Thursday, April 30, 1992

POEM FOR LA Rodney King riots


Please open
our hearts
to the earth
‘s only hope.
My heart is heavy.
Anger robs the streets
& the skies weep
for rain.

April 30, 1992

Rodney King riots

found scrawled on a typed poem, Phrases of the Moon,  dated 4/23/93
which suggests it was written a year after the event, but it's too immediate. I could've been revising it at a reading.

Tuesday, April 21, 1992

Salmon Fishing, Peacock Gap, San Rafael (photo) need story

Not sure when this was, I wrote  The Mother of Beauty in April, 1992, so it was around then. I was invited out to join the residents of the Forestville Home on a salmon fishing trip by a local contractor. We left from Peacock Gap in San Rafael. I did a story for The Paper, but haven't found the tear sheet, or the journal entry. They all got seasick, the entire boatlload was barfing. So did I. We went out to Potato Patch Shoals outside the Golden Gate, and the sea was unusually rough. By the time I caught that salmon, my first deep sea fish, I couldn't care less. But I had to reel it in on my own. Later that night we ate it. Divine.

Sunday, April 19, 1992

Sunday Morning, Berth 1-11, Sausalito

         —for Kathy Evans, it was her houseboat

Sunday morning—not the Wallace Stevens kind rising on extended wing—I awaken in a white room, the houseboat moaning and rocking on the mud flats. A lone curlew daubs the tidal palate, jacksonpollacking the air with his spatulated beakness. The last time I slept on a houseboat, I was child—the names pleased my ears, a sing-song: tiki junction tiki junction tiki junction. Last night I dreamed the water was sweet, and I stirred it with my feet. Black bees came to drink from it, burrowed beneath my skin, the darkness a refuge. I couldn’t walk, my feet bloated with hairy bees—like burrowing birds or children— seeking entrance through the small blisters where I’d walked too far, too fast. I squeezed them out: what of the stingers and the legs and wings left inside?

Last night’s love came in small o’s, too late for the rubber, and I worry about conceptual art of squeezing bees from the soles of my feet. We trundled the double bed where a divorce has severed the sex from the psyche, and cleaved emotion from the arteries and venous matters. The honeyed odor of sex is stronger in a cloistered room. Kathleen’s mother calls, wants to know why a strange man with a Russian accent answers her on a Sunday morning.

Many women poets I know live alone in white rooms. I want to write a poem in each of their rooms; the undocumented lives behind the walls of writing. With her divorce nearly final, Kathleen says she can barely look at her houseboat poems, She says, “We can't afford to but each other out, life is selling us short.” She manages to stuff the essence of a life, her four children of a one-room studio; birds have begun to build nests in the eaves. Life goes on, blindly unaware of ideas like fairness, or sea planes asleep on the mud. My lover’s cigarette seeks the kindred air of gray sky and oceanic debris, of freeways and houses on ancient sea cliffs anchored against an eon of low tides, the seas are rising. No neap about it. The sea plane, a bee with yellow stripes of mixed imagery. I'm still afraid of the bees trapped in the pockets of my undertoes and rising tide.

On the dock, a small potted pine snags the ancestral whirl of H.D.’s pines. Incandescent remnants of holidays spent alone, or with the children, in the separate enclaves of poetry, because the basic structure of family is altered. (Sacrificial, like all the rest. Did I tell you about my father?) Oleg rises to the occasion, only to deny it, but this morning I take it, thinking of modems, and “handshakes;” the peculiar electronic orgasm of computers exchanging data via the phone lines, and malapropisms. Strange songs. What would our ancestors, the primordial blue-green algae, make of this development? I shake his cock, a friendly offering across the celibate bed of concealed weapons and thighs. It seems Oleg and I are more enemies than lovers—but the rare moments we disarm ourselves before sleep, are flowered, like the egret walking elegantly across the unstable mud flats.

Thinking of all those dead bees trapped in my feet, I cried and remembered how, in the dream, we sat on the edge of our seats as the car managed to drive up the angle of declination each time. Right before the crest, the fear of falling backwards into space volleyed the darkness behind our heads. A final refuge to be savored when it seems we can't go on. Each time the car crested the hill, we turned back the way we’d come, only to start at the bottom again, in a perpetual Möibius strip-teaser of time, the snow endlessly melting towards the renewal of spring. Does it matter if I don't know the driver? Horses followed the car, their fleeting beauty arched across the sky, my sorrel mare pulsed against all that green. Will I spend the rest of my dream life purgatorially searching for that damned mare who was allergic to hobbles, ropes and barbed wire fences in the hills of Forest Knolls? She's been dead longer than my half-life, still I dream of finding her. She's not lost, she knows exactly where she is grazing those hills, achingly familiar, out of childhood.

The questions seem mundane in daylight—why write at all? Small epiphanies made even smaller under sunlight. Those rare moments etched in our memories, yearning for a time that will never come, and so, like the burdened oxen laboring through our waking moments, we glance into the déjà vu of what if, if, if. . . I gave up everything and moved here to live on the cradle of the sea, incunabula at the intersection of land and water, delta triangle of cunt from which the word “queen” stems.

Someone advises me to learn to grieve for what I’ll never have. We've opened the burden of living together among ourselves, other wives and children. Resentment draws the familiar longitudinal line in the bed at night, this is why it's easier to draw a truce in a bed not our own. The relative freedom from constraint. Tender enemies: barnacles and mussels prepare for exposure to air by drawing inward. Suspended from the anchor ropes, and from the sides of barges, they've learned to adapt to the harsh aerobic reality of air, while all we’re capable of is learning the fine art of dressing wounds.

Oleg says the word mussel is midia in Russian, muscled mice in the tree of tongues, no Babylon to be expelled from here. The word “paradise” is the walled garden of the desert. When the Slavs came to the Black Sea it was already occupied. Midia, milish, the mealy-mouthed sweetness of bees, melissa.  What media is your art? The medium is the message—crystal balls, and computer chips. The technology we use to write with: silica divines the information, Jason's golden fleece and the dead lion with honey in his bones; parthenogenesis of words from one life form to another. Stromatolites, and the first “I am” life uttered. We read about a crack smoker makin' Jason, the ultimate orgiastic quest. We evolved out of the mud for this? Flowers stranded on the mud flat (the bay pulls its silken sheet from the bed slowly, as if unveiling a masterpiece, slowly), a vermilion gash; who would throw flowers into the sea? Surely not the just married, or the newly dead. Who, in the night, had such hope, or despair, to give the sea this gift? What lions alive in the fleeced carcasses of bees springs from the loins of our days?

While we stretch metaphor to its limit, each new crenulation of word, where ideas rub shoulders, becomes clichéd the moment it's conceived. Forever divining the spirit of word in purgatorial surroundings, we are headhunters in search of our own heads, cannibalistic dreams are a natural phenomenon in the New World. Cannibal, cannabis. Prospero's daughter in love with the island of Caliban. Canvas, the hemp sails and rope-that took Columbus to the New World—E. Cannabis Unum. The quincentennial is upon us. Airearthfirewater, and the fifth, quintessence. Take the Fifth. Five hundred years of blue-eyed love among the tribes. Mi lengua, mi Llorana, La Malinche, my sister, my voice, who spoke in tongues until the blue-eyed mestizos fell from her like stars to populate the cities of the sky. We are gathering from the four corners of the earth; she is calling us home. The trough in the mind made by this houseboat in berth 1-11, a canyon, a small river seeks the blood mother, and our beginnings. Who came first? Alpha or omega? Omicrons, small o’s as we face the second coming. Umlauts and epsilons. The invention of letters on the mud flats is left to the crabs calligraphing their way to safety.

Kathleen says she writes in order to keep her sanity. The mellifluous saxophone upstairs seeks union with the human voice within the channels of the ear. Coltrane? A friend with the angel’s name gave up singing after 15 years because her voice migrated to Wagnerian dimensions, and she hated the idea; her voice, a betrayal. Now she answers corporate phones at Apple, and lets poets buy computers with her company discount so we can continue to bite off words from the spoken air of conspiracy underfoot, and divine words onto the page via the handshakes and addresses of electronic media. I just bought a scanner. We can theoretically scan anything, even our own body parts and enter them into the electronic arena where the only thing real is on off-off off-on-off on on ommmm.

This battle of the sexes continues to operate between the sheets, making no distinction between the lines of gender, telephone lines, coke lines, the shore line, midline, the line of declination, the screen phosphor line, another line fed to us from the psyche, the gods, or another man or woman wanting something other than commitment between church and state, war and peace, enemy and friend. The helical line of the electromagnetic spectrum—where anything from radio to color bands is explainable to the staircase of DNA unwinding the haploid life, is explainable—is drawing the line, is toeing in; the shortest distance, points of recognition—the bee line, the perspective line, the song lines at Walkabout.

The earth's name is Gaia. Last night I dreamed Kathleen told a man her other name was Gaia, and she was smiling, alone and ruddy-cheeked, loveliness in a white room suspended above the squalor of mud, the tide going out, something larger than love coming in. Why should she give her bounty to the dead? In this way I understood we are all imperfect transmitters and receivers—pain is not interference from deep space, it is a conduit that allows us a glimpse, the curtain drawn aside for a moment, we see in the mirrored air, a little beyond the image of what we call “self,” the first “I am” we cannot help but utter in the plasmic void of what we are, and what is to be, becoming literal in this littoral zone. 

Easter Sunday, April 19, 1992



Finally, she read those poems as if he were a stranger,
writing of angst as the tao of love, to another stranger—
The noun (or is it verb?) “lover” resting casually on his lips
was not for her. Who was she? She dreamed he was a double-
edged murderer, and she was the guilty first-time accomplice—
If the truth leaks out, she'll be an accessory to the crime.
Was it the tangled clothes in the dryer that betrayed them,
or the small fish in the jaded surf at Puerto Escondito?
Shesaw him coming down the steps holding two poems.
Naked beneath her coat, she hid in the crowded bank lobby,
he found her on the blue bench by the fountain
saying, “A burden has been lifted from your back.”
A hag sat on the wall with a basket of black-painted eggs—
he reached for the one she held with the bluejay on it,
she smashed it on the pavement, saying,
“Last time I gave you an egg, all hell broke loose.”
She dreamed her father asked for forgiveness after 20 years of silence.
He offered her rubies, she knew that rubies must be kept warm
to keep their color alive. He held a ring of ashes toward her.
To complete the goddess dance before the congress of pontiffs,
She was given three syllables to sing, no melody,
the floor pattern of a sine curve to emulate, no instruction.
The dancer said : the movement and melody are already within you.
She dreamed she was given three sacred cloths; a black, a white one,
and a red one that read: an arrow in the wall.
If they touched the ground, the power would be lost.
She was given back a transcendental belief in love,
She musn't let go of truth, or the magic will die.
In the search of the genuine, she is transparent,
filling this courtyard with her own words—
All the poems in the world can't heal the breech between them,
& there is nothing left to wound except the memory of pain,
intransient as the annoying halo of gnats
they thoughtlessly sweep from their eyes and mouths.

Easter Sunday
San Pedro

7/17/2014  ever so slightly revised supporting cast of words (no nouns or verbs were harmed in the process). I must've been with Celia Woloch. We were BFF in those days, but forever never lasts... I've a photo of us in a cafe as flashdance wenches.

Saturday, April 18, 1992


                                     —for the mongoloid

Musing over complexities of love gone wrong,
of race, of gender, how the domestic warfront
is a soiled microcosm of the larger mirror,
I avoid the mongoloid man walking down Main Street,
who unconsciously slicks back his blond hair.
In that gesture, I could see the father was probably vain,
a lady-killer, but genetics betrayed him.
The shadow of beauty abandoned guilt behind the moon.
In that gesture, it came to me, how his face
held all the elements of race—who we are.
I want to tell the anthropologists—wait!
we've had the model in front of us all along.
I want to tell the xenophobes and the racists,
his face is that of our ancestors.
Caught on the street in the morning sun, 
unadulterated love walks among us.
How easily we make invisible
something common, holy and profound.
Can we still learn to emulate his heart;
he who loves so unreservedly, 
and wears the face of us all?

Forestville, CA

3/92? first draft?

I took a lot of flack for using the word mongoloid but changing it to Down's Syndrome didn't work, and mongoloid  replaced the truly derogatory word retard. So I quit reading it in public. Sometimes the old words fit better. It is not used derogatorily. Sometimes being politically correct is an ill-kempt linguistic burden. So it stays. stet. For now.

I avoid the mongoloid man walking down Main street,
I avoid the man with Down's Syndrome walking down Main street,

a possible workaround:
I avoid  the man wearing the mask of Down's Syndrome  
(but I'd need to flesh out the next line)
walking down Main Street in Forestville, 
(adding Hwy 116—now that is really disruptive!)

The Dutch translation was an ascii mess. I need hard copy. Interestingly enough, mongoloid is not considered derogatory in Dutch.

      —aan de mongool 

Peinzend over hoe ingewikkeld het is als de liefde verkeerd loopt,  
over ras, over geslacht, hoe het oorlogsfront thuis  
een bevuilde microkosmos is van de grotere spiegel,  
let ik niet op de mongool die over de Hoofdstraat loopt,
die zonder er verder op te letten zijn blonde haar glad strijkt.
In dat gebaar kan ik zien dat de vader waarschijnlijk ijdel was,
Deen lady-killer maar erfelijkheid liet hem in de steek.
De schaduw van schoonheid verliet schuld achter de maan.
Door dat gebaar dacht ik ineens, dat het gezicht
alle elementen van ras vasthoudt—wie we zijn.  
Ik wil de anthropologen zeggen—wacht!
we hebben het model aldoor pal voor ons neus gehad.
Ik wil de vreemdelingenhaters en de racisten zeggen,  
zijn gezicht is dat van onze voorvaderen.
Naakt op straat in de morgenzon
loopt onvermengde liefde hier rond.
Hoe makkelijk maken we onzichtbaar  
wat zo gewoon is, heilig en diepgaand.
Kunnen we nog leren zijn hart na te volgen;
hij die zo zonder terughouding liefheeft
en het gezicht van ons allemaal op heeft?

Maureen Hurley, Forestville, CA`
Nederl. vert. Vins van Neerven, 4/93