Sunday, March 15, 1992

FOR THE ANCIENT MARINER (Beyer ditty)

An occasional poem for George Beyer from the Rebstocks

No coyness is needed to introduce the slayer of dragons
The swashbuckler is restless, and philosophical flagons
Spill the time-tested aspiring Bayer wisdom of the ages
Desire: mere pearls before rime are courageous adages,
Say the sages. Old flames. Love knows no limits, no bounds,
Nothing less profound than your heart resounds.
For it takes lengthy experienceómore than that of accolades
To measure, so brilliantly, the full breadth of your decades,
As you celebrate with passion, your 80-odd years
(If I may take the liberty to explain); it appears
That nothing, except breath, comes as easily as praise
Issuing forth (in arrears) for our man Beyer. We are all ablaze
Speaking in heroic couplets, and blossoming forth from our lips
Loose quips capable of sinking even the most stalwart of ships.
Harken to the stern! Damsels in need of rescuing ahoy!
No need to dwell on those lost opportunities of the past.
For you, a life-time supply of rubbers to curl your toes fast,
To make your knees weak; this is no blanket condom-nation.
(Now, try and explain yourself out of this ticklish situation.)
And so to the ends of the earth, we send you French Letters
With postage due (in the hopes that you may still find something better
To do with your time than to listen to those silly old nursery rhymes.)
Rise to waken and take your rising slow (in dubious paradigms)
For the gentle cock that percheth in thy lady's chamber is naught
About tough old roosters or gamey hens ready for the stew-pot.
These jib lines are for sale, no insurance pitches to gum up the works.
A package of life-preservers (what the doctor ordered) lurks
Waiting to set the infinity of 8 on its side, and zero on its head!
The big eight-oh oh oh . . .take these safes to thy daily bed. . .
(Oops! I think I've said more than I ought to,
A good thing this is Novato, not Kalamazoo.)
Time's a wasting, me matey, to celebrate the beauty of her.
Keep a stiff. . .er, upper lip, don't be a heart-breaker.
Stalwart ship, raise thy mizzenmast, let the wind play
Out your sails, for at the ends of the earth
there be dragons to s(lay).

4/17/92
1st draft 3/15/92

(This was a commissioned poem for a birthday roast...)

Monday, March 9, 1992

Journal entry, 3/6/92, art opening, Women Depicting Women


 3/6/92, I went to my  art opening, Women Depicting Women, at the Tweets gallery, on Mendocino Avenue, in Santa Rosa,  and it was jampacked, I couldn’t move, let alone see any of the work. My Volcano Goddess Erotica: Madame Pele was very visible above another photo. But I was disturbed by all the people. The women’s community really turned out for the event. That’s a euphemism for lesbians who are all checking out all the other women. It’s a pick-up scene. A meat market. I guess I’m disturbed by the deliberate separatism of the sexes, I don’t want to be identified by the women’s community, or the goddess community for that matter.

Anyway, I come home very depressed. I am missing Valera, and I am listening to the Leningrad Rok Opera, Juno and Avos, I’m thinking in Russian and in Spanish, bypassing English completely, wondering what language to think in, mixing them all up.

I rented two movies, Christy Brown’s My Left Foot, and Nicholas and Alexandra. I drink a glass of red wine for my cramps, I’m in the bleeder’s hut. I remember my grandmother telling me about Christy Brown, showing me his paintings all done with his left foot. Irish and Russian. It always comes back to that. Mining the past. Does it really take five Hail Marys to set the souls free? King of the bonfire. Wickerman still burns. Christy’s first word, Mother, and I am crying for I don’t know what. My grandmother had me picking up marbles with my toes to strengthen them, she said. I learned dexterity with my toes drawing, painting, picking up buttons, preparing for the future.

Thursday, March 5, 1992

Dreaming in yellow


Did you know that the molecules of darkness are transparent? Reach into your pocket and grab some so that we can begin the story. In the beginning it was dark, darker the night. The ancestors of color were undifferentiated, they hadn’t yet migrated. The ancestor of yellow swam towards the beginning of time. Yellow lives in the hearts of mustard flowers, and in the feathers of songbirds. Canaries know yellow best. Sent down into the darkness of mines to warn the miners of poisonous gasses, yellow is the color of warning. Yellow is the buttercup held under the chin of a child in spring, yellow is butter’s secret. It is the first floral reminder of spring. It is the sun’s reminder to the earth in winter not to forget about the spring. Everyone knows those who will be born in those who will die will know at least two names of darkness. The pavement under new houses becomes a name for darkness. Under the pen, the space between the paper and the ink is a place where darkness hides. Green is the secret desire of yellow. Grass seeds buried under the earth dream in yellow.

3/5/92

LATE AT NIGHT I GET CALLS

LATE AT NIGHT I GET CALLS
          —for Igor Tischler

Late at night I get calls from strangers
who speak good English with thick Russian accents
from places like North Carolina, New York, Iowa—
They are homesick, or want to send packages of shoes
to daughters left behind in Moscow, Leningrad, Cherkassy.
In this way, I find out about my friends in Russia—
via the Slavic grapevine. It's always the same news:
times are hard, life is a struggle, the price of bread in every conversation.
Igor says: I get homesick for America when he is already living here.
He has grown used to conveniences, the quality of food, the sameness.
He says: in every store the bananas are in the same corner.
Here, I don't have to worry about where to find them.
Natasha says her family is fine, they eat lots of bread now—
when they can get it. The lines are longer than ever.

I think of all the dried bread in every Russian apartment,
so glad I didn't throw out Valera's stored bread
when I cleaned the cabinets—meal bugs, stale food.
Guilty of what little food I did toss—bugs are protein too.
Cereal laced with insects and mouse shit sticks in my craw.
In America, I'm not reduced to such choices.
The green canned meat he wouldn't let me throw out,
or the furry sausage saying, it's good. Vicusna. Hotchish?
In America we throw out food that's still good.
In Russia, any food is considered spoils;
a people constantly at war with bureaucracy.
Booty in the form of dried bread, a bank account.
Daily bread to feed the birds. There is no equation to be made.
In Russia, all of life is punctuated with lines.

Late at night I talk to friends of friends who I've never met,
we share something in common.
Always they say: Khome veesit our khaus in Ameerika!
And I know they mean it—
their doors to their hearts always unlocked
for the potential future friend.
Because in this way, they will survive.
Friends are everything. Isolation is death.
Better off in Siberia, or Magadan with friends.
Here, we are voluntary exiles, xenophobes used to the soft life,
we slam doors on our own thumbs as a matter of course.
The more Igor and I discuss American and Russian psyches,
the more we discover we are alike,
having traded places somewhere during the first thaw
of the Cold War. The final thaw, irrevocably.

Censorship comes to mind. Michael Jackson's crotch.
Igor laments Edward Albee, the American Chekhov
is unknown in his own country.
Those who recognize his name ask: is he still alive?
Albee met Igor with a bouquet of flowers at JFK airport at 6 am,
easing his transition into the den of iniquity. Albee? I'm stunned.
Flowers for the death of one way of life and the birth of another.
But what of all the daughters of Russia waiting for American shoes?

Igor says: I do fine here, but sometimes, late at night,
I go crazy with fear. What he can't do is send shoes to his daughter.
Like Vadim who keeps buying more shoes on sale,
because the others have become too small.
Neither can send shoes home: the package is small,
do you know of anyone going to Russia? 

I say: Yes. I will ask, so they can ease back to sleep,
knowing the storyline by heart, how hell is named,
with shoes, becomes tangible. It is empowerment.
Here, they have money to buy shoes, no way to send them.
The choices are: to stay in Russia together as a family
and have nothing, or to escape to America's golden streets
and send things to the family left at home.
Most never want to go back. The well-muscled
American night is filled with longing for homeland,
all those orphan shoes walking in the night
towards all the daughters of home.

3/5/92

COLLAGE POEM

COLLAGE POEM

Blossoms under a full moon,
stone hard; thunder comes crawling
across the sound barrier of clouds
as if its companion light
were trapped in deep summer,
dreams remembering the past
as blue as the thoughts of fish
waiting to be water, becoming water,
telling me of separation and of darkness.
The ocean tides pull at my heart,
shimmering storm waiting to be air,
becoming the air.

3/5/1992

Monday, March 2, 1992

Journal entry, 3/2/92 Poetry Reading, Center of the Universe, Sonoma


3/2/92 God, it’s only 8 AM and I’m sleepy. I’ve got an interview at 1 PM and I need to schedule teaching at Monte Rio school at 3:30, then I have a reading in Sonoma at 7:30 PM and I don’t feel well. Horrible headache yesterday didn’t help. I’m a little chilled, like I’m coming down with something.

I read at the Center of the Universe café, there were a few more people this time, but this time I was off, I couldn’t quite match the words with the tongue, but Jim Bird said, The emotion in the intellect were there. I felt like I could’ve read a telephone book, or random words, the emotions carry the poems, people like my words, even strangers. The strange young man who inhabits the camps of the Grateful Dead, listens intently. I read for a half an hour, but I’m annoyed with a sudden open mic. foisted right in the middle of my set instead of at the end, as planned.

One young man wanted to read five minutes, then someone else had to read another five minutes, because the first one did, and so on, etc. So much for the two minute rule. Or Andy Warhols 15 seconds of fame. The poetry is pure crap. We all have to begin somewhere. The audience disappears. Open mic readers have had their five minutes of fame, the rest of the audience is bored to tears, so they all leave. I was terribly annoyed by the interruption, since it takes me so long to reach my stride.

Anyway Allegra Broughton, SSU Expressive Arts classmate, played music before I read my second set, which was lovely. At least this time the audience didn’t disappear. Her uncle is James Broughton, the Northbeach poet

Jim and Nancy went out for a drink at the Sonoma Hotel afterwards. I get fed dinner and I was paid $10 for the reading. Jim brought me a glass of Chardonnay afterwards. I could have used an entire bottle. I read entirely from my Invisible Boundaries manuscript, so strange and different from my old work, the rhythms are not the same anymore. Paul Mariah gave me an ammo box for my truck, something for the long ride home?

Sunday, March 1, 1992

RINGSIDE SEATS TO A BURNING

RINGSIDE SEATS TO A BURNING

I take photos of a house burning exercise,
Bob Rozette, Graton fire department medic
automatically slips into the vernacular,
as if to lessen the burden of reality.
Yeah I got cooked, we had a real barbecue earlier.
Though the fire is real, the exercise
is a test, a training ground.
One man, # 20, examines his melted helmet.
Bob explains how his clothes,
three layers of jeans material
are woven with a special cloth, keep out the heat.
If someone sweats, it will turn into steam,
thus burning him, he explains.
The house is engulfed in flames,
the water pipes in the shower
emerge from the carnage.
Young girls with babies,
and their firemen husbands
picnicking on the grass, watch,
ringside seats to a burning.
The final wall falls,
then the wooden foundation,
the steps are the last to go.

3/1/92
Forestville