Friday, July 31, 1987



We climbed every pyramid in the new world.
An amber ring of melted beeswax and copal
at the foot of the stele. The New Year.

Hummingbirds keep track of 8,000 sunrises
and jaguars count katones by multiplying
the blood of generations with reed sticks.

In the temple of the Phalli,
moss-green penises, larger
than a man's head; the walls
have sanctioned innumerable couplings.

Some breathing thing makes its way
through the ruins, but no one appears
in the korbeled arches to initiate
me on the low limestone bed.

A presence of eyes staring at my back
follows me out of the jungle toward the gaggle
of tourists aiming cameras at Chac-mool.

You filled my mouth with food and jade beads
& the sky was held up by four ceiba trees.
Quetzal feathers fell from the sky

like obscure writing & we collected them
in cloth bags woven on strap looms
made of sandalwood and bone.

Chichén Itzá,
1987, Mérida, Yucatán

1988 Poet News/ Sacramento Poetry Review
1987 Falling to Sea Level (revised)

Thursday, July 30, 1987

Napa Poetry Conference notes : chiastic order

Write a poem that is an exercise in connecting the dots. Look at the order of the poem, it's not a ABAB but ABBA. Chiastic order. Chiaroscuro. It doesn't need to have line rhymes by order but by order of information follows this pattern.

Sometimes we settle for an image too easily. Challenge it.

The third eye knows, but it cannot see. Close your eyes and try to see with your third eye.

Emily Dickinson is like that, with all those abstract nouns capitalized, the orthographic notion that ideas themselves are real. Hope is a thing with feathers.

Look at the ordering of information, in your revision process. Look up the root meaning of words, the analytic process. Media, medium, immediately. Channel that information. Follow the words to their sources.

Fascination, fascist, fascism, the power of the erect penis, Priapus worship.

Poesis, is the maker of poetry, is the maker of recognition.

no idea whose workshop this was. Still Pinsky?

Tuesday, July 28, 1987


— for Boschka Layton

From the ivory piano keys comes an ache
that cannot fill the cavity of this room;
the desire for slim youthful bodies,
love, and chocolate at midnight.

I am a guilty house guest rummaging through drawers,
and in the overabundant cabinets filled with canned food;
prune/apricot soup and small pyramids of jars
filled with seven kinds of mustard.
In the freezer, diet meals sleep in cybernetic suspension.

From this feast of dark chocolate and blueberries
my cheek numbs and swells like a beesting. Allergy.
Small, opaque stones; pills glistening in my hand
to push the darkness back into its corners.
I have trouble breathing & I'm afraid
of dying in the intimacy of a stranger's house
like my friend Boschka, with her wild drooping cheek,
and aslant smile which provoked
occasional screams from unsuspecting infants
and even the most seasoned of friends.

The melodious Bell's Palsey resounds in my ear
and my face takes on the same shape as hers.
She died in a bed not her own
and her ashes under the gravenstein tree,
were made into apple pies as she wished
but something in her hungers for this world.
I feel like the outside cat, close to death,
desperate to come into the forbidden house
one last time.

Dave Evans died in right after the conference. I never went back.
rev. 11/88
Steve Kowit's workshop

1989 Outerbridge



Last to board the plane 
my crutches caught on the steep ramp. 
No use at this speed. 
You say about yourself 
that any woman with any sense at all
could see that you're a walking disaster area 
when it comes to love. 
Your daughter just turned 18 
and the gaps are too big for us to bridge. 

7/28? 29?
Steve Kowit's worshop

Napa Poetry Conference: Steve Kowit workshops

Assignment for Thursday.

Write a short poems under 12 lines. Think of four or five lines mostly built with images. Think of a title, and then think of another title to transform or change it. Change the first and the last line also to transform it. (not sure whose workshop this was).

Other ideas:

Write a poem about the death of an animal.
1. use one long sentence, graceful clear and muscles with thirst.
2. Put your name in the poem.
3. Make one line where the poem seems to shift into another direction.
4. In a matter-of-fact tone, write a shocking fact.
5. Use at least one other technique you learned this week.


Last to board the plane
my crutches caught on the steep ramp.
No use at this speed.
You say about yourself
that any woman with any sense at all
could see that you're a walking disaster area
when it comes to love.
Your daughter just turned 18
and the gaps are too big for us to bridge.


Steve Kowit workshops

1. Write a short poem of personal crisis, with another person
2. an active incident that occurred and exemplified the crisis. Use three lines out of the incident and move into the natural world. Think of it as a correlative think of it as symbolic of this experience. Use only 4 to 6 lines.
3Think of one person, think of another person, think of another person
4. add a place, a memory where you are alone.
5. Add a loss.
6.something you cherish
7. a person you've not written about.

Some other ideas:
Write a dark short political palm about breasts
Write a long sentence problem
Write an image and an abstraction in every other line
Write a sentence fragment without a verb, now throw out all the ifs, ands and buts— all the connections.

Write a parody of your own work
Write a non-positive portrait
Write about a person in relation to an object.
Write a poem directly addressing a person that use no descriptive language
Write a narrative around a single incident using the self is as a detached observer and use a very very long lines.

Do a surreal dream image
Use five unrelated objects with emotional meaning and interest. Think of it as an exercise in nimbleness and synthesis.

Make up five titles for poems
Make up five opening sentences for poems
Write about music, person, landscape, building, weather, time of year, a book, someone you love, a card game, a prize.

Write a poem or a page of prose that connects, or brings out the underlying unities, use three elements. The links might be through lines, ideas, or images. 
Write a poem: how I knew Harold.

Who was Harold?

Monday, July 27, 1987

Dream image: I'm walking the highways of Napa

Dream image: I'm walking the highways of Napa, there are stairs, and canals. I'm making beds and cleaning the rooms, I'm a maid shaking out a rug. A woman invites me in for a cup of tea. And she thanks me for making her bed and cleaning her small rugs.

Then I dreampt an odd turn of phrase:
take all the good lines that were ever written
and then divide them by all the good poems 
that's the definition of the length of a line.

This morning I wake up to discover it's my rug that needs shaking. I am moved by her kindness. I don't know why I wanted to help this stranger. An older, plump mistress of an inn, or a B&B, it's so very Chaucerian. I thought maybe it was an image of me later in life.

Napa Poetry Conference

Perfiection of desire

Robert Pinsky said he once wanted to be a jazz musician, but he no longer plays the saxophone because his drive for perfection keeps him from enjoying music. He won't even allow a piano in the house.

I think of my neighbor's piano taking up half his living space, and the importance of objects and desire as a noun, both abstract and capitalized, full of endless distances. He talks of Paris and I mistrust it. Too many broken promises. A delicate pattern emerges. We reach under each other's façade, each knows the other better than the self. The mask of attention slips, how do we get closer to what is inherently human?

7/27 Journal

God – it's been a while. So much time is passed. The update. Making up, and fighting again in June before John left for Mexico. We are shaken and uncertain, still we decide to travel together but it's potluck from then on out.

So how was I to know that Richard would want me, that I would be driven to a frenzy of wanting, and a craving that kind of attention. The surprise is how my body betrays me. The magnetism.

One afternoon Pamela Singer came to visit and she said the sexual tension between Richard and I was so palpable that even she was blown away.

Risking contact with herpes, as soon as she leaves, we attack each other with lust and passion. It almost doesn't matter that there is not love. The friendship is deep enough to carry us through.

Something moves up against my hip, an enormous brown beetle at least 3" x 3" not including his legs and antennae. it's either the same beetle we tossed out earlier, or it's its mate—how did it even get into the bedroom? It screamed a faint breathy chatter. I imagine its terror. I am not afraid to hold it carefully by its carapace like a crab. Poor thing.

Richard and I don't see each other for days, weeks, and then it's a build up of passion.
John calls me every few days. He sounds more and more reconciled. I tell him I'm not too sure how I feel about him. No reason as of yet to mention Richard. Do I mention an affair, this need for sexual love? How do I find the words to say this to someone that I face a dilemma of choice?

Richard, too drunk to stand up, lies on the bathroom floor waiting for the tub to fill, and then asks me to marry him. I say no, because you're too drunk. He says, I've only been drunk like this a few times in my life. And that's why I won't marry you.

And Alastair drunk at dinner, tells me of his interest in me too. This, after five or six years. I tell him if if it was a few years back, I might've taken him up on it. But then Richard starts calling for me and I can't take the fragmentation.

I tell Alastair I have no idea what to expect when I see John in Mexico.

Alastair is going to see an old ex-lover. There's a chasm of several years between them. And Alastair says, at least you and John might heal the breach. I'm not so certain, As much as I am playing around with Richard, and on his terms, his desires, it seems neither man is appropriate for me. Otherwise there wouldn't be temptation.

I'm surprised by all these declarations of lust by my two neighbors who are obviously somewhat randy. What is this moving in when my lover is gone. Poaching? I'm most surprised by Richard's declaration of marriage that came out of left field. No mention of love in my refusal either. There was a time I thought I could've loved him.

Are my feelings for John based upon a love much different than my sexual encounters with Richard? Too bad one can't make a milkshake. Richard's sensuality with John's drive.

Richard, it seems, has no drive at all, he is happy to be a waiter who plays music. Yes he survives, is it wrong to be just that? I keep thinking of how my ambition drives me. It seems so different for him. I could not be content, I think, if I were to live his life, nor could I be content being with him.

He tells me that if I want to baby he's willing to be the father and I tried to explain to him that I don't want to be a single parent. I am nervous and he makes it seem like such a simple solution—sperm donor. I think of futures, child-support, survival. I can't imagine doing it on my own.

The arrogance of males. The man makes a baby the woman raises it. Fine. But what about the 20th-century idea of survival? Money? He's 41, I am 34. Still some time to decide but not much.

This time Richard, though drunk, can't seem to get enough of me. One extreme to another. I'm nervous by his continued interest, this affair may get more intense than originally planned. The lack of the illusion of love holds me back. We use Spanish as a form of seduction.

And I'm surprised at how quickly I teach him new tricks. Holding him down pinching his nipples. Things I had learned from John I am continually reminded of John at every turn. I'm not sure if I should feel one way or the other.

And I tell Richard my heart's in jail. I'm not able to feel anything deeply, mistrusting Richard and my passion. Richard says perhaps you should just mistrust the part that mistrusts.

I guard my heart well these days and though I'm getting steamy sex on the side, some of it's in the timing. What of this, and what of that? I realize that's the reason why desire continues to build, stirring for perfection.

Ironically Robert Pinsky wanted to be a jazz musician and he no longer plays the saxophone because of his drive for perfection keeps him from enjoying music. He won't even allow a piano in his house and I think of Richard's piano taking up nearly 1/4 of his living space and the importance of objects and desire. Desire as a noun, abstract and capitalized.

Desire being full of endless distances. Richard talking of Paris and my mistrust of those who talk about places they have never been to. Too many broken promises in my life. Beneath our friendship is a delicate pattern emerges.

We reach in under each other's façade and discuss our inner dialogs, and realize each knows much more about the others emotional makeup than the other is willing to acknowledge. Oops! The true nakedness of lovers. Somehow it feels good to be this close, that the mask of attention slips a bit, how to get closer to what is inherently human?


This came out of a near-death experience I had while staying in a stranger's home. I had an anaphalactic reaction to all the chemical scents, and possibly a reaction to pesticides, or sulphur on the blueberries. These were for Steve Kowit's worshop.


Take one:
Over lunch we talk of lists and artifice. At the store blueberries are cheaper than raspberries so I buy blueberries. With the dollar I save I also buy a chocolate truffle and head home. This place called home with its overabundance of food... the kitchen shelves look like a country Mercantile store selling gourmand items.

Artificial scent follows us from room to room. My nose objects but the chemically scented toilet paper defeats its purpose.

Near midnight in a strange room, my face swells, allergic reaction to blueberries, chocolate, and scented toilet paper. Normally random benign items converge in a strange house. All of these things I've used before and they never threatened my life.

A triple dose of atarax, late-night calls to Kaiser a sleepy doctor on call. My roommates awaken to the commotion. I sleep with the light on. I hear them get up to pee and they peek in on me to see if I'm still alive.

I think of dying alone in my sleep. We are guests here, houseguests can't do this sort of thing.

Take two: I put off my writing assignment until much later due to the commotion.

With the dollar I save buying blueberries instead of raspberries I buy chocolate truffles and head for home. Someone else's home. The cabinets reveal an overabundance of food. In the fridge, chilled prune soup with orange, and diet meals in the deep freezer. 17 kinds of mustard. Wavelets of artificial sent follow me from room to room. My nose, in this physical universe, objects to the perfumed toilet paper.

Near midnight, in a strange house, my left cheek begins to numb and swell as if Novacaine were injected. I think I'm dying, and I'm too young to have a stroke I say Ioanna Warwick as she spreads Benadryl on my face.

I think of Boschka's face, her left cheek drooping from Bell's Palsy. And even though we scattered ashes under the gravenstein tree so many years ago, she still follows me. Sometimes I feel her presence nearby.

Those blueberries, that chocolate at midnight that I ate for her because she has no lips, she has no tongue to taste with, and she died in the bed not her own.

My roommates awaken to the commotion and my calls to the hospital. The handful of antihistamines I took begin their slow journey, but they do nothing to alleviate my fear. I fall asleep with a light on.

My roomates get up to pee many many times and I hear their soft footballs like sphinx moths as they look in on me, with their wings fluttering around the light.

Take three:
With the dollars I save buying blueberries instead of raspberries I squander on a dark chocolate truffle dusted with a cocoa bloom.

Thinking of lists and artifice, I head home, to someone else's home, where cabinets reveal an overabundance. 17 kinds of mustard, food from four corners of the globe, a chilled prune soup with slices of orange. Diet meals slumbering in the freezer. Tall amber bottles of Rhine wine, wine lists on the fridge door.

In the living room, a piano never played my fingers touch the ivory keys and the tension of a note is released into the air. I imagine the ache of ivory keys a piano never played. It's an irony, a piano never played, and I fill the cavity of this room with music and sound.




Too drunk to stand, he lies on the floor,
declares he wants to marry her.
She tells him, no because he drinks.
He denies it. She denies her interest
in his proposal. They fall into the tub
and make love until their toes shrivel.


Notes for a draft of AKAD DZIB

Notes are a draft for AKAD DZIB 

Akad dzib, dark writing, from the Quiché Maya

Creation myth:
The first world people were of mud but they melted 
the second world people were mindless mannikins made of wood 
the third world was flesh, pure evil 
the fourth world was made maize dough

Cobá is the sun's center 

Fill my mouth with food and jade beads. 
The new year image of snakes 
wearing robes embroidered with human footprints.

The four Atlantean gods held up the sky. 

The cardinal points 
North is white 
black is west 
yellow is South
red is east 
and green is the center.

The sky was held up by four trees of different colors and species 
with the green Ceiba, or silkcotton tree, at the center.

Each of the 13 layers of heaven had its own god, 
the uppermost was Muan, a type of screech owl.
There were nine underworlds.
There was a flat earth on the back of a monstrous crocodile 
resting in a pool filled with water lilies 
and the sky was a double headed serpent.


Napa Poetry Conference: Robert Pinsky workshop

Robert Pinsky  asks: What would you like to accomplish in the poem that you haven't written yet? Who is the reader? Where does the poem begin? Language  is social. When you write a poem, it's a social act though you're in the privacy of your own mind, there's somebody already in your mind.

Drama is the process of passing it on. The stories. Writing for the clan. Ethnicity, local information prop writing for all the people. I am. Perspective: where to write from to get the eclecticism, the areas of language that are exciting. How do you begin: with an image? The rhythm of a long line, a mood, a smell, a color, texture, moments of conversation?

Write for 10 minutes on what you want to achieve in a poem. Don't think
Listen for alliteration in your prose, it's probably the place where your feelings come alive. Look for words someone may want to repeat over, or savor it slowly and repeatedly.

Bad writers borrow, good writers steal.


I dreampt an odd phrase last night:
Take all the good lines that were ever written
and then divide them by all the good poems
that's the definition of the length of a line.

The poem I'd like to write is similar to Sharon Doubiago's Hard Country in that I want to be able to sustain the flow and the energy of a poem, the ordering that is so long and encompassing. Something that flows effortlessly, is sustained, doesn't bog down, or lose energy.

I write in series of loosely connected images. Like staring at an optical illusion of black and white squares and in between, the illusion of a red or green one appears. I want the reader to be able to imagine a line, or remember an image in between each of mine.

I want to involve the reader intimately like flashbacks, mini eternities. Yet I don't want the reader to get lost in thought. I want them to be guided by my images like guided fantasy or meditation. The danger is in losing the reader, or the energy of the poems.

Also in each line, I'd like to make startling compact transitions from one idea to another, a nonpredictable line. The roses at dawn bled coats of color into the sky. Dawn/flower/sky is too predictable. I'm looking for something more compact, more of a surprise to the reader, and to myself the writer.

If I were to fold the poem in half lengthwise how would it read? How much information to put in? How much shorthand to use? Private language?

Then there's the content. In the ease of driving long winding country roads, my mind follows multiple convoluted trails much faster than I could possibly ever write, or even speak. The synapses or, leaps of conscious thought interest me. Especially the spaces between thoughts.

What triggers an idea, or an image and the next? I want to capture all those thoughts that encompass so much of the world. Not just the new ideas I had in my mind, but more than the summation of of ideas. It's subduction.

I tend to write in spurts. There are weeks, even months in between where I have no tangible poems, and then one day I can't stand it any longer and it just pours out.

I want to write deceptively simple poems that end suddenly and the reader is left hungry for more. Something like Seamus Heaney's oyster poem— so much is encompassed in a handful of lines. I haven't even begun to mention context.

When I write, there is a poetic direction, a poetic driver—sometimes it's a runaway carriage. I'm not in control of my craft, though I try. My ideas are strong in natural imagery, but weak in order.

I want to be able to title poems the way Hemingway does: The Sun also Rises, the tongue of the ocean, these lines resonate.

added 9/17
I cleaned this up, and Blogger stalled on the upload so I lost all my corrections and had to start anew.

Thursday, July 23, 1987


This blue vessel of my heart
is shaking, hollow
before winter crawls out
of the oven of summer.
Parachuted with weights,
there is no more sky
left to hold up the air.

Napa State Hospital
added 9/2016

Wednesday, July 22, 1987


Like an outrageous sea cousin of the jellyfish
a hot air balloon hovers atop a sea of grape vines
it contracts and expands;
the hissing and snapping of flame
tongues fill the bag with hot air
and five people—some climbing in,
others climbing back out
in chaotic patterns  ready for safari
dressed in kahki and telephotos
they stalk the grapes
the farmer runs out of his house
shaking his fist at the tourists
who paid $500 a head to sail above his grape sea
destroying his vines—
more money than he'll get for his crop
Meanwhile in the next pasture,
a horse and donkey have stopped their
morning grazing to watch the spectacle
of this strange fish floating
in the midst of their breakfast

7/21/1987? 7/22?
7/94 saved

Tuesday, July 21, 1987



Like an outrageous above sea cousin of the jellyfish,
a hot air balloon in rainbow colors
drifts over a sea of grape leaves,
it contracts and expands,
the hissing and snapping of flame tongues filling the bag.
Five people dangle in and out at the gondola,
someone getting in, others getting out, pure chaos,
They're dressed in khaki and sporting telephotos. 
The farmer comes running out of his house
shaking his fist at the tourists
who paid top dollar to sail above this vineyard
At those who are destroying his vines
Meanwhile in the next pasture
the horse and donkey have stopped their morning grazing
to watch the spectacle of stinging jellyfish
in the middle of their breakfast
The hot air balloon lands later, near my car,
in the Napa State Hospital parking lot,
the patients are thrilled beyond belief,
there is a cop is writing the balloonists a ticket
and there is a general hubbub and howling
how on earth will I be able to teach today?

not sure of the date, other than it's towards the end of July, 1987. I wrote out of sequence in my journal, while I was driving to work.  Could be 7/14, or 7/21;, or 22; probably not 23.


Napa State Hospital Poetry Journal, July 21 & 23

Napa State Hospital Poetry Journal, Days 17-20

7/21, Tuesday I typed up poems at home. This is wrap-up week. I need to do my final bill this week.

Anabelle's class went well, the kids were friendly and pleased to see me and I gave them poems and we made editing changes. They did some drawings. I handed back their work and they were very excited.

Linda's class, my favorite class ever. They began making their poem posters, we did some final editing. Carol wrote her first real poem unasked. New kid and Chris did a surfing poem. Benjamin had trouble settling down so far, no problems from him. Yvonne swears she wrote a typed poem, so does Louis—who to believe? Who wrote the poem? This is like the biblical story of the two mothers and one baby. Now I'm less certain who wrote those other poems out of class as well there could be a forgery ring going on.

Afternoon wrap up Floy's class didn't show up after I typed up all those poems.
Mark worked on the computer with his own poem. We worked on some other poems in his morning critique.

Alison's class is next. I'm feeling a bit poorly and don't mind the cancellations. The computer is making me nauseous. No I don't really have time to write, or I do really have time to write and there's nothing to write about.

7/23 Thursday Wednesday recap. AM wrapup, PM group canceled. I've been typing poems nonstop for days, trying to return everyone's work.

Linda is getting started on the poem posters and possibly Bonnie too for the final art project.

Thursday later, Jocelyn canceled, but it's still a whirlwind of a day. Lockdown groups on on T – 12.

I probably put in 80 hours this week. Thursday and next week beyond what I'm paid on the contract. I need to take time off in September. Still no paycheck.

Linda's other group was glad to see me, they brought brownies for us. How sweet. Even Craig came out of his hundred mile-per-hour world to make some sense. It seems very real in there. Must be the lockdown ward.

I told Vance about how Pamela likes his poems. He was pleased. He wanted to know who would replace me. I said, I'm impossible to replace. Sometimes they just need lively banter. They weren't to take they want to continue this project when I'm gone. I need to give Susan some ideas.

So I really enjoy this residency and sad to see it end, but boy am I ready for a break. I'm ready for it to end.

Thursday is my toughest and best of day.

Rehab end Louis's group, the adolescents are sweet.

Forget about the fourth through sixth grade boys.

Anabelle's kids were good this time too.

I'm committed to getting a poem from everyone for the book or, books?

Lots of adolescents. The month break will make it easier for me to do the book.

STATS: Direct contract 110 people and about 20 staff have written poems with me. For approximately 20 days. Some have worked with me for six sessions, others as few as one or two sessions, a few have worked with me 8 to 10 times. That makes it similar to a CPITS residency. Average exposure is 5 to 6 sessions.

The half-hour model program was thrown out.  I was told that a 20 minutes attention span was the most I would get. And I was told to try to make the classes shorter yet.

And most sessions were at least an hour. And I knew they were very roll. The age span of my clients was anywhere from fourth grade to 80 years of age. Of the 110 people I worked with, +20 staff, over half, about 50 to 60, were adolescents. Approximately 57 into in three classes, I tried to count them only once I was not always successful. About five people worked with me only once. There was an overwhelming repeat audience even among the dropouts. Going to class and working with them directly is still the best way.

Imagine if the dollar
was going to crawl down the street
like a snail, then rain would fall
declines back up into the sky
without knowing
the shape of the land.

This blue vessel of my heart
is shaking, hollow
before winter crawls out
of the oven of summer.
Parachuted with weights,
there is no more sky
left to hold up the air.

Some random nonsense
I am not doing word salad with the patients,
there is order,
I'm trying to open up their preconceived ideas,
which are very narrow,
of what writing really is.
Every once in a while
I run into a word salad writer
and it's a challenge
to get them to write coherently.
I should talk, using word cards
my work is word salad as well
so here I am introducing structure
when I'm normally inclined
to go the other direction.

I still have not found my final journal with CAC wrap up notes. But I did find this from our Castles in the Air bookparty. 2/18/1988

Letter to my Napa State Hospital Poetry Students

Thursday, July 16, 1987

Napa State Hospital Poetry Journal, July 16

Napa State Hospital Poetry Journal, Days 15-16?

7/16, Thursday, a week later, it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with my journal. My schedule is so filled at at this point, I have no down time. No time to reflect. So now I'm trying to catch up, after class, on my time. In the employee parking lot. These three pages only represent Thursday. I haven't even covered Tuesday and Wednesday which were equally intense.

Basically all is going well. More people are checking out the program and it's beginning to take off as a pilot project, it's working well and this definitely suggests that a there is a strong need for similar programs. Funding is always a problem.

There are many highlights each day. Working with the teenagers now takes up a large portion of my time, I prefer them to the fourth and sixth graders who are more out-of-control. They're not crazy, they're just little hellions who've gotten away with misbehaving and are proud of the anarchy of their success,. And all of them are boys. Need I say more?

Thursday I finally dressed one kid, John, down when he was rude, as it was getting worse and worse. He tried to lie his way out and I called him on it. I did get an apology from him, but in the process, he upset the others. We had to isolate him. 

Joey said to me, I really like poetry. And just like that, the bitter tide was turned, but four more weeks of this…? The other kids were on model behavior the rest of the session. John started out so promising. Somehow he got it into his head to be an asshole. And there was no turning the tide.

I met a second time with Linda Wargo's new group, lots of kids who are in other classes, so I'm seeing some of them two times a week—and are they ever progressing. Wow! I just have to be ready to leap with my lessons, or change them on the spot, so there's not too much repetition. Louis in particular, shows signs of becoming a really gifted writer and he often tells me how he loves it. This is a great group—unlike the Wednesday group. Ironic in that Linda says that is her low group. 

Floy's two new afternoon groups are resistant and there's a lot of mouthing; they say I don't want to do this. They have ingrained attitude problems. Starting at ground zero breaking down the walls again.

With Linda's group this is not a problem. The attitude cases drive me nuts because it's all about posturing and bullshit. But here they are, locked away in Napa, because they lost their Juvenile Hall passes. I think they're coaxed into participating in some classes, mine included. I suspect a little corporal punishment early on would've been in order for some of them. Not something one want to voice aloud. Too late now. 

Most of the kids aren't clinically crazy. Just survivors of a bad home life. I dislike having to be tough and to call their bluffs. There are better ways to communicate, but it seems the adult/authority challenge is part of the process. Or the process of challenging as part of the process.

Linda's community rehab group, comprised mostly of chicana teenage girls, is great. They come in all uptight not knowing what to expect and then I come on neutral and then I get them loosened up and we were laughing irreverently and being silly, making up outrageous poems. The lone male in the group, a black man, said, I had no idea it was going to be this outrageous and fun. He's aboard.

I'm introducing playfulness as a way of problem solving. Very little levity happens in Napa. It's a very serious place. Unfortunately the young kids mistake this for fucking around time. And then I have to be both good cop and bad cop. I'm schizophrenic, and so am I, said the Gemini.

Linda's and Bonnie's groups overlapped, so they combined classes. But Marcus wanted to schedule a personal critique time in the midst of it all. At one point, I was running different lessons between three separate tables. I got Bonnie's group settled in and working, and then I met with Marcus, who is from the same ward, then I ran back to Linda's group. It was too much, and I shrieked, You'll have to excuse me, I'm having a split personality right now—and we all cracked up. 

Despite its size, it all worked out fine. I'm much more at ease with the groups, and I'm able to tell them my fears and insecurities and the risks I'm taking. The drugs they take are so potent, it's hard for them to fight the medication, and be themselves, but I'm pushing them harder to do just that.

In the men's lockdown ward, Raymond finally gave up his—I'm so crazy—routine, and he wrote a long poem, unasked. I had them write about things they didn't know they loved. 

Kirk didn't show up until later. It was so funny, he came in shouting out his lines—he who didn't want to be in the group to begin with. Carl came undone; he was holding his head and howling—it's too intense it's too intense—and he rushes to the bathroom to retch. And someone else is shouting this is way radical. Wow, cool! They were acting like college kids. Someone asks:  is poetry supposed to be radical?

Two new guys are slow but we are getting there. Today they comment that I didn't need to tear the curtains off the wall to get their attention. I had their attention from the get-go.

Afternoon class: Earl and I explore the renga form on the computer. 

In Brook's group, Michael, who claims he has been illiterate for 14 years, because he can't read without glasses, has lost several pair on violent wards.  He's not used to thinking anymore. So it's all a stretch. However he is beginning to blossom. I took down a poem from him about his life, a road game, we did a poem on what's in a name.

Rick has outbursts of violent behavior. Brooke is able to calm him down. But I can't read his writing, I think he's an ex-cop…I tend to shy away.

Mellow Ned doesn't respond to anything right away, he has a distinct synapse lapse, but clearly he is very gifted with words. He loves writing in rhyme, and the lyric format. He was he is a musician after all.

In Linda's groups I'm beginning to collect drawings for the book. We began a watercolor poster, with the Wednesday group. Wednesday at noon a kid jumped in front of a semi, a suicide. One girl said I smell smoke. It must've been the creek Oregon fire. There is reason for concern. Too many eyes light up at the smell of smoke. Napa has the highest per capita rate of arsonists in the entire state. Fire is a big deal here.

What I've learned is to not take the patron's participation handicaps at face value but to push them gently to get what I want, and to be open about my attitudes and misconceptions, a heavy dose of reality. I am able to articulate and to talk about this place without feeling I have to be delicate, or that there are taboos—other than their privacy rights. 

Howard, after seeing his poem typed up, really liked it. He's an odd one, the chess playing savant. Wednesday afternoon, a formerly dead time, I had a group of men gathered around me and we were all discussing writing. I got a glimpse from the outside looking in, the camera panning in, it's actually working. Success. What happens when I leave?


the time for spring is beyond us
I am tired of all the things 
both visible and invisible
This tightness of ribs 
where the night stars show through
Listen she sighs slowly
I hear nothing

Thunderbolts in a slow sky
Have no need for pathways.

The emptiness of wine glasses 
like sad sunsets 
the frames a ladder to the shadowy past.
I am left in the dust
Who can hear the questions the woman asks
Young beggarsquaking in the roots
This the last week of summer 
before the fall creeps in
Melodious notes of dry grass before rain
We each desire something from the rain

Tuesday, July 14, 1987

Napa State Hospital Poetry Journal, July 14

Napa State Hospital Poetry Journal, Day 14

Tuesday 7/14. The days are so filled, I barely have time to type up homes for each class, let alone working my own journal.

Michael G stops by and I get him on the computer to rewrite his poems. This time he really got into it, and did some good revising, to the point of overworking it.

Alison's class, Louis, Julie, Christine, Sarah and a new girl. We did a lesson from Kenneth Koch's Wishes, Lies and Dreams. Louis has been writing outside of class. I recognized his poem—it was great but it was  written by Yvonne. Plagiarism is alive and well at Napa. They are wanting positive feedback so they'll even stoop to copying each other's poems, and think I won't notice.

Howard wanted his poems typed up, he's not so paranoid these days, and seems to like them. He has new stitches over his eye. I'm afraid to ask.

Lunch, Linda Wargo and I discuss the poem posters. Her group comes in late. We do a poem based on Wishes, Lies and Dreams. as well.

Some new kids in Floy's class, plus the ones who worked with me before. They know the drill, and get right down to business. I can see the difference already. Rod, Julie, Eric, and Kane—plus a new girl who wrote in Spanish.

Recap: Less time than ever to record the daily events. This afternoon Linda's rehabilitation group (a new group) was still working, when I had another new group join us too. But Marcus wanted my individual attention for a critique, and I said, excuse me, I have a split personality today.

Monday, July 13, 1987

Napa State Hospital Poetry Journal, July 13

Napa State Hospital Poetry Journal, Day 13

7/13/ Monday. Darrell C. asks for an independent critique I moved it from 1 to 2:30 PM. He wants to know if he can publish a manuscript and he wants to know about sci-fi, and he is also very interested in the process of copyright. He's owning his work. I need to look into the William James foundation see if there's any help for him there.

We look at forms and structure, it was a good critique, the three best poems he chose included the two sci-fi pieces. They were looser than the one he read in class. We talked about editing—the hard work. I suggested that he rewrite four of his poems and gave him some writing assignments. He needs to write about being in Napa not just about elves. He has a good voice but he's prone to abstract ideas.

Heber met me at the door. What a change in him. The sullen man come alive. He's apologizing for not writing anything, but he said that he really wanted to. He's got a good ear and he said that his delusions may get in the way of accomplishing something, always an excuse.

Darrell said the drugs make him less motivated. I told him he still has to keep on trying. Keep fighting. That's the artist's path.

Chuck showed up at half an hour late for his appointment so I didn't see him.
Howard wanted to talk—him, the non-talker—about his poem. He's concerned that someone may read it and then, know of something him. He was annoyed at the prospect. It was a Earl's appointment time, so I couldn't deal with him other than to say that I wouldn't type it up, if he felt uncomfortable about it.

3 to 4 PM Earl and I had a great time. I really like him. We talked of haiku. He dictated a couple of lines in a poem about Fujisan and read a few of Issa's haiku translated by Lucien Stryck.

In the middle of our critique time, a woman came running in, a teacher Floyd D, who wanted to schedule a few classes for her adolescent group. Eric is one of her kids and he's loving the poetry workshops. Raving about them. That's how she found out about them.

The poetry program is really beginning to have an impact. People I don't even know, say hi and wave to me as I drive by in my VW bug. Word is out. The inmates like me and they like what I'm doing.

Floyd said that she had seen me read in Sebastopol, so my name value is increasing. So ironic that the recognition I wanted is now merely a byproduct of what I am doing, living the life, being the artist, but not wishing for it.


Ancestral cairn,
the sky singing of tongues
from ironclad clouds
this cold, red road to the sun,
the ancestral wind
swims like a fish in the rain

A man's horn filled
with flowered words
and broken tables

Paper lion feeding on words
shaped cloth around my knees
falling like dusk to the ground

7/13 Driving country roads,
their twists and turns remains secretive
until I leave each band and curve,
and it unwinds like an arrhythmic black snake, or a ribbon.
The intimacy comes with time,
and I look forward to certain bend
that remind me of other roads,
passing under the redwoods at Papermill Creek
is very much like Mark West Springs Creek.
Like with Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Road
I'm beginning to recognize a particular band
not only by its forward face
but by how it looks coming the other way
in late afternoon, like film clips played in reverse,
there's that odd sensation as the reverse image
meshes with the current one,
engaging two points of view.
The road threads between the mountains
along the silver needle of the creeks in late summer.


PORTER CREEK (no efile) see Country Roads

July 1987 Napa
This became another poem, 

Friday, July 10, 1987

HAIKU from Napa State Hospital

Late bees are dancing
on white chrysanthemums
as long shadows fall.

The waking child yawns
her hands on the tatami
twinkle like twinned stars.


Renga and haiku, linked verse

Hokusai  had 30 pen names, and said  everything that I did before 70 was no good. At 100 I'll be a marvelous artist. He used both his hands to paint.

Both renga and haiku are non-narrative verse. Usually 12 to 17 syllables (17 characters—which convey more imagery than western words, 3 cutting words plus the —ka! The surprise.)

A guest poet opens with 2 or 3 lines. There is a traditional order, or pattern: moon, mountains are mentioned in one haiku. No moon references without a season attached. The seasons: summer/autumn. Unrequited love is another theme.

There's no apparent order of time, except for the images themselves. Time is suspended, drawn out. Thrown out of whack. Some verses need "flower" words, not just peach or cherry blossoms.

Every haiku should include: What Where When, and one of these is a seasonal word. A cue. The very short-lived cherry blossoms are a symbol for spring (mid-April). Others are references for passing time.

There are no logical links. Read only the verse above, and link to the preceding verse by:
zoom lens (close up)
distance, etc.

Treat it like a pass-around poem, like Pictionary, where you can only see 2 or 3 lines above, and respond. Initial your work. Pass it to your partner.

Monkey's Raincoat
Basho Sarumino
trans. Lenore Mayhead

To what may our life be compared?
the moon is a dewdrop falling from a heron's beak.

Not sure where these notes are from. Perhaps Bob Hass or Pat Nolan?

Pass around poem: write two lines, fold one line back, and pass it on.

Thursday, July 9, 1987

Napa State Hospital Poetry Journal, July 9


Napa State Hospital Poetry Journal, Day 12

7/9 Thursday. Jocelyn's class is late again, the kids are crazy, we didn't accomplish much. We made letter poems but the there were too many attitudes problems. Last week's negative kid dictated a poem to me without being asked.

In Linda Wargo's class, two kids from another class Louis and Julie joined us. Louis and Julie were so jazzed from the Tuesday afternoon class, they were so excited about working on a poem. Word cards rock, said Louis. He told me he tried to write more poems back on the ward but it wasn't the same. We had a 45 minute session. We wrote using word cards, and my name is like... Linda said she will have the students make drawings for their poems for the second hour.

Ward T – 12, three guys asleep on the table, three new customers. One is light footed, so the doors need to be kept locked. It's stuffy in the classroom. I'm glad to see Darrell's back, and that Kurt's still sticking it out.

We read their poems from last session. Kirk's god poem is not bad. It's an uneven group, but Darrell's a real poet. I read the Soledad poem to them. I also read Nazim Hikmet's,Things I Didn't Know I Loved. They quit fidgeting around and look begin to listen when they realize Hikmet's writing from prison. Something clicks. Hector wants to read the second half of the poem. I tell them to underline parts of the poem they like. I'm trying to get them to become active readers.

We made a group poem about Napa. They're still not totally into it. So I tell them to talk about this place and I ripped the curtain from the window and say look out that window, there are bars. Talk about this place. At that point I had their undivided attention and we wrote a long poem together. It was a breakthrough day.

It's not all cigarettes and drugs. their shaken out of their their stupor now.
Mitch write some moving poetry. Nurses shoes like clocks. They're impressed by my craziness and they open up.

I have an appointment with Darrell after lunch to have a one-on-one session. His poem was okay, at least it was rea.  it'll be interesting to see what happens next week.

These must be word cards 

we were schooling reality 
teaching it how to walk 
like a woman with a basket 
balanced on her head 
and her smile playing with the sun. 

The future dawn in a tree 
slowly with dry thoughts

My name is like the hourly perfume of bells 
my name is the light behind the clouds

Tired blackboard of glass shatters 
beneath the stars of hope 
and the bricks of emptiness
fill a room with nothing more than air.

the rich perfume of winter 
reminds us of the futures not taken 
the resurgence of light scatters the hours 
until the sand, lonely for the shape 
of an hourglass, repeats its endless task.

The cup of sadness dropped from the counter 
and baby corn was a factor 
because the basis for a civilization 
is hidden within the tenants of time.