Saturday, December 26, 1992

LETTER TO JAN, WINTER SOLSTICE


LETTER TO JAN, WINTER SOLSTICE

Fishing without hook or line in the subtle stream,
I practice the act of turning stones,
Turning them again to find clarity within.
The walls become an impassable mountain range,
The past, a crowded bed, a pentagram,
The evolution of friendship, an alluvial veil over bedrock.
These words rippling the muddy pond.

Sometimes in dreams I meet strangers .
The veil lifts, images, fragments, pieces of the puzzle.
But the gift of sight muddied our eyes.
The knowing without words. Do you ken this?
A raised cock, burning sage, fortuning desire
Worshipped in the old way, the longest night.

Tell me where friend ends and lover begins.
The verb  wal, stranger; we are strangers.
If we tear down this wall, will another rise? 
With these words we uncovered old patterns,
In that vulnerability we leaned closer
Towards concentric rippling haloes of light.

Nature abhors a vacuum.
The notes of the shofar horn bring
The strange ramparts tumbling into the sea,
Turning them back into stones of the field.
The dark pools, unfathomable—
Once we were inexorably proud mountains.
The river polishes us down to size.

1992?
rev. 2002 for Transfer Magazine

Saturday, December 19, 1992

Journal entry, 12/19/1992 WCW


12/19/1992 I went to a party in Rohnert Park with Mimi Albert, she invited me to go without Jan. It turned out to be a boring event, a good thing I came late. However an airline pilot marooned in the atrium said he was from New Jersey, and asked what we did. Like conjoined twins we both blurted out poets. Attempting to find some common ground, he started telling us about his family doctor—who was a poet. Mimi and I both leaned forward and in the same breath, asked, he wasn’t William Carlos Williams, was he? To which the surprised pilot, John, hitched up his trouser leg to display a scar that the good doctor himself had sewed up when John, at the tender age of eight fell out of an apple tree and filleted his shin.

Sunday, November 1, 1992

ESCRITORIO


ESCRITORIO
        Trabaja el mar en mi silencio.  —Neruda

The card you sent from Neruda's study in Valparaiso,
sat three months unread in my mailbox,
signed:…a long way from anywhere.
We couldn't get much farther apart—I must confess,
in a Vienna café, I also composed a card to you in my head.
(What would Freud have made of invisible ink on invisible paper?)
In Budapest, seeking a common idiom, a Rumanian poet
and I try to communicate in a handful of languages—
English, Magyar, Rumanian; the few German words I know,
absorbed one summer 20 years ago, break the ice
until we find a common yezik, or tongue—Russian;
we make apologies in the language of the oppressor.
It seems I always have the wrong tongue in my mouth.

You, red-diaper baby, who never learned to speak
of the self-imposed oppression, once asked,
Would you go underground with me if it came to that?
At the border between San Ysidro and Tijuana,
the red trolley, a flag to tease the bull. Toreador y tragaluz.
I didn't feel the sting of the banderias lodged in my neck,
nor see the angry blood escape the prison of my skin.
La verdad es comun como las piedras del mar.
The menorah, in the dust like a weapon.

A rare sunny afternoon in Amsterdam, a city of refugees—
Language rides the dust motes. We babble in tongues.
The North African, Seidhu and I only have Russian in common.
Moniel, his lover, speaks to him in French.
He drinks beer when his torture scars are hurting him,
Moniel explains to me in English. He is a man living in exile.
She and Vins argue over the role of women in Genesis
—a German edition—in Dutch. Missing the point,
Seidhu quotes passages from the Koran en françois.
I am spared the dogma of the Koran, but not of Islam.
I want a beer, Seidhu asks Vins's permission, I am some man's property;
the Sahara fills this room with the politics of sand.
The phone rings; he slips into Arabic, and something more tribal.
Asylum. I can see the indigo scars where they beat him,
his maw, a square hole devouring the light. Jópa!
The room can't contain so many languages
nor the batillion of beer bottles at the ready. Moniel and I
don't speak of the invisible scars of women.

To the Chilean poet who knows only español y italiano,
I speak a curious pastiche of Russian and Spanish;
transient verbs cross borders without passports or visas.
Some well-meaning friend gives me your latest book,
where I am reduced to the impersonal non-sequitor–you–
not tu, nor the formal usted. Who is nursing revenge
unto the next generation? Did the mountains rise slowly,
the words spill purlblind on the pages of Santiago?
Should I mention–after all these years—
the combination lock on my pack is still set to your birthdate?

Behind these sea walls, the hard labor of my solitude.
Yes, we are a long way from anywhere, cannot escape
the truth, common as the stones of the sea, the raised the wall.
The shofar horn sent the stones tumbling down.
victoriously back into the sea.

11/1992?

Saturday, September 19, 1992

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME


A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME

Write down what you need to remember:
I can't slip out of this mode.
I want to enter deeper into the molecular structure of the word,
the double helix spyrocheting through our genes
from the first fires, to the age of light.
And now we can't put out the flame.
It consumes us with a passion
until we are etherized against the stars,
climbing the spiral, exploding,
imploding, dividing, multiplying in geometric ecstasy
until the shining pyramids invert,
become the apex of the hole
that consuming blackness,
that sucks us into it,
that strips molecules from memory.
A hungry cancer feeding on light,
even quarks lose their charm.
We are limited by what we know,
and don't know,
our descent and metaphysical hunger
in the resonating cells, dialectical
notebooks, a brief history of time. 

date? 92?

Friday, September 18, 1992

Sunday, September 6, 1992

APPROACHING THE ARGUMENT


APPROACHING THE ARGUMENT

Persistent as the flyswatter, 
already two wasps have fallen;
Sunday promises to be a three-wasp day.
The Protestant bells knell
extolling the piety that is Amsterdam,

and Cartesian logic of canals below sea-level:
who can outmaneuver the sand?
End of summer—the radiant enigma
of sun-warmed bricks yielding
to the icy vault of kitchen windows

still raises apparitions of endless hunger
droning toward our morning's commerce.
With the ceaseless clerical dance peculiar to wasps,
they bless unlikely converts: the empty yellow cup,
the slender black supplications of my pen

­on the familiar altar of paper.
Voraciously they worship stale food odors
with the same dogged zeal I tried to define love—
making such a nuisance of themselves,
the only alternative is a quick and simple death.

At first we tried to warn them; now we too
are indifferent to the tender compound equation
of a glass prison against the pane,
and the sudden freedom into open air.
Escape is temporary; they return,

and each according to the laws of nature,
we respond, sacrificing our daily wasps—
the flotsam of small corpses
in an encroaching sea
of stinging words.

6 Sept. 1992
 Amsterdam

Tuesday, September 1, 1992

CHRISTMAS IN YAMMOUSSOUKRO, 1991


CHRISTMAS IN YAMMOUSSOUKRO, 1991
       —from photographs by Jan Bogaerts
                      —for Jan

Imagine the basilica of St. Peter
rising from the African jungle
devouring the light of the Ivory Coast
in the village of Yammoussoukro:
this monument, a president's desire
cast in European stone.

Insignificant as an apostrophe against bright marble pillasters

a tall woman crosses the piazza
burning into the retina—
not like the temporary flash
from looking too long at the sun,
but with the dark endurance of counter-suns.

A black child on a white boulder
lays down his small bundle of rags
to observe the camera lens.
Christmas on the Ivory Coast:
the infant who will never sit at the right hand
of Santa Claus, nor learn of the savior's birth in a manger—
The Wasting Disease, an articulate hunger.

Searching for Mecca,
the men of Yammoussoukro
turn their backs on the sun.
It is said: When two elephants fight, the grass loses.

There are no more elephants on the Ivory Coast,
only obscure fetishes of the crocodile—
Africa is a country of families:
here, where the president is God,
a basilica inexorably rises from the jungle;
the massive arms of the portico—
comprehensible as the moon—
embrace only the air.

9/92
Liessel, The Netherlands

PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION (short v.)


PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION   
     from  Jan Bogaart's photos, Eindhoven

In the football stadium, a congregation of clergy in drag.
Sequence cut to championship fucking finals
in the south of Catholic Holland,
(where else, says Jan, the photographer.)
Used rubbers hanging from the numbered pegs
as contestants candidly look on. 
Everyone's masked for the ball,
even the hookers smoking in the wings.
One wears a chador, naked from the waist down,
well-dressed in nylons and heels,
the star whore in the gurney
chalks up 187 men—all in a night's work.
Michael Jackson, David Bowie and the Pope all at the mike.
Sequence cut to a small town in Bavaria
where Hitler built a train station for Mussolini,
with love from the good old boys.
What of the gay queen at the carnival,
white face, questioning cartoon eyebrows?
The mist covers the crotch of the valley's shame
gravestones covered with plastic to protect them from winter.
It's a white Bavarian Christmas.
A woman forcefully serenades those gathered,
a nun grimly serves tea. Smiles cost money and time.
They are celebrating the alleged birth of Christ with a vengeance.
The oldest woman of the village perfers t.v. to the villagers
who can blame her? Others watch their homes destroyed.
Michael Jackson's face would support whole villages of old women.
Masked young men come down from the mountains
to beat the villagers so they will fully repent for the occasion,
only the offer of a drink will silence their sticks.
All in good fun, they said, nearly breaking the photographer's hands.
All in good fun, said Hitler as the ovens burned.
Did he drink schnaaps too, his mask more natural;
it took a while to see it slipped only to reveal another mask,
 mirrored beneath into green infinity.
Cowbells, a saint's crozier, unsmiling men fold their arms
in front of tannenbaum; the creche child in a coffin of hay
one man grimaces for the camera,
and other smiles while the fool looks on,
a full complement to the theater of saints.

9/92
Eindhoven, Holland


see longer version
SEVEN VIEWS OF PHOTOS AT AN EXHIBITION  

SEVEN VIEWS OF PHOTOS AT AN EXHIBITION


SEVEN VIEWS OF PHOTOS AT AN EXHIBITION  
                                                            —to photos by Jan Bogaerts

1. In a sports stadium a knot of clergy flowering for the Pope.
Internecine wars dropped for an open-air mass.
Score: Visitors 3. Home 1. All in drag for the Holy Ghost.

2. Sequence cut: Everyone's masked at a charity ball,
even the hookers smoking in the wings.
One wears a chador. Nude from the waist down,
in nylons and heels, the star whore on a gurney
chalks up 187 men—all in a night's work.
Spent condoms dangle from numbered pegs
as contestants candidly look on for the camera.
Whoever has the most jism wins
the Championship Fucking Finals in Catholic Holland.
Where else? shrugs the photographer. (Audience laughs.)

3. Sequence cuts:
Michael Jackson, David Bowie & the Pope all have the crowd in mind.
You can tell by the red light in their eyes. The way they mouth the mike.
The way vestments of color drapes itself onto the walls for the camera lens.

4. Sequence cut to black and white:
A small town in Bavaria,
where Hitler built a train station for Mussolini:
With love, for the Good Old Boys.
Burning into memory’s retina,
color film couldn’t cope with the crime.
Spilled wine appears as black.
What of the gay queen at the carnival,
white face, sad cartoon eyes? So much meat.

5. The mist covers the crotch of the valley's shame.
Gravestones covered in plastic—
protected from winter’s hostile art.
It's a white Bavarian Christmas in Berchtesgaden.
Celebrating the birth of Christ with a vengeance,
a housefrau serenades a captive audience,
a nun grimly serves tea. Smiles cost time and money.
The oldest woman of the village prefers TV to gossiping villagers.
Who can blame her? Others watched their homes destroyed.

Michael Jackson's face would support entire villages of old women.

6. Masked young men come down from the mountains
to beat the villagers so they will fully repent for the occasion,
only the offer of a drink will silence their sticks.
All in good fun, they said, breaking the photographer's hands.
All in good fun, said Hitler as crematoriums burned.
Did he drink schnaaps in a gold-rimmed glass too?
His mask slipped to reveal another mask mirrored beneath green infinity.
Some swear he was God. Some know snow angels melt in spring.
What of the Pope? Michael Jackson’s gone from Black to white.
Horse of a different color. Rainbow of a different name.

7. Cowbells, a saint's crozier, grim men, folded arms
in front of tannenbaum; a crêche child in a coffin of hay.
A man grimaces for the camera,
another smiles while a fool looks on,
a full complement to the theater of saints.
Will they ever escape the mountains?
Verlichting en Belichting. A crucifix of light
repenting for our sins. The camera looks on.

9/92 Eindhoven, Holland


see  PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION  (short v.)

Thursday, August 20, 1992

BLUE SEGMENT, WHITE CENTER


BLUE SEGMENT, WHITE CENTER
(Or why I didn't go to Russia to marry the singer)
                                    —from paintings by Kandinsky

The birds sing a blue tic-tac-toe with the moon
and ideals carve themselves into oars
to row us across the crest of the 20th century.
Myth and language are buried
in the algebraic equation of the sun,
and the artist's palette. Private symbols explode,
sawhetting across the industrial calligraphy of the sky.
Einstein was right: gravity bends light.
All this deliberation on the natural state
and the shadow of our eventual death
feeds my guilt; I am trapped into accepting
the evolution of air, the shifting of time,
grace notes on the telephone wires,
the piano's thoughts colliding with dust motes—

The hunger of a dream waking
a contextual tableau we punctuated
with molecular definitions
and artificial boundaries
between nations, peoples, lovers.
But I tire of explaining how the open-
armed lover on the Street of Painters  waits with shackles.
When the storyline gets tangled in barbed wire,
the politic wind merely teases it into shape;
it knows no boundaries, no border guards maintaining order
by calling it love, or sings arias til death do us part.
xox       is how the game is played out       
xxo            with illiterate kisses and hugs on ransom notes
xy                    so that chromosomes may evenly divide.

Blue segment, white center:
a flock of birds painted on the channel wall,
suspended flight across the water.
In the muddied clarity between shoreline
and hidden river, distant ships trick the eye
into believing they navigate the land too
their masts, thin reeds in the autumn wind.
Sinking its teeth upon a reflection
of the moon, how easily the swamp
is placated by its own origin,
its own death.

8/20/92
Schiphol, Amsterdam


Tuesday, August 4, 1992

Budapest Nights

Sultry Búdapest nights: as clichéd as it might sound, during the dog days of summer, 1992, I walked along a parapet of the fish market at sunset listening to the distant wild strains of someone playing gypsy violins.

I'd walked several miles from the Pest (Pesht) side of town all the way up to the top of the ancient walled hillfort of old Búda (Obúda). But as perverse luck would have it, my friend, theater critic, Ken Bullock, was with his Hungarian girlfriend on the Pest side of the river leaving me stranded.

It seems we were always on opposite shores of the Danube most of that summer. I wasn't picking up any survival Magyar, my German was non-existent and so I was pretty lonely. Búda and Pest are two separate cities conjoined by modern bridges. But this whole trip was filled with turned tables, burnt bridges, and switched alliances.

During most of August of 1992, I lived across from the Houses of Parliament on the Pest side of the river, while Ken was staying in a pied–à–terre near Boulevard Bartok in Búda proper. I loved looking at the Houses of Parliament, modeled after Westminister. The spires and steeples were constantly changing moods, it was like living within a Turner painting at sunset with the glassy Danube changing its négligé.

Calling Ken's cramped quarters a pied–à–terre was generous, Ken had a closet-sized flat, nothing more than a bookshelf and a murphy bed in a room so small you had to step into the hall just to change your mind. Let alone, your shoes. This was a country still suffering from the throes of communism. No amenities, no phones. And we were both living on frayed shoestring budgets.

My free housing arrangements in Búdapest had fallen through at the last minute and I was afraid of spending too much money before I got to Russia as I was planning on spending six months to a year in Leningrad and dollars were the only stable currency. So what was supposed to be cash for my meager food budget went into renting a dark little hovel of a room on the other side of the river. Walking to Ken's instead of taking the tram meant I had some spare coins for morning caffè latte. My only indulgence.

Búdapest is the city of romance, and I was there all alone, thinking—trying to imagine myself as the wife of a devoutly religious Russian man, living in Russia, leaving my homeland, my family and friends—perhaps forever—and I just couldn't get the pictures and reality to merge.

These were not exactly the thoughts of a woman ready to meet her lover after an absence of seven months. I was in limbo, feeling quite lost. But I'd been in limbo since my former boyfriend John Oliver Simon and I had split up—though the parting distance between us was longer than the length of the relationship.

But my friend Celia Woloch knew of such things because, as she said before I left home, "we are not swans" mating for life—though I swam in the Duna, the Donau, the Danube with the other wild birds.

The afternoons were ours—we often met at Santo's Espresso café on the utca across from my room. Ken is my polar twin; unable to commit to his girlfriend, we endlessly fulminated over the myriad problems between cultures in regards to marriage.

Ken said the idea of Hungary and America merging was not such a stretch of the imagination—his girlfriend spoke English, and is in the same business as Ken (the theater), and she has lived in California. Yet he was extremely cautious.

Obscure guardian angel—Ken said he wanted me to see an Eastern Block country that was full of joy and prosperous—not like the Slavic dolorosa I knew so well. And my folly seemed to be an extreme form of madness under the clarity of these extraordinary Budapest skies.

My plan was to Eurail from Hungary to Helsinki (changing trains in Amsterdam, visit college classmate Vinz van Neerven a week) and then from Helsinki, I would take the St. Petersburg train into Russia, and return to Amsterdam via Moscow to catch my flight home some six months later.

I was really in a quandary over what to do about Valera.

In my suitcases—I had myriad letters and gifts from Russians living in America, I had tele-communications devices and tele-connector wires, Mac programs, even an Apple printer to trade/barter with Valentine Yemelin for an airline ticket for Valera (Valeriy) Stupachenko to come to the States… But he had no desire to live in America. His world was the Leningrad Rok Opera and serving as a deacon in a church.

It all came down to valuta. Valuta. (Hard currency). Because I had so much luggage with me, I mailed three boxes of books and two boxes of luggage and cigarettes to Valera in St. Petersburg from Búdapest. Books, cigarettes and western clothing—especially jeans—were invaluable barter currency in the former USSR. Worth a small fortune. No guarantee it would ever arrive in Russia but I was tired of lugging it around.

Ken had left a day earlier for Vienna to visit another friend, I was learning to navigate quite nicely in Búdapest on my own—even without a language. So I was really on my own to navigate the trials of travel.

Right before the end of my Búdapest stay, I visited László Tabóri and Irén Kiss's home in Búda to co-translate poetry into English for a poetry periodical I edited with Herman Berlandt, Mother Earth News.

After my first visit to the Ukraine in 1989, I came back with so much translated Russian poetry, Herman and I had concocted the idea of doing a contemporary poetry anthology in newspaper format that covered the seven continents. (See Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost.)

László, a poet and playwright and his wife Irén, a poet teaching at the university, agreed to be the Hungarian editors for the Eastern Bloc issue of Mother Earth News.

We discovered that even when English-speaking poets translated poems into English, poems needed a second translation into poetic English. Metaphor doesn't travel well. That's where I came in. I had a real knack for wrestling their broken English into poetry.

Whenever possible, I worked directly with the poets and a translator together as well. So I found myself in otherwise improbable triadic situations all for the sake of poetry. Like at the Széchenyi baths or the Houses of Parliamant.

László and Irén had a big going-away party for me with all the intelligensci and literati of Búdapest in tow. A Rumanian woman playwright was trying to converse with me over a glass of Bull's Blood to no avail. Kiss Anna vagyok. So we slid through what languages we knew and out of the six languages we attempted, we found the only tongue we had in common was—Russian. I found myself apologizing to her in the language of the oppressor!

The famous Hungarian poet Anna Kiss had overheard me speaking in Russian and with that liberation of language, we found ourselves gleefully talking of poetry in halting Russian until we were utterly exhausted by the strain of thinking in languages not our own. Smiles and gestures became our conversation when our brains and tongues grew weary. We raised our glasses high.

I still love the Russians, and the language, and wouldn't trade my experiences in the Soviet Union for anything in the world. I hope my guilt over abandoning Valera Stupachenko won't cut me off from that experience. (Am I burning my bridges?)

Russia was my attempt to fill a vacuum in my own life— a parallel to what I experienced with John Oliver Simon's Latin American connections. And I gained some invaluable experiences from it—my writing took a giant leap forward. And I did create some excitement in my life, in fact, much, much more than I bargained for.

My college friend Vinz met me in Amsterdam what was to be a short week's stay. He often complained that I was always going to Russia, but I never came to visit him. So this time I was amending that problem. It was so wonderful to be in Amsterdam. I loved it and I could see how Peter the Great, who lived in Amsterdam for a while, was influenced by its architecture. St. Peterbourg (Leningrad) was modeled after Amsterdam.

But as the final day approached where I had to make my train reservation to Helsinki and St. Petersburg, the fears began to return full force; I was absolutely crazed. My friend Vinz was amazed when I announced I wasn't going to Russia as we went up the last escalator to the train station at the eleventh hour. More like 11:59.

I think that snap-decision was like a good game of poker, bluffing yourself (and your opponents) with a weak hand in order to win the jackpot by chance. When caught in a quandry, I often procrastinate to the last possible minute. And I often don't know how I feel or want until after the fact. Going into Russia was like that. But I'm getting ahead of my narrative. And out of sequence. In medias res.

Though I'd mailed several parcels on ahead, I was enroute to Russia with enough luggage to founder and bog a truck in the mud. My printer and laptop each had their own baggage requirements with converters and wallwarts the size and weight of bricks. Then there were my cameras. This was the pre digital camera age. I was NOT traveling light.

A lot of this baggage was my dowry—so to speak. I could sell most of it on the Black Market for ten times what it was worth stateside. I went several hours early to the Búdapest train station to get my Eurail pass stamped to Vienna where Ken was waiting with Claire.

But first, I needed to activate my Eurail Pass. So I got in line three hours early. And stood. And Stood. And Stood. Soviet "efficiency" still very much in operation in this former Eastern Block country; two minutes before my train to Vienna was to leave, I was still 5th in line at the ticket cassa.

Swearing like a sailor, I gave up trying to validate my Eurail ticket (ignoring warnings of severe penalties—your hair will fall out, we'll throw you from the moving train, excommunicate you, take all your money and revoke the ticket—threats didn't deter me). I decided to take my chances with the conductor because my friend Ken was meeting me on this train, not the later one. And we had no way of reaching each other. No phones. No addresses.

I grabbed my two wheelies laden with baggage and raced to the platform: the girl in front of me turned and said to her friend in English, "car 270." Where it was going, I wasn't sure. I didn't even have time to check. The gods must be crazy, I looked at my ticket, the numbers checked, I threw my backpack, my two bags (with computer, cameras and printer) and wheelie luggage rack onto the moving train as it pulled away from the platform.

I made a leap for the caboose, my waterbottle, loosened from my daypack, clunketed onto the spinning tracks, leaving me little time to ponder if I could really fight both gravity and physics at the same time. I was literally teetering on the brink of indecision.

The weight of the daypack on my back was literally pulling me backwards out the door. All those camera lenses. My luggage aboard, my corporal body was fighting both centrifical force and gravity at the same time. I thought, "Uh-oh, I'm not going to make it. I'm going to die horribly beneath a train just like Anna Karenina."

Running alongside the train, the train attendant literally lent me a helping hand, he shoved my protuding ass hard up the stairs and over my luggage, shutting the door behind me.

I lay sprawled in a heap over my luggage, stunned, taking a panicked personal inventory of luggage, passport, tickets, arms and toes.

MEETING SYLVIA TOTA

I stumbled into my train compartment which occupied by a henna-wigged Hungarian woman well on the other side of fifty, replete with false eyelashes and carmine claws. She was dressed like an overstuffed canary silk couch and had enough luggage to go into business retail perched on four of the six seats.

I asked to sit in the only vacant seat. Crabbily, she said in an accent more outrageous than the famous Gabor sisters, "No! Zis ees not smokingk compartment; zat's MY seat! I haf ticket." She waived it menancingly in my face.

But I was in a dangerous mood after having nearly fallen off the train as I boarded it, and with an adrenalin rush, I told her she couldn't have tickets for the whole compartment. She begrudgingly moved one of her Louis Vuitton makeup bags two inches closer to make room for me.

Trying to ameliorate our hostile beginnings, as Vienna was a long train ride away, I made some small talk, and eventually won her over. Unbelievably, we became friends by the time it took her goose liver (a whole, unadorned mountainous pale goose liver the size of Mt. Rushmore) sandwich to thaw; my pocketknife slicing neat pink cutlets from its generous slopes for breakfast.

As we began to unravel the theads that clothed our lives, Sylvia Tota told me that in 1954, when she was 19, she escaped Búdapest with her first husband via the underground railway. She described leaving home in the dead of the night, crawling through a hole under the border fence. Heavy midwinter fog, barbed wire, faces smudged with coal. Her face, too much a Jewish map for her to safely stay behind as the Soviets marched across her homeland.

They were smuggled into Austria, where she lived for a time in a refugee camp until safe passage was made on a ship destined for Canada. There weren't many places for Hungarian refugees to go. Canada was one safe harbour.

In Toronto, Sylvia learned English, she got a job waitressing, life was hard. She eventually divorced her Hungarian husband, leaving him for an Italian immigrant, which is how she wound up in New York, and then later, Miami. Her husband died so she was on her own, a wealthy widow.

Sylvia was a literary agent for the late Fedor Ágnes, a famous Hungarian writer who wrote "Sárga Nárcisz," and "Különös Karnevál," or "Strange Carnival," which she hoped to get printed in Hungarian, a challenge as Jewish Holocaust writing was banned in Hungary for so long.

Jewish Hungarian writers were truly a lost generation, lost to Hungary, lost to Israel, lost to America. She wanted to rekindle the flame, to get the book published in Hungary so that she could entice an American publishing house to print a bilingual edition.

In "Women’s Voices in Hungarian Holocaust Literature," Dr. Katalin Pécsi, Director of Education at the Holocaust Memorial and Documentation Center in Budapest, wrote, "Although quite a few personal memoirs had been published directly after the war, they did not become well known for some reason – so they did not become part of the Jewish canon either." (Alas, I found only this one link.)

Ágnes Fedor’s interview-style novel chronicles the story of her family living in hiding a la Anne Frank. Fedor’s article 'Bevilaqua' from the Esti Hírlap newspaper informs us that “Bela Borsody Bevilaqua was a patron saint of journalists… By chance, I think he saved my life…"
Fedor wrote, "When I interviewed Bevilaqua in 1939 about the origin of Hungarian Jews, whom he considered to be Khazar based on evidence of geographic and family names, he looked at me and asked, ‘Doesn't this anti-Semitic law apply to you as well?’ I nodded. ‘But you’re a typical Khazar!’ he said.
He stared at me drawing an inventory of my features—but he did so with the purpose of saving my life. Then he said, ‘With your features, complexion and bone structure, you could pass as a Slovakian maid servant. It’s only your eyebrows that you have to dye fair!’It was snowing in March 1944, just like today. I dyed my eyebrows fair in the danger of death. And I survived.”
Sylvia and I chitchat about the literary world, contracts, and rights as I was in Hungary to meet poets. I told her about one poet whose poems I'd worked on, polishing them into poetic English for an upcoming Mother Earth issue on Eastern Block poetry after Glasnost. I was to meet Gyula Kodolányi, who was Hungary's Secretary of State. I never did meet with him, except to briefly shake his hand as he descended the steps of the Hungarian House of Parliament, he was a very busy man—though I talked to his wife several times.

Everything moved slowly in Hungary—the manãna complex was alive and well. It took me a week just to get his phone number from Ken's friend, playwright László Tabóri, a former student of Kodolányi's. László's wife, Irén Kiss, also a poet, was a former editor of "The New Hungarian Review," and held Kodolányi's old job at the University. Irén informed me everything is corrupt in Hungary.

She told me Kodolányi married a famous poet's daughter; Gyula Setijis—I'd never heard of him either, but then, I know little about Hungary to begin with. I was armed with a few random poet's names and a lot of faith in optimism and sychronicity.

Irén said she had quit "The New Hungarian Review" because it was a communist party organ; she said they had an editorial parting of the ways. That was a huge blow as I had counted on getting poems from their archives.

Irén studied with Italian poet Edouardo Sanguinetti (whom I later met in Holland at Poetry International); we translated several of her poems done in the Italian style. Like in Russia, everything is 10 to 20 years behind the times. Kodolányi was paradoxically a member of the old guard, and of the new wave at the same time. I wanted to meet poets from the other side but I had trouble finding them.

Sylvia told me, "There's no money in writing. At least not in America". I said, "Tell me something I don't know." I was floored—nay my flabber was ghasted—when she told me a friend of hers was Isaac Bashevis Singer. Sylvia said, that when he received the Nobel prize for literature, she called him up to congratulate him and he despaired, "Here I am, a famous writer, and all I get is rejected manuscripts in the mail. This is no life for a writer." Amen to that.

When the conductor came into our carriage to check our tickets, Sylvia explained the circumstances to him in Magyar. I was relieved to have this unlikely angel come to my rescue.

The conductor gave me a closer look and remembered me. He laughed and said, "Yes, I remember her. I saw her board the train at the last minute with all her baggage. If I validate the ticket on the train there'll be a severe penalty, but she looks like a nice, poor girl. Tell her to take care of it in Vienna." And so I rode to Vienna for free. Since Sylvia was translating this, I had only her word—but I do know they had a good laugh at my expense about my ass literally hanging out of the train.

When I told Sylvia the story of going to Moscow to meet Valera (Valeriy) Stupachenko, the Russian pop singer of the Leningrad Rok Opera, and formerly of Singing Guitars—Payush Guitara, at first she said very yenta-ishly, "Don't marry him if he can't support you and take care of you. Marriage is a business transaction."

When I showed her Valera's picture, she looked at it a long time, perhaps remembering something of her own past. I told her of the unusual circumstances of how we'd met during the August coup/putchst aboard the Soviet research vessel, the Akademik Shirshov, she said, "I see. It's very romantic, just marry him, if you wait, you'll rationalize. Don't let it spoil by waiting."

Valeriy Stupachenko, Akademik Shirshov, SF, CA 1991

Bewildered and bolstered by her advice, I prepared to leave. We kissed three times, she saw me off the train as if I was family. I was remembering other trains, seeing off the Soviet students at Kiev, staying behind with my Ukranian lover Oleg Atbashian. Ken meeting me in both times in Vienna.

I am always grateful by how special it is to be met at the train or plane; like when Ken met me at the airport before my last trip to Russia. These passages, or transitions, travel are often lonely ventures. We never come back to what we were. And we will never pass this way again.

But Peter the Great's beloved city upon which he modeled Peter'burg, Amsterdam, the city of his youth, had other plans for me. My dreams of Russia dissipated into the Baltic mist.

Maureen Hurley, Amsterdam,

Thursday, July 9, 1992

DREAM VESSELS #39: The Whole World is a Very Narrow Bridge FIRST DRAFT


DREAM VESSELS #39: The Whole World is a Very Narrow Bridge  FIRST DRAFT

     —From a collage by Marsha Connell

Sea gulls and fairy terns wheel and turn 
over the bridge and its reflection
the river, a sentient being, skin of mist,
the pale mauve at sunset.
The vessel of our ancestors, the Anasazi,
has borrowed wings and the birds all point to the unnatural nest
where an egg glows like the moon, or the earth, or the sun.
The water near the dock is restless, wanting to move on,
the birds hold formation.
Is the porcelain egg a bowl to give birth to a winged pot?
Does it dream of flying over more peaceful waters
at an undeterminate time of beginnings or endings?
Everything depends upon how you read it.
A flat plane? Horizontal or vertical?
A trinity of birds has broken past
the imprisoned sky of the winged vessel
So many bars, the bridge, the nest, the dock—all to confine us
The pot is full, round, fecund as a nine-month woman,
decorated with the symbols of life,
the Greek key, the labyrinth.
The minotaur is asleep,
the legs of gulls like small brush strokes
against their fanned tails, are they guarding their eggs
or are they opportunistic, about to descend
upon an unguarded nest for a meal?
Cannibalistic creatures.
Nature is non-moral, yet we are shocked by such notions
as if there were some significance
buried there for us to glean from.
We are only repelled by the notion
because the metaphor is too obvious,
too potent, this is why it repels us.
But birds are the messengers, they know the density of air.
Only in rare dreams do we join them, testing our wings.
I remember finding a baby bird on the garden path
of an obscenely decadent hotel, the Waikaloa,
the Disneyland for adults.
An immigrant starling too young to leave the nest
the distress calls of its mother, real enough.
I was caught between contempt
for opportunistic non-native species
who do so much damage to our crops,
but then it struck me that we too, are opportunistic immigrants
plundering the nest of something infinitely more fragile.
So many paradises succumb to corporate taming.
We are the ones responsible,
the ones who wander through massive hotel lobbies
in order to quench our unending thirst.
The egg is not in a nest, it is the illusion of a nest,
circular, familiar, the egg is suspended, perhaps rising, 
or falling down the bottomless mesh tube,
a flume, a conduit churning to the ground in arabesque formation.
We are flooding other countries with our technology.
It clings to us like opportunistic burrs
brushed off in a likely spot to colonize.
The ascension of the vessel into the sky, a resurrection.
Perhaps it rose out of the tomb too early
searching for a rushed spring,
the mesh tube, the opening to the tomb.
But it is not Christ seeking the trinity above our heads,
the pot, by nature, is female. The ascent of She,
winged into the cacophonous air, the crepuscular air.
The underworld is of our own choosing.
We invented it to appease our guilt.
I read about a curious notion that we cannot see the parallel
between the religions we were raised in
and this is why we must read the myths from other cultures.
We tend to think of our own upbringing as fact, not metaphor.
Yet here it is again and again, the metaphor
rising from the underworld
called Persephone, called Inanna, called Demeter,
called Isis, called Astarte, called Christ.
The egg must be rising because the pot is ascending,
free of the underworld at last, it metamorphoses,
or did it give birth to the egg? Completeness of evidence
and the procreative urges to further the species at any cost.
The starlings who rob the nests of others,
like the missionaries in Hawaii, governments—
each with a vested interest to further the self.
Group ego and fear of the void
that is sure to follow death and extinction.
Surely there must be more to life
than the nest, the starling thought to itself,
before it plunged to the earth, pinfeathers still sheathed.
Surely there must be more to living
than this death, this ceasing to be,
early people thought as they placed flowers on the newly dead.
Surely this is a metaphor for something else
Surely ours is the enlightened path,
each tribe proclaiming, uttering the first “I am”
but as each proclaimed their identity,
they separated from the larger whole,
thus spontaneously developing creed and dogma.
The multiple “I am’s” echoed around the world
shattering the dawn,
self-expulsion leads to the center of things,
the feeling of either being on the outside
seeking the center of the universe,
or making the center the place where you stand.
You conceived it into being.
I am, therefore I am, came long before the Cartesians.
Every revolution has its own prison
because of the nature by which it was construed—in extremes.
Action/reaction nether being the center of things.
I am/ I am not.
Thus the maws of the void open up
to swallow us whole before our time.
“Is”ness.
And so the birds wheel and turn like dancers,
or do dancers mimic the birds?
And what of the snake who listens
to the ground with its whole body?
Ear to the ground with its ribs,
listens to the dark wisdom of the earth?
Of life and death, of zygotes and blastophores.
Hot ash bonfires, cremation, and hidden fecundity.
The pot rises carrying its precious burden to the sky
so the air will know another kind of kin,
seeks union with the great unanswerable void,
and the questions that will never be answered.
This is the way of things. Monotones,
the black lip of despair, the pot speaks to the air.
I resist the notion of Ariadne but she’s there.
The mesh becomes the web, the bridge leads to the other side,
the first egg, fallopian tubes spider, reptile,
human, fish, all arise from the egg.
Symbol of Christ, the web, Peter’s net,
in ova, in the egg, unprepared.

 Summer 1992
DREAM VESSELS —from collages by Marsha Connell


DV files 40-46; 48-51 
were never transcribed from freewrite
DV files 47 & 52 empty.  Hope I have hard copy.