward you, still snoring, your even breath, at the base of my neck.

Each day, from the dowry of my turquoise necklace, I give a piece of the sky back. Each time you tell me of your love for me, I think there is as much future in the sky and in the stars, than this necklace hung around the neck of a woman, as old as as time. A turquoise noose around her neck, on her birthday,as the desert sand tries to bury us.

During the night, you told me that I spoke of wedding bells, and I said Buy them back.

We are wedded to ourselves, after all. I dreamed my grandmother, fragile as paper, she was helpless and I cradled her in my arms. At that moment I realized that I am also my grandmother.

November 27,1985
Full moon in Mulegé, Baja California
added 2/18, slightly revised for clarity
This first draft of HORSEFLESH was was written in the dark, or in the moonlight, while I was half asleep.

Monday, November 25, 1985

GARDEN, ENSENADA two poem fragments


I am not Lilith alone in the garden.
I did not spring from your mind
full-blown, like Athena.
Some things are best learned,
one foot in front of the other.
Don't leave me lost in the dark.
If you are a good teacher
I will learn to love this place
that is a part of you.

I don't know


Plastered across the storefront window
of a plumber's shop in Ensenada,
the arts section of a San Diego newspaper
with a color photo of a new sculpture
by Claes Oldenburg, of a giant tube
called Toothpaste.

I don't know
added, rev. 2/18

Sunday, November 24, 1985


At Camp Pendleton John stops to take a piss.
US govt. signs warn of eminent arrest 
for stopping or loitering here
& I imagine a military patrol in the bushes
waiting for the weak-bladdered.
We pass Ground Zero.
Truncated towers, multi-armed monsters
march east across Highway 101 from San Onofre.
I try on the round sounds. Onofre. Laguna.
La paloma, pigeon/dove es la verdad.
In Spanish there is no distinction between the two.
Open chord progressions of birds 
sit in arpeggios upon the scored lines
leading from San Onofre to the heartland.
John says, “All across the country 
these reactors are dormant bombs 
waiting for a fuse."
Huge heart-shaped bells 
strung from the power lines
labor silently in the wind.
San Clemente



Hung over & 
headed for Mexico 
in a rented car,
we try and outrun the rain
& the bleary weight of ourselves,
alone, and with each other,
after the wedding.
Today, at the age of 33,
I’m as old as Christ, before he died.
John weaves turquoise stones,
flecks of a jealous sky, around my neck
and says, “In 50 years I’ll be an old man,
will you still want me then?”
I say: “I have trouble
separating myself from childhood,
and the child within asks,
”Where do the wild birds
go when it begins to rain?” 
I hide the blue stigmatas
burning on my palms.

slightly rev. 2/17
San Clemente

Saturday, November 23, 1985


—for Brian & Nancy, 11/23/85

Late afternoon wedding.
The courtyard of Mission San Juan Capistrano
harbors no swallows--only bleak mud nests.

On the bare tree, the one white pigeon stirs the flock
and like grey leaves bursting into flight, they circle and bank
as guests enter the narrow timbered adobe chapel,
whitewashed walls lean heavily toward the sea,
dim green light broken into patterns by the windows of saints.
A white satin carpet is unrolled for Brian & Nancy.
Behind a flurry of veils, the kiss, the rings we can’t see.

The guitar strings whisper, the mariachi band readies itself.
And the final words of the padre, “In 50 years
I will come to bless you again. Look for a small white bird.
All this recorded on video; seafoam and dark shadows.

As the last chord fades, we leave the church
barely able to look at each other
but our white-knuckled fingers and damp palms
reassure us of our existence.
John mimics my left-handed sign-of-the-cross
The nuns said it was the sign of the devil.

Our car horns stir the pigeon flock
into another cloud of frenzied flight.
We run the red lights. Cars at weddings
and funerals have right-of-way.

At the San Clemente Beach Club
the wedding party reconvenes.
In this bastion of America, pinstripe suits
mingle with down jackets and nikes.
I imagine behind each face, a mask,
behind each palm tree, a dark stranger.

Each day John pins to his breast
the lapis heart I gave him.
In ritual there is comfort.
But this makes me uneasy.
Someone sings Danny Boy
& Brian’s mother cries
the same way my aunt does.

The storm front pushes down on the sea
until the horizon is swallowed.
We take armfuls of red carnations out into the night
& slide drunkenly between Brian & Nancy’s sheets
as if this were our honeymoon instead.
Dark petals stain the sheets & the rain comes down.

San Clemente

Friday, November 22, 1985



After running into Jim Duran at LAX,
we're surprised to find we both know him.
I know him as Seamus, and John, as Jaime.
We yelled out in unison Seamus/Jaime, to Jim,
and turned to each other and laughed.
We agree  to meet up later for dinner at Palo Verde,
and the reading at The Laguna Poets, followed by open mike.
Some of it was dark, dark and richly green, a la Roethke,
or James Wright. Terry Kennedy, Richard Weekley.
I said: Women can't get away with that kind of language,
it sounds too banal. We want something meatier with hips.
Another poet reads a diatribe about the IRA. I cringe.
John writes in my notebook, verde te quiero verde—Lorca
If she talks about horror, I'll scream, please don't say...
The horror, the horror—wrote Joseph Conrad.
See? Already the Belgian Congo is a cliché, said John.
Neo-colonialism and confessional poetry at its best / worst.
Speaking of darkness... We have no place to sleep.
I can't reach my cousin in Laguna Beach.
I ask John, Do we have a place to duerme?
He says not to worry. if nothing turns up.
we'll go to a motel and make like rabbits.

Voyager Inn, Laguna Beach
added/rev. 2/17

Laguna Poets reading (prose)
Remembering Jim Duran, (Séamas Ó Direáin)

Thursday, November 21, 1985

At Jack Grapes' Place, LA

At Jack Grapes Place, LA

Outside the window
a woman in a car checks her watch,
fixes a button, clasps a book to her bosom,
checks her hair, sets the book down,
gets out of the car, picks up the book…
As I stare out between window and screen,
feeling like I'm in a Truffaut movie,
the camera pans away from the car
to my face, the lower half hidden from view,
as John plays Handel on the recorder.

* * *
At sunset in a strange city
in a strange  house,
Jack and Lori asleep.
I'm shaking twilight from my bones
while John turns on
the garbage disposal unit,
looking for light

* * *
From under his fingertips
notes from Handel slip out
so achingly pure in my ears.

* * *
Distant crackle of newspaper from the kitchen
the sound of a memory being disturbed.


San Francisco to LA, Baja bound (journal)

San Francisco to LA, Baja bound 11/21/1985

The earth's skin stretches along the fault from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas. We follow the San Andreas Fault across the brown reaches of wrinkled skin, from Point Reyes to LA. Stark silhouettes of hills, highlighted razorbacks, an early sun.

 White Sierra peaks compete with low valley clouds, for sky.

Fault lines below us, as if the land were formed by a giant finger, dipped in melted chocolate, then lifted up, leaving sharp ridges of serrated earth. In contrast to the checkerboard grid on Central Valley farms.

An occasional ridge of clouds like an errant river patterned after the ridges  it crosses, a bridge of clouds.

In the distance, Telescope Peak, the farthest ridge, the White Mountains, Death Valley and the white snow fields near Mount Whitney.

To the south called, where the Sierras ease westward to join the coastal mountains, isolated peaks float in a white sea, denser clouds shore up at the edges of the Tehachepis. A faint dusting of snow against the blueblack ridges.
From this height, most color is lost, drained of essence. Like a standing wave, a bank of clouds rolls back from the steep cliffs and mountains.

Clouds enhance their shapes. The snow gathers like herds of lost sheep on the north sides and at the crest.

We begin our descent into LA. Trees become individual fly specks, no longer the dense mats of vegetation of  of the north.

Wave after wave of hills and dark silhouettes like the tracings of red mind on a gray sea, sediment in  tortured swirls. One can almost feel the tortured land screaming with adolescent growing pains.
Hills give way to the eroded faces, mostly to the south, where the sun soothes it out like smoke. A winding arroyo filled with boulders, and Franciscan mud gullies washed out to the sea by infrequent rains. Smog mingles with errant clouds that cowl San Gregornio, San Joaquin, and Mount Baldy.

Way off, a distant white peak somewhere in Nevada. Mt. Charleston?

LA sticks its dirty head through the clouds, herringbone grids of parked cars mesh on the flat desert sink.

The Pacific takes salty bites out of the saline desert. We fly through the vapor strung between clouds like laundry.

Above the bright turquoise sea, and below the gray washed business of cities, threaded by the complicated snakes of freeways.

John says the LA smog is nothing. When you fly into Mexico City, it's like you're flying into a bowl of soup. I am not looking forward to that.

John memorizes poems for tonight's meeting. I interrupt him again for verification of San Gregornio, brilliant, white, like a crack crack between worlds.

In this muted light, the LA River grid is a flat glistening aqueduct of concrete running due west, wide in places for the seasonal flash floods, otherwise a narrow braided river channel for the steadier flow, two rivers in one. Grid of main street and the irregular patterns of freeways, more like the path of the river and the river itself.

For one short block, besides each green postage-stamp lawn, liquid amber pushes its blaze of leaves toward the concept of fall.

In this city of deserts, metallic tweed of cars interspliced with grade wisps of rude and introduces the complexities of commerce to a place where creosote bushes once kept a generous living distance between each other each other.

A ragged line of trees, mostly eucalyptus, modestly covers a low-lying ridge near the airport. It reminds me of the banks along the Russian River or perhaps the Sacramento River. On those hot days of pavement, a distant memory of water wavers a mirage of mirrored oases.

Along this stretch, the land still remembers the shape of the inland sea.

enroute, in the air
added 2/17

Laguna Poets reading

Enroute to Cabo, we have a stopover in LA for a couple of readings.

11/21 Reading at the Cafe Cultural with John Oliver Simon and Rubén Martínez, then dinner with Lori and Jack Grapes, Rubén, and Sergio? We brainstorm CPITS and CAC residencies over meals.

It turned out John and I both knew Jim Duran separately. He called Jim Jaime whereas I called him Seamus. We once ran into each other in LAX enroute to Guatemala. John yelled Jaime while I yelled Jim, and Seamus simultaneously. We turned to each other and laughed.

On the even of JFKs assassination, we met up for dinner in Palo Verde, discussing linguistics and poetry, the origins of language and the uniqueness of  Irish language structure. We must've bought something expensive. Dinner was $34 plus tip.

Then we went to the Laguna Poets Reading Series. Terry Kennedy and Richard Weekly read. Then John and me. I also read some of my kid poems, distributed copies of ARC, and met the editor of Cal State Poetry Quarterly who wanted to publish some of my work. We set up another reading for next summer.

My cousin Eddie Walsh wasn't at home in Laguna Beach, a small hovel in the basement of an apartment complex (he must've been in Hawaii), so we rented a room at the Voyager Inn, and I bought Seamus Heaney's Sweeney Astray, reading about mad Sweeney over breakfast at Benny the Bum's Diner. Mad checkered tile floor and walls, like something from Nighthawks.

This is how I celebrated my birthday, among poets. We headed south to Solana Beach and crossed the border, headed for Cabo.

Added, rev. 9/17

Remembering Jim Duran, (Séamas Ó Direáin)

Saturday, November 16, 1985



The blizzard enters into this room
making my bones white.
The door to the right hip bone
opens into a howling snowfield.

These spaces between teeth echo 
in dark corridors.
I climb the night sky
where the ice of Saturn circles
for millenia on end.
Chrysanthemums on dark velvet.
November running low on the eastern sky.
Loosened arrows 
invade the heart.
Torrent after torrent.
Rain on my roof.
I remember each dress my grandmother made me.
And this deep season
like buzzing of flies in late afternoon,
dry rattle of corn harvested in late fall.
Thinking of death.
When we rode the Clydesdales to the river
bareback, & without a bridle.

rev 7/7/94


The door to the right hip bone
opens into a howling snowfield.
The blizzard enters into this room
making my bones white.
These spaces between teeth
echo in dark corridors.
I climb the night sky
where the ice of Saturn circles
for millennia on end.
Chrysanthemums on dark velvet.
November running low on the eastern sky.

I subtract another year from my death date.
Loosened arrows invade the heart at any age.
Torrent after torrent.
Rain on my roof.
Deep under blankets
I remember each dress my grandmother made me.
And this deep season
like buzzing of flies in late afternoon,
dry rattle of corn harvested in late fall.
Thinking of death
when we rode the Clydesdales to the river
& without a bridle.


Poem for attracting wild money CPITS lesson

John tells the class, Write a charm poem for attracting wild money based on Marge Piercy's CHARM FOR ATTRACTING WILD MONEY Use three words per line, don't use words with money, repeat last line until something comes in your head, or changes your strategy.

Somehow I don't think this lesson worked for me. On the other hand, my first draft of TENGO DINERO is on the very next page of my journal. It took a couple of weeks to jell, but it's definitely related.

Money coincides with
means and ends
Can't stop what
ends, think of
the cactus mind
the mind's eye
Vortex of storm
Zing zing zing
Electrical impulses and
written expression on her
red and black socks
and plaid skirt
Like a fairytale
and I wait
for morning fog
to burn off,
all this red
Can we go on
from this place?

Try to write three
words per line or
use one image per line

rustling bay leaves
cat coated fog feet
a nest of hills
a narrow winding road
sheep eclipsed by rock
no more Carneros.

Green gravid fields gathering cinnebar
Cambiar black and red and green on white
white sheets and green fields.
Cover the bank floors with grass,
straw bedding for the animals,
bed down in fragrant green commerce
because there's no room at the inn.

Bright star horizoned above the vault
and Jack felt like playacting
when his friend and said
bang bang you're dead.

CPITS workshop with JOS

Tuesday, November 12, 1985



The script of flowing water
over my bones dissolves
beneath subterranean fires.
Lorca could do no better
with dry oranges under a full moon.
Neruda's rabbits and elephants
are saving up all their questions
for the city of the dead.
Who would have guessed
these things would occur in Macondo,
a fictional swamp?

A hundred years the ship sailed
she sailed between storms,
this sea seeps into the underworld
and we are tired of waiting for caves
to yield the stone figures and potsherds
thus naming us for civilization
The shoes I shed so my feet will leave
a clear impression on damp soil.



The bear by my side
snores, I untangle my fingers
from his pelt.
He's not too eager to leave
this nest we've made.
As he yawns I can see
the sharpness of his teeth.



Oh, tent of darkness
billowing from the door
The bent rays of  sunlight
like fishhooks fashioned from light
captures the sobs of the moon.
Silver in my pocket catches this night
and throws it on the shore behind us
like there was no tomorrow.
Look how the moonlight drips
from his shoulder.
I could drink from him all night.


Friday, November 8, 1985


     Tuang is the color of unexpected voyages
      to unknown lands and forgotten worlds.
                     —Otto-Raúl González

This hologram, a rainbowed relief
a vibrating spectrum
a band of each invented color
separated from the matrix of imagination.
The child's cranium suspended in air
like water caught in a flat world
of silvered paper and lasered light.


These footprints asleep
beneath the slow horizon
The sunrise is red in the swamp.
Volcanic ash sifting through the air
blankets the earth with a fine silk cover.
How our feet sink into ash
Soft grit of pulverized rock.
I pause for a moment
to look back toward the river.


Thursday, September 19, 1985



On the Avenida de Reforma
in Teotihuacan's quaking bed,
cracked pavement—terremoto.
An abundance of funereal flowers
once again bloom in hanging gardens
in Xioxicalco, where tall hotels swayed 
like tall reeds and snapped off at the base
to fall in the concrete garden of chaos.

date? 1985, or 1986?

Tuesday, September 17, 1985



              Yo no lo conocÌa, pero aveces
              me entero de uno que otro detalle.
              Monica Mansour
                               —para John Oliver Simon

Late in the season, small avalanches begin
where our boots break a trail.
I place my feet carefully in each milk-blue hollow
and learn the distance of your stride.
We crawl up the crevice toward the sky.
Rocks tumble into the deep valley
and the space between worlds widens.
We rush to fill it with our hands, lichen & stone.

In the thin blue air above timberline
a cornice of snow gives under our weight.
We imagine it to sweep us up like swimmers
at the crest of a wave.  Wind, uncoded
from fingerprints fluxes the surface
of the lake.  The patterns carried
within us makes us recount the myths.
What passes for human
fallen off from ritual
urges us to jump.

We see beyond each mountain, a cloud;
beyond each cloud, another mountain.
By climbing on all fours, we learn to trust our hands.
Slowly, our hands lead us back to our hearts.
Our hands become small commas to separate sky from world
& the mountain watches them paying out shapes to the wind.
Clouds on the horizon have escaped us this time.

The dark thing that chased us from sleep
today, is a pale witness in snow.
Tracks of a mountain lion take on a new shape
separated from night.
We trace the origin of tracks
to a hollow beneath the last vertical face
of the mountain.
We drink from the same water
and leave rock cairns to mark a trail
no one else will follow.
Perhaps, in the future other climbers
will puzzle over this.

Hold in your hand this poem without words;
a white reminder of what we've lost.
Fur trappings slide from bare shoulders.
Glaciers scrub stones smooth again.
At sea level, the cave fire retreats
to its proper place in time.
I say, what civilized us
was the donning of clothes.
You say, No, language separated us.
And your tongue fills my mouth.

The temptation would be to stay in these mountains
and dress language in lichen & stone for vows,
but at sea level, the gods of dailiness
sweep through us and our grasp upon sky,
stones & skin loosens.  One misstep;
a false handhold could throw us back into air.
The next snowfall would bury our tracks.
When spring comes again,
they will sink back into the earth
without a trace.
The years are turning colder, I said.
There are other witnesses, you said,
The mountain lion and us.

Blue Canyon, Sonora Pass
Rosh Hoshana
Fall 9/17/1985

1986-88 Falling to Sea Level
1988 Women's Voices
1987 Creative Discourse

           Marin Poetry Center
           Poet News/ Sacramento Literary Review

      Yo no lo conocía; pero a veces
      me entero de uno que otro detalle.
                        —Monica Mansour

Tarde por la estación, las avalanchas empiezan  
donde nuestras botas hacen un sendero  
en el empinado campo de nieve.  
Pongo los pies con cuidado en cada hueco  
color de leche azulado y aprendo la distancia de tu paso.  
Reptamos por la grieta hacia el cielo.  
Las rocas se derrumban en la valle profunda  
y se ensancha el espacio entre los mundos.  
Precipitamos para llenarlo con 
Las manos, los liquenas v la piedra.

En el aire azul y fino de las montañas  
luna cornisa de nieve se desploma bajo nuestro peso.  
Imaginamos que nos arrasta como nadadores  
en la cresta de una ola. El viento, descifrado  
de las huellas digitales funde el superficie  
del lago. La forma llevada  
adentro nos hace recontar los mitos.  
Lo que pasa para lo humano  
caído rel rito, nos urge saltar.  
Vemos más alla de cada montañ a, una nube;  
más allá de cada nube, otra montaña.  
Subiendo a gatas, aprendemos a confiar en las manos.  
Despacio, nuestras manos nos llevan a los corazones.  
Las manos nos hace pequeñas comas para separar cielo y mundo  
y la montaña las mira arriando formas al viento.  
Las nubes en el horizonte nos escaparon esta vez.

La cosa oscura que nos cazó del sueño  
hoy es un testigo pálido en la nieve.  
Las huellos de una pantera toman una nueva forma  
separadas de la noche.  
Trazamos el origen de huellas  
hacia un hueco abajo de la última cara vertical de la montaña.  
Bebemos de la rnisma agua  
dejamos montones de piedras para marcar un sendero  
que nadie va seguir.  
Quizás en el futuro  
otros alpinistas se preguntarán sobre esto.

Toma en la mano este poema sin palabras;  
un recuerdo blanco de lo que hemos perdido.  
Atavios de pelos nos deslizan de los hombros.  
Los glaciares suavizan las piedras otra vez.  
Al nivel del mar, la hoguera de la caverna retrocede  
         hacia su lugar apropriado en el tiempo.  
Digo, lo que nos civilizó fue la ropa.  
Dices que no, el lenguaje nos separó  
y tu lengua me llena la boca.  
La tentación sería quedarnos en las montanãs  
y vestir el lenguaje en líquenas y piedras para votos,  
pero al nivel del mar, los dioses cotidianos  
nos arrastran y nuestro asimiento en el cielo,  
las piedras, la piel relaja. Un tropezón,  
un asidero falso podria tirarnos  
en el aire. La próxima caida de nieve  
enterraría nuestras huellas.  
Cuando la primavera viene otra vez,  
hundirán en la tierra sin rastro.  
Los años se enfrían, dije.  
Hay otros testigos, dijiste,  
la pantera y nosotros.  


1986, 87, 88 Falling to Sea Level