Friday, June 22, 1990


      —from photographs by Man Ray

A metaphor of trees lines Pushkin Park.
Apples against the eaves dripping with rain.
I have never felt so alone—
even losing my nightgown at the hotel
didn't diminish the fact that it was by choice.
Whose, I'm not sure.
A folded photo transforms our faces
and I contemplate remnants of an earlier era—
a man in the house,
a cigarette without paper,
an angel without wings,
but clothes empty of corpus
drink the wine anyway.
A knife punctuates the knot. A coin, an egg,
the unusual context of alphabetical order
and gardenias, above the sea, on a balcony, 
on an island somewhere in Greece.
We are trapped within the gynecology 
of the unknown world.

Los Angeles County Museum
Man Ray photo exhibit
I was subbing for Celia Woloch, teaching a class in the galleries

Thursday, June 21, 1990

The Land of Fields

I come from the land of fields, he said to me on the steppes. Wild, untrammeled, as far as the eye could see, the uncultivated grasses practice their own form of plaiting and unplaiting the air. Rich land for horses. I've always loved the horses, they are our ancestors. I followed them to this place to where the men ride them, practicing stunts at a full gallop, pursuing and kissing the women on horseback, or plucking a kerchief from the ground with their teeth—they have no fear of the animals, but they don't understand them. We have learned the subtle ways of the horse—not to break its spirit the way those men with a fondness for red axes do. Our lives depend upon the horse. Surely, one doesn't try to break the will of one's ancestors. But what do they know of women, or love?

Sometimes I see them emerge from the sweatbath, rosy-skinned, the steam rising from them like a cowl. They laugh and horse around—I do not know what else to call it. They move like herds of yearlings separated from their mothers, where milk is but a memory held in the teeth. They mill in rough, yet graceful circles, making unnecessary movements just because they're young and alive, and know nothing of fear or betrayal. Not like the watchful mares who let nothing distract them from the serious business of eating—ripping the full heads of grain off each stalk with such precision, ears and hooves moving in tandem as they choreograph the steppes.

Some say I'm a daughter of the steppes because I was found crying in the tall grass, others call me a Tatar when I'm angry, then I'm no one's daughter. I was born between the parallel lives of broken reins. How long I clung to that horse before I fell unconscious to the grass is anybody's guess. The small blue tattoo of the sun on my wrist cannot speak, the red yarn bracelet, a broken spancel. Long afternoons of summer closing in on itself gives way to the urgent breath of fall when everything seems to be hurrying—even the leaves of the linden and birch lining the shore. I chafe at the bit, hunger for the time when the small blond suns of wagon wheels will roll again across the silken plain, and I do not know where I’m from.

Sometimes I spend afternoons curled amid the bright slippery breasts of hay fortresses to observe the darkness that escapes from the hill mounds of sleeping warriors. Why do they always bury a man's favorite horse with him, braided in that central darkness of mastodon bones? Do we not sew up the wounds with horsehair? Paint the image of the sun with ochre pigments on their brows? Dress them in kemp cloth the color of blood and lapis? The hay makes my skin prickle, there are always tunnels and places to hide if someone comes. We aren't allowed far from home. It is easier to go undetected on foot. Being on horseback invites attention. And there's always more work to be done. The winnowing basket is always hungry for attention.

There is one man whose eyes are like deep glaciers—a blueness that verges onto darkness, shiftable as the weather—sometimes gray, sometimes green. I watch him from a distance, he's not burly like the others. He stands apart, poised by the banks of the river. His eyes are more akin to the river than anything else. They plunge in, ungrateful fish, floundering and laughing. So much of this world separates us from them. Not that we don't have a bath house, we do. But it's as if we're enemy tribes living on opposite sides of the river. When they make raids upon the women's quarters, there is always a great fuss but no one struggles too hard to get away.

Once I watched him swim in one of the smaller rivers, and he was an otter gliding and diving, it was a dance with the river. Glistening in the sunlight, his body was delicate, like a girl's wrist, or a horse's ear. Sculpted. He is not like the others, though he was born here. Like me, he is from other lands. You can see it in the curve of his lip, the shape of his eyes. He says he is from po-land, land of the fields. Talking softly about the cornflowers blooming among the wheat, he approaches me slowly like an escaped horse, and I am far from home. Already I feel the burning weight of the rope as he places the coral beads around my neck.

1990? No idea. File is 1994 revised



Was it the way whiskey glasses
jumped through midnight politics;
each laborious point in the basement
of every man's shadow
lost in the darkness,
or was it the blood-root skirl of bagpipes
that raised even the youngest of us
from the forgetfulness of generations?
What remains of the long-toothed old men
reminiscing in patriotic unison?
The trigger-points of memory,
the blue endurance of cigar smoke,
a child crawling on checkered tablecloths,
the clinking of jam jars
filled with amber sacrament
where the inexact music of poetry
rolls back the ancestral tongue—
An emigmatic burden I shoulder
toward the intersection
between birth and denial.

Summer Solstice 1990    Los Angeles
1992 Santa Clara Review

Sunday, June 17, 1990

Smaall books made from wine labels

I used to make little books from construction paper and three wine label strips glued together with my students at Mark West School in Santa Rosa. The paper was water color quality, so we illlustratted our poems with little paintings. I hope I have some slides somewhere to illustrate the concept. They were quite sweet Apparently I gave my friend Donna one when she got her MA. A surprise to get my lettters back almost 20 years later. Hopefully, the photos illustrate thel process.

Card to Donna on getting her MA

Such strange card stuffers I gave to my friend when she got her MA in English. I had just returned from the USSR. A ticket redeemable at the Kremlin, replete with a photo of said Krremlin on the back. A hell bank note. A Soviet postage stammp. Glitter stars. Some glow in the dark antts and spiders. Don’t even ask. At least we can now positively date the cap and gown photo.