Saturday, April 30, 1994

Intangible Instructions

There is always the desire to return. The tail of a blue fish emerged from her fingers, his arms were fins. Memories floated backwards in time to listen for the vestigial singing river in the dry riverbed. I never wanted the plane to land, but the Andes rose like a white dream to punctuate the sky. Faith in miracles. Here, Pizarro slept. There, Blake saw God in an apple tree. Time flowed backward, lined up like the homeless, like the basureños in makeshift houses along the Apurimac, or in Tijuana. Lined up like the locked eyes of death into the burning future on several continents. Myth: I carried a new gift of life. In the end, memory fails. Conquistador y amor. In Quito, the snake dancer from the selva cursed me. The bridge failed me. Coltrane’s sax defines qualities of night but the doors are locked. The six-legged nightmare rides on the smoke. Ask me what this means, I cannot read history written in the smoke of the victor. Say that in Selma, Dubrovnik, Darrio City, Bagdhad, Blake’s London, or L.A.

The descending fog envelops our feet. A warning call clearing the double-vision down the canyon past temptation. A gorge divides water from water, brings it together again. Except for the L.A. river. Do you know how to soar down through the dilemma, both following and leading? Counter-clockwise dance. Remembrance, resemblance. Which direction does the vortex choose? What carries us on and on? The child’s face buried in the moon’s path. They wander through the empty streets of Cusco, Moscow, San Francisco. In every voice, in every mirrored face, the bell toils for them. We speak with our hands. The gift of hands offered language to the children.

She stored apples under her bed. Illicit money whispered in the palms, Feel me! The teeth of graveyards are built on this foundation: the tail of the 20th century rendered in the useless orchestrations of Oppenheimer’s regret. The eagle keening. Living art in empty sheets. Riderless horses. Where is Schrödinger’s cat? Pandora? The blind mouse sleeping on the back of a dead bird dreams of angels. Clear the shelves of omnipotent windfalls and quantum malignancy. The marriage hearse reinvents the mother. Death reinvents the mechanics of fear. Open the box. Not.

Fear of the scent of money, fear of poverty. Fear of the telephone in the dead of night. Fear of needing glasses, fear of not enough time to read the face inside the eye of night. Fear of repeating the past, of paradoxes, of ambivalence, of love’s trap. I said I stayed in my dreams. Memorized floor patterns, but specific moments never came. The hunter flame burned celluloid memory. Imagery: Hopperesque scenes shot in black & white. The desire to return embedded in the fear of fear.

Fear of not growing up. Fear of control. Fear of growing up and not being in control. Or of growing up and being in control. What if I ran away and no one stopped me? That moment of star-crossed thresholds. Not saying, Now I lay me down to sleep. Saying, I see my future as nothing, becoming nothing. Becoming the breathing of the open door. The thrones of angels. Fish with the hearts of men. Each belabored breath blinded by the light, I open my eyes. Looking forward, looking back. My erotic dreams littered with scorpions. Carpe Diem. Descend with eyes open wide, like Beatrice.

Do you remember when we danced face-to-face? The way your mouth opened into my darkness. I’d asked to move forward. Just a little more time. I wanted him out of my vocabulary and into a room with no walls. We swam to the ceiling. You flew into the light, grew fins. We needed to rearrange definitions of speech, of the forgotten rain. The dance continues. Kiss me while the bones of humanity learn how to sleep in open doorways, and eyes learn not to see. Out of necessity, they bathe in the streets where privacy is closest held, yet farthest away. To suckle memory. Whose tongue in my mouth? Por el loro, he said. Van Gogh’s sunflowers weren’t gold enough in the city of bankers. I held a namesake lover who cried in front of Vincent’s Self Portrait. But my arms weren’t strong enough to hold back the digital madness. I thought of Rilke. Raucous words escape the phosphor screen, take flight, flock to the trees like wild parrots. The computer becomes the 13th muse.

Fear of your thoughts. Origins of a code trickling down my thigh. What I ought to have said. Or, if I said too much. Fear of my thoughts. Fear of the telltale beating of the apple heart. Fear of finding the naked dawn descending the fire escape, each step of light defining the canyons of man. Exponential dreams of sirens scream in prime numbers, the mellifluous sax, the real voice of street corners. Notes bleed from the page escaping a shipwreck of blood. Fear of blood enters into it, another equation.

Fear the exponential division of prime numbers. The audience dreaming of an audience dreaming. Fear the agony of doors destined to be reduced to numbers. Fear the stairwells destined for darkness, stolen lives, stale smoke. On bulkheads facing the sea, and in stairwells facing dark alleys, fear the semen trapped or not trapped in translucent orbs, a tangible sign on all the continents. The bridge becomes a flamenco skirt for the moon. Whose father swam in the Amazon with the piranha? Who wears the moon’s mask? Learn to describe doves, the twin orbs of a woman’s ass. The lover’s hand under my dress. No mermaid’s tail. Then the cunt. When I said love, I got religious. Learned to walk, then crawl. Desire silences the guitar strings with scissors. Think about post-modern love deconstructing beneath city clocks without hands. Orgasm is closest to art. I didn’t mention syringes or T-cells.

No need for voices from the void flung like arrows. Or the bell tower of the heart’s drum. What are we willing to accept? The clichéd rose asleep on the piano lid. Maxwell’s hammer descending in slo-mo. Kennedy shot again and again. Some are not yet dead. Others were never really alive. Fish trapped in the sheets. The approaching storm delivered in monotone. Or in natural speech. Bukowski, dead. The TV channel-surfing in an empty room. Think of random blue noise as a way of life. Intangible instructions. Love’s fascism, asleep in a pool of blood, wants touching, stroking, punctuation. The restless sky mounts the moon. When will blood learn how to become stone? Was it better than anything, walking on the moon? Were we ever in the garden? The endless pit? One thing is certain: Night is neither noble nor sacred; her indifferent legs are open wide.

© MAUREEN HURLEY 25 April 1994; rev. 6/21 Freewrite on the 1993 Poetry Film Winners

Wednesday, April 27, 1994


         —after Charles Simic

the dread stones
wavering on the cliff
seeking the lowest point
seeking the water’s pathways
seeking the belly of the ocean
and the origin of land
the upthrust of their birth
the stones that once flowed like water
out of the mouths of volcanoes
are most eager to test the boundaries of hardness
and the structures of fluidity.
Once they were standing waves
beginning flight
seeking air and the heart
of the earth bled
making them whole
giving them substance.
Sometimes they dream
of returning to the womb
Few are offered the chance
for the earth’s tectonic plates
select only a few
to reinvent themselves
as liquid, as land
So this is the way of stones
the star charts of the moon face
the secret prints in the moon’s dust
If we go inside a stone
we would find the patterns revealed
the dreams of stars
Once I held a meteor, a smoking mirror
In my hand I saw my twin
locked in that inky dark underworld
gazing back at me, lips parted
as if to speak, but as I leaned
closer, she was mute as stone.


Friday, April 22, 1994

Branching Out: Poetry & Art with Maureen Hurley & Marsha Connell


Branching Out, is an exhibition of recent pastels, watercolors, & collages by Marsha Connell with poems by Maureen Hurley. Connell and Hurley have collaborated in their working processes both as artists and teachers. For example, Hurley wrote a series of poems to Connell’s collage prints, Dream Vessels. Some of them appear in the catalogue/book, Dream Vessels. Working as artists in residence since 1979, through Artists in the Schools of Sonoma County (ASC) and California Poets in the Schools (CPITS), they have led students in exploring the links between the visual arts and poetry. This Body is Ask: Art and Poetry by Sonoma County Students, co-edited by Connell and Hurley is a documentation of these experiences.

Connell, who is noted for her bold watercolors and pastels of Sonoma County and California, works on location, or from drawings done on location. Connell states her aesthetic concerns, “I begin with direct personal experience and observation to create lyrical abstractions with attention to color, shape, rhythm, and mood. In my recent pastels of barns and cabins, I’ve shifted focus from the organic aspects of landscape to the human-made elements that interrupt and define the landscape’s space and scale.”

Connell has shown in over 25 solo exhibitions, and nearly 100 group exhibitions on both coasts; her most recent solo exhibits were at the Badè Museum, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley and the Buena Vista Winery Artist in Residence Project. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Sculpture from San Francisco State University, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Fine Arts from Skidmore College. Connell is an instructor of art at Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University and has been artist in residence for several Northern California schools. She also conducts workshops privately and for organizations including the Mendocino Art Center, Gualala Art Center and Elder Hostel.

Both Connell and Hurley are recipients of seven California Arts Council grants. Maureen Hurley is a visual artist and photojournalist as well as a poet. Her poems and photographs have appeared in over 100 magazines and journals. Her poetry has been translated and published in Dutch, Spanish, Russian, Romanian, and Ukrainian. She has won numerous state and national awards for her poems, including two Sonoma County Community Foundation/NEA writer’s fellowships in 1990 and 1992; the 1992 award was for the Dream Vessels series. A poem was nominated for the 1993 Pushcart Poetry Prize. Other awards include an honorable mention in the National Poetry Series competition and two awards for Dream Vessels Poems #1 and 2 . She was a semi-finalist in the 1993 Kalliope/Papiér Maché poetry contest, and a finalist in the 1994 Negative Capability poetry competition.

Hurley holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Art Studio from Sonoma State University. She is California Poets in the Schools Area Coordinator for Sonoma County, and has led workshops in public schools, mental institutions, universities and Elderhostels in California, the Netherlands, the Bahamas, and the former USSR. Hurley initiated and developed programs in which she and Connell exchanged student poetry and art with sister city, Cherkassy, in the Ukraine.

The California Museum of Art exhibition opens April 22 and continues through May 31, 1994. Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM.

Wednesday, April 20, 1994

National Poetry Association Poetry Film Festival screening



I keep thinking about the side never seen by man,
not even Armstrong and Aldrin.
I am always keeping my face toward you
in synchronous rotation,
one side always in the arms of night,
no matter how 1 twist and turn toward the day
except for those times when the earth intervenes.
My dreams are the hard reality of stellar dust
I would like to be a dancer, slender as a thought
at the parties of the gods. Where is Apollo's logic
In the sky at night, dreams of colors unimagined
the side never seen by the sun
or passion in synchronous rotation.
No flags to blemish my face
waxing, waning, crescent & gibbous
no footprints left in lunar dust
my faith, or happiness.

when? March-April 1994



The future began as a dream
of light, darkness took
its own time being born.
Digital time had not yet been in-
vented, clocks woke late,
out of breath,wondering
what to with time
without hands
or faces.

4/20/94 CPITS in class


The necklace of the night—
smoke scattered light
across the sky
Meteors dreamed
of the fire
trapped in the sun.
The future began as a dream
of light, darkness took
its own time being born
Time had not yet been in-
vented, clocks of time
woke late, out of breath,
wondering what to do
with their hands
and faces.


Tuesday, April 19, 1994



Inside the architecture of dreams,
my cabin expands to arboreal heights,
sinks exhausted into the earth, becomes a barn,
grows a storey and a wing with blue trim.

An abundance of light and late afternoon shadows.
Inscribed above the door at the top of the stairs,
“Seek the answer; there are no questions.”
Rows of unread books ease toward the horizon.

My memory is not equal to the naming of my fear,
a tenant in the basement rummage sale of dreams.
Wrapped in the clothing of the dead, I’m set adrift
in a shoe that becomes a raft to cross the marsh.

Inside the refuge of my heart, bees drone out words.
If I could find a place big enough to house my thoughts,
the concept of home would become a fragment of the past.
I’ve tried other solitudes. The calendar preys on its own agenda.

If I could play the violin or piano, I’d teach those frets and keys
dark ladders to the sky, and arpeggios of birds escaping gravity.
Trapped behind glass, flowers smolder against winter clouds.
Tchaikosky’s “Violin Concerto in D” comes to mind.

My ability to swim in the air leaves me confused,
I’m neither fish nor fowl, my breathing is labored.
I practice the crawl, my feet strum the power lines.
Does my guide have wings? I know the timbre of his voice.

My grandmother taught me about the sacredness of trees.
When we hauled branches to the pile for burning,
they clawed the sky with a fierce desire for the field’s
music and for a spring that will never come.


from Marsha Connell's Dream Vessels
This was not published but displayed in Lynn Woolsey's office.DREAM VESSELS —from collages by Marsha Connell

Thursday, April 14, 1994


                        after Alberto Blanco’s reading

Filled with the immensity of this new time
we assemble ourselves like clockwork
seeking a new order
without abandoning the old
in the continuum of our days.
From mistakes come the right paths
dogging our footsteps
the heart in all its thinly veiled complexities.
The flowering of days mark the passage of years
at our temples
higher reckoning of the frontal lobes
transcendent speech, mute as alabaster
dressed in light by the hands of children
I have seen worked stone with more speech
and in the cautionary “don’t forget”
from a friend wishing us well
in the forgetting,
in the salvation of the heart’s tabernacle
the key of speech as mute
before the testimony of stone.


Wednesday, April 13, 1994


Deep in the pines
your eyes reflected
winter’s green story.
A fire in my dreams
opens the door
to memory
working at a different rate
from the north
the oak
dreams in the dark


Saturday, April 2, 1994



Hey word
don't be afraid
take a sad fax
and make it flutter
to get it under your fin
and you'll begin
to take it better


Friday, April 1, 1994



In Teotihuacán, the place where men become gods,
under the place of fear, under the Fifth Sun,
the scorpions at the base of the world tree are asleep.
In Xibalba, the place of ancestors, the underworld is dark.
The eliptic band of constellations that marks
the daily path of the sun across the night sky
is searching for the beginning of dreams.

From dreams comes information: the time to plant,
the weavings, the time to sacrifice.
It is said nourishing the gods nourishes the people.
Where is the king whose sexual blood was spilled
         onto the codex for the good of the people?
Whose bloodsmoke rose to open the door to the sky?

When a woman puts on her huipil
it is said her head emerges at the center of the world.
A door designed by dreams weaves
patterns from the beginning of the world.
I dream of scorpions stinging me again and again.
Under the Fifth Sun, under the place of fear,
six-legged gods were born from smoke
                                                of inquisition.

Nourishing only the sterility of yourself,
in a tragic falling off from myth and history,
                                    like a despotic Aztec rey,
you lanced yourself with thorns,
spilled only ink on parchment, not royal blood.
It combusts in the darkness of desk drawers.
No holy smoke for the gods of the sky.

In a door designed by dreams
my head emerged in the center of the world
to where I no longer feared you.
You no longer wounded me,
my conquistador
mi amor. . .



Good friday, april fool’s day

Who rises from the unmarked grave?
Lovers at odds with themselves
The tiredness of needing pain in order to write.
I hurt, therefore I am
The lying in the spring grass
Like a cat afraid of the approach
The scent of calla lilies. Funereal
The warmth of a lamp in a dark room
The precise order of the meadow lark
The unremembered dreams
The spaces between things
Chaotic determination of ladybugs
Random acts of kindness
Six degrees of separation
The inevitable longing
The dainty saucers of miner’s lettuce
Drunken, singing in the shower
The distance between men and women
Fathers and daughters
The darkness of divorce
Leafcutter ants
The ability of aphids
The analogy between flowers and sex
That strange hollow,
The ghost shadow of pubic hair against pale skin
My lack of desire
My nest in the grass
The annoying whisper of the roadway
Light pollution form the cities
Risen from the dead
Only a fool has the ability to fall
In love with the dead




These gifts, desiccated pine needles,
twinned, even in death,
the small hands of oak leaves in spring,
trailing red gloves,
the misplaced freesia.
All the single shoes alongside the road,
the image of a glove tossed from the train,
issues of abandonment.
A painting of someone I did in high school,
my lost addresses.
The molecules of air where the rose last stood,
the tree too tired to take a stand.

You want my captivity?
I unlock the cage.
You want my forgiveness?
I offer rage.
I’m not the one who will invite you in.
The well is deep, the lid rotted.
Echoing footsteps I give you.
Take it, the sound is free
to reverberate off your ear drums
like an ancestral dance.
Lie down on the pillow
where the wind will find you,
where you’ll find the names of dreams.
The airplane across the sky.
The weight of grass before the scythe.

I give you the chafing bit,
the broken reins, the forgotten apple.
Put the bridle to your lips,
taste the sting of metal,
know how it chains you down.
This is for your time.
I said I wouldn’t write about you,
give you shape.
I give you what remains outside the poem
long after the cows have come home,
the barn door open to the night.