Monday, February 10, 1986


1. To be able to lift your leg
in a backwards thrust,
to extend your opposite arm
in counterbalance,
and then lean horizontally into space,
delicate as a bird in flight,
like a swan stretching
Is to know the extension of the flexing soul.

2. Stand barefoot, stand erect,
yet loose limbed with palms on thighs.
Stand with eyes focused on the future
as your right hand reaches for the rising sun.
Your left leg rises in counterpoise to the setting moon,
until you become horizontal as the land.
Then with one leg supported by the hip,
pivot, and stand like the axis of the earth,
with your toes caressing the mother
so that you may draw nourishment from her.

probably a CAC workshop
added, minor rev. 9/17

Saturday, February 8, 1986

BANTU COMBINATIONS on Haiti with Jim Byrd (some imaged from Mantle)

The Haiti Junta Takes Over

Rivers were here before there were mountains.
The corner of the eye sees constellations
better than looking directly at the stars.
President for life, in death, his remains
scattered in the streets.
Shifting sand slides off rocks like water after the thaw.
The trade winds carry news,
smoke can be seen on the horizon.
There are great issues which have divided us before
and there are issues that will continue to divide us again.
The sky opened up and they were gone in a flash.
They made small talk on the way to the airport.
Suitcases held tribute of their sins.
Like street fighters, mountains with sharp edges
jockey for position in the sky.
Impossible to deepen that night,
the colors of fish became a song to fisherman,
who leaned from their boats.
Hundreds toasted rum bottles,
spewing liquor on each other's heads in the form of baptism.
Rain dampens the burning palace tonight.
In dreams, old friends come to visit.
They took marble chips from the tomb for souvenirs

Bantu combinations
Maureen Hurley, Jim Byrd

My lines only

The Haiti Junta takes over
Rivers were here before there were mountains.
The corners of the eye see the stars more clearly.
Shifting sands slides off rocks like water after the thaw.
There are great issues which have divided us before,
and they will divide us again.
The sky opens up and they were gone like a flash.
Like street fighters, mountains with sharp edges
jockey for position on the horizon.
Impossible to deepen that night,
hundreds toted rum bottles,
spewing each other like baptisms of whales,
they took marble chips from tombsfor souvenirs.

Maureen Hurley

Jim's line only

President for life
his remains scattered on the street
the trade winds carry news.
Smoke can be seen on the horizon.
They make small talk on the way to the airport.
Suitcases help tribute to their sins.
The color of fish became a song to fishermen
who leaned from their boats.
Rain dampens the burning palace
Tonight, in dreams, old friends are revisited.

Jim Byrd

Bantu combinations 2

Like a tidal interstice, the seasons drift
Another page falls from the calendar
Clouds have no answers
Tree branches leading to meet the ground
Dig deep into the earth
as if your life depended upon it
Inside the skull of night
I hesitate to disturb the spider's web.
Inside my blood, inside my blood,
like the Nile, journeys are recalled after dark
The plans of thieves are revealed
as a hole slowly falls in on itself
floating face down, the surface of water
can be felt as blue skin.

Maureen Hurley Jim Byrd
at The Hiding Place
(over huevos rancheros)

My rewrite

another page falls from the calendar
like title interstices,
like the seasons
tree branches lean to meet
the most painted roof
dig deep into the earth
as if your life depended on it
After dark, the plans of thieves
are revealed as a hole slowly falls in on itself
Inside my blood, ancient journeys
like the faces of Ophelia
floating face downward
beneath the blue skin of water.

Seasons drift in the tidal moods
dig deep into the earth
as if your life depended upon it
Inside my blood, inside my blood
rusted buckets carry pinholes of light
Escaped notes vibrate in the air
like telephone lines in the storm
Bees carry the skull of night into the hive
until the black one comes,
and darkness reveals the plans of thieves
for those who float face down
A cloak of blue skin
seeps beneath her fingernails like ink.

It was a tumultuous week: right after the Challenger disaster, there was a revolution in Haiti, Baby Doc was overthrown, Bobby Kaufman had died. My boundaries between worlds were pretty thin. It was as if I was hearing voices, and hearing the news before it was news. Since my mother really did hear voices, I was not very happy with this outcome. But as it turned out, I WAS getting the news poetically, in strange dream sequences. I madly wrote it all down as it was coming in, and it eventually became MANTLE. You can see some of the many revisions here: First Draft of Bob Kaufman poem, Mantle.
Added 11/16

Friday, February 7, 1986

INSOMNIA at 3AM, Imaginary letters to Wiley

Insomnia after the art opening at Sonoma State. We went to Christine's and I think my decaf mocha was indeed very caffeinated.

So odd the bidding started right away on my piece, a sculptor from Occidental finally bought the piece. I think it was a major shock to see how well people responded to my work. Last year's piece too. It seems that the whimsical quality of the pieces combined with the words is a major attraction.

I'm glad the writing is important because it's a challenge for me to place the words on an art piece. How do you use the words so that they don't dominate the piece? We are such illiterate society. That's what I need to work on as a series.

It's hard for me to just do a piece of art. It has to be for someone specific, the personal aspect. That's what I tell the kids in class: the personal becomes the universal.

I have the 3 AM jitters, rapid heartbeat, a breathless feeling, and a racing mind. The things that keep going around my head. I imagine that I'm writing a letter on adding machine tape inside my large fish box piece dedicated to William T. Wiley. I'm carrying on about this and that, my urge to thread the words together meld with my desire to ask him for a watercolor.

The imaginary letter goes something like this:

Dear Bill,

This is just to say, to borrow a line from the good Dr. William Carlos Williams, that I admire the work you've been doing lately as an antiwar protest. Our work's been in a few shows together. Your piece in Megabark with Jane Hirshfield's poem. Mine with Ann Faught.

Last year's valentine from the Sonoma State art show drew a lot of attention, and some of the crossover between painter and poet interest me because I was a painter and now I am a poet. A painter-poet.

I wanted to tell you for years I fantasized about writing to you, to ask you for a watercolor that you did of my grandmother's house. I'm sure you probably don't even remember it. It's a picture of a red house with a painted black crooked chimney surrounded by the hills above Baranca Road.

That painting of my grandmother's house is the family homestead. You may not know that she is the oldest settler in the Valley, she's 93. The former champion, the old Frenchman in San Geronimo, is dead.

I rode past your house a couple of weeks ago but no one's home. Probably the last time I rode past your house was when I was a child on donkeyback. No, it was on my horse.

I remember when the Raynes sold the house after she choked on a piece of steak and died. You moved in soon afterward and placed various bits of debris in the yard. I was coming from the fire trail from my usual ride. There's another house up there now, so I can no longer trespass—I didn't even remember where the road comes out anymore. But I remember the sweet sizzle of bugs. I used to think it was the grease brush singing in the heat of summer to the tortured rocks.

It was dusk, something new was visible in the crotch of the madrone. Something large and white like a ghost. I thought of Mrs. Raynes with her clipped English accent, how her horse turned up that road, sides heaving, flecks of foam on his chest, as he carried that fragile load of human flesh home.

I was terrified to go past the tree, forcing my horse closer. I thought perhaps it was a phosphor from the deadwood. So I sat outside your window on horseback and watched you in the kitchen preparing tea, until the fear subsided. I suppose I could've screamed but the horse was already nervous enough.

Once when I was coming home from second grade, we had afternoon session and I when got home around 5 PM, it at dark. The low winter light on the fallen tree trunks glowed as though ghosts were living in the limbs. I was afraid to walk home in the dark. No one believed me. And, worse, Billy Joe Bianchi laughed.

Years later he told me he went up there to see if it was true, but the trees didn't glow at night. The timing wasn't right.

As I came closer to the madrone, the apparition began to decode itself. I saw that you had placed the white Styrofoam torso of a woman in the blackened recess where the lip of the Cambrian layer eked out a dark smile.

That torso gleaming white in the winter dusk, transfixed me to the spot. I couldn't move, it follows me still. I see something white in the darkness out of the corner of my eye and when I look at it, I can see nothing.

This is why you have to look at the Andromeda Nebula or Orion's supernova shoulder, out of the corners of your eyes. The Pleiades are a blur when you view them had on. You can see more when you look indirectly. And that's also so with art too. Sublime.

And that torso trapped in the trunk of an old tree was like an escaped dream let loose in the dark woods at night. Signs of habitation, a new owner. The light from the kitchen window knocked against the darkness. From within the encircled garden below the kitchen, the clatter of deer antlers, as they lifted their heads to watch us pass.

added, rev. 9/17

Monday, February 3, 1986

Found poem from valentine candy hearts

Found poem from valentine candy hearts

Come closer
Don't be so sad

You send me
little kisses
and sweettalk

Come closer
I am getting better
Walking in the rain

I wish you would stop
teasing me
I won't tell you
I've got a secret

Come closer
Take me
Squeeze me tight

Why not say yes?
To each his own.


Sunday, February 2, 1986


           —for Bob Kaufman
              April 18, 1925 to Jan 12, 1986

News travels slowly.
In the time it took God to make the earth
you died and a voice fell from the sky.
I've been looking for you
in each bent and ragged head
of those stumbling down Telegraph,
of those ranting in Brautigan Square,
of those who live in Market Street doorways.
They say Lenin's legs were blackened
when the shroud slipped off.
I saw the map of death on your face
as you wandered the outskirts of your city.
The same map in my mother's eyes
and in the faces of those in the streets
who followed me even in sleep
but who held my hand in the dark?

A crowd laughed at the screaming woman
whose hands beat against our car window
as a man dragged her into an alley.
Another woman, still drunk, comes over
and complains of lost car keys and stolen children.
And in that order.
The sky caught fire
and seven astronauts were swallowed
by a blue-mantled snail.
Film makers converge upon us,
their eyes taking in odd angles of light.
It's like watching Kennedy shot over and over
with Jackie piecing together bits of skull and memory
with ineffective hands.

Bees carry the skull of night back into the hive.
The dead have taken to scratching poems on the water.
Even if we scatter your ashes to the wind for ten years
and listen for lyrical translations from the other side
it still won't cleanse this place.
Ten years of silence is buried.
We had a vision but the map is lost.
Who will collect the messages?
We confuse pinholes of light
leaking from rotted buckets
for the ancient rain of stars.
In my dreams they are coming and the door won't lock.

While in exile, lean closer to the sun.
Become birdlike
until you land spread-eagled
on this bone of the word
and in this endless blue
your flexing soul
will be the sound deep space sings.


1988 Green Fuse
1986-88 Falling to Sea Level
1987 San Francisco Bay Guardian, 2nd Prize
         Thread Winding the Loom CPITS

                                    —para Bob Kaufman

Las noticias viajan lentamente.
En el tiempo que le tomo a dios hacer la tierra
moriste y una voz cayo del cielo.
Te he buscado en cada cabeza agachada y harapienta
de los que tropiezan por la avenida Telegraph
de los que viven erl los zaguanes de la calle Market.
Dicein que 1as piernas de Lenin se ennegrecieron
cuando se deslizó el ataúd.
Vi el mapa de la muerte en tu cara
mientras vagabas por las afueras de tu ciudad.
El mismo mapa en los ojos de mi madre
y en las caras de aquellos en la calle
que me seguían incluso en el sueño
pero ¿quién me cogió la mano en la oscuridad?

La muchedumbre se rió de la mujer gritona
cuyas manos golpedban nuestro parabrisas
mientras un hombre la arrastraba hacia un callejón.
Otra mujer, todavía borracha, viene para
quejarse de las llaves perdidas y los niños robados.
El cielo se encendió y siete astronautas fueron tragados
por un caracol de mano azul.
Cineastes convergen sobre nosotros
sus ojos toman originales ángulos de luz .
Es como mirar a Kennedy tiroteado una y otra vez
mientras Jackie junta pedazos de la calavera
y la memoria con manos inefectivas.

Las abeias llevan la calavera de la noche a la colmena.
Los muertos ya están granando sus poemas en el agua.
Aunque esparéramos tus cenizas al viento por diez años
esperando traducciones líricas del otro lado
ni así se limpiaría este lugar.
Diez años de silencio están enterrados.
Teníamos una visión pero se perdió el mapa.
¿Quién reunirá los mensajes? Confundimos los agujeros de luz
goteando de las cubetas podridas
con la lluvia antigua de las estrellas.
Vienen en mis sueños y la puerta no se podrá cerrar.

En el destierro, inclínate al sol.
Hazte como pájaro
hasta que aterrices extendido en este hueso del mundo
en este azul sin  fin tu alma desdoblada
será el sonido que canta el espacio profundo.

2/2/86                        —traducción John Oliver Simon y Juvenal Acosta                                           
1986-88 Falling to Sea Level

Dream journal How much yeast?

I have to wait to ask John how much yeast to put in the bucket. He has the yeast but then he'll ask me how much dough I want and I don't know that. This has something to do with my art piece. I need bread dough to complete it. How odd.
There were other dreams mostly process dreams all to do with trying to assemble pieces to complete a process. It seemed that it took a lot of work to gather all the pieces together and to remember what it was I wanted to do.