Sunday, June 30, 1985

Early memory, Point Reyes


The hillsides were more open. The brush hadn't yet advanced into the meadows. Deer crossed the fields intermittently. In the forested valleys, on foggy days, they came down to the creek to drink. On the other days, they waited for the safety of dusk.

When it rains too much, water comes spouting out from the gopher holes that drain the water from the higher hillsides. A good place to find quartz crystals, swept up from the bowels of the earth. Once I found rendered fat in one of the holes. Tiny globules waxing my wrinkled fingers.

My pants of gray and blue woven cotton, made from a remnant my grandmother bought at the Lagunitas church bazaar, were laden with rain, and they hung low on my hips. The chocolate mud bordering the cuffs calligraphed the earth.

And my tennis shoes make squelching sounds as I walk down the path, now a runnel from the runoff. I leave my clothes on the newspaper sheets spread in front of the door to catch the winter's mud. I shed my clothes like the hide of a beast —too much of a hurry, I dry off and sit by the fire.

But it is a landscape of wet and cold that doesn't willingly leave you. My grandmother talks of catching bronchitis and the tiny tubules that everyone in our family seems to have.

In the night I begin to cough, and it goes on and on. We hitch a ride out to the doctor. His office is in Point Reyes Station. It's a long winding road right through Camp Taylor where the redwoods crown the sky, and it is always dusk. 

Over Olema hill, near the crest, there's one small curve, where you get the first glimpse of Tomales Bay. On the flats, we pass drowned artichoke fields, and the old caboose, an abandoned railroad car that still proclaims it is the Point Reyes Library, though the only books it holds are written by the wind whistling through broken windows.

The caboose shares a pasture with a donkey and a goose. The goose is swimming in the volunteer lake at the lower end of the pasture. The donkey's ears are splayed at 30° angles as he huddles next to the caboose wall for shelter. He doesn't understand why his friend seeks out water on a day like today.

The doctor's office smells of alcohol and Pine-Sol. Thick coating on my tongue, dark breath. and roaring ears. I am burning. He says 104°. And the doctor gives me orange-flavored syrup. For years after, I will hate the taste taste of oranges.

I remember Tomales was foggy that day. Trees dripped steadily as condensed fog fell to the ground. I looked up a raindrop on the edge of a leaf, the quavering edge reminded me of a wintergreen potato chip.

Last summer, at Heart's Desire Beach, I kept looking for the secret heart. I thought maybe the inlet was heart-shaped, but no, it was an inlet like any other. Not understanding the metaphor, I wondered what shape did it desire to take on?

A stingray gracefully slid across the shallows of the small lagoon and then settled under the mud, using its wings to sift the mud over its body. Only its pale blue eyes were visible, like two tiny pearls fallen from the sky.

When the sun comes out, the water is like dark forests. It's more like a lake than a bay. But periodic shark reports keep it honest. My eyes are like sharkskin, the color of water on a foggy day.

6/1985
added, rev. 2/18

Friday, June 28, 1985

My breath, uneven


My breath comes in uneven, first, it's a series of shallow breaths, then a ragged sigh, and a big gulp that fills the rib cage. I realize I've been holding my breath again because it helps to hold in all that grief, I have a double lump at the back of the throat.

The doctor said Alice was holding in her grief, and that's why Montezuma's revenge was so complete.

When Jim left, I remembered it was at Christmas, I thought my bowels had found the deepest ends of the earth. I watched the skin loosen, the clothes hanging over the bones and still I didn't let go of the breath.

Maybe I hold onto it because I'd rather die than than let it go as I have grown used to holding it like a familiar, and like a mother I'm afraid to let it out of my sight.

It is difficult to sing when I'm tired. I'm beginning to discover how this tiredness is deceptively masking. The lump in my throat.

I remember Mom saying, don't pout. It makes you ugly. Couldn't she see it was facial muscles straining to keep control, and to keep back the tears? I hum a low tune under my breath. She says, don't hum under your breath. Either sing it out or don't sing at all.

I get back at her. For months I don't sing a thing. But in spite of my resolve, I begin singing again, experimenting singing aloud. Singing, singing. My joy is singing.

Years later Carolyn Couls and I go backpacking in the Sierras and she belts out, the hills are alive with the sound of music, and I drop my trailmix on the ground by the meadow stream. A family comes around the bend and the man says, if you can't let it out here, then you can't do it anywhere at all.

6/28/1985
with Mike Tuggle
CPITS workshop?

Monday, June 10, 1985

RANDOM IMAGES


The inlet wraps around the hills,
like a sweet tongue.

Garlands of oranges on either side.


A bear walks across a landscape
of sunglasses, Coke bottles,
tennis shoes, and popcorn.


The referee holds up
challenging hands
in the winner's corner,
he gives us a kiss hello,
and a kiss goodbye.


A woman in a bathrobe
feeds a cockatiel oranges.
The walls and the couch
are the color of water.


6/1985
probably from CPITS workshop
added 2/18

Monday, June 3, 1985

PATHFINDER


PATHFINDER

Clothed in the rainbow scales of morning
I make sure the paths are kept open
that no errant weeds have choked the pathways
during the night, claiming dominion over my paths.
You see, it is everything for me
to keep these paths of men
and the paths of deer, or even mice, open.
It is my job to help them remember the way
because more than one darkness comes
and the forests and fields eagerly
swallow all traces of trails.
But the soles of the feet remember.
I can hear them coming through the tall grass
like a cipher writing out lost history.
See how they bend in the savanna winds?
So many have already walked
until their souls bled in the snow.

5/31/1985 (in my journal as 6/85)
CPITS with Susan Kennedy & Mike Tuggle

NAMING MYSELF

NAMING MYSELF

Lost in memory, 

I wander in the jungle 
like Eve in the garden, 
green tendrils caress my ankles. 
Plumaria, fragrant blossoms  
beneath my heel. 
The essence of honey and lemon, 
sweet frangipani.
Parrot feathers in the air, 

raucous blooms in the jungle.

6/1985 

Mike Tuggle CPITS workshop
Mark West School


IN AN OPEN BOAT

IN AN OPEN BOAT

These days just keep going on with no end. 
I keep waiting for the tide to come in. 
and contemplate the deep ripples in the mud. 
Deeper rifts in the Atlantic. The tropics. 
Steam off the surface of the sea at dawn. 
Fish dreams. I awoke, thinking of Gary's
strong arms rowing against a cellophane sea. 
And how we talked of Stephen Crane's story, 
The Open Boat, we were caught in a riptide,
talking of fear and of starvation

There is a self-consciousness in fear. 
I kept looking for shark fins 
in his beguiling blue eyes.

6/1985
freewrite
added 2/18
slightly rev.

SPEED OF LIGHT


SPEED OF LIGHT

On blank paper, elephantine themes
walk blind through the night.
Is there a reason for poetry?
Ask Einstein about the relative value
of  daydreaming and he will tell you
the sun’s middle name is water.
Mice, afraid of the light
scatter like dark stars.
I try to decipher the messages
left by their feet in wet snow.

  6/85

NAMELESS IN THE DARK


NAMELESS IN THE DARK

            Poetry is the music of what happens.   
                           —Seamus Heaney

We are nameless in the dark.
I imagine myself as a stalk of asparagus.
Wild sparrows come to feed on my red berries
and weave between the green pillars in the garden.
Parthenogenesis, apartheid, Parthenon.
Gods come to live here in the mud
to separate fact from reality.

What did we cross over to become human?
Here in this room where our hearts
write about what passes,
nonsense is a kind of sense after all.
Cool-headed poets walk
with smoke rising from their feet.
Who slept in the depths of the deep night
whispering, whispering until my eyes were heavy
as gravel beneath the foot of the elephant?
A steady stream of students grab paper
as the words flow like run-off after the storm
Chairs squeak to the counter rhythm
of scraping pencils.

6/85
from a CPITS workshop with Mike Tuggle and Susan Kennedy

BEFORE ANIMALS HAD NAMES


BEFORE ANIMALS HAD NAMES

My name is not my own.
They call me the rainbow tiger
but I am more like the billowing fog
coming in each evening
over the mountain for roll call,
tucking the trees, the grass
the immigrant cattle, horses, tractors,
fences, lights, and the people in for the night.
At an infinite pace like slow inverted oceans,
or the cease-surcease of standing waves,
I am drawn upriver to the canyons like a lover
to the secret folds and valleys where at dawn,
the crests of mountains are floating islands.
Sometimes when the sun is right
you can see my opalescent stripes
as I pace the hidden quarters of the world
in search of my name.

5/31/84? written in Mike Tuggle’s class
In my journal, I have another version transcribed 6/85


Saturday, June 1, 1985

Under full moon, June 1985 (garbled text)


Under full moon, the Bahamas

We float in the sea
Slow speech drips off rocks like memory
My mother calls me home in her dreams
A conch shell sounded nine times
Bring home the fish because
weeping willow leaves drift in the pond
Ducks chatter. The one lost by the art building 


Closed doors lead to fragrant lawns
I am falling from Daphne's shoulders
following a green mirror from the pond.

Like some burial ground in front of me,
Water wars like banshees in the hills
Real cause,  mother plays piano softly
A young girl in taffeta rustles


there is nowhere else left to go 

(Missing text)
has feathers missing from his neck.
where Persephone emerges into sunlight 
with one hand shadowing her eyes.

Stillness. Redwood like a lake after rain. 
Swollen clearwater chokes bracken ferns and sedges.

This hand uncovers ghosts of the past.
after the fog has lifted. 
Irises whisper to each other 
on the opposite shore.


6/1985


NEED DATE   (garbled text)

EXODUS, EXILE AND DESIRE


EXODUS, EXILE AND DESIRE


Clouds cover the moon like a map of Africa
and the moon breaks through the continents.
Beneath the sweet, almost foetid odor of frangipani,
blue-tailed lizards mate,
thrusting ocher bibs of ruffled lace
and arch their backs to a silent calypso.
Distant thunder wraps itself in sheets of ghost lightning.

Arawak Indians once lined conch shells
along the eastern shores of these islands
to remind the sun of its feathered cloak.
We eat sweet white meat of the conch.
What's no longer needed is thrown back into the jungle.
The barracuda sleeps and the shark is hungry.

As we bathe in the sea,
bone-white lilies of our arms
blossom under the full moon.
Translucent fish slide between my thighs.
The fan turns slowly in an empty room.

5/85

1993 We Are Not Swans, with Cecelia Woloch
1991 Poet Magazine
1988 Chaminade Literary Review
         Women's Voices
1987 Blue Window