Thursday, April 30, 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.

Wednesday, April 29, 1992

POEM FOR LA Rodney King riots


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

Tuesday, April 21, 1992

Journal entry, 4/21/92 housesitting at Simone and Toni’s, Bluebird morning

4/21/92 I am housesitting at Simone and Toni’s, it’s a blessed escape from the clutter of my house for someone else’s clutter. I’m escaping the distraction of my creepy new neighbor. So many wonderful places to write, but the dog won’t leave me alone. How I hate to be pestered in the morning. So I tossed the cat out. The dog circles me every minute in the house. Toni probably walks her each morning.

All the outside chairs face towards the house. I don’t want to look inward, I want the horizon. First year of decent rains after several seasons of drought, the oatgrass is reaching skyward. Too bad the hot tub is broken, I could spend part of each day submerged in this beauty. Yesterday I managed to complete my CPITS end of year report, divvying out matching money etc.

Yesterday I awoke to bluebirds banging on my window, striking the glass. All that extraordinary blueness of sky and rust colored bellies. I read once that most of bird feathers are optical prisms. It’s a question of refracted light, not a pigment. Their blueness is ethereal. I cannot imagine mere pigment entering into it. No matter what I did, those two bluebirds dove at the window. I darkened the blinds. Nothing worked. I realized that the window was a mirror and the pair were defending their territory against themselves. They were their own worst enemy.

I remember seeing bluebirds when I was young making that visual comparison with time. I used to confuse them with robins, both with their red breasts. I thought they were related, Or that they were the girls. Then came Rachel Carson’s silent spring.

And since then I’ve seen bluebirds twice in my life. Once, years ago in Chico, I rode horseback in a meadow on John Crawford’s red mare, Bluebirds swooping over me. another time out near Bridgeport with Lee Perron, we were hiking and came across a little upland meadow stretched between the framework of hills. The bottom of a gully, really, like those hanging basket lakes of the Sierras. And there they were filling the air with their blue loveliness. They took my breath away as they do each time I see them, because they have been such rare birds in my life. It’s like a glimpse back into my childhood.

I’m always searching for lost memories to mine, as if my inarticulate memories, layered beneath  years of time and neglect, held some basic truths. Finding that, I find a part of myself. I have no way of knowing which thoughts are pure, the innocent observations, without form or structure, or these gleaned from the nuances of an educated mind. Certainly they are more sophisticated.

But the purity of bluebird magic, that breathlessness occurs only in hindsight, using the sophisticated tools of language, I search for a way to describe what I must’ve felt that isn’t a cliché. Bluebirds reduced to cliché, associated with happiness, fill me with inexplicable joy and I don’t know why, other than the invisible link to my past, their disappearance for years, until I forgot I ever saw bluebirds.

It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s before I saw them again. 25 years I waited for them, I looked for them, not finding them anywhere. 25 years I searched for joy, and found other birds commonly filling the air. A bluejay is cousin to the crow, not a songbird. They knife the air with their coarse call, only in flight do they embellish and scallop it.

I do not know the song of the bluebird, but in my darkest hour, a student wrote a poem, the song of the bluebird to the explosion of the bomb, darkness is fleeting, light is eternal. How could she know of such things in fifth grade? Even she doesn’t know their song, though she writes of it.

The bluebird holds some evocative mystery, though its very name seems clichéd, but if we rename the bluebird, some of the mystery would be lost, we’d have to reinvent it. How did this bluebird become linked with happiness? its song, its color, its habitat, harbinger of spring, Sentinel of joy, diving at my window.

Arise, arise, it is day, don’t squander the preciousness of it, the metaphor seems to say. But it was really just two feisty birds defending their own turf from strangers. Territorial imperative and delusion, the urge to nest, the urge to mate, to raise young is of primal concern. Delusion and joy, seeking something irrefutably lost, was it ever there. Joy is subtle if you look at it head on, it disappears, only the absence of joy heightens it when it comes. Like those bluebird feathers, the illusion of blue, of joy as seen from the corners of the eye and never head on.

This morning I came looking for the bluebirds and found only a disappointment of barn-swallows instead.

Sunday, April 19, 1992

Sunday Morning, Berth 1-11, Sausalito


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

READING FROM THE SCULPTURE GARDEN ANTHOLOGY

READING FROM THE SCULPTURE GARDEN ANTHOLOGY

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?
She saw 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.

4/19/92
Easter Sunday
San Pedro

Saturday, April 18, 1992

THE MOTHER OF BEAUTY WALKS AMONG US

THE MOTHER OF BEAUTY WALKS AMONG US
                                     —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?

4/18/92
Forestville, CA

Sunday, April 12, 1992

Journal entry, 4/12/92, Green Fuse reading

4/12/92, Green Fuse reading. Yesterday, tired to the point of exhaustion, I left the Green Fuse reading at half-time, having not even read my poem. I just didn’t care anymore. Besides, there was a typo in it. I went home, nauseous from fatigue. I was in bed by 9:30 PM and I slept nearly 12 hours, and today, having slept nearly twice as long as I have on average for the past several nights, I have insomnia, watching movies into the wee hours. Tomorrow will be horrible. But channel 9 is playing movies until dawn. I called Valera Stupachenko in Leningrad, but no answer. The rule of thumb, if I can get through, he’s not at home.

Sunday, April 5, 1992

Reading at the Sculpture Gardens, 4/5/92

“Just never settles in the house of a woman not ready for the sun.“– Ellen
I was one of four readers, I haven’t read here since 1986 with John Oliver Simon. They said I read well. Nice to put the faces with the names. I get lots of strokes and compliments. Ellen who goes only by her first name because she’s been married so many times, said it was nice to be able to put the name in the face together, said that I draw from many sources keeping the reader interested. 

4/5/92 
Angel’s Gate, San Pedro

Saturday, April 4, 1992

Journal entry, 4/4/92, Venice boardwalk


4/4/92, Celia and I walk along the Venice boardwalk after dark talking of violence, how danger arrives in the lives of innocent bystanders in the form of stray bullets, come along home little eagles. A memory from the past, I was 10, walking along that same dark alley with a friend wanting money. For two bits I was molested by an old man in a seedy abandoned hotel room but I’d forgotten all this. Only now as I walk along the stained ribbon, that last wall that divides the strand from terra firma, it all comes back as Celia warned me of stray bullets.

I realize a random act can be no less violent than my own childhood, here along these canals where I ran with the pack. I thought I had no LA poems in me, but the city of Angels and the canals have witnessed a multitude of sins, passages. Mine is one more sexual stroke swelling the purgatory of sinners, the collective unconscious. I didn’t feel betrayed by the man, but by the girl who led me there. I refused to play with her again. I chose to be lonely and alone rather than face that betrayal again.

I write this missive in transito. On the plane. In first class, a man yells, and yells again. I am so scared. The word oxygen is bantered about. We are a temporary audience in bad Hollywood fashion. One summer I lived on a hill across from those big white letters. I guess everyone’s got to write their LA poem, al la Bukowski just like everyone’s got their own baby Bukowski story to tell as well.

But I should, yes, two angels, with smooth pubescence, no betrayal of sex, they are asexual angels who will never know the thrill of a mouth on nipple, clitoris rising in the most holy moments. Do they dream?

And when we bring in the wash, in the sheets, we uncover the pale beginnings of the origins of love. How impeccable white takes on the dolor of the sky As a child I never understood why the sky beneath the eucalyptus took on the greyness of lead.

The plane pulls back from the loading dock. A man leaves, a cop enters, another man leaves and everyone is growing an extra vertebrae in their necks, trying to piece together the story, any one will do, as long as it’s plausible. I guess that’s the way it was with us. Happiness was plausible, therefore we were plausible. After all, you were a Rhodes Scholar,  John. You should know, Greek letters trailing you like ropes from Baja to the Andes.

No I don’t regret those poems lying next to me in a book, years later, it’s just the shock of it. And yes we were happy, if just for an instant on that beach in the port of Angels so much further south of the border. Who was to know that when we murdered our unborn son, we were accomplices to the murder of love.

Yes. Those jaded eyes will come back to haunt us through stinging arrows—words pierce the transparent air and find their target, years after conception, while we kiss the lips of strangers, and begin anew for the umpteenth time, but isn’t this the American way?

And so in the city of Angels, I visited you again and again, my lover, entonces, always to the shores of Mexico, where you would shed your gringo skin, but never your eyes – all that green and blue settling in the cenote as you sleep in El Convento where DH Lawrence signed the register, where he resurrected the Plumed Serpent into English palabras.

At the Sculpture Gardens, the other writers and I exchanged pleasantries in Español. I read my poems for the waiters at the garden, not for the well powdered, more than middle-aged audience. I see the ones standing by the door listening so intently. I’m sure the words have wings fluttering, las almas, into the soul of the afternoon where sunlight takes its own choosing, the hour of reckoning.

Last night we set the clocks ahead in order to trick ourselves into thinking there was an extra hour in the day, but like with everything in the city, as with these word, it’s an illusion. White against white equals white. My skin is an intermediate step between the tongue of racial tolerance. No longer am I the white whore because I speak in tongues. The bus boy says, I wish to write poetry. I encourage him in both languages. The language of grief cannot hide the truth and why I am alone, Poetry, my inheritor, mi amor.

LATE NIGHT FLIGHT FROM LA

LATE NIGHT FLIGHT FROM LA

Oh, it has come to this,
your poems read after reading,
on a late night flight from LA,
where on the canals, you and I last read,
how many years ago now?
Six years and I am reading your poems
as if written by a stranger to another stranger,
where the word, or is it verb, lover
rested easily on your lips, was it the—
My clothes spinning in the dryer,
the happiness you spoke of,
she loves me, she loves me not,
and now when I read them I wonder,
to woman were these small piercing arrows
aimed at? But I am transparent,
the invisible woman fills this courtyard
with her own words, arrows fortuning across the plaza
And there is nothing left to wound,
except the memory of pain,
intransient as the gnats circling each person
a live halo buzzing each of us.
Returning home to this spawning ground,
I am fully fledged, not like the last time.

4/4/92?