Friday, September 25, 1987

Journal, Oahu cardinals 9/25/87

September 25,

Returning to Oahu was a time for watching the cardinals, those impossible northern birds of snow, hopping beneath the plumeria trees amid the scattered blossoms. Some with their gray bodies separated from the redheads by a white collar, so clerical.

I left for the tropics the week the pope visited San Francisco. Kathie and walked along the beach dipping our brown legs into the aquamarine shade and we talked of possibilities and limitations.

A lone red cardinal hops at my feet in the midst of a sea of gray-frocked redheads. I try to imagine the sand as snow. These incongruous birds transplanted here because someone was homesick for dark Minnesota winters, and brought the birds here to the tropics where winter never comes.

Do they still have the urge to migrate? And where would they fly to, 5000 miles from shore? The pope makes his journey up the California coast. My grandmother and aunt get as close as they can – the first time in Rome, my grandmother said. If I were there I would probably protest his stand on AIDS, homosexuals, abortion, and the rights of women.

The Pope returns home and there is very little media coverage on his visit.

The plumerias on the crabgrass are browning at the edges under the tropical sun. It is near the equinox, the time of balance, when an egg will stand on its head for several minutes on end. One boy said his egg stood for 10 minutes before falling, but at 6:45 AM I was asleep after a long night of fitfullness. And that small life inside making its presence known.

(abridged from a longer journal entry)

Monday, September 14, 1987

Journal, Enroute to Hawaii, Bearing Witness

Having returned from Guatemala, and unable to write about it, I depart for Hawaii and I marvel at the strange turn of events. I'm still on the road seven weeks later. This fast life and I'm not sure why the images won't come to me.

Yesterday, at the CPITS conference in Ben Lomond, I got a copy of American writers abroad edited by Carolyn Forché, from Tomi Nagai Roth, whom I know from the Napa Poetry Conference, and I haven't written about Dave Evans' death yet, or the one I am about to commit in two weeks.

And while reading prose, one of the things that struck me was that muteness is not singular. Carolyn Forché calls it "conscious preoccupation." It's as if (war correspondent) Harry's camera suddenly became too heavy to record yet another atrocity. 

My camera didn't record it all all those National Geographic shots of peasants being held at gunpoint, nor did it record them being quaintly ethnic either.

I didn't want to document this, become a witness, so that I, too could say I've been there. The shock value of the unreal postcards – somewhere between the two is what I wish to record. This muteness that lives inside me remembers much and I have to trust that it will all come out in poetry.

It's hard to find lyric images from the soldiers with Uzis stats who stopped the jeep for the third time in 6 miles, or when the women lying on the sidewalk in rags, hold up a gnarled hand for cambio, her milky eyes can no longer focus, from too much alcohol and abuse. Our bag ladies are quite yuppie by comparison.

Next to me, a man in uniform is reading a Star Trek novel while waiting for his flight. I wonder how many men he directs towards the war machine with his three color bars like so many Guatemalan belts. The title of his book is called Deep Domain. 

Two men discuss the existence of potential planets. One, an astronomer, complains of light pollution. The other sells airline insurance. I've been in so many planes the past few weeks I'm afraid the chances of being in the crash have increased. 

I can't forget those flaming horses falling from the sky in Mexico City when the Belize cargo plane crashed. I can't help but think of the irony of those six legged gods conquering the Indios one more time. 42 dead. All this numbs one.

I am preoccupied by what I have seen to the point of muteness. How can I begin to write these things? Also, the knowledge of what I already know to be true, I bring to my writing. Bearing witness.

The soldiers have Uzis, they got them from Israel, with US money to make those weapons. Therefore the US is offering military aid to them, albeit indirectly. 

This also means that guerillas have AK-47s because of the nature of the war beast. I don't know what AK-47s look like. I know that the guerillas of El Salvador and Nicaragua are armed with AK-47s. And I assume that they are Russian guns. I dont' want this knowledge in my head. But I can't unlearn it.

After two weeks ranging fires, the air is finally clearing a bit. The sun was a red ball in the gray sky. On August 30, 15,000 lightning strikes lit 1300 fires. Most of the northern state is on fire. The moon is filled with dragon blood at night. This smoke blends in with the night sky. The stars are imperceptibly less visible.

I amuse myself with scientific metaphors. How to demonstrate gravity with a bucket of water and a rope swinging it overhead.

Or how to demonstrate how a black hole can swallow light. Inconceivable to me until I remember learning how to go into a fast spin on ice skates, one leg at an angle helps to gather speed putting me into an orbit, then lifting it off the ice, drawing it in at a right angle, along with my arms, closer to my body, until the spin becomes a blur. 

It's so hard to hold oneself in. The centrifugal force wants to pull your limbs back out and slow the speed in which you spin.

An imploding star condenses, becomes heavier like the ice skates— PSI. Spin faster than the speed of light so that nothing escapes. Like these events that frame our lives, the actions, louder than words. We are not in control of our destiny after all.


In November, John broke up with me, leaving me desolate.

Wednesday, September 9, 1987

Journal returning from Mexico and Guatemala

I'm back from Mexico and Guatemala, and I'm plagued by bad dreams. The red light of the digital clock becomes a fire burning at the top of the temple of the Jaguar at Tikal.

I have a hard time convincing myself that I'm home again. Reverse culture shock. I wake up, not knowing where I am, or who I am. The feeling of utter desolateness doesn't leave me. The soldiers with their Uzis continue to patrol my the perimiter of my dreams.

Meanwhile, thousands of forest fires burn in Northern California. The sun is a red ball in a gray sky, an angry eye in the temple.


Sunday, September 6, 1987

HIDDEN LOGIC (Random Access)

1. Why it took so long to leave and get back
bears testament to the tenacity of astronomers
racing for a mystery, who worry over a rare look
at the Milky Way's inner secrets, and like clairvoyants,
they focus on the trivial magic of a planet
nursery, or the one that got away.
We may solve or witness the speed of morning light
as we board the remains of a ship
to watch the future play itself out like a giant harp.
Inside a comet's tail 500 light years away,
the notion of comprehensive life may be a lark.
Man seems destined to serve time
somewhere for his rapacity.

Who wants to halt the sale of front row seats
for a chance to win an emerald mine in guerilla territory?
Bring out the lions. Little remains of the next frontier.
When taking chances, strike for sleep or death.
It is the same thing as building worlds of crystal.

And who hasn't entertained ideas
of having taken Paris by storm
or wishing they'd slept on a train
New Orleans bound, or finding
a passage home for sunken ships
from the Bermuda Triangle?
They still seem like good ideas.

When there was a glove shortage in Hollywood
we collected shadows, stray bullets, laundry lists,
and talked of strange events like Einstein's Theory
or nude girls who start riots at airpoirts.
At the movies, it's not the woman with the golden
irrisistable charm who gets the last laugh.
The latest news of breast reduction strips us bare.
There are other secret lists.
We leave our notion of beauty and call
it everything but imperialism.

2. After a night in a hollow tree struck by lightning,
it hurt to feel my dream, a prisoner
of the morning cup of coffee,
yet you save your life by
sampling the farm-raised local delicacies.
Puberty arrived before the mail in Paris.

You'd better find another way out of the country
or face false charges for smuggling
opium-filled artifacts.
Democracy leads rebels to their deaths.
One slip could decide the manner
in which you live or die. Ask the Rosenbergs.
How lovely, this green made for springtime.

In the creole tradition,
when talking with the dead, remember
voodoo priestess send messages
with more compassion than magic
and it is good because laughter
is a sign of forgiveness.

Beneath the sea, rain disrupts the promise
of spring, and in the form of singing fish,
the dead roar back to life, finding a passage
that lures the curious like distant memories.
The world's hidden logic is another aspect
of Carnival and the infinite possibility
of an inquiring mind is riding high
on the blues in overtime
because there are patterns for everything.

Sept. 1987? 88?
If Wofitbuta, then September, 87?
original is dot matrix.
part 2, new poem?

Tuesday, September 1, 1987

Mexico City – Enroute to the Airport

A young man (a joven) in a blue lab coat, bloodied, and smeared, gazes out the back of the meat truck  driving down the Malecón, the ribs of the butchered cow, like a bloodied harp, playing at the strings of war.

9/1987? 88?