Wednesday, February 25, 1987

2/25 Journal


I need to write in longhand to soothe my brain before I get into revising my calendar, such a left-brained activity. All those dates to keep, it destroys my mood for writing.

Journal entry here, no problems today. Frost outside, frozen pipes. Small glass bones emerge from the hose and sing like wind chimes. I think of the old Celtic riddle of the bone the melts. The ancient Celts didn't have hoses, yet they saw the connection.

I spent yesterday in bed, flat out as my neck adjustment left me weak and sore, an unexpected holiday from reality. I've managed to work the computer from the prone position, not as much weight on my neck that way. It's magic to write on the computer, however I doubt I'll give up my hard copy. The act of cursive writing soothes my brain and steadies me.

The computer is better for revision. Something I've never been able to do much of, and my work suffers for it. So, this will be the year of revision. I actually want to stay home and to write and to revise.

It is difficult to write and to teach and to see John all at the same time, but I believe I've just begun a new pattern that feels a bit saner. Can I juggle all three at once? Of course, next year I will have no idea what I'll be doing. CPITS?

I know now that I don't want Devorah's job I don't want to be Statewide Coordinator. I can't even handle the stress of being an Area Coordinator right now. The thought of 60% time working on grants is a grim proposition.

So what's next in the wings? CPITS is like a small monarchy. Can I work with Duane BigEagle if I take Paula Gocker's assistant job? Do I even want to get involved on that level and what about the grant writing proposition with Lee? Is that even more stress? I ask is there anything I want to do that doesn't involve stress?

I'm sleeping late these days. As it is, I am hyperactive and then when the inner kid reemerges, I'm also excited about life. Somehow all the bustle makes me feel vitally alive. Wish there was a less stressful way to make it so. I have such a need to produce work, and to get my work out there in the world.

I also need to go do a good job on my current commitments. Photos to John for his project, document Gail Newman's project, a lot happening these days. I got my list of photos off to American Poetry Review for the top 100 poets. Then there's the lesser ones.

I need to follow up on that Napa Gallery offer, a part of me still says no, I don't want it. What to do when an opportunity strikes, or in this case, hits me over the head? Jump on it, or let it go willfully and without regret?

John said that Jennifer Jones of KPFA wants me to read on the air. The Storer TV reading is supposed to air on March 6. So much going on and all these contests are forcing me to revise my work on the fly. And I have so little time that I have to jump in without thinking Zen mind, make choices, and just stick to them. No time for indecision.

The IRS wants to arrest me for back taxes. Those years after the accident, where I was barely surviving, I have to reconstruct those records soon, and get them off my back. The fucking government squeezing blood from turnips. I don't believe in paying taxes. I don't even earn enough to pay taxes, but my CAC grants brought me out into the open and now they know about me.

Monday, February 23, 1987

ON WRITING


Experience in search of a form
becomes articulate
in the minutiae of detail.
How I use my creative potential
a small portion of the time,
and how I rarely write down
the long flowing inner dialogs,
because I'm waiting for a crystalline
moment to focus in on,
which never comes in that form.
So I wait in vain. Meanwhile,
the Muses capriciously pollute
their teachings with the droll facts
of dailiness until we capsize.
This is not new information—
but poetry is like that.

2/1987

Prior claim


A turmoil of images bombarded me when I got home. As I drove down Nicasio Road, I reached for pen and paper but instead grabbed a dull kitchen knife. Then I grabbed a pencil with no lead. Then I grabbed the gauge for the tires, all apt symbols.

My neck collar prevents me from seeing what I am writing. And I hold onto connected fragments that I'm not able to record. Only to lose them all. No placeholders.

I drive by RuccaRucca Ranch, and am flooded with memories. The first time I rode Frankie's horse around Nicasio Reservoir, she was so sure it was alive, she was shivering, and it was all I could do to get her to walk along the fire road. We sat around in the kitchen drinking strong coffee and smoking dope while Jerry and Micky jammed in the living room.

I think of the Grateful Dead and the obscene amount of money they used to buy that land. I loved their music, and can recite all the names of the rock stars in the Valley, the Grateful Dead Jefferson Starship, Santana. But when their records sold, they suddenly had lots of money, and they bought up chunks of the land. And our taxes went up.

We smoked dope and danced at RuccaRucca Ranch but underneath it all I never allowed myself to be seduced by it all. Perhaps this is why I refused to buy their records in the first place. I was a conscientious objector.

Last night, Jane was raging on about communism, while we were there protecting them, they were taking our freedom. I ask, what has to do with Nicaragua? I am apolitical. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Byron. We are all suspect. I believe my friends in Nicaragua are telling the truth, and the truth has many faces.

I had forgotten how loudly the pine trees roar when the north wind circles the valley. Or how the stars look more correct framed by this particular fold of hills, or how difficult it is to write left-handed.

Over Pt. Reyes Road, while writing this down, a finite shifting of gears, wordplay and interplay make both writing and driving barely possible. I have a hard time going home it's even harder to leave west with the night. Beryl Markham wrote: if you have to leave home, do it swiftly, go as far as you can, and never come back.

I am even more enraged when my rage toward my mother softens. She reaches over me to dip her hands into the sunlight from the south window. I think my hatred is so thick sometimes it clots the air. She says she gets depressed when she can't go outside.

The wind howls, and catches itself on the corners of the house and in the hexagonal sieves of the chickenwire fence outside. I am a spy here. Taking notation. This disengages me from some of the rage.

All of the new owners of this land, part of which I hold a shared trust in, on a piece of paper for unbuildable allotment of land that I want to return to, and can never seem to leave behind.

So many strangers have grown into their justified rights of ownership. There's a new no trespassing sign on the corral gate. Is it  meant for us we who actually own the land, by our very years here, have prior claim, or do the newcomers?

These newcomers have been here a while now, these strangers who can never fathom the memories I hold. Horse Hill, the old hitchingpost, now someone's faux castle. On the path by Arroyo Creek where I rode by my horse in summer, now has three new houses—three white elephants rising huge in Bianchi's field. I feel physically ill by their presence. This progress we measure by planting massive houses over the green fields of the past.


Wednesday, February 18, 1987

Last Run


I felt betrayed when John took me down that last slope knowing I was so tired. It was the last run of the day, and I had a bad knee. I said I didn't want to go down that slope several times. It fell on deaf ears.

When I asked him which slope he wanted to go down, I wanted to relinquish control, and offer him the choice as a token offering of our last run. When he chose that particular run, I felt I had to go through with it, though my commonsense said no way!

If I looked at it from his perspective it was possible to get down the hill. It would really please him if I said yes. I was doubtful, which affected my skiing ability.

When I took a nasty spill near the top, I should've said no, but I felt once committed, I had to follow through. And I was too tired to ski the run.

It was a nightmare getting down the hill. I couldn't turn to the right because the muscles in my left knee were fatigued. Snow conditions were terrible. Wet snow, an ungroomed slope, and lots of potholes and bushes. But I had to get down that slope.

I was more angry than scared. Angry with myself for going along with John's suggestion, angry that my knee wouldn't work, angry that my skills weren't good, etc.

When I got to the bottom of the hill, I hated John for getting me into this mess in the first place. Or for getting myself into the mess.

Yes, I could've exercise free will and said no, pushed John into a safer run, but I didn't want to do that – all because of my wanting to please him. So I got angry. I had worked myself into a situation I couldn't back out of for fear of losing face. And now I had a sore knee to babysit.

VALENTINE TO JOHN

VALENTINE TO JOHN

You, my valentine, never received this card
after a weekend on the slopes of Mt. Shasta
We skied on a form of pure light.
In the darkness of the car trunk,
the Lemurians kept it from you.
While we ate white chocolate
the pomegranate seeds within me
pulled toward the darkness
wanting their due.
This is what comes of childhood,
old broken paths, losing our way
but we can go on from here
because each path is always new.

2/18/1987

Journal 2/18

2/18

Afraid of this vast expanse of white, I do nothing. It is fitting that I can't write about the darkness that descends upon me, thus tainting the light. Jim Byrd says to write about it nonstop for five minutes without editorializing, and all I can think of is how to render it into poetic imagery, thus diluting the raw anguish and anger. Funny to hear my own lessons coming back to me from my poetry protégé.

I write this journal entry well after the fact. The untamable beast rose up within me and I lashed out at John all weekend long. Trouble is, I really don't know what set it off, or what it was even about. The worse it became, the more I hated myself, and the more I hated myself the more angry I got.

I saw John as incompetent, and I railed at him. I saw him as flaky and uncaring and so I withdrew from him. I had dishonorable thoughts of wanting to sleep with other men. I was wishing Geoff Davis wasn't an alcoholic and that it would have worked out with him. I did love him fiercely. I was wishing to change the past and to relive it, instead of living in the present.

Here I have in front of me a perfectly good man who meets most of my expectations and requirements, and still I am unhappy. I am lifting layers of clouded emotion from my armor; I decide the problem isn't just with John, whether we will resolve the issue of having or not having a baby, but it's something that goes deeper into my past – namely my way of defining a relationship, and dealing with my own fears.

I slipped back into childhood and discovered some of the joys, and I forgot the raging aggression that that also had lived there too long. It bloomed fully forth from a deep hell within me to taint the sky and the world.

None of us are free from guilt. There are things he does, that I question why he does them and I arrive at my own cosmology. I need to examine also, my own emotional scaffolding.

The list of grievances that I make pointing to some significant act on his part. How accurate are they? Or is it a figment of my imagination and my fears leading the way? A part of me thinks that if I'm very bad, he'll get tired of me and break off the relationship. This of course saddens me. But it is also something I secretly desire. I'm feeling smothered.

Then the bubble of tears wells up and the aching heart threatens to choke me. I want to relinquish my right to choose this relationship, and to step into the role of victim. But I'm not a very good victim.

If we break up because I'm bad, then I'll be able to say I Told You So and pass the blame. This is where the threads connect. I need to have someone to blame it all on when the going gets rough. And I can't seem to allow myself to accept blame. Every one else is wrong; I'm right. Black-and-white. Divided fences but the issues aren't that simple.

My paranoia assumes that he is out to get me. Not in the physical sense, but by his indifference. I will cease to exist. But I can very effectively anger him. I do exist for him, but his short attention span upsets me. I feel threatened. He doesn't love me, except during the two-minute intervals of sexual congress. What daisy petals do I need to pluck? Even or odd numbers?

To survive in this world, we need to add a certain amount of time for each necessary activity. I need to do this too. Yet, I feel threatened when he does it. I don't want someone hanging all over me either. I'm not comfortable in either camp.

What is so bad about his ways that irritates me so? I don't trust him. Why? Because I feel like I'm a possession, not a person. Why a possession? Are you being possessed? Not in the alchemical sense. I don't trust the way he's able to disengage himself from me so easily when he has to do things. I wish I could do the same.

I feel all his other priorities, writing, his career, his daughter, Spanish, all come before me. I am low (wo)man on the totem pole and it's true I'm not at the top (if it's really an apt analogy), I don't think it's quite that linear, but do I really want to be at the top? Do I want that kind of placement in someone else's life?

How do we effectively manage our lives together without one or the other feeling threatened, or subsumed by the relationship? An I drowning in floodwaters?

Is this really the issue? Is this why I drove home last night sobbing? Do I have to assume that if there are housekeeping problems, that we have to break up, so that I can sort out my feelings?

The thing is, I'm not too sure what my feelings are.

We woke up in the middle of the night making love. I know that some part of me is heavily sedated by the black hole raging within me. It is more pure and loving, and with this newer self, I do love him. I need to tame my inner beasts, but this other self has little power. It is a battle within me as well as my response to some of his own ambiguities coming forth.

We are both so noncommittal. I think this ambiguous state has led to my deep turmoil. I don't want to marry him now, that's not the issue, but commitment to another human being, knowing the risks, and knowing the possibility of failure, is a frightening proposition.

Suppose we do go for it, and then freak out up and break up in a few years? I will have irrevocably given a part of my life to him that I won't be able to recall, my childbearing years. I'm not interested in having a baby right now, I get cross around them, and I don't want to give up my free time. I'm selfish I feel guilty about it.

How much of this is a biological urge? If I don't have children, who will be with me, who will be my family when I am old? Is this fear of the future a real truth I have to grapple with; or is it merely fear? Which path to take?

I remember seeing a copy of Vincent van Gogh's Crows Over a Cornfield in a high school painting class, and I was immediately struck by the metaphor of three paths leading off into three blind choices.

Later, in college, when I saw the original painting, there were no paths; I had imagined them being there. But the metaphor still remains with me. I feel close to understanding van Gogh's madness and the choices he made.

Destiny. I choose to do certain things. They have a way of becoming a reality. I wanted a photo in American Poetry Review; a reading in Sacramento; a review of our chapbook; my artwork selling well at the Valentine art show, a gallery in Napa interested in my work. I forgot to name these wishes becoming reality, all of which, I might add, became true within the course of a week.

So where's the elation, the recognition that should come with the reaching and the striving for these goals? I was elated at the valentine art show and my color piece went for so much money, a piece that I thought was nothing. My better piece, the handmade paper one, sold for much less money, and I was hurt because it wasn't framed, and it wasn't at eye level. And I felt betrayed because someone else didn't treat my other piece with the same respect.

It boils down to my perceptions of my work being different than that of others. This relates to my discomfort with my black beasts, and to John. I'm afraid that we don't share the same values on commitment and love. Maybe we do, AIDS is certainly keeping everyone monogamous these days. On the straight and narrow. A good thing, but it is an artificial restraint like marriage vows.

Are we truly committed to each other in spite of those constraints? If it wasn't for those constraints, what others would we place upon ourselves? Are we evolving naturally into this relationship or what are the constraints placed on an artificial hold and artificial direction upon us?

Free will. To be a free agent, one must first recognize that one must take control and exercise free will. Not wait until it's taken away through a lack of choice; or be ambiguous and take an ambiguous stance. How much of this am I bringing upon myself and how much of it is externally related, or is it something I do have control over?

Control has always been an issue in my life. Is this upwelling of rage a form of control? I want to control John and when he doesn't do something right, I berate him, and myself. Then I feel guilty and I berate myself some more, thus feeding the vicious cycle. It is a perverse form of self-control.

Betrayal, our fight in Mexico City is over the same issues. I assumed he threw away our packing ropes and blamed him, deriding him. He got angry and said he had nothing to do with it.

It no longer mattered who forgot the ropes but the issue of betrayal arose. I felt he had left the ropes because he know longer saw any value in them and discarded them. I used that as an analogy for our relationship. He will do the same with me, or I, with him. Discarding me when I'm no longer useful what I have to go by is his past track record with women.

How can I assume this will be any different, am I introducing the seeds of destruction, making my own fears into reality? Am I seeing an apt analogy in his everyday actions, judge by my own perverse standards, or is there something wrong with my methods of reviewing the situation?

Every time this feeling of betrayal arises, I feel some threads break in our bond. I think of those fine filaments of muscle that hold up my neck. None are strong in and of themselves, but when enough of them are fatigued the result is a massive muscle spasm. I can literally no longer hold up my head.

Is this why my neck hurts so bad right now? How much of my anger is related to the constant and inexorable pain in my neck and back right now? How irrational am I because of this constant pain? And why did this pain flare up again in the first place?

Chicken and egg syndrome, the stress is eating away at me. One cannot strip away a layer without discovering another layer, and beneath that layer is yet another layer, and so on, ad infinitem.

Saturday, February 14, 1987

Red Pepper


The red pepper I sprinkled on my brother's tongue glowed like rare earth and the tears rolled down his cheeks. I thought it was funny, how much water he drank to quench the fire. I traded him my pennies and nickels for his small thin dimes with wings explaining the nickels and pennies were bigger and fatter than his old dimes. Silver winged Mercury caught my greedy eye and I extolled the virtues of copper Lincolns, Buffaloes, and Indians. We traded wooden nickels from the general store.

Living on the edge of nostalgia !living in a house with wood heat, and the copper tub with its veridian streaks simmering on the stove for dishes laundry and our baths. Sometimes Grandma would lug steaming tubs to the real bathtub on the back porch with claw feet. One hot summer day we filled it with cold water from the spring but my cousin Bill pooped in it. We all jumped out screaming and he just sat in the cool white water not knowing what the fuss was all about.

The kerosine stove glug-gluging from the amber-pink wine jug with a biting odor, as I lay between the green enamel stove legs shaped in that classic turn-of-the-century harp curve. And the new yolk sunshine plastic bowl melted from the heat of the burner but the buckwheat pancakes my grandmother made filled the need in my stomach more solid than stone. I had no idea it wasn't to last, that I'd spend most nights awake, wondering where she'd gone to and the beginnings of invisible threads tugging at me during these countable rotations of the earth.

Hot Vienna Bread every Sunday, the bacon and eggs that always made me sick, but I ate them anyway—and reading the Funnies, rituals of childhood. After years of not buying the paper, I buy it each Sunday because there is a mortal comfort in that small insignificant action. I eat bacon and eggs that still make me feel sick and at the end of the week, the piles of newspapers, starters for the morning fire to keep us warm throughout the winter.

The first time I saw snow falling on these coastal hills—a white blanket transformed the known world into a place almost familiar, like visiting home in dreams where things aren't quite as you remember them. That’s how you tell the difference between the real and the unseen. My red robe bled against all that white !and, cold gnawing at my bare feet giving them a taste, a forerunner of the deaths to come.

And those winged dimes what happened to them? Did we spend them on candy or raccoon tails at the general store, or did their thin silver trails slip into cracks only to be rendered visible under the light of the moon that appears so infrequently in dreams?




I have no idea when this was written early 1980s. Sometime during the dot-matrix days. That makes it as late as 1989.


Saturday, February 7, 1987

FROM THE EGYPTIAN



FROM THE EGYPTIAN

Like young chicks without feathers, 
the wet birds skim under the moon
three nights later
a hawk measures the sky 
with invisible ropes
and in this deep pool
where the young calf dances
people come to drink
A heron raking the water with his legs
drags a stream of tulips
veed feathers of water in his wake.

2/7/1987
a transliteration from the Egyptian

BEYOND THE REEF


The siren in the night
The calling of a whale
And beyond the reef
A thunderhead gathers
and takes in the sea.
I am breathing beside my body
The distant earth is my blood.
The heart of this universe is pale.
White blood of the galaxy
And this crayon of the sea colors the air.
And I am working hard
Looking for something
beyond the reef.

2/7/1987
a transliteration

FROM THE EGYPTIAN