Monday, October 31, 1988

Journal order, on the writing process


The order of entries in my journal is more haphazard than usual. Too many major life traumas in September and October threw me off. Meanwhile halfway through the year, I started writing in another journal but I am unwilling to abandon this one with all its virgin paper patiently waiting for me to scribe it with knower's ink.

Sunday, October 16, 1988


Names for time, insufferable on human terms
100,000 years. How does a stone
measure time and distance?
I've always wanted to see Lascaux and Altamira
(look up!). The first Greek goddess,
the great mother, was not Greek, but a meteorite
that struck the earth with sudden impact.


Saturday, October 15, 1988



Reina, a blind, dowager cat of 15,
who has learned to tell lies for more food
and has a paunch to prove her success,
ignores the catnip-stuffed mouse I bring her.
We can't tell her facts:
why it always rains outside each door
in the house at the same time, the dilemma
of eating tuna and the diminishing dolphin population,
or the effects of mercury poisoning.
Has it begun to manifest
its mad-hatterly ways in this idiot savant
well into second childhood?
Mornings, we find her upside down and drooling;
rubbing her whiskers and head ecstatically inside our shoes.
We make jokes about the narcotic effect of ripe shoes and laundry.
But when my new shoes are also
singled out for euphoric distinction,
I realize, slowly, how our conclusions are hampered
by our own anthropomorphic limitations.
It becomes clear, her need for scenting—
In cat terms, as we walk our daily rounds,
our shoes mark the outer boundaries of her territory.
Who'd have credited this blind old cat
with enough foresight to keep tabs on her realm—
She, who had us barking up the wrong tree all along?

10/15/1988  first draft june?

1995 CQ #22 California Quarterly
1991Poet Magazine, Fall issue
1990 Poetry USA
         Sparrow Grass
1989 Green Fuse
         A Night Full of Doves

Friday, October 7, 1988


1. By the same white car
where my grandparents stood
sternly facing the camera,
was that me in my mother's arms
or someone else, milk eyes squinting
as she drools, her fat starfish hands
clutching a red and green tropical sea.
My mother's skirt, an island in paradise
and later, the jungle print will become
a pillow for my grandmother's couch
where I will wait years for my mother
to reclaim that skirt, and me.
All this fuss for a photograph.
who'd have thought those faded photos
marked the end of an era?

At the age of two,
that isn't me looking in.
I'm looking out of the photo
at a woman, older than my mother
who is still holding me in the picture.
She says she knows me but I know better.
I am cross without my nap
so I squint and sing and coo
to the sun in a blue sky.

Now she makes some other writing marks
but I swing my arm across the paper
and the table and the wall
filling the world with rainbow color
putting an end to all this writing.

2. That can't be me at 13
about to start high school.
That's someone else who looks like me,
who feels very grown up and eager to begin.
I'm looking out at myself, looking in.
She looks different, she isn't smiling, like me.
Are we related?

Her eyes glow red from the flash of the camera
making her look like an albino rabbit
while my eyes are brown.
My mother's skirt, a pillow on the couch
is now threadbare.

My red dress is embroidered with small mirrors
reflects a cloudy sky, like a pond,
a mirror full of algae.
I awake at night full of fear
I can't hear what she's saying.
a namelessness in the dark, like a sudden flash
that bleached the color form her hair, from her eyes
turning them from brown to red
like the rabbit who said yes.
All the times she turned them down,
every single one of my children.


4th revision from some notes on Jorge Lujan's poetry workshop, Alexander Valley School? on 4/12/88. I need to type the first drafts.

Thursday, October 6, 1988

10 6/88 journal

This morning the phone wakes me, Fotomat saying the small albums I had ordered are in. Then she calls me back, says it's the wrong size. I didn't order either size album and I don't like 7 AM phone calls telling me to buy something. If anyone calls me at 7 AM it'd better be for a good reason.

I can barely remember my dreams except that John looked a little like Bob as if bits and pieces of Bob had rubbed off and attached themselves to John's face. Most notable was the patches of beard and hair – as if John were a prisoner behind the mask of Bob's face—someone whom I haven't seen in over 10 years. Perhaps all that talk about abortion brought Bob back into the picture.

Not so much the first one, God. But I remember the day it happened so well. I just come off the pill, tired of being continually nauseous. One afternoon, we weren't careful. I knew then it was too late, the moment frozen in my mind.

It reminds me of the story of the fifth-grader, when asked when he was born, he said, My mom and dad went on a picnic, and she got pregnant. It was in Germany. The teacher and I manage to keep a straight face but, as she said, the times they are changing. Quoting Dylan and our own lost youth.

10 6/88

Wednesday, October 5, 1988

Phone calls to the dead

Today I was asked by the San Francisco Bay Guardian to be a screener, a first reader for the Northern California poetry contest. My penance for having won it in the past. The woman who called, Jane Sullivan, was not related to the Jane Sullivans in my family. She said I've never received any calls from another Jane Sullivan. I said our Jane was long dead, so it would be hard for you to receive her calls. I always thought it would be an ingenious invention if someone would developed a telephone to call the dead. AT&T would make a killing. Only one dollar a minute, evenings and weekends free. Call home.

Saturday, October 1, 1988

I Won $50 for Horseflesh at National Poetry Week

National Poetry Week, II
I won $50, second place for my poem, Horseflesh, poems on everyday experience.
Horseflesh was a dream fragment. John and I were in Mulegé, Baja. I was going out to the bathroom and I met someone outside in the moonlight. It was unnerving. Another guest at Nachito's.

I'm not sure if I was awake or asleep when the Horseflesh poem came to me. Whether it was dreamed before I woke up to go to the bathroom, and I added this skull image, or whether I was still in the dream state, as I stumbled off to the bathroom.

And I don't remember if it was happening and I wrote it down when I returned, or if I wrote it afterwards. What I do remember was the brilliant stars above. The broken bed, the sandy sheets, the abject poverty, all contributed to the imagery. And there were many more fragments which I wasn't able to retrieve.



Sacramento Poetry Center Poet News, Jim Dodge