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.